How to succeed in your online nursing degree

Nursing school is a major undertaking, even for experienced medical professionals. Whether you are hoping to take a first degree or work towards a more advanced qualification, going into education can take a lot of planning. There are online classes to consider and clinical hours to complete, as well as your personal responsibilities at home. Sometimes it will feel difficult to keep up with everything, but nursing is a hugely rewarding career and your efforts will soon pay dividends. If you are new to the world of online learning, there will be new skills to master. However, with the right study habits, your self-directed learning has every chance of being a total success.

Have realistic aims  

For the best chance of success in an online nursing course, it is vital to remain driven and establish a set of reachable goals. If you try to achieve the impossible, you could end up feeling deflated and stressed. Instead, focus on giving your all to every assignment and challenge. Also, remember that you will make mistakes at some point. Rather than feeling disappointed in yourself, learn from what has happened and then keep moving. None of us can be switched on all the time, so do not be too hard on yourself. You cannot study in every spare minute, so try to get the balance between free time and study time right.

Work on a series of goals

Rather than concentrating exclusively on the big picture, setting small and larger goals could be of more benefit. The smaller goals might involve reading chapters of a textbook, writing up your notes or watching your lecture. These can keep you on track and feeling motivated, at the same time as meeting your deadlines. The sense of accomplishment this brings cannot be underestimated, especially in a demanding program like nursing.

When it comes to larger goals, you have the freedom to consider your future and what to do after graduating. If you have been thinking about moving into a leadership role, you may be wondering, are online FNP programs good? In fact, they are a great option for qualified RNs who want to upskill themselves and take on a senior position. At Carson-Newman University, the online nursing program is an accredited course which offers flexibility — it is ideal for working nurses who need to fit their studies in around other commitments.

Have a dedicated workspace

Without a dedicated work area, it will be very difficult to avoid the distractions of daily life when you try to study. Working from home has many benefits, but to complete assignments well, you need a space that is conducive to learning. Ideally, this area should be away from your living space, so the distinction between work and play is underlined. This part of your home should also be comfortable, with a chair that does not make your back ache and a table that is large enough for your materials. Have enough lighting to work by, whether it is a lamp or natural light. If space is at a premium, try a lamp that is wall mounted. Finally, establish storage areas for your supplies, so essentials such as files, pens and paper are always close at hand.

Maintain a positive frame of mind

There is no doubt that online nursing courses push students, especially when it comes to having a personal life away from work and study. Nevertheless, to do well now and in years to come, it is crucial to remain optimistic and see the positives in any situation. Setbacks will inevitably have an impact on your life from time to time. Try not to dwell on these while working towards your nursing degree. Instead, push onwards, work hard and look for solutions to the problem. Similarly, if you find a goal moving out of reach, do not feel deflated. Set a new goal and get ready to reward yourself when you achieve it. This will not always come easily but cultivating a can-do attitude at university will be of huge benefit to you in your career.

Enhance your time management skills

For online nursing students as well as working nurses, time management is a key skill. You should have enough time to schedule in breaks and downtime to avoid feelings of tiredness, as it is not possible to study relentlessly. Procrastination can be an issue for students who are trying to stay on top of things, so use a solution that works for you. Many people find a planner can help them schedule different activities or tasks and stick with them. In this way, you can also spot when you will be free for a family trip or a night out with friends. Plans can help you manage feelings of stress by keeping your days, weeks and months organized throughout your time as a student.

Start up a professional network

Online nursing students have as many opportunities to connect with their classmates and tutors as traditional students. They may have to do so through forums, virtual lectures and emails, but these relationships can provide the support you need to get through the course. Moreover, they will form a reliable network as you start your career. Forming a bond with people can make you feel more confident when asking questions or seeking help, both of which are important for learning. Nurse training is about more than practical skills, it is also about learning to collaborate as professionals and supporting each other.

Develop your reading skills

There will be occasions when you are short of time, but you need to understand a concept before logging in to attend a lecture. This is when the ability to speed read will be of use. It is certainly not a long-term alternative to thorough research, but when it comes to shorter chapters, articles and thesis conclusions, reading quickly is preferable to not reading. To help you along, use highlighters to draw attention to the expert quotes or key passages you think are most important. Then, if you are asked to take part in a discussion or give your opinion on the topic, you have something to add.

Become more organized

Online nursing classes offer the flexibility that many students need in order to qualify. They give people a chance to study, despite having a busy life. While this is prized by many, some learners find the lack of a rigid schedule difficult to adapt to. There is no classroom to attend, no timetable to follow and other students might live hours away. However, as with any educational situation, you are ultimately the one who needs to stay organized and on track. It is not just about handing in your work on time, keeping your environment well-ordered can also give you a head start.

Online, being organized means managing your inbox so it stays free from junk mail and clutter. You could also create folders on your computer to store documents such as essays and reading materials. Finally, set a reminder for a convenient time each day when you can email other students, connect with your tutor and browse your university’s message boards. Once you start study time, clean up the digital space by closing any windows you do not need.

Locate your resources

Most universities have a website that includes help for online students. By visiting this area, you can often find assistance with a range of things, from essay writing to financial aid and organizational skills. Alternatively, if you have a specific question you can get into the habit of contacting a member of the faculty or asking other students on a forum. The best way to get started with finding resources is to read through your orientation pack carefully. Along with onboarding details and a welcome to the course, you are likely to find information about attending classes and your future syllabus. Universities want their online nursing students to thrive, so they have often established a rich library of resources. If you do not feel you have managed to locate what you need or may need over the coming months, ask your student adviser for assistance.

Check over your equipment

Courses vary in terms of their technical requirements, but for online programs, you will need a reliable computer and an internet connection — at least. As the course progresses you will need to keep up with digital materials and coursework, all of which will be managed online. To attend, take exams and hand in assignments. A reliable internet connection is essential. Furthermore, you may be asked to watch videos and access other learning materials that place heavy demands on your connection. If you are not sure whether your current set-up is good enough, test it out before the course starts and you have to log in for your welcome lecture.

Stay healthy in body and mind

By taking care of your health, you will have more energy for your studies and find it easier to stay focused. Nutrition is a good place to start, as eating healthy foods can boost your concentration levels and prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Start with a filling breakfast, then go for meals which include protein, vegetables, fruit and fiber to keep your diet balanced. Hydration is equally important, so keep a bottle of water on your desk and take regular sips while you work. Your day should also include a period of exercise, as this can enhance your mood as well as up your fitness levels. Finally, establish a good sleep routine so your body and mind can rest and recharge. Aim for eight hours each night and you will soon feel the benefits.

Contact your faculty team

When they are teaching online, professors are keen to create a sense of community among their students. Therefore, even though you may never meet in person, it is worth reaching out to introduce yourself in the early stages of the course. Your tutor is part of a team who will be your point of contact when you are in need, so be sure to let them know who you are. In the same way, asking questions — at appropriate times — during live classes can get you noticed for all the right reasons. However, if you prefer not to speak out in front of a class, note down any queries you have and send off an email later. Nurturing a relationship with your faculty is like putting money in the bank. From your tutor to your advisor and everyone else on the team, these people will form a part of your professional network once you graduate. In future, they might be able to give you free career guidance, a job reference or a letter of recommendation for your post-graduate course.

Be a friend to your fellow nursing students

Online nursing courses offer many opportunities for students to meet up and support each other. However, because you will not be seeing your classmates at university, you may need to find more creative ways to interface. Most online campuses have social media accounts and groups that form from these. These are great places to network with others on your course and you can also use them to find out more about what your university has to offer. Once you have linked up on social media, you could set up a group chat with people you get along with. This is a simple way to stay in touch, swap news about the course and make friends. As a result, your group might want to set up a monthly video call to catch up with each other, or a face-to-face meet up. This might take a bit more organizing, but in-person meals or trips can help you relax and unwind after weeks of study.

Keep your family and employer in the loop

Maintaining a support system away from the world of study can help you stay grounded. Working nurses are likely to be supported by their hospital or clinic, but you may need their understanding at crucial points in the course. Therefore, let them know when you have a big assignment or exam deadline looming, so they understand if you request a shift change. Similarly, it is important to tell your family how things are going regularly. Not only will they be excited to hear your news, but they might be able to help in practical ways if you have a problem.

Work out how to manage your other responsibilities

If you are already an RN and you are working towards a higher degree, you likely have a busy home life to manage, as well as your studies and your job. Now your spare time is even more limited, it is a good idea to have a plan for your personal commitments. Whether you need to employ help with picking the children up from school, a gardener to keep the yard in great shape or a cleaner to take care of the housework, there are ways to lighten the load. Moreover, with reliable people managing these crucial tasks, there will be fewer distractions for you at home.

Be ready for the practical side of community placements

Community placements are a valued part of nurse training. They are usually quite local, but if you have never been to the hospital or clinic before, think about how you will get there. If you are driving, find out where you can park and whether you will need a pass. Otherwise, look for methods of public transport that will get you there and back reliably. To be prepared for the placement, read about the facility and learn what they expect from their students. Have your university ID on hand when you arrive, so there are no security concerns. Also, take a notebook and pen so you can jot down anything you need to remember and record what you have learned.

Be friendly with the qualified clinical team

Your first day of a placement will usually be the most demanding. You might not feel sure of yourself or what you are supposed to do and will have lots of questions. Tackle these worries by interacting with other members of staff whenever there is an opportunity and familiarizing yourself with the environment. In order to get the most out of your experience, offer to help wherever possible. Ask to observe your colleagues as they care for patients, then try to complete the procedure with their supervision. If the phone is ringing and everyone is busy, answer it and take a message. Tell people you want to learn as much as possible, stay enthusiastic and smile so you make a great first impression.

Stay focused on your passions

If you have a passion for nursing, your experience as a student is likely to be successful. When things get tough, remember that you want to make a difference in healthcare and improve patient outcomes. Ultimately, all the hard work you put in now will set you on the path to a long and rewarding career.

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