How Healthcare Workers Are Juggling Their Demanding Careers with a Degree

Healthcare workers are the very definition of essential workers. Not only have they been at the very forefront of the coronavirus pandemic, but they are also the lifesaving figures that every single person has to thank. Whether they were there for you when you were injured, or they were there for a loved one, at one point or another, a healthcare worker has touched the lives of every person on this planet.

Their need, however, far exceeds their current abilities. With shortages in nursing and within physicians, the demand for healthcare professionals – and those looking to start a new career in healthcare – has never been higher.

An estimated one million nurses are expected to retire by 2030, and with their retirement comes a potential gap in care across the country (and the world). We need not only more nurses and physicians, we need more further training.

There isn’t the time, nor the staffing, for nurses to take the time off from their careers to progress through their next degree. Many currently enrolled today are working and studying, and the tactics (both from the university and the students) involved are universal.

The nurse education model, and also the tips and tricks that nurses around the country are using to better manage their demanding career and education, should be noted and used as an example across the board. Their work is inspirational, and with this guide, you’ll learn just how they do it.

The Demand for More Healthcare Professionals

There are mass shortages in healthcare, and this shortage is found amongst doctors and also with nurses. As telehealth becomes more popular, more professionals will be needed in order to rise to the challenge. Telehealth means more people will have access to the care that they need, even specialist care. At the moment, those in rural areas are hit the hardest and have a lack of options available to them, meaning that they either go without entirely or spend hours if not days to get the care they are entitled to.

Not only was there a shortage at the start, the pandemic has worsened it. On top of the looming issue of around 1 million RNs set to retire at the end of the decade, there is now a serious threat of burnout and chronic stress resulting in more nurses either quitting or looking to get out of healthcare.

In general, physicians and healthcare workers are more susceptible to burnout and stress than the general population. Around 60% of physicians and nurses are estimated to be dealing with exhaustion, burnout, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and sleep disorders. This rise has come right alongside the pandemic and has resulted in around 20% of healthcare staff quitting during this period.

The only way to address this pandemic of burnout is to increase the population of healthcare workers. Each worker needs to take on less in order to provide a better quality of care and also improve their own work/life balance. Greater investment and opportunities will need to be made to get people into healthcare, and those already working need to invest the time and energy in themselves to develop their careers so that they can work in an environment that supports them and helps them be their best selves.

This can make it seem like your decision to get started in healthcare is a wrong one, but the reality is the opposite. There has never been a better time to become a nurse or to work to advance your career. With the shortages and high demand, you can negotiate higher salaries and use the pressure on the system right now to really make a name for yourself, allowing you to customize your career easier in a shorter period of time.

The biggest difficulty for those looking to get into healthcare, or those within healthcare looking to advance their qualification with a degree, is the juggle. The coronavirus pandemic, in particular, has meant greater pressure on their jobs, and yet with the right institution, approach, and degree, they are making headway – and you can too.

By Choosing the Right Institution

The first step towards juggling a degree with a career is narrowing down your options with the best providers.

Is the University/Degree Accredited?

Outside of nursing and similar industries, accreditation is not altogether essential. In nursing, however, it should be the first thing you look for. If a nursing degree is not accredited by a recognized accrediting body, then you likely won’t be allowed to take the exam.

Accreditation simply means that the degree offered has been looked over by a committee of professionals (in this case, nurses) and that the curriculum covers the essential information required to not only pass the exam but to legally work in that job.

Do They Offer Online Education?

Online education is a must when it comes to working healthcare workers who want to pursue a degree to further their curriculum. The reason why is rather straightforward. Not only do you need a degree that you can complete on your schedule and without adding in unnecessary commuting time, you also want the best option regardless of whether it is near you or not.

Online education has come a long way, and one of the industries that has adopted the infrastructure and approach best is nursing and healthcare. There will, of course, be clinical hours involved, which is why on top of offering high-quality online education, you also need to ensure that the university in question offers high levels of support to you as an individual.

What Support Do They Offer?

Go to university, and you should have access to a variety of tools and resources, from a personal tutor or student success advisor to mental health services to a careers service. The same applies to online providers.

In nursing, a few essential levels of support that your university should offer as standard are a student success advisor who is there to help ensure you have everything that you need, that everything works, and that you are personally doing okay.

Your provider should also offer clinical placement services for free. They should be able to place you in a clinical setting for your necessary hours near where you live so that you can do the few weeks’ worth of training and ideally be able to continue to live at home while you do it.

How Many Degree Pathways Do They Offer?

Every worthwhile provider needs to offer multiple pathways. The result should be the same (a BSN, an MSN, or a doctorate), but there should be a few different ways for you to get there successfully. The reason why is so that you can pick the path that suits your personal needs and circumstances the best.

What Results Do They Offer?

Everyone is different, so if a university can boast high pass rates and low unemployment rates for their graduates, you can assume that they have an acceptable means of adapting their curriculum to best suit the majority of people – and to provide additional support if and when necessary.

Being adaptive and personalizing the experience as much as possible to ensure every student gets the best shot at succeeding is a necessity. Part of this means including NCLEX exam prep and also offering support as necessary (from IT to wellness).

By Choosing the Right Degree (and Path)

There are many options in terms of what path you take to get to your goal. In healthcare, the path is straightforward – until it isn’t. There are many ways to reach your goals, and those options start with the RN qualifications.

There are many ways that you can earn a BSN. You can work towards a full-time BSN, a part-time BSN, an accelerated BSN, an integrated BSN (though these allow you to earn a master’s, not an MSN). Understanding what option is best for you personally can help you make the best decision for your future.

If you are outside of healthcare at the moment and want to kickstart a second career, then tackling the ABSN full-time can mean starting a new career in just 16 months. If you are already working within healthcare and cannot take the time off or do not have a degree to transfer credits from, then finding the right BSN that is designed for working professionals will be a better fit.

There are many options. Marymount University’s accredited online nursing programs are excellent examples. There are multiple ways to earn your next degree, from choosing an accelerated track to breaking up your education in batches (like earning an ADN and then a BSN) to tackling an integrated degree (like the BSN to DNP).

There are so many paths forward. These paths mean that you can find the right situation to suit how you learn and what you need. Some find it very hard to get back into learning and working and would benefit from getting all of their credentials in one go, while others need shorter programs.

By Caring for Their Health and Wellbeing

A huge part of burnout is stress and poor mental health. Being in a stressful situation without the support or the ability to get away from it is going to take its toll. Those working directly with COVID patients are, of course, going to experience the biggest toll, but that does not mean that current healthcare workers are quitting nursing entirely. There are far too many roles both within and outside of healthcare, which means that they can change tracks to care for their health and wellbeing while still helping others the way they have always wanted to.

Being a nurse is a vocation, but that doesn’t mean you have to hurt yourself and sacrifice your health or happiness to be one. Advancing your career in nursing and finding the perfect dream role is a great way to stay focused and motivated, but finding the right working environment now and also investing in stress management and mental health services, are going to be key strategies in helping current healthcare workers juggle a degree with their career.

The same even applies to those who want to transfer their career into nursing.

You cannot learn well if you are stressed. You cannot juggle successfully if your health is failing. With so many options, you can and will find a role that allows you to enjoy a work/life balance that supports you. This doesn’t mean stepping away from patients or letting anyone down, either, as there are people in need everywhere.

The Takeaway

Healthcare professionals are the primary example of working while studying. The tools and resources used should be taken note of both by students and by academic institutions alike. With greater emphasis on flexible learning, students can not only more successfully tackle the difficult challenges of a degree and a career, but more will be willing to pursue this option for their own futures.

Designing degrees around a career is the best way forward for all second-career and current career professions looking to specialize further. Just as healthcare workers are progressing and expanding their skillset while they continue to work, more professions (and the degrees catered to them) need to adapt to encourage workers to progress their skills.

While not every career path warrants this, those in fields like healthcare, law, engineering, and other STEM-related fields would benefit greatly. Healthcare workers have long paved the path forward for society, and they are continuing to pave the way forward in this matter.

With better resources, greater options, and improved support, the healthcare and academic industries have managed to create a framework that not only improves education for working professionals but encourages more to develop their skills and find the perfect role for them.

Healthcare workers absolutely need to step up in order to successfully juggle their demanding careers with a degree, but when academic institutions and workplaces also encourage and provide the tools for success, all of society will benefit.