Nursling Gone Insane – An Experience Working While in College

Being a nursing student, or as I like to call it, a nursling, is a daunting task by itself. Working while being in nursing school is just plain insanity.  For me, it was absolutely necessary to have a job during school. I was lucky enough to only need to pay for my car, textbooks, or other school-related supplies, and of course, spending money, if I ever had free time to use it!  For you, it may be because you're a single parent, a two-income household, you live on your own, or you were not able to get enough tuition assistance. Working full-time or part-time while a nursling seems like a very necessary evil. Without further ado, here is my experience working while in nursing school.

My first semester while in college, I was a cashier at a local grocery store. I had already been working there for a few years, so I was itching to start my career in the medical field as soon as I could. Working there was unfavorable due to the late hours, especially on school nights, and lack of study time. Making minimum wage, I did not have the choice to cut hours in order to have more study time because I would not have made enough to cover what bills I had. It was proving to be quite a challenge to find the time to study and keep up my work hours. In order to study enough, I slept less. (I know....Bad nursling! Shame on me.) Gotta do what you gotta do, am I right? Towards the end of the semester, I was able to get certified as a nursing assistant through my school. I saw this as an opportunity to get my foot in the door in the medical field, make a little more money to compensate for cut hours, and have enough time to study without disregarding my need for sleep.

During our break before my sophomore semester started, I applied online to numerous hospitals in the area and ended up going to quite a few interviews. Eventually, I was offered weekend day shift, 7a-7p, on a cardiac floor in a hospital near-by. The floor consisted of patients pre and post-op for cardiac procedures, a cardiac step-down unit, and other cardiac care patients. I would also be able to float to other units if I was needed, once my training was complete.  I entered into this new job with ebullience! I thought it would be exciting to start getting some hands-on experience in the hospital since we had only gone to nursing homes at this point in my clinical rotation at school. I was also satisfied knowing I would have time during the week to study, practice skills, and REST! Little did I know, 12-hour shifts every single weekend, classes, clinicals, and studying would turn out to be demanding and exhausting. Multiple times throughout the year I would think about quitting and going to a part-time job outside of the medical field, but I knew this experience would benefit me in the long run.

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I was burnt out with my job after the "new job butterflies" went away, so it ended up being a downright long and miserable year. I honestly wish I would have transferred to another floor or even went to a different hospital, but I really did not have the time to go to any interviews or risk being without a paycheck in-between jobs. I still would not trade my experience working while in school for anything. It illustrated what working in a hospital was really like, because let us be honest here, the clinical aspect of school does not show you the real deal intensity of working as a nurse. It allowed me to test out my physical capabilities as a nurse, and due to my migraines, I knew I would be unable to continue working 12-hour shifts. I was able to get actual patient care experience, learn computer charting, float to other areas of the hospital to see what I might like later on, and get help from seasoned nurses if I needed to ask about school.

I may have been exhausted every weekend, without a social life, ZERO time to myself, and just barely making enough money to get from point A to point B, but I somehow made it through. It was an uphill battle to go non-stop each semester without a day off from school or work on my body and mind, but it had to be done. If you are considering working in the field during school, in my humble opinion, you should go for it! Even if it is just to get some experience. If it is something you do not have a choice in, as hard as it may be, you'll get through it! No matter how crazy it seems, you'll be appreciative for the extra experience and insight of the real world of nursing. Don't overwork yourself! If you're unhappy, definitely switch it up, and don't neglect your studying!

Last Updated/Verified: Dec 24, 2023