If you’re about to start learning about nursing and healthcare online, you’re likely to be excited to get started. However, it’s never a good idea to charge into things. To really make the most of your online nursing education, it pays to have a study strategy and routine you can fall into during the upcoming semesters.
As you’re learning online, you won’t need to travel to any physical lectures unless you have enrolled in a hybrid program. This means you need to start building your own timetable and managing your studies. These are fantastic skills that will serve you well not only throughout your education but also in your nursing career!
In this guide, we review some of the top tips on how to effectively prepare, manage and make the most of your online nursing education. Whether or not you already have notes, timetables and time-tracking tools, we hope you find the following information useful.
Build a network
When you’re learning online, you’re not flying solo. While you will probably spend most of your education time reading and studying suggested healthcare materials and case studies, it pays to build a strong network of people around you for support. You can support them too, of course!
Start by getting to know your fellow students. You already have plenty in common as you are studying for a nursing qualification, which should break the ice. Building peer relationships during the online study is important so you gain insight into areas of nursing you might have missed. Remember, supporting your fellow students isn’t cheating — it’s great to share ideas, suggest sources and even study together when possible. This type of collaboration is frequently encouraged.
If you’re keen to start looking for placements and break into the healthcare industry as soon as you graduate, it’s also wise to start building professional connections. Reach out to your faculty and ask your tutors for advice on who you could contact for mentorship, for example.
Also, make an effort to harness the power of social media. LinkedIn is an easy way to start building a network of healthcare peers. Start by adding students enrolled in your course and even your tutors if they’re willing.
Be smart about your timetable
With an online nursing degree, it’s likely you will have deadlines for coursework. You may even have times when you are required to attend virtual seminars, but this isn’t quite the same as school. Outside of your set meetings and discussions, it’s up to you to set timetables that fit your schedule, lifestyle and learning style.
This doesn’t have to be scary! Be realistic and consider your everyday responsibilities, but make time to study every day when possible. If you can help it, don’t fall into a pattern of cramming study at the last moment. Give yourself plenty of time to read the source material, explore studies and ask people for help.
It’s wise to start creating a healthy and supportive routine for your learning needs. Given you’re likely to handle some complex cases and materials, avoid studying late at night or when you’re likely to be tired.
Plan plenty of breaks and rest periods, but remember to exercise discipline. Remember to ask your fellow students how they plan their schedules, as you could gain some useful insight. Planning your timetable and study periods carefully means you have more time to digest the material and to ensure you have time and space to meet any deadlines.
Your tutors will be impressed by your time management skills and your dedication if you start studying early in your semester and ask questions regularly. Planning ahead means you can write essays with none of the cramming! If you haven’t applied to a program yet, start by planning out how you’ll write an entry nursing essay efficiently.
Attend your seminars
Some nursing education seminars are likely to be optional but don’t take this for granted. If you’re serious about dedicating yourself to nursing, be sure to throw yourself into the information and support your tutors give you. Although it’s likely virtual seminars will have catch-up materials and presentations provided alongside, attending your seminars shows you’re interested in the course, and that goes a long way to showing your tutors you want to do your best.
Remember that while you probably could find much of the information provided in seminars through catch-up reading in your own time, these meetings are for your benefit. If you prefer visual and guided education to reading and practicing, you’ll need these periods to gain an appreciation for the work that awaits you.
You might be able to miss some seminars if you have an emergency that your health or life otherwise depends on. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to show willingness to encourage your tutors and help boost your knowledge and confidence. This is especially worthwhile if a topic is completely new to you or you could use some guidance.
Create a dedicated working space
It might seem easy to sit with a book and a notepad anywhere in the home, but if you’re looking after children or already have a busy lifestyle, it really pays to dedicate an area to your study. This falls under setting routines. If you have a desk or a nook where you can sit and read, research or write, then you know you can return there purely for those tasks.
Dedicated working spaces take on all shapes and sizes. Just ask anyone who works remotely or from home. If you don’t have enough space at home to create a dedicated desk or study area, consider heading to your local library, a cafe or a co-working space. To study effectively and to allow all that new nursing knowledge to settle in, you need a dedicated space that’s purely for work. Of course, we all learn in different ways, and your own preferences might vary, but we recommend giving yourself somewhere that is yours alone and solely for studying.
Look for in-person placements
Many student nurses enter online study keen to start practicing what they learn as soon as possible. Sometimes, online courses will offer in-person practice that you can attend on your own time. In others, you might be able to attend placements either during your modules or at the end of your course. Regardless, it’s a good idea to start planning where you’d like to gain some practical experience.
Start by thinking carefully about your nursing specialty. Do you want to work with older people, children or pregnant women, for example? Consider speaking with your tutors and your peers, as they might have some insights into who you can reach out to for work experience and where you might be able to go on placement. Some hospitals and clinics might require you to graduate before you complete a placement, so don’t feel discouraged.
It pays to keep an open mind about in-person work and what’s available. Many hospitals and healthcare settings are happy to welcome students to gain mentored experience purely because it potentially means bringing more talented people into the workforce.
If you already have some nursing experience and are taking on a bridge qualification, such as one of the ADN to NP Programs Online offered through reputable institutions such as Wilkes University, you might find it easier to apply for such placements. Wilkes University provides a clinical placement team to help future nurse practitioners identify and arrange quality placement sites. The program offers fully online coursework with no campus visits, meaning this flexibility is ideal for those with a busy lifestyle.
Take on wider reading
It’s easy to assume that the reading lists your tutors give you will be all you need to look at. Certainly, it’s wise to read the recommended books but to gain insight into the nuances of your nursing specialty, go beyond the set texts. Start by looking into resources and journals that cite or link to the articles and books your tutors assigned to you. Are there any interesting ideas or concepts that you’d like to explore further? Perhaps your tutors could provide additional resources beyond your main reading list to help enrich your knowledge and guide you down a more specialized path.
Regardless, reading is a superpower when it comes to learning about nursing online through a distance program. The more knowledge you gain, the better prepared you will be to enter the workforce after graduation. Along the way, check with your peers to ensure you understand the material. You can even compare reading lists, make suggestions and give advice on how material reads to you. The choice is yours!
Ask for support
Just because you’re learning from afar doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. As mentioned, you can always contact your fellow students for advice and insight. However, it also pays to ask your tutors for help! Your tutors aren’t just there to mark coursework and to follow up with you on deadlines. In fact, online learning is a much more relaxed setting than the formalities of school. Much of your success is in your hands, which means you need to manage your time and prioritize speaking to tutors and course leaders when needed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not expected to know everything at the start of an online nursing course, and for that reason, online tutors understand there will be learning curves. We all learn in different ways and at different paces, so ask your tutors for guidance on any coursework or reading that doesn’t quite make sense to you or for suggestions concerning extra reading material. Your tutors will be happier to help you than for you to risk misunderstanding a topic on your own.
All the best nurses rely on people around them for support, knowledge and guidance. It’s how the average clinic and hospital setting operates, so getting used to asking for help now is good practice for the future. Feel free to contact course leaders via email or by setting up video sessions based on their availability. Make sure to plan ahead if you want to talk issues over with them this way, as chances are they will be as busy as you are.
Finally, this point ties in with setting up your own study space — but remember that even in a house with your own desk or study area, you might find distractions tempting. You’re only human, and many of us struggle with studying distractions. Given that we all use technology to research, write and edit, limiting how much we use our tools for entertainment and social media is important. This goes for smartphones and tablets as much as it does for laptops and PCs.
Be ruthless when removing distractions from your study zone and time. Don’t touch your phone until after you’ve finished reading or annotating an article, for example, or completing a set number of words for the day. It’s sometimes difficult to reduce distractions when trying to study from home. However, doing so will not only help you meet course deadlines but also help improve your quality of study. You’ll find it easier to learn new material and to recall it further down the line.
It’s important to be realistic, especially if you have a busy life, such as children at home during the day. Set your timetable for studying carefully around when you are most likely to be distraction-free and more receptive to learning.
Preparing for nursing education: Easy when you know how!
Learning about nursing and healthcare online is exciting, and it’s a whole new world of independent study and time management for many people. Take the advice we suggest here in steps, and make sure to give yourself space and time to study at a pace that suits you. You’ll find that even the most complex topics and ideas are easier to understand when you pace yourself!