Nurses with chaotic schedules may wonder, "How can I possibly find the time to go back to school?" After all, nursing is not known for downtime. But with online programs, many registered nurses (RNs) are finding the flexibility they need to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) online.
"I began my RN to BSN at 31 weeks pregnant with a deployed husband while working full time," said Johnson. "The flexibility is amazing."
Just because the program is online does not mean it is easy. But grads and faculty members in UL Lafayette's RN to BSN program have some advice to help students succeed. As Johnson found, "UL Lafayette allows students to obtain their degree while still managing everything else that goes on in life."
Time Management Is Key
Without a doubt, a day in the life of a nurse can be hectic. That is why time management is so important. Working nurses can apply similar strategies in their online RN to BSN coursework.
Jeanie Songe, a UL Lafayette RN to BSN grad, emphasized the value of developing this skill.
"When you take an online, accelerated course, you have to dedicate yourself to it," she said. "You need to have time management and set so many hours aside. That's probably the most important thing."
Sometimes time management means making adjustments. Johnson, for example, made the decision to go from taking two classes each term to one.
"It's important to know that the program is flexible," she explained. "Life happens."
Academic Coaches, Counselors and Instructors Can Help
Tracy King was a morning deejay. Then Hurricane Katrina struck, and she was inspired by disaster response nurses. After earning an associate degree in nursing, King chose UL Lafayette for her bachelor's degree. She was impressed by the level of support, including from academic coaches.
"They walk you through every step," said King, who sought help with new ways to use technology. "It's not a cakewalk, but it's totally doable."
Johnson was similarly impressed: "Your counselors are there for you, even if you are not physically talking to them." Johnson recalled emailing her counselor about a change in plans: "I'm not taking anything until mid-March, because my husband is deploying, I have a baby and we just bought a house."
Instructor Tara Horsley, RN, MSN, uses her own online experience to connect with students.
"My MSN degree was all online, so I understand the fear and anxiety that comes along with it."
Horsley stresses the importance of communicating with instructors. Feeling overwhelmed?
"Contact your instructor," she advised, "and set up a phone meeting or a virtual meeting with him/her."
What About Multitasking?
It might be tempting to do the laundry while listening to a lecture, and that may not detract too much from the task at hand. But as Dr. Helen Hurst, Department Head and Associate to the Dean for the Department of Nursing, advised, "Be organized and focus on your goals."
When it comes to productivity, multitasking can result in "mental overload," according to the American Psychological Association. This mental overload can cause a 40% reduction in productivity. Science Daily reports that multitasking while completing online coursework can significantly impede learning.
If anyone had an excuse to postpone earning her BSN, it might have been Melyssa Johnson. But with the flexibility of the online format, she found success.
There are distinct advantages to earning a BSN. Dr. Debra White-Jefferson, RN, MSN, an assistant professor in UL Lafayette's RN to BSN program, advises: "Establish a timeline and go for it!"
Learn more about the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.