Maintaining Relationships While in Nursing School
Nursing school is a time-consuming endeavor, which comes as no surprise to many nursing students, who know to expect a challenging curriculum. However, the sheer time commitment can still catch students off guard and seem overwhelming.
Rigorous classes, lengthy study hours, clinical and lab requirements, and internship and practicum experiences can quickly crowd any student's calendar. If not properly managed, all of these commitments can negatively affect your relationships and lead to burnout or compassion fatigue.
"If you don't block off time on your calendar, nursing school will envelop your life," says Alaina Ross, full-time registered nurse and nursing test prep tutor.
It's no secret, nursing school can be demanding of your time and energy. We spoke with experienced nurses about how to nurture and maintain relationships, while still dedicating the time and effort to school that nursing programs require.
8 Tips for Balancing Nursing School and Relationships
1. Set Time Aside on Your Weekends
As any nursing student knows, school commitments often spill over to weekends. Still, you don't need to spend the whole weekend poring over your assignments.
Stepping away from your work can help you with a mental reset — and you can spend that time with people important to you.
"Set aside Sunday afternoons or Saturday mornings to have fun with family and friends," Ross advises.
2. Be Intentional With Your Time
Your free time in nursing school will be limited. If you want to dedicate enough time to your relationships, make sure to be deliberate with how you spend both your school time and free time.
"This means starting work on assignments early so that you can be present," says Jamil Norman, RN and academic coordinator for Walden University.
Norman suggests being intentional about prioritizing relationships in your free time by scheduling date nights with your significant other, even if it means scheduling them during school breaks.
3. Blow Off Steam After Exams
It's OK to go out and have fun during nursing school — as long as you schedule it at the right time. Once you've finished a midterm or final, reward yourself by spending quality time with your friends.
"You'll want to just go crawl into bed, but take advantage of one of your few nights off and go have some fun. It's a great chance to see old friends and have some fun together," Ross says.
4. Set Boundaries
You know your time limits, but your friends and family may not. Communicate with them to make clear when you've got time to connect and when you need to focus on your schoolwork.
"If a person is demanding or draining too much time and cannot understand your educational goal, something is wrong," says Robin Squellati, certified nurse practitioner and faculty member at Walden University. "It is OK to let them know your time constraints."
Communicating these boundaries can help include loved ones in your academic goals, allowing them to hold you accountable and better support you during your nursing journey.
5. Take Advantage of Your Commute
Whether you've got a 20-minute car ride or hour-long bus ride, you can use this time to respond to messages or chat with your friend instead of listening to a podcast.
"I specifically remember using my 15-minute daily commute to campus as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family," Ross says.
Just remember to be safe; if you're driving, call friends or use a voice-to-text feature instead of looking at your phone.
6. Keep Your Conversations Short and Sweet
It's OK to avoid long conversations. Socializing doesn't need to be a several-hour commitment. Just like you can chat with friends during your commute, you can find other 10- or 15-minute intervals to catch up with the people in your life.
"Texting or online messaging are quick ways to let other people know you care and are thinking about them," Squellati says. "Limit your phone calls. A 10-minute phone call is nice, but an hour-long call may be too much."
You can also communicate with friends during study breaks.
"Use these moments to connect with friends by calling or texting. Tell them you only have 15-30 minutes to catch up. This helps you stay connected but also to stay on task," Norman says.
7. Practice Time Management
When it rains, it pours in nursing school. Time management becomes especially important during these busy stretches to complete all of your assignments.
Time management can come in several forms. Whether it's time blocking, making lists, or dedicating certain days to completing assignments from specific subjects, each method uses boundaries to help prioritize work and limit distractions.
You can set boundaries around the amount of time you can dedicate to socialization, as well.
"You have to be able to let people know when you cannot attend an event or get together, or perhaps that you can only attend for 30 minutes, when you know you need the extra time for your schoolwork," Squellati says.
8. Write it Down
Students looking to conquer time management can employ the tried-and-true method of writing everything down in a calendar or planner.
"Get a calendar, some colored pens, and write everything that must be done in that calendar," Norman says. "If you want to see your friends and family, you will have to schedule it around your schoolwork."
Getting a visualization of all your tasks can also help you conceptualize how much free time you can share with loved ones, telling you whether your schedule is balanced to maintain your relationships while in nursing school.
Meet Our Contributors
Robin Squellati, Ph.D., is an advanced practice registered nurse and faculty member for Walden University's master of science in nursing (MSN) program. Dr. Squellati is a certified nurse practitioner and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where she served as a nurse for 28 years.
Jamil Norman, Ph.D., MSN, academic coordinator for Walden University's RN-to-BSN program, has provided input for this piece. Dr. Norman holds over 16 years of experience as an RN and 12 years in higher education.
Alaina Ross is a full-time RN with 10 years of experience as a post-anesthesia care unit nurse. On the side, Alaina tutors for the NCLEX and TEAS, along with contributing to Test Prep Insight.
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