Investing in education is one of the steps you can take to advance your nursing career. When you invest in education, you gain more skills and knowledge, become a better candidate for more opportunities, and improve your overall performance as a nurse. While education is an investment that can pay off later, combining work and school is not always easy. Also, the initial steps you take when enrolling for nursing programs have a big impact on your success and career satisfaction in future. Consider the following tips if you are aspiring to enroll for a nursing program to advance your career.
Explore the Modes of Learning
When choosing a nursing program, you have three key choices. These include online, on-campus, and hybrid programs. For an online program, as the name suggests, the course is delivered online. You will have access to learning materials online and also maybe some live classes with your lecturers and online interactions with your course mates. Each campus has its way of delivering online classes; inquire before you sign up. Online classes are most convenient for nurses with very busy schedules. They can also be a good choice for those who want to study at a campus that is not located in their geographical area. However, you’ll need t check the state authorizations before you sign up. Ensure the campus is accepting applicants from your state.
For on-campus programs, you are taught in the traditional classroom setting. Some campuses offer evening and weekend classes to make it easy for working nurses to attend. Ensure you check your schedule well before you sign for on-campus programs. Will you have enough time to commute and attend classes on time? Will the classes affect your other responsibilities? For instance, if you are a parent, will you still have enough time to care for your kids? However, it’s possible to attend on-campus and still have a good balance in your life. It’s all about managing your time well and having a good schedule. But be very realistic when making your decision. Hybrid combines both online and on-campus modes of learning.
Choose Your Specialty Wisely
You have numerous choices when it comes to choosing a specialty when advancing your education. You can choose leadership in nursing, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner and nurse midwife among many others. Take your time when selecting the path to follow. You will get more satisfaction and fulfillment from your job if you choose the specialty that you love most. Look ahead and preview how your job profile will look like in the next five or twenty years based on the path you are considering choosing. Research widely and talk to people who are in the path you are aspiring to follow. Once you chose your specialty, look for schools that offer that course. For instance, if your passion and interest is to care for infants, look for neonatal nurse practitioner schools.
Don’t skip campus reviews. Going to the right campus is essential for three key reasons:
- You will get a quality education.
- Your academic achievement will be recognized by hospitals or any other institution where you apply for jobs
- You will have a good time in school.
So, how do you know a campus is right for you? First, don’t check just one or two campuses;have a big list and then evaluate them one by one until you find the one that stands out.
Second, check if the campus is accredited to offer the courses you are applying for. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the process of accreditation is done to make sure that the campuses meet acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies set the evaluation criteria that they use to assess the institutions of higher learning. Thus, applying to an accredited campus ensures that you get a quality education.
Third, check the support offered to students. Student support makes life at the campus easier. Does the campus have a student advisor or coordinator? Are there clear guidelines on who you should report to when you have issues? Fourth, check the student testimonials. What do past students have to say about the campus? How was the learning process and interaction with the lecturers? Were the learning materials provided on time, and were they adequate? And finally, check the clinical placements.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. You can evaluate more things based on your previous experience in an institution of higher learning.
Plan ahead on how you are going to cover your tuition fees. This is probably the time to cut you’re your expenses so that you have more savings to cover your fees. Make a budget to see where exactly your salary and other incomes go. From there, you can decide what to eliminate and cut down. Aside from your savings and salary, look for scholarships and other aids for nursing students and apply. Any financial aid can lessen your burden. Finally, consider loans, but be careful when applying. Read the terms well and make sure you have a payment plan. Don’t rush to apply for student loans that seem appealing. Some lenders may ask for fewer requirements but hit you with hidden fees and high-interest rates. Read the fine print well, check the reputation of the lender, and make sure you are okay with the payment terms.
Apply with a Checklist
When you finally find the best nursing program, make sure you fulfill all the requirements when sending your application. One of the reasons you will not get in is if your application is incomplete. Thus, have a list and check as you go. Also, have someone cross-check your essays once you are done writing them.
Once you get in, learn to balance work, school, and your personal life well. When you need help from your employer or the campus staff, don’t hesitate to reach out. Finally, note that while education plays a big role in advancing your career, you ought to be doing other things as well. Examples include networking with others, offering the best at work and being curious to learn, and working on your soft skills such as proper communication, teamwork, resilience, empathy, professionalism, and creative thinking among others.