As a clinician thumbnail graphic: Balance Nursing School and Relationships.

Ask a Clinician: How to Balance Nursing School and Relationships

April 28, 2022

Donna Schisler RN, BSN, draws on her years as a travel nurse and extensive leadership training to share with clinicians the advice she wishes she’d received in nursing school.

Donna described how relationships can have a significant impact on your wellness and success through nursing school. Here’s what she shared with us.

Nursing school is a life encompassing event. When done full-time, it requires an extensive amount of time spent going to classes, labs, clinicals, and studying. The tests are intentionally difficult and are written in a format mirroring the NCLEX. Many students have difficulty developing new relationships outside of schoolmates during this time. One often sees that nursing students become very close and often end up being lifelong friends because of the journey they shared. Fostering these relationships is vital during these years, as these are the only people who are really going to understand all the difficulties of working through the program and the strain it causes on personal relationships.

Graphic of woman thinking of nursing school and relationships.

Tips for balancing nursing school and relationships

  1. Make a schedule. At the beginning of each week, look at your schedule and mindfully set aside time for family/relationships. This could be daily time, every few days, or once a week, but that time needs to be uninterrupted and focused solely on that relationship.
  1. Prioritize relationships during breaks. Make plans for time off between semesters or during holidays that have nothing to do with school and are all about your relationships. Make those plans and stick with them! The end of a semester is often grueling with last minute projects and finals, so life outside of school will cease to exist during those weeks. Having a set plan for after eases your guilt and the minds of those who are missing you.
  1. Introduce your partner. Yes, you will have made new school friends, but include your significant other or “outside” friends in plans with your school friends when you can. This will help to lessen the feelings of abandonment when everyone can see you making an effort.
  1. Family first. Always, family first. If it all proves to be too much, take one class less and spend that time with your kids or significant other. School will be there; family will change rapidly. Do not miss out on things you will regret because you didn’t prioritize balancing nursing school and relationships!

How did you balance nursing school and a family?

I was fortunate that my husband was in the military, and we were provided a monthly stipend to live off while I was in school, so I did not have to work on top of all the school activities. This lessened my burden a great deal. I had a one-year-old and an eight-year-old when I began school, so my attention needed to be divided well enough to support both. I was not scared to ask for help from friends and family when I needed it either. My parents were absolute God sends, and it created an incredibly deep relationship between my kids and my parents. I also let my husband know each week what my schedule was going to look like, which gave him the ability to tailor his expectations. It’s essential to set clear priorities and expectations, then communicate with those you love.  

About Donna

Donna Schisler RN, BSN, Clinical Manager has 9+ years of experience as a cardiac step-down, ICU travel nurse, legal nurse, and clinical manager. Exhibiting exceptional achievements in her career, she was invited to the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing within only 6 years after graduating from the Methodist College of Nursing. Today, she is a legal consultant helping people when they are most vulnerable to receive justice, helping nurses acclimate to travel nursing and educating people about the world of nursing.

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