Balancing Life and Nursing School with a Young Family

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Our guest blogger and working nurse shares how she made the decision to go back to accelerated nursing school in Indianapolis while factoring in her family’s happiness.

Today I was watching my kids play with their friends in the leaves in our back yard. One of them got hurt (some minor thing) and my daughter said “Let my mom look at it. She’s a nurse and will know what to do!”

Hearing the pride and confidence in her voice made me give myself an internal hug and reaffirmed my decision several years ago to return to school for my nursing degree. It hadn’t been an easy decision to make.

Every year as the weather gets colder and the leaves begin to turn colors, I find myself reflecting on the times of change in my personal life. Like most people, I have experienced so many changes over the years—going away to college, moving to new houses, friends moving away, getting married, the passing of my grandparents, starting a family of my own... this list goes on, of course.

Marian University - Balancing nursing school and life

Some of the transitions have been wonderful, and some not-so-much. Thinking back on them, the ones that I appreciate the most are the ones that were often the scariest; the ones where I had to take a deep breath and jump off the proverbial cliff, taking a risk and trust that I wouldn’t end in a heap at the bottom.

Going back to school to get my nursing degree definitely is at the top of that list.

The Rewards of My Nursing Career

I recently got a promotion, so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got where I am now. I mean, it was only 5 years ago that I was working in an entirely different career, marketing, one that is in no way related to health care, and couldn't see how balancing life and nursing school was going to work.

Now, not only am I nurse with a BSN, but I’ve also finished my master’s work and have my MSN and recently achieved an advanced certification in clinical research (my CCRP). I won’t lie, I’m more than a bit proud that my credentials take longer to write than my name does. Shannon Barnes RN MSN CCRP.

The letters after my name are a daily reminder of the choices I made to get where I am. They are the like the voice in your head that tells you “You can do it!” Only now they say “You did it!”

Going Back to Nursing School

It seems obvious now—going back to school to become a nurse was a fantastic decision. But it took a long time of consideration before I was ready to commit to it. I knew it was going to be challenging not only for me, but for my family as well.

How Could I Afford Nursing School?

Setting the intention to become a nurse was the easy part. Finding the way to make it happen was considerably harder. Working out the details on how to pay for nursing school was one obstacle. But that was relatively easily solved. I met with the financial aid counselors at the two schools I was considering and we reviewed the cost of attendance. They were also able to help me make sense of the seemingly-endless options in student loans. Direct? Stafford? Private? It was dizzying, and honestly I nearly got stuck at that point. There were so many options I felt overwhelmed and scared. What if I chose the wrong type of loan? Would I regret it for years to come? After some research of my own (check out and a couple meetings with the financial aid counselors we were able to create a plan that allowed me to fulfill my dream, and more importantly, not make my family live in a box while doing it.

How Could I Balance My Life and Nursing School?

The other major hurdle in making it work was balancing life with nursing school. When I began considering nursing school I had a 3 year old son and was pregnant with my daughter. I wasn’t happy with my career at the time and badly wanted to work in Labor & Delivery as a nurse. But I also didn’t want to sacrifice my family’s happiness for my own.

I Spoke with My Advisor

I knew an accelerated nursing program would be rigorous and intense. I knew sacrifices would have to be made, I just didn’t want the people I loved to have to be the ones to make the sacrifices. Determined to find a way to make it work, I first met with the academic advisors for the accelerated nursing program and discussed what the schedule and expectations would be. I had a lot of questions about nursing school.

I needed to know all the little details, like:

  • What time would I need to be at school in the morning?
  • What days were clinicals?
  • How long would I be there?
  • Was it seven days a week, or just five?
  • Where were clinical rotations planned?

I Spoke with My Husband

Once I had answers to all those questions, I sat down with my husband and compared it to our schedule. We talked about how to make adjustments so I could drop the kids off at daycare before I had to be at class so I’d have that time with them in the morning. And we acknowledged that for the year and a half that I was in school, he would have to be the one who stayed home when they were sick or to take them to dentist appointments. We came up with other solutions to maximize my family time; if I was out studying late he would bring them to meet me for dinner. We figured the balance out together.

Being an Example to my Children

I won’t lie and tell you this all made me happy. Most days I felt like a terrible mom. I always felt like I was missing out on something. But the kids were perfectly happy, and they even developed some fun routines with their dad that frankly they wouldn’t have if I had been around all the time. In a weird way, my increased responsibilities with school gave my husband a chance to bond with our children in a way he never would have otherwise. Plus, it wasn’t forever. It was just a short 18 months. It was tough to make the sacrifice to let go of some “mom” responsibilities. But I also know that I serve as a fantastic example to my children.

I was able to show them that independence, hard work, and dedication are admirable qualities. And more importantly, I’ve shown them to never give up on your dreams.

Although nursing school may sometimes require sacrifices, programs such as Marian’s Accelerated BSN program allow you to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 16 months. This shortened time frame, combined with online classes, allow you to balance your personal life with your classes, clinicals, and skills lab.

Students just like Shannon have excelled in the ABSN program and gone on to provide for their families, have rewarding careers, and have pride in their accomplishments.

It’s not too late for you. If you want to learn more about the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, contact an Admissions Advisor today.