Advice and development

Fitting a part-time job around your nursing studies

It can be tricky balancing paid employment against university work, clinical placements and other commitments. Student nurse Grant Byrne offers his top tips

It can be tricky balancing paid employment against university work, clinical placements and other commitments. Student nurse Grant Byrne offers his top tips

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For nursing students, working part-time is often part and parcel of our university experience – for many, it's the only way to make ends meet. 

But studying nursing isn't easy and fitting work around university, clinical placements and personal commitments can be challenging. 

Golden rules

There are, however, some golden rules that might make working and studying easier to manage.

The following tips worked for me and will hopefully work for you.

  • Find work that's flexible. I work set shifts every weekend, but if I need a day off it's easy for me to arrange for a colleague to cover for me. Other students opt for agency or other zero-hours contracts, but, if you go down this route, do your homework. Try and find a job where a shift is guaranteed when you want one.
  • Try to find work that contributes to your learning. This might mean working as a healthcare assistant to boost your clinical skills, but it could also mean an office job that lets you study when things are quiet. 
  • Plan your time effectively. This requires good organisational skills, such as prepping meals ahead of time or studying on your commute. And remember to take time off, which is essential to maintaining health and well-being.
  • You shouldn't miss class for work, but if this does happen, speak to your university as they may be able to help you make up the hours. Remember the Nursing and Midwifery Council require us to complete 2,300 hours of theory and 2,300 hours of practice. 
  • Make savings where you can to limit the amount of time you need to work. Your university may offer services to help you budget, or access additional support, and it also helps to shop around for deals online to save on bills. Make good use of the reduced section of your local supermarket but be fair on yourself; you are allowed the odd treat. 
  • Remember it's okay not to be okay. If you're struggling, ask for help. See your GP if you have health concerns. Many universities also have counselling services available. Speak to your lecturers or learning services, if you are having issues with your studies. 
  • Access all the financial support you are entitled to – your university should be able to help with this. Additional funds, such as scholarships and grants, may be available, and those who are struggling may be able to access a hardship fund. 
  • And for mentors, please be flexible where you can. Your student is working to support themselves during training, so let them have some say over their shifts where possible. 

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Many of us are in the same boat and will happily offer advice and support. Nurse training is hard work, but it will all be worth it in the end. 

Grant Byrne is a second-year nursing student at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland 

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