Some important questions to ask if you are thinking of going back to school for nursing
Lots of people think about going back to nursing school for one reason or the other. For some, it’s a desire to pursue a lifelong dream, while for others, nursing school is a gateway towards a better financial life.
Whatever your reason is for going to nursing school, we can all agree that you’d like to succeed. It doesn’t matter if you want to go to nursing school because you like helping or caring for people, or because nursing offers a lot of opportunities many other careers don’t.
So, how do you ensure you make it out of nursing school with a degree in hand? That, my friend, is what this post is all about.
I never thought I would one day find myself in nursing school fighting so hard to make it through. But, that’s exactly what happened to me. And, I learned a lot of lessons during that period of my life. Lessons I would like to share with you to help you have an easier time while in nursing school.
If you are thinking of going back to school to become a nurse, here are some important questions you must ask and answer before returning to nursing school.
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1. WHY GO TO NURSING SCHOOL?
There are lots of reasons why nursing is such a great career. Personally, I like the flexibility and the fact that you can work in diverse settings. Whatever your preference, you can find something that fits your need.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you can also earn a lot of money as a nurse. While this depends on where you live and work, there’s no question that a nursing career can be pretty lucrative.
Okay, I have given you some reasons why nursing is such a great career, but you have to come up with your own reasons. Why do you want to go back to nursing school? What’s the attraction? What motivates you?
To succeed in this endeavor, you need to have something that motivates you. When you feel tired and overwhelmed, you need something you can cling to, to keep pushing on. Without strong motivation, you might be tempted to quit when you run into a few obstacles, so I want you to think long and hard about this.
What drives you?
2. WHAT KIND OF NURSING PROGRAM DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND?
Most nursing schools offer more than one kind of program, so before you jump in, make sure you know what kind of program you are interested in, so you can apply to a college that offers the type of degree you are interested in.
For example, when I decided to go to nursing school, I wanted the shortest route, so I chose to attend a community college where I could earn an associate degree in two years (or four semesters). This worked out well for me.
Some people would rather attend an accelerated program or a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) program. It all depends on what you need, your future goals, and more importantly, what you can afford.
So before choosing a program, make sure you know all the options that are out there, and take some time to find a program that aligns with your future goals.
3. CAN YOU AFFORD TO GO BACK TO NURSING SCHOOL?
Nursing school is expensive and you need to be aware of that. You can’t talk about going back to school for nursing without talking about the cost and affordability.
Some nursing programs and schools are more expensive than others. How expensive a school is, is also location-dependent. So if you are lucky to live in a state or city where the tuition is reasonable, then you already have an advantage over many other aspiring nursing students.
I struggled financially in school and it really put a strain on my mental health. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the kind of financial stress I went through (especially as a single mom). That’s why I always stress the importance of having your finances in order before you return to school.
There are quite a few options to pay for nursing school, so explore all the options that are available to you, and make sure you have a solid financial plan to cover the duration of your program.
Here are some ways to pay for nursing school.
- Out of pocket (personal funds)
- Savings or income from a job
- Help from family and friends
- Support from your employer
- Private student loans
- Financial aid
- Nursing scholarships
There’s no right way or wrong way to afford college as long as you know what all the options are and the implications of using a particular option (especially student loans).
4. DO YOU KNOW ALL THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS AND DO YOU HAVE ALL YOUR PREREQUISITES?
While each nursing school or program will have its specific requirements, there are some requirements or prerequisites that are common across the board. To give yourself a headstart, make a list of the most common nursing school requirements and start working on them.
It’s really important that you know what you are signing up for before you go all in. Don’t sign up for a program without knowing what it entails or sign up for a program that requires classes you are not comfortable taking. For example, organic chemistry or pharmacology.
Yes, you can always learn anything you don’t know but if you are an adult student, you probably know what you are capable of, so don’t discount that information.
You still need to know the specific admission requirements for the school you choose to attend, but the list below will help you get started.
- A high GPA (anything from 3.0 to 4.0). The higher the better!
- Human Anatomy and Physiology 1 & 11
- Nursing entrance test like TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills -that’s the one I took) or NET (Nurse Entrance Test)
- Psychology and Human development
Also, check with the state board of nursing (where you hope to get licensed) for their licensure requirements. This is important because you don’t want to complete a nursing program only to find out you can’t be licensed because you have a criminal record or some other issue.
Knowing what you need ahead of time will help you to plan and prepare for college, so you can be successful. It’s also a great way for you to assess whether nursing is really for you and if this is something you really want to pursue.
5. DO YOU NEED OR PLAN TO WORK WHILE IN SCHOOL?
Something that stood out to me while in nursing school was how much the teachers tried to discourage us from working. In their opinion, the program was too demanding and needed all our energy and focus.
I know quite a few of my classmates worked throughout the program, but as far as I know, most of them were single and had flexible jobs. I don’t know how much working affected those students because some made it through while a couple of others had to drop out.
So, this is something you have to think about and decide before you move on with your plan. It’s not enough to say “I want to go back to school for nursing.” You have to consider everything and how you will balance the different areas of your life.
If you plan to work while in school, start talking to your employer about your plan. Discuss the possibility of changing your schedule, compressing your schedule, or going part-time, if that’s an option. You can also consider changing jobs (if that’s a better option and you can find something flexible).
For many students, not working isn’t an option they have, so if you are one of them, start thinking of how you are going to make this work. It’s hard but doable!
6. CAN YOU JUGGLE FAMILY AND SCHOOL?
If you are happily single, you can just keep it moving. But, if you are a mom or dad with a family and kids, this is something you really have to give a lot of thought to.
I went to nursing school as a single mom of two young children and I can still say it was one of the hardest things I ever did. If you are a single mom like me, nursing school is really going to test you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You have to be strong and resolute. Without that, you may just quit when the stress becomes unbearable. So think about your current family situation. Can you juggle all your responsibilities if you add on college?
Do you have a strong support system or is this something you are going to have to do alone? How will you cope? Can you cope?
I know these are very tough questions but it needs to be said. You have to take a deep look at yourself and your life, then decide if this is something you can commit to (and stay committed to) until the end.
If you have any doubts about your ability to balance school and family life, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream, it just means, it’s up to you to figure out how you will make things work.
Related: How to Get Through Nursing School as a Single Mom
Related: 8 Simple Tips to Survive Nursing School as a Mom
7. DOES GOING BACK TO SCHOOL FOR NURSING ALIGN WITH YOUR FUTURE GOALS?
What are your future personal and family goals? Does a nursing career fit into that? Will a nursing career help or hinder your future goals?
I know when lots of people are trying to make a decision about attending college, they don’t really think beyond the present, that’s why every year, lots of students drop out from college or change their majors after spending a good chunk of time in school.
Since nursing requires a big investment of time, energy, and money, it’s really important to think about your long-term goals and how a nursing career or how nursing school fits into that. Ask yourself questions like “can I see myself doing this for years or is this just a passing fad?”
So, start by thinking of your long-term goals, write them down, then assess where nursing fits into it, and whether a nursing career aligns with your goals.
8. WHAT SACRIFICES WILL YOU NEED TO MAKE?
Like anything worthwhile in life, you will have to make some sacrifices to pursue your dream. So, let me ask you. What do you have to give up to go to school? Are you willing to give them up?
This is pretty easy and straightforward so I won’t spend much time here. Grab a piece of paper and make a list of all the sacrifices you think you will have to make to become a nurse. What changes or adjustments will you have to make to your life?
Let me give you a list of some common sacrifices nursing students make (especially parents).
- Spend less time with their kids, family, and friends
- Give up job and some comforts
- Less sleep
- No social life
The above are some of the most common sacrifices nursing students make to get through successfully. So think about your life, identify what you will need to give up, and how you will adapt to these changes.
9. GOING BACK TO SCHOOL FOR NURSING: DO YOU HAVE ALL THE RESOURCES YOU NEED?
It’s great to go back to school without having to worry about some other area of your life. As a nursing student, it’s smart to minimize distractions and other stressors, so you can focus on graduating from college.
So when I talk about having the resources you need, I am not only talking about your nursing school essentials but also, the other things that will allow you to focus on your studies.
Here is a list of some important things or resources you should have to avoid distractions or stress while you are in school
- Stable accommodation and a means to pay for it (if applicable)
- Reliable means of transportation
- Some support
- Stable family life
These are some of the most important things you need before going back to nursing school. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a stable family life or stable accommodation. Your success hinges on how much you can focus on your academics, so you want to sort out these areas of your life beforehand.
10. ARE YOU DISCIPLINED ENOUGH TO SUCCEED?
You need to be really disciplined as a nursing student if you want to graduate on time. Like I said at the beginning, returning to nursing school will test your patience and resolve, so you will need the self-discipline to keep pushing on.
There’s a whole lot of work involved. From attending classes, going to labs and clinicals, and some other stuff. Also, you will spend much of your time studying and practicing nursing skills. Some days, you will feel too tired to do anything, and that’s where self-discipline comes in.
Now, don’t get me wrong. No matter how busy you are, you will still need to find the time to rest. No one can go on indefinitely without taking a break. So, let’s be clear about that.
What I am talking about are things like watching television when you should be studying or staying up late browsing through Facebook when you should be resting or preparing for class.
If you don’t have a support system, then self-discipline is going to play an even more important role. You will have to stay on top of your schoolwork, and no procrastinating or waiting until the deadline to hand in an assignment.
If you struggle with self-discipline, start working on it now. Create a schedule or routine for yourself and try sticking to it. You will need to stick to a schedule or routine when you start school, so why not start practicing now?
11. IS THIS FEASIBLE FOR YOU?
Sometimes we confuse excitement for motivation. Motivation is what remains after the excitement of going back to school wears off. So ask yourself this question, and please be honest. “Am I motivated or just excited about nursing school?”
Here are some questions to help you gauge where you are?
- How long are you prepared to wait to get into nursing school?
- Are you willing to sacrifice the next few years of your life?
- Do you often quit when things get too hard?
- Have you researched what the nursing career is like? Do you think you have what it takes to succeed in this field?
- Are you open to learning everything you need to succeed?
I know quite a few people who were so sure that a career in nursing was for them. They jumped into school and jumped out because they discovered nursing wasn’t for them or not how they imagined it.
The nursing profession is hard and some older nurses tend to “eat their young.” You will need to develop a thick skin, allow criticisms to roll off your back, and be all in if you want to succeed in this field.
Now, let me ask you again. Is this feasible for you?
12. WHAT’S YOUR NEXT STEP?
Congratulations if you stayed with me to the end. Methinks if I read a post like this before I went back to school, I would have been scared, but probably not scared enough to back off!
So, I have taken the time to list some important questions for you to answer, now you know what you are getting yourself into. What’s the next step for you? What do you have to do to move closer to your dream of becoming a nurse?
For some of you, your next step is probably one of the steps below.
- Start researching nursing programs
- Have a chat with my spouse, family, and friends
- Figure out my finances
- Start working on my prerequisites
- Work on my physical and mental fitness
- Look for reliable housing or transportation
- Change course. Nursing isn’t for me (unfortunately)
Whatever your next step is, start working on it right now. Don’t delay or keep putting things off. If you take the time to answer all these questions honestly and still want to go ahead, then get moving!
And, don’t forget about some of your most important nursing school essentials for when you are ready to shop.
- White shoes
- Wheeled backpack
- nursing school uniforms/scrubs
- A watch
- stethoscope and case
- Textbooks, notebooks, and lots of other things.
Final thoughts on how to make going back to nursing school a success
Nursing is a worthwhile career and I encourage anyone who is interested in going into this field to go for it. As long as you know what you are signing up for, and you don’t see things through rose-colored glasses but a realistic lens, you are going to do just fine.
Finally, remember to stay positive no matter what. A positive mindset will help you stay motivated even when times are tough. Take a break whenever you need it and look for some inspiration wherever you can find it.
Your time in school will go by really quick so think about why you are taking this journey and the reward once everything is over.
Are you thinking of enrolling in a nursing program? Do you think you are ready for it?
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How to Get Through Nursing School as a Single Mom
8 Simple Tips to Survive Nursing School as a Mom
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