The daily routine for Registered Nurses (RNs) is anything but routine. From charting bedside care to handling patient emergencies, the day-to-day workload can be hectic and unpredictable. For RNs pursuing Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees, the workload might even be considered overwhelming.
RNs considering advancing their career opportunities by pursuing an MSN degree often have concerns about balancing their daily workload and personal obligations with studying and other education-related activities. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said a growing number of RNs are pursuing degrees to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to meet the increasingly complex health needs of the aging and diverse population. Experts said balance comes from preparation, a good support system, and quality education.
Among the many benefits of pursuing an MSN is the availability of online degree programs that allow coursework completion from a multitude of devices. The program of study that allows RNs to transition to MSNs builds on skills and knowledge.
“The best way to ensure success in a master’s program is for you to understand your individual strengths and career desires and then find the faculty and college setting that are best suited to help you develop those strengths,” American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) researchers said.
Finding a Work-Life-School Balance
Healthcare leaders say the best first step into an online MSN program is to realistically assess the current situation, get advice from employers, and utilize all of the online resources available.
Once enrolled in a program, the key to successful MSN studies becomes using coping techniques and organizational skills, including the following:
- Mentors – Seek APRNs who have “been-there, done-that” for practical advice and support. Use their advice and guidance to balance life as an RN with MSN studies.
- Find Support – Look to your family and friends for help with your home life and your employer and coworkers for support on the job.
- Align Priorities – Count every moment as precious. Don’t dawdle while trying to leave work. Eat lunch with an open textbook. Use free moments at home to go over coursework.
- Develop Trust – Find people in school and at work who are trustworthy and can help in times of stress.
- Take Feedback – Some of the best RN on-the-job training for an MSN degree might come from co-workers. Don’t immediately dismiss feedback.
- Delegate Responsibilities – At home, it’s ok to ask for help with the kids. At work, it’s ok to ask for help with patients.
- Look for Opportunities – Learning moments on the job may add to the MSN educational experience.
- Stay On Task – Don’t leave assignments until the last minute or skip them altogether. Plan the coursework ahead of time and plan accordingly. Skip the all-night study sessions in favor of shorter sessions.
- Take it Slow – Don’t underestimate the power of taking the time to get things right the first time instead of rushing.
- Adjust the Attitude – A positive attitude goes a long way to changing outcomes. Feeling overwhelmed will hinder the process, so find ways to enjoy quiet time and relax.
- Enjoy Lifelong Learning – An attitude of lifelong learning promotes a healthy mindset towards education. An MSN isn’t a degree for today. It’s a degree for the future of healthcare.
Mastering the Master’s Curriculum
Nursing graduate level degree coursework will vary in several ways from undergraduate work. The focus will be less on memorizing scientific nomenclature and more on incorporating concepts and theories of nursing into everyday applications. In the classroom, students spend less time listening to lectures and more time discussing theory in faculty- and student-led seminars and round-tables.
Graduate students are expected to have finished at least one year of work as an RN. Online core graduate classes can include evidence-based nursing, policy development, and ethics in healthcare. For a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree, students take specialized classes in the foundations of family care that focus on all stages of life. Students who specialize in Forensic Nursing take coursework that incorporates forensic science and the legal system (including criminal law and the courts). Students seeking an MSN specializing in Nursing Education study topics that include healthcare ethics, population-based health, and emerging trends in nurse education.
About Duquesne’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program
RNs enrolled in Duquesne University’s online MSN program learn the roles of APRNs through the eyes of seasoned professionals who have practical experience and broad knowledge of various healthcare positions. Students can choose from three areas of specialization in nursing: Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner, Forensic Nursing, and Nursing Education and Faculty Role.
The Duquesne University School of Nursing is top rated in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. DU’s online MSN program allows RNs to work from any location to fulfill MSN program requirements. At the same time, the program’s academic advisors and faculty mentors are available to help students succeed. For more information, visit DU’s MSN program website.