How to Go Back to School for Nursing in Your 30s and 40s
If you’re going back to school for nursing in your 30s or 40s, chances are you have more responsibility and maybe a family. We share our top ten tips to help you with financials, childcare, and household management as you make the shift to student provider.
1. Make an “in-school” budget
Modify your current household budget with your partner to account for going back to school. Items to consider in your revised budget are:
- Changes to childcare expenses
- Modified transportation costs
- Scrub uniforms, a stethoscope, and a watch
- Physical examinations and mandatory vaccinations
- Third-party vendor fees if your school uses them to manage clinical rotations
Spend several months making a running list of expenses to reduce the likelihood that you forget or overlook a cost. Also, make sure you and your partner are both on board with this budget. It needs to work for both of you.
2. Put a financial recovery plan in place
Create a financial recovery plan if you will borrow money for school or defer existing student loans. To do this, figure out exactly how long you can survive if you don’t get a job right away, and detail how you’ll pay off student debt.
If relevant, you include a plan for how you’ll save for a house or handle taking a leave from your new job if you plan to have children soon after finishing school and getting hired.
A financial recovery plan will reduce your anxiety about returning to school, and it will help you remain excited about your future when nursing school gets tough. It will also give you a stronger sense of purpose and a clearer vision for your future.
3. Start looking early
Whether you prefer daycare or in-home childcare, start your search for a caregiver early. Good daycares often have waiting lists and it takes time to find private, in-home childcare.
A good rule of thumb is to begin your search 6 months before you start nursing school. This will give you time to interview multiple candidates and make the best choice.
You will also want to get on daycare waiting lists as a backup if you can’t find private childcare within your budget.
4. Defer your acceptance
Consider deferring your acceptance to nursing school if your children are less than three years old.
You’ll gain more time to bond with them and this can make it easier to continue breastfeeding if you plan to nurse for a year or more.
Delaying your acceptance may also reduce childcare expenses.
It’s usually cheaper to pay for a few half-days of preschool and reduce the number of hours your caregiver works, especially if you or your spouse can do the drop off or pickup.
5. Rely on ONE organizational system
Create a master organizational system to increase your efficiency. Focus on creating a single system that uses one place to keep track of everything from appointments and grocery lists to school work and personal reflections.
If you find yourself constantly going through your to-do list at night, use The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll to organize your household and nursing school schedule. It’s a single organizational system that will work for all aspects of your life.
6. Schedule it and stick to it
Nursing school is challenging, and it can be more difficult for student providers because they usually have additional responsibilities at home. You’ll need to find a groove where managing your household, studying, and advancing your career happen effortlessly. Following a schedule is the best way to find your flow during nursing school.
If sticking to a schedule is hard, then remember why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place and use that as motivation to push through the boredom of routine.
7. Simplify and outsource everything you can
Simplify and outsource to ease the daily grind and find time for school work.
Here are three strategies to consider:
- Meal prep for the entire week on Saturday mornings before the kids get up.
- Sign up for a meal service— Dinnerly is a cheaper option.
- Order your groceries online using Instacart and have them delivered.
Befriend your crockpot if meal subscriptions and grocery delivery aren’t viable options. Cook dinners in bulk and freeze them for later. You may want to try recipes that require a minimal number of ingredients to save time, money, and energy.
Self-Care Tips for Student Providers
8. Plan your self-care
Planned time off can break up the monotony of scheduled life and re-energize the body, mind, and soul. Take regular small breaks during the week and schedule more significant breaks at strategic intervals.
A mini-break might be savoring a cup of coffee in the morning. A big break could be taking a night off. Ask your partner to watch the kids and revel in the alone time. Strategic “big breaks” offer the time and space you’ll need to decompress.
9. Be realistic about exercise
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and manage your health during nursing school. But you won’t have a lot of time for it.
Limit exercise to 45-minutes per day. Combine cardio and strength into one workout to save additional time and focus only on exercise you know you’ll do.
HIIT workouts that combine cardio and strength can be done at home with just your bodyweight in as little as 15 minutes!
10. Be ruthless about priorities
You probably got better at saying no after you had kids. Apply that same “momma bear” attitude when you go back to school. If you’re asked to do something, and you have a choice, ask yourself whether you’ll feel depleted if you say yes. If you will feel exhausted, then say no. Your kids, partner, and nursing program are your priorities now.
You Can Do It!
Nursing school is hard, and it’s harder when you’re raising kids and managing adult responsibilities. But you probably have few people who are willing to help. Accept the help they offer, and remember, although difficult, this chapter in your life is temporary, and it’s worth it in the end. You got this!