Studying for a doctor of nursing practice degree while working

Perhaps you have worked in nursing before, or maybe you are an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse looking to further your career by looking towards leadership.

Whatever your circumstances, it is important to know that getting a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree will help you achieve your dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Holding this degree means you can reach the top of your field and succeed in your achieving your goals.

If you are considering your options, then this guide is the perfect read for you. It outlines some of the best considerations for studying for your DNP while you continue working, and even offers information if you are still uncertain whether you want to take that next step yet.

Why should you apply for a doctor of nursing practice degree?

As you are probably already aware, this qualification is the highest credential a nurse can achieve, and when you have achieved it, you have the potential to be in a leadership role.

You have opportunities to pursue a career in leadership in healthcare facilities and organizations all throughout the country. DNP Programs can be studied online and fit in and around your current home and work commitments, meaning you get to pursue your dreams while taking care of reality, which is family, friends, and work.

Perhaps you have wanted to pursue a further degree in nursing but have been put off by traveling, time, family commitments, or campus location; well, with an online-based degree, you do not have to worry about these issues as you will not have to spend any time traveling unless you have to complete a work placement or similar.

Studying while earning – how you can achieve a work-life balance

Flexible online studying can allow you to work around the constraints of a busy family and the flexible model within the DNP Programs that is on offer allows for the combination of theory and practical work, which enables knowledge to be put into practice.

Studying online for a degree is great as it enables you to study in your free time while still making sure you have a little bit of free time for yourself during the week. You can achieve the desired work-life balance by being organized and planning out your time as far in advance as you can. Even though plans do not always go the way you want them to, you are more likely to get the balance right if you plan your days and weeks in advance.

If you work through what projects and assessments need completing and when you can forecast how much time you have to dedicate to your studies in the near future, you can forecast when you can get some much-needed time off from your studies workplace.

How you can study without burning out

Returning to studying can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and if you are not careful, you can end up burning out and exhausting yourself if you do not carefully manage your study time and other commitments. So, to get the most out of your studying, your need to take time for yourself and have regular breaks.

A few minutes here and there while studying will ensure you do not end up overworked and overstressed, leading to you burning out. It is important to give yourself a day off studying and working to focus on your home life. If you do not give yourself a proper break, you will not sustain what you need to do throughout the weeks ahead.

Exercise, a balanced diet, and fresh air are also important elements you need to focus on and implement to ensure you do not keep going and going until you hit a mental block (or brick wall). If you get to this point where you are burned out or exhausted, it is hard to come back from and will potentially take longer to recover from than if you would have just slowed down sooner.

The importance of maintaining a positive mindset 

Online learning can feel isolating at times; there is no getting around it, and it can be hard to maintain a positive mindset while pushing forward with your studies, but it is essential that you put your mental health first and focus on being as positive as you can. When you are positive, you will find work is easier to do, more enjoyable, and you will get more out of it.

To achieve the correct mindset, you need to focus on getting everything your body needs, such as time off from studying and working, a good diet, and eight hours of sleep a night. A positive mindset is essential when studying for a degree in nursing, as you will need to absorb vast amounts of information and confidently put the new information into practice.

If you do not have a strong or positive mindset, you may find it difficult to retain what you are being taught, and you might find it even more difficult to implement it. If you wish to pursue a position in leadership, you will need to maintain strength and positivity and push yourself onwards, and you will also be pushing a team forward to achieve the most that they can.

The advantages of studying online for your degree

Online learning is the more flexible approach to getting that different nursing degree that you are striving for. When you study online, you will not have to give up or sacrifice as much as you would have had should you have been studying in a physical establishment. When you study online, you give yourself a break, a break from rushing around to get to classes on time, and a break from dodging the rush hour traffic.

Studying online means that you are much more in control of your time, and this is important. When you can control your time and control how you split your time between your various commitments, you can ensure that you are creating a balance between work, life, and studying that can be maintained both now and moving forward.

If you were to study offline, you would notice that you would have less free time to spend with others. Often, online learning allows you to log in and participate at flexible times and hours, ensuring that you do not miss out on anything.

Use a timetable

If you create a timetable in advance for when you are working and studying, those within your home and family can respect what you are doing. They can also clearly see when you are busy and when you are free. Although a timetable for your whole life may feel a bit extreme, it is necessary to ensure that you achieve everything you want to, and of course, everything you need to, such as deadlines.

Creating a study space within your home

It is often overlooked, but it is essential to create a designated area you can work from. Within your home, you need a quiet area that is solely yours when you are studying. If you are constantly battling to gain some space and some peace and quiet for your studies within your home, then you need to create boundaries as soon as you can. If you do not have a spare room, then you need to utilize room dividers. 

Letting people know when you are studying and how long for will ensure a more harmonious balance within your home. Not setting boundaries early on will end up with you feeling pressured and stressed, especially when trying to complete assignments that require your full attention.

With DNP programs, you will be doing almost all of your work remotely, and so to do the best work you possibly can, you need an environment that is fit for purpose. You will need a desk and an ergonomic chair, as well as a laptop or desktop that is correctly set up and ready to use. It is also ideal to have a separate storage system that acts as a backup for any documents or assignments you may be working on offline.  

It is often overlooked, but a good backup hard drive for storage can save you unnecessary stress and worry should you not be able to access your online study accounts for whatever reason.

The benefits of a supportive online learning community

When you are looking at DNP programs, it is important that you consider what class sizes are. Small class sizes allow for relationships to be formed between fellow students resulting in a productive group dynamic, even if you are spread across the country.

This close and productive environment is essential for collaboration and networking to ensure that you support each other on the learning journey. A supportive online community cannot be underestimated as often it can allow individuals to draw from others’ strengths for the collective benefit of everyone.  

Undertaking a degree online does not have to be isolating; there is always support available to you. Study support can come in various guises, which may need to be called upon at any point in your educational journey.

An important consideration of any of the DNP programs that you are looking at is access to high-quality resources and learning materials and access to student support services. Student support services can come from counsellors’ forms to access to online learning and resource centers.

Increased knowledge and awareness

No matter what you want to achieve after gaining your degree, studying will set you on the right path for success. A further degree in nursing will cover areas that would benefit your working life and career advancement, from covering how global health can be improved to working on strategic leadership and quality improvement. DNP programs are designed to further your knowledge and allow you to put your advanced knowledge into practice. 

Acquisition of leadership skills

A high-quality healthcare degree from DNP programs allows you to study and critique the latest research and be privy to leading-edge knowledge in the sector. This will ultimately place you in a prime position to apply this research and lead from the front.

When you return to studying for a degree, you open up your opportunities for even more learning, and it is important to remember that you can implement strategic change and have a high impact through applying what you have learned.

Moving forwards – looking to the future

After deciding online studying is right for you and that it can be successfully undertaken even while you hold down a full-time job, you next need to look at enrolling. Enrolling periods vary for online courses, so it is important to find out which university you are going with sooner rather than later.

If you miss enrollment dates, you are not started studying for another few months, which could then set back your overall plans and ambitions for the future. It is important to enroll in a further nursing degree as soon as you have decided it is the right way for you to go. Careers in the nursing and healthcare sector are constantly changing, evolving, and improving for the better.

To prove yourself, you need to keep your options open and remember that investing in one of the DNP programs now is just the same as investing in yourself. Opportunities within the care and improving the care given in healthcare settings and environments will always exist, and as time progresses, opportunities will become a lot more competitive.

You need to ensure that you stay ahead of your peers and that your future-proof your career. Standing still is not an option; you have the potential to make changes within nursing and within healthcare, whether this is at the state level or national level.

Your experience, awareness, and knowledge are all valuable, and with a good selection of DNP programs to choose from, there is nothing to stop you or hold you back from achieving what you set out to do when you first began your nursing career.