Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool.
May 5, 2010 5:33 AM   Subscribe

The time has come to leave my job and go back to school. What should I expect? How did you deal with going from work back to school?

I am lucky enough to have an incredible job which I love. Love my work, my coworkers, my supervisor, my paycheck, etc. Suffice to say that it is pretty much teh awesome. However, I've realized that I don't want to be in my current field forever, and I really want to go back to school and pursue a BS in nursing. I already have a BA in a health-related field, but at the moment I don't think direct-masters programs are for me.

So, as of the end of this week, I am going from employee with responsibility! and clout! to undergrad (again!) I am sure that this is the right decision for me right now, and I also know that I can break back into my current field should things not work out. But I'm also worried about losing the tremendous structure, social opportunities, and financial security that my job provided. The idea of waking up Monday morning and not going to work is scary.

I'm sure lots of mefites have done this. What was it like? What were you able to carry over from your job that helped you in school? What was unexpectedly hard, and what was easier than you had thought?

Experiences from second-degree nursing students particularly apt, but answers from everyone appreciated!
posted by charmcityblues to Work & Money (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
While it technically isn't a second degree for me, I'm currently going back to school for nursing after fumbling around trying to get an English degree off and on for the last 10+ years. I've got a dynamite job as a secretary with my local public university, making great money with great benefits (including tuition reimbursement), so instead of quitting my job and going back to school full time, I'm doing my local community college's nights/weekends program.

Doing this program required me to complete a bunch of pre-reqs first, so that I would ONLY be taking the nursing classes while in the program, and not having to worry about classes like Microbiology and Developmental Psych. I chose this path because I wanted to keep the financial security and extreme flexibility of my day job while still pursuing my chosen career goals. The tuition reimbursement doesn't hurt. Plus, my program requires you have health insurance while you're enrolled, but the community college doesn't offer insurance to its students. My tuition is way less than half of what it'd be if I were enrolled at the school that employs me, but I'll be getting an equal or better education (local word on the street is the CC clinicals are more varied and in-depth).
posted by scarykarrey at 6:43 AM on May 5, 2010

I got laid off last year and went into a masters program. The trick for me was forcing school into as much of my work routine as I could. Although my program is evening-only, I worked remotely so I already had an off-kilter schedule. The key to your transition is to not stop the concept of going to work.

I try to get up at about the same time every day. I "go to work" at a coffeeshop with good Internet and relatively quiet regular customers. At the start of the term, I plot out due dates and reading schedules on a Google calendar and also on a prioritizing program (DoThisFirst) on my iPod, which helps me set daily goals. I have a tendency to be a slacker about keeping up, so this has forced me to stay on top of lecture material and to get stuff done on time.

Really, you only need to force this "go to work" thing for a month or so. Once you're into your studies, a genuine rhythm that's specific to you and your coursework will evolve, but doing this intentionally as a transition really helped me. Good luck in your new studies! My cousin made much the same change and is now happily an oncology RN.
posted by catlet at 7:13 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2nd degree RN here.

You're bringing your personal awareness, general communication skills and life experience maturity to the table and that will help you.

Know that an inpatient RN has a lot of responsibility right out of school. You are managing the care of your patients by coordinating how and when to complete doctor orders, recognizing what to question and clarify with the doctors and pharmacists, getting patients safely to proceedures, educating patients and anxious family, AND knowing when, what and how to manage and prevent patient complications that can happen anytime. It's a plateful - but don't let anyone convince you it's not do-able because it is. You also need to know who and how to ask for assistance and how to deligate non-RN skills to others on the floor.

My most cynical opinion of nursing school is that it is jumping through hoops not questioning your profs so that you can learn how to pass the boards and get a job at a good hospital that will then train you how to nurse hands on.

The students that seemed to do the best recognized what the professors wanted quickly and provide that and that only. They did NOT question the nursing rationales provided. This was harder for some of the 2nd degree people who had spent their lives and careers questioning the answers.

This makes nursing school really hard at first for a lot of people. Most people who quit or fail do so early and IMHO it is related to this. Not an inability to learn, but rather an unwillingness to recognize what they're expected to know at said level. I thought nursing school got easier as it went on. The last semester was by far the best.

This also conflicts with what you will do as a real nurse. You will question rationales. You will revise them depending on current research or what works when you're performing tasks. This is part of why there is a disconnect between what you'll learn in nursing school and what you might experience in your clinicals in hospitals. It's a weird disconnect that doesn't make a lot of sense but it exist nontheless.

It is a hard, expensive, and challenging shift but ultimately rewarding and in retrospect: a short period of time to change careers.

I love what I do now. I've been able to pay off my loans quickly. I've been able to take on positions of leadership and learn exciting new skills. There's multiple options on the career path for you to find what you like. More than most fields. Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 7:24 AM on May 5, 2010

Well I'm not 2nd degree and I'm not nursing but I did have an awesome job/career that I left because I wanted a degree here are the two things I would say.

1. I don't know how old you are but at a University you are probably going to feel old. I look younger than I am so I can kinda get away with it but be aware that you are going to school with 18-22 year olds for the most part and they can really REALLY get on your nerves from time to time. Just be at peace with the knowledge that your maturity is a HUGE asset over their frantic partying and search to adderall to help study afterwards.

2. I still treat it like a job. I have class usually until about midday and then I go home or to the library and do homework/studying. I quit around 5 or 6 and have my evening to myself unless there is something that really needs to get done like a paper or a major test that I'm not totally prepared for. I have certainly found that taking that 4-5 hours in the afternoon to do my studying means that I rarely have a test I'm not prepared for or a paper that isn't done.

I'm on my "lunch break" right now ok? I swear I'm studying.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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