Career Pathways & Education

Should You Work During Nursing School?

Portia Wofford, LPN
September 2, 2020
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Nursing school is grueling. With lectures, clinicals, labs, and exams, it’s a year-round, demanding schedule. Add on class schedules changing, extra work for your assigned units, and study sessions, it’s hard to imagine having a job during this time. 

So, is it possible to be a successful nursing student and hold down a job? Various factors should be considered. There is no black and white answer, but here are a few factors to help you with your decision.

Assess Your Financial Situation Before Entering Your Nursing Program

Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have money saved?
  2. Is your financial aid enough to cover school costs and your living expenses?
  3. Can you move in with family to save money and spend less on household expenses while in school?

If none of the above are options, it’s time to consider what works best for you. If a full-time job is overwhelming, find a part-time job. If possible, get a job as a nurse’s aide or tech and work PRN or per diem. 

Often, per diem and PRN employees are paid more per hour, and you have the flexibility of working when you want. Not to mention, getting that clinical experience and hours prior to graduating school can help you best assess your next step following graduation.

Another option is to maximize your income and time before you enter your nursing program. Before you dive completely in, you typically must complete all of your prerequisites courses. During this time, you can work as much as you can handle. 

Take this pre-program time to:

  • Work full-time
  • Rack up on overtime
  • Work an extra job
  • Budget and save

Another way to maximize your income is to live frugally. Consider letting go of expenses that are not necessary. For example, you need internet access, but do you need cable television? Can you sell items that no longer serve you? 

Use the extra money you’ve made as a nest egg, and place it into an account that draws interest until you need it (here are more financial advice and tools for nurses).

Find a Job That Supports You as a Student Nurse

Gaining practical, hands-on experience in the industry is probably one of the best choices student nurses can make. Not only will you earn money and gain valuable experience, but it could also give you a leg up when applying for jobs after graduation. 

Find a job that supports your path from a student nurse to a licensed nurse. 

two women sitting at table looking at paper with pencil in hand studying for nursing school

Is the job flexible with your schedule? 

Are you able to turn in your school schedule at the beginning of your semester or term, and your job works around it? Flexibility is an essential quality you need your job to have during nursing school. Between suddenly changing class schedules and clinical rotations, you never know when your work schedule needs to alter because of school. 

If you’re already working, sit down with your manager, supervisor, or scheduler and let them know your plans. Do this at the beginning of each semester or term. You may even have to change roles or have your responsibilities and tasks at work shift to accommodate your new life. 

Be upfront, but remember if school is your priority, there is little to no room to change your school schedule, and you may have to find a new job. 

Can you do a Baylor shift? 

A Baylor shift allows you to work two or three 12-hour shifts on the weekend, and you get paid for either a full work week or 8 or 12 hours more than you worked. 

Will your job pay for school? 

Many organizations will pay for your program, with the condition that you sign a contract to work for them when you’re finished. Since these facilities are invested in your success, they are more prone to work with or around your school schedule. 

How understanding is your manager or supervisor? 

Nursing school is a considerable time commitment. With clinical sites, lectures, projects, research papers, and exams, a full-time nursing program is 40+ hours per week. A stressful work environment is detrimental to your progress. 

It would help if you had a manager or supervisor who is supportive and understands your goal of becoming a nurse. This is a significant life change, and you need all the help you can receive. 

Consider a job that allows you time to study

You’re going to be a nurse, so you may as well start multi-tasking and being innovative now. Find a job that allows a lot of quiet and sit-down time, and you may be able to get some studying done. Don’t forget to bring your books, laptop, tablet, and other tools you need to study. Every second of free time will count.

man sitting down looking at laptop working during nursing school

Consider travel nursing

If you’re already a nurse and you’re looking to further your education, consider travel nursing before going back to school. The money you make can be significantly more than staff nursing, at least for shorter periods of time. Put this extra income into savings and take some time off work to focus on your studies. 

Consider Jobs Outside of Healthcare Facilities

Often these jobs offer flexibility and even some time to study while on the clock:

  • Sitter
  • Receptionist
  • Call centers
  • Library assistant
  • Administrative assistant
  • Dorm receptionist
  • Resident advisor
  • Uber, Lyft, or other shared ride services

Think of your study habits and needs when considering where to work.

While some students are fortunate enough to be a full-time student and not worry about clocking in, it’s unavoidable for others. Consider your financial situation and your work environment when weighing your options. 

For more nursing resources, tips and tricks, and guidance to finding a job that works for you, create a free Trusted profile.

Portia Wofford, LPN

Portia Wofford is an award-winning nurse, writer, and digital marketer. After dedicating her nursing career to creating content and solutions for employers that affected patient outcomes, these days, Portia empowers health businesses and nursing brands to grow their communities through engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest (@thewritenurse). As part of her mission to help nurses earn extra income, beyond the bedside, Portia teaches nurses how to get paid and published by showing them how to land their first paid freelance writing gig.

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