How to Maintain Your Mental Health When Pursuing a Demanding Nursing Degree
December 2019 - Nurses are compassionate people who have a desire to help and nurture above all else. It is this compassion that separates them from many others in the medical industry. They are, after all, the ones who see patients the most, the ones who care for them after the surgery, and the ones who get them through their hospital stay.
Nurses are so much more than support to medical staff. More BSN level nurses in a hospital decreases the risk of death amongst patients. They provide support, care, and compassion to those in the darkest times of their life.
"Every nurse was drawn to nursing because of a desire to care, to serve, or to help."
—Christina Feist-Heilmeier, RN
Like vets, however, the job is mentally scarring. To see, talk to, and care for people who are sick, injured, or dying takes its toll. When a patient who you cared for dies, it can really hurt your mental health and your confidence in your abilities. This is particularly true for nurses who work in hospices or in the ER.
The demands on your mental wellbeing during a regular working day are immense as it is. When you take on a degree to further your career, you are juggling work, study, and your social obligations all at once, which is why following this guide is key to succeed:
Understand Where Your True Passions Lie in Nursing
Working towards a degree for a career you have no interest in is going to wear you down fast. That is why before you go ahead and try to juggle the stress of a degree on top of your career, you need to have a clear goal to work towards.
Volunteer to Work in Different Departments
It's hard to find your passion when you aren’t experiencing different areas of medicine. If you can see if you can volunteer or work in different departments, you may get a feel about where you are most passionate.
Some people thrive in high-risk situations like the ER, and others prefer more of a routine and would ideally love to work in a health clinic or doctor's office. Finding your dream working environment and working either in it or towards it is going to give you focus.
Stay Up to Date with Nursing and Medical News
Another way to find a field of medicine you are passionate about is to simply keep up to date with nursing and medical news. If you find a topic that fascinates you, then you have a winner.
Choose Your Dream Job
Having a goal is a great way to keep focused, especially when times are tough. It won't be enough if your stress results in mental illnesses like a generalized anxiety disorder, but it can help make the stress feel worth it.
Some examples of dream jobs at the end of a nurse's career include:
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Midwife
- Aesthetician Nurse
- Cardiac Nurse
Choose Your Dream Location
The secret is that you can work pretty much anywhere as a nurse. Every state needs passionate, quality nurses (especially RNs with BSNs under their belt), and therefore, finding a town, city, or state that feels like home should be your top priority.
Some key features that a great home will have include:
- Affordable living standards
- Great community culture
- Thriving small businesses
- An environment that suits you
- Good working conditions
If you love the beach, for example, but want a more laid-back, affordable option than California, then moving to Florida and beginning or transferring your nursing license is going to be your best bet. You can have the sun, the beach, and a great job all at once.
It is critical that you can relax and enjoy your off-time as a nurse, and if you feel that you can do that lazing on a beach or surfing the waves, then you have to be along the coast. To make living more affordable, choosing an area away from the main cities like Miami or Fort Lauderdale is going to prove perfect for your goals.
Where you live and your quality of life are so important. You can work anywhere as a nurse, so ensure that where you live helps lift up your wellbeing.
Working Toward the Formal Qualifications without Stress
When you are tackling a degree while continuing your full-time career, your biggest issue is going to be stress. Stress can grow and become a monster like depression or GAD. It can burn you out and even cause you to have a breakdown (either physical or mental).
Managing stress from the start is a good way to reduce these risks.
Opt for an Online, Flexible Degree
First things first, you are going to want to find a degree you can complete online. Due to licensing issues, you will need to ensure it is available in your state even if it is completed online. If you want to move to Florida because having sun, the ocean, and a beach in your life is how you calm down, then you are going to have to find a great nurse practitioner school in Florida to complete your degree.
Online, flexible degrees should not have any mandatory login times, so you can work your hours without worrying about missing a lecture.
Use Your Experience Towards Your Degree
If you already have your BSN and are working towards an MSN or a specialist degree like an MSN-FNP, then you won't be able to use your experience.
If you are a registered nurse who wants to use their experience and Associate’s Degree towards their BSN, however, remember that you could very likely be awarded up to 90 credits towards your degree just for things you've already done.
Build Strong Support Systems
Whether you are advancing your degree with a BSN or an MSN, you are going to need a strong support system:
- Check in with a mental health professional when things get tough
- Be honest about your mental health and stress levels with co-workers, friends, and family
You can thrive and love your job and still find juggling a degree and a career stressful. Ensuring that your environment promotes your wellbeing, that you are working towards a job you feel passionate about, and that you have support systems in place will help you maintain a healthy mind during this stressful time.
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