By NP Student and Guest Contributor Boppa Sor
Balancing graduate school, life, family, and work can be challenging and exhausting to many graduate students who are currently enrolled in NP programs. The difficulty in finding balance can take a toll on the mind, body, soul and cause an increase in stress levels. We can all admit that graduate school is stressful, not to mention time-consuming. With the hope that all of this dedication and perseverance will eventually be worth it, the journey towards a Masters Degree and the title of Nurse Practitioner can feel agonizing and long.
Balancing your time is an important factor in surviving NP school. Many of my classmates have families, children, and work full-time while attending a full-time nurse practitioner program. What’s their secret? It all comes down to the following:
Time management. Balancing your time is an important tactic. Setting enough time aside for your schoolwork and sticking to that time block is extremely important. Only then will you be able to complete your assignments and also grasp the concepts that are being presented to you in your courses. Allowing yourself this time to do schoolwork, catch up on reading, and studying will help ease any pressures you might start to feel from being in a nurse practitioner program. Easier said than done? Yes, this is true; so how might one allot this precious time?
Hire a babysitter for a day; or better yet, see if you can find a free one. Family members and trustworthy friends will do. One of my classmates actually hires a babysitter for a few hours on a specific weekday in order to escape to the library. Her daughter is three years old, and her babysitter brings over her own child so that the two toddlers can have a playdate. On Sundays, she dedicates a total of 4-5 hours at the university library. When she gets home, she’s able to cook dinner if her husband hasn’t already prepared it. Designate specific days and times when you’ll be fully dedicated to schoolwork and try your best to prevent any distractions from pulling you away from this. If your school age children also have homework, you could possibly do your homework at the same time as them. If there are extracurricular activities that your children participate in at a certain time, this time can be designated for your own studies. Getting creative with how you allocate your time can be beneficial to your graduate school career.
Work outside of schoolwork requires a lot of time and dedication. Many of my classmates continue to work full-time or part-time in order to maintain financial stability for themselves and their families. This earned income is necessary and important for many of my classmates. Unfortunately, working while in an NP program does not offer much flexibility unless your nurse manager is extremely understanding. If you’re blessed with an understanding manager who is supportive of professional development and educational advancement, make sure he or she has a copy of your class schedule before the start of the semester. Share with him or her what days you are available to work and what days you can’t. Continue to attend staff meetings and pick up days or hours when and if you’re able to help out. If working full-time interferes with your school work, it’s time to have a sit-down with yourself and make a decision on which one (school or work) is your priority at this point in your life.
Your social life and your family life are two important factors in keeping your sanity while in NP school. Making time for them is crucial. Setting a few hours aside a day or one day a week can help keep your mind calm and alleviate the current pressures of graduate school. If you have children and a family, it’s important to try your best to keep your routines close to the way they were prior to beginning your studies. Bedtime stories, tuck in time, date nights, movie nights are all still possible even with a hefty schedule. Your support system is deserving of your time, so make sure you don’t forget about them.
Lastly, make time for yourself. You’re the most deserving of this. Make sure you set aside time to enjoy a favorite read, movie, go to the gym or indulge yourself in some much needed R & R. An hour a day for meditation before going to sleep or in between classes can be helpful to the mind and the body. Take this time to reflect and appreciate the finer things in your life. Take this time to give thanks and appreciate all of the opportunities and support that have been given to you thus far in your career and your life. It’s the least you can do for yourself while in your nurse practitioner program.
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