Is Working While in Nursing School Possible?

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CSP ABSN students in skills lab

Prospective nursing students often wonder, can you work while in nursing school? How feasible is it? After all, even though you’re in school, you still have expenses like rent, food, utilities and childcare. It’s common for students to consider working while in school to continue to meet their financial obligations. While working during an accelerated nursing program is sometimes technically possible, we don’t recommend it.

At Concordia University, St. Paul, our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon, makes it possible to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months. Accomplishing this feat demands a lot of hard work, time and dedication from students.

Accelerated nursing school takes significant effort, and it fills your days with classes, labs, clinicals, and studying. That could mean juggling a job with your intensive school schedule may get tricky.

Accelerated Nursing School is a Full-Time Job

At Concordia St. Paul, we want our students to succeed and achieve their nursing goals, and that takes time. What makes the ABSN program so demanding of your time? There are a number of factors at play, including the many scheduled activities students need to participate in, such as skills labs, simulation, exams and clinical learning experiences. These activities are set in your schedule, so working around them can be challenging.

The other major factor is study time, which includes self-directed learning, assignments, discussion posts, papers, and studying for exams. The ABSN program compresses two years of nursing curriculum into 16 months, meaning you’ll be asked to get through a lot of material quickly.

Therefore, it’s imperative you give yourself enough time every day to review content, read, make flashcards, complete assignments, write outlines and more.

The biggest reason we don’t recommend working while in an accelerated nursing program if at all possible is the time constraint. Students in the ABSN program should expect to spend more than 40 hours each week dedicated to their studies. If they’re also working, the job takes away from precious study time. Students who commit that time to studying instead of working have more success in mastering the course material.

Because the ABSN curriculum is 16 months, it’s a challenge that’s short-lived, and once you finish, you can jump headfirst into your work as a nurse. Therefore, exhaust your options and talk with our financial aid team about your situation before you commit to adding a job to your schedule.

What if You Have to Work? 5 Tips for Choosing a Job

Some people just can’t get around it. They have to find a way to make working while in nursing school possible. If that’s you, what strategies can make it possible to work while still having success in an accelerated nursing program?

Before you decide to start working while in nursing school, talk with an admissions advisor about your situation. They will talk with you about what to expect in the ABSN program and what the schedule looks like. Having a clear understanding of the demands of an ABSN program will provide valuable perspective when considering taking on a job during accelerated nursing school.

1. Choose Part-Time or PRN Scheduling

The first factor to consider before taking a side job during nursing school is scheduling. Nursing school requires a jam-packed schedule already, so you should avoid full-time jobs or jobs that require too many hours.

It’s best to go with a PRN position or a part-time position where you won’t be pressured into working more hours than you can handle. PRN jobs are ideal because you don’t need to work a set number of hours per week, and you can generally pick up shifts whenever it fits into your schedule. It’s common for healthcare jobs to have PRN scheduling options.

2. Find a Job That’s Flexible

Flexibility is key with balancing nursing school. Focus on jobs where your schedule is not set in stone. You may need to work less when you have an exam coming up, or you may need to adjust your schedule for a nursing school activity. Nursing school must come first, and your employer needs to understand and honor that. Finding a job where you’re not locked into a schedule is important.

3. Choose a Relatable Position

Many students who consider working while in an accelerated nursing program prefer taking on a healthcare-related job, such as a nursing assistant, patient representative, phlebotomist, or surgery tech. Taking a job in healthcare means you’ll be able to learn some applicable skills and get more comfortable caring for patients. If you’ll be working, you may as well be working in a job that will help you prepare for your career.

nurse's hand with glove using stethoscope on sim manikin

4. Look into Remote or Freelance Roles

Do you have any other skills that would set you up for a remote or freelance position? If you have a biology background, maybe you could work part-time as a remote science tutor. For those with a knack for writing, consider a freelance writing job or a remote job editing student papers.

Whatever your skills outside of nursing, you’ll likely be able to think of a way you can apply them remotely. By working a remote job, you’ll spend less time commuting and preparing for work. With freelance roles, you’ll get to make your own schedule. Finding jobs with these characteristics can minimize the disturbance to your academics.

5. Try to Find a Job Where You Can Study During Work

Though these jobs are sometimes hard to find, there are some jobs where you get paid while studying. Examples of this would be an overnight customer service representative, an overnight home health nurse or nanny, or a security guard. All these jobs tend to come with some free time where you could study while still on the clock.

How to Balance Nursing School and a Part-Time Job

If you do need to get a job, there are some strategies you can employ that will help you have greater success with juggling school and work. Always remember that nursing school is your top priority. You may need to work on the side right now, but your education is most important, as that’s setting you up to succeed and have an excellent career for the next few decades. Think long term.

Here are some helpful tips you can use to help you optimize your time when you’re working while in nursing school:

  • Don’t begin working at the beginning of nursing school. Wait until after you settle into the expectations and routines of the ABSN program.
  • Make your ABSN study schedule first before you decide when you’re available to work. Once you allot enough time for studying each day, you can add in work during off-hours or free time.
  • Talk with your manager before taking the job to ensure they will accommodate your ABSN schedule.
  • Prepare to draw from your free time for working, not your study time. This means you’ll have less time for hobbies, family, dinners with friends and working out.
  • Don’t let work infringe on studying for exams, especially in the week before the exam.
  • Work as few hours as possible for your financial needs.
  • Bring your notes or flashcards to work with you. If you happen to have downtime, be productive by studying for your online courses.

Remembering Your Limits and Taking Care of Yourself

Accelerated nursing school at Concordia St. Paul is challenging enough without adding a job into the mix. Before you begin working while in nursing school, take time to adjust to the rhythm of nursing school. Think about your mental health and stress level. If you’re at a peak stress level or you have no free time even without a job, then consider other options for financial aid other than working.

At Concordia St. Paul, we’re committed to your success as a nursing student, and our instructors, faculty and success coaches are here to help you along the way. Sit down with a success coach before taking on a job. We’ll help you evaluate how feasible it is for you to work, and we can work with financial aid to help you navigate your finances while in the ABSN program.

nursing students practicing skills in lab

If you’re planning on tackling a job while also in nursing school, you’ll need to be intentional about taking care of yourself. Ensure your job doesn’t take up all of your free time, as you still need time to eat, sleep, unwind and keep yourself healthy amid the stress of courses, labs and clinicals.

If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back. Working while in an accelerated nursing program isn’t recommended for a good reason. Nursing school is challenging enough.

In the end, all the dedication and hard work you put into the ABSN program will be worth it. That’s because after you graduate, you’ll get to walk proudly, BSN in hand, into a career that’s personally and professionally rewarding. Nursing is a meaningful life calling, allowing you to take part every day in healing illness and transforming lives.

Ready to Propel Your Future in Nursing?

If becoming a nurse fuels your passion, and you have 60 prior college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you may be the right fit for the accelerated BSN program at Concordia St. Paul. Our 16-month ABSN program offers three start dates each year so you can make the most of your time and get into your nursing career sooner.

Our accelerated nursing students can choose between our two locations, in St. Paul, Minnesota, or Portland, Oregon. The ABSN program uses a hybrid curriculum consisting of comprehensive online courses, interactive skills labs, simulation, and clinical learning experiences.

Get started today with redefining your future. Reach out to our admissions counselors to find out how CSP can set your nursing career in motion.