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By submitting this request for more information, you are giving your express written consent for Lindenwood University and its partners to contact you regarding our educational programs and services using email, telephone or text - including our use of automated technology for calls and periodic texts to the wireless number you provide. Message and data rates may apply. This consent is not required to purchase good or services and you may always email us directly, including to opt out, at [email protected].

Home Blog The Importance of Self-Care and Wellness for BSN Students

The Importance of Self-Care and Wellness for BSN Students

May 31, 2024

Contributing Author: Alley Bardon

11 mins read

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides the ultimate opportunity to improve your nursing skill set while exploring some of the field's most fascinating concepts. Such concepts include community health, nursing leadership, informatics, and so much more. Placing a strong emphasis on evidence-based practice and ethical care, the BSN encourages registered nurses to explore new perspectives and career opportunities. 

The BSN is increasingly viewed as a must for climbing the nursing career ladder, but there are challenges involved, like complex coursework, significant time commitments, and financial concerns. These issues can coalesce to produce a potentially stressful college experience, packed with deadlines and academic pressures. 

Stress does not have to be a core feature of the BSN, however, and with a little planning (and access to the right resources), it is possible to overcome key challenges while preparing for a bright future in nursing. Keep reading to learn what BSN wellness involves, why it's important, and what it takes to promote self-care for nursing students. 

Stressors BSN Students Face

BSN students enjoy access to exciting academic and professional opportunities, but these are often underscored by unique challenges above and beyond what a 'typical' college student might face. From work schedules to rigorous courses and even emotional challenges, there is a lot to consider. A little planning can make a world of difference. This means identifying key stressors and finding ways to prevent or alleviate them, and prioritizing wellness for nurses. 

Identifying the Stressors BSN Students Experience

Stress is a natural part of the college experience. However, at moderate levels, stress can provide a major motivational boost. For example, an upcoming exam can lead to productive study sessions. In the right context, stress keeps us working hard and making progress. 

Beyond this, college-based stress helps students learn to navigate a range of emotional responses that will no doubt arise in the work world. With high-stakes fields such as nursing, it is extra important to know how to work under stress, and college can help students develop these skills in a supportive setting. 

Sources of stress can vary from one program to the next and even between students. Below, we have highlighted several of the most common stresses associated with BSN degrees along with challenges that distinguish these from general college stress.  

Academic Pressure and Stress

Today's BSN programs are rigorous, and for good reason. It takes years of training and research to fully understand high-level nursing theories and integrate these via evidence-based practice. 

BSN students understand the stakes. They recognize that thorough exposure to complex nursing theories and research will help them provide a higher level of care. As such, many feel pressured to master every concept. Paradoxically, this pressure may actually stand in the way of true understanding and concept retention. 

Clinical Rotations and Other Job Responsibilities

Clinical experiences play heavily into nursing education and provide excellent opportunities to apply recently learned theories and research. That said, these rotations can be physically and emotionally exhausting as can conventionally nursing shifts and rounds pursued once employed as an RN. It can be difficult to concentrate on academic material following demanding shifts or clinical rotations. 

Long Hours of Studying and Work

Life as a BSN student is incredibly busy. As mentioned, many students are already employed in a full-time capacity, so they need to dedicate long hours diving into complex course materials and may need to work long shifts to fulfill their obligations as RNs. There are only so many hours in the day, and for working BSN students, most of these hours are committed to work or school, leaving little available for personal pursuits. 

Role of Self-Care in Academic Success

Self-care for nursing students is more than a buzzword. This concept references the need for nursing students to prioritize their own health and wellness. This calls for a purposeful approach, complete with healthy habits and boundary-setting. This goes beyond the occasional spa day. It's a holistic approach that builds stress management into every aspect of daily life. 

Correlation Between Self-Care Practices and Academic Performance

Self-care is closely aligned with academic performance, although this relationship may be difficult for the constantly studying nursing student to grasp. Simply put, poor health (both mental and physical) is linked to poor academic outcomes, but optimal health is difficult to achieve without a mentality of self-care. A growing body of research suggests that, across academic disciplines, self-care leads to better outcomes among college students. 

Prioritizing Self-Care Can Enhance Focus, Concentration, and Retention

Complex nursing concepts call for an extraordinary level of focus. This can be difficult to achieve when distracted by physical aches and pains or by mental rumination. Both can be addressed through self-care for nursing students, which serves as the college version of "sharpening the saw." 

With stressful distractions limited and a strong baseline of health established, it is easier to connect with academic materials and to stay motivated during challenging study sessions. These improvements are spurred by enhanced cognitive function, which is at its best when the brain can rest and recharge. 

Mental Health and Emotional Wellness for BSN Students

BSN students are aware of the importance of mental health. They strongly advocate for it when caring for their own patients, after all. Unfortunately, many struggle to take their own advice. Amid nursing school challenges, efforts to boost mental health may call for nuanced strategies and a renewed commitment to self-care. 

Practice Self-Compassion and Cultivate a Positive Mindset

Every student makes mistakes, but without the right mindset, these errors can quickly prompt an emotional spiral that leads to excessive feelings of guilt or shame. Instead, errors should be framed as learning experiences, which every student must make to achieve a more well-rounded understanding of key nursing concepts. 

This is more readily achieved when demonstrating self-compassion. There are many ways to achieve this, but mindfulness and gratitude exercises are some of most impactful techniques to boost positivity and general wellness for nurses. 

Coping Mechanisms and Stress Management Techniques

Every BSN student will experience stress at some point. While preventative measures can help, students also need to be prepared to tackle stress when it inevitably arrives. This means developing targeted coping mechanisms, such as: 

  • Meditation and deep breathing exercises. 
  • Calming physical activities such as nature walks or yoga. 
  • Music, artwork, or other outlets for creative expression. 

Resources and Support Services Available to BSN Students

BSN students enjoy access to a variety of support services, designed to address the various manifestations of stress that these students might encounter. Ideally, students will get familiar with these resources early on. The goal is to feel comfortable leveraging college-based opportunities in times of stress. For instance, counseling services and on-demand wellness for nursing programs can be incredibly helpful. Some degree programs even offer telehealth counseling to accommodate busy working students or those enrolled online. 

Physical Well-Being and Healthy Habits

The American Nurses Association (ANA) highlights the need for healthy nurses, explaining that these professionals are always "striving toward positive physical, mental, social, environmental, and professional well-being." This is a tall order for both nurses and nursing students, but simply setting the intention to enhance physical health can have a powerful impact. 

Importance of Maintaining Physical Health for BSN Students

Exercise, nutrition, and sleep quality play heavily into mental health, so BSN students need to prioritize these physical regimens even when busy with work and school. 

General lifestyle advice shared with patients is equally applicable to nursing students. This means engaging in moderate exercise several times per week, consuming plenty of produce, and practicing sleep hygiene to ensure a restful night. Keep up to date with medical appointments and practice hand hygiene to limit the potential for illness.

 Tips for Integrating Healthy Habits into Schedules and Study Routines

Healthy habits should be a priority, but in times of stress, it can be easy to turn to harmful coping mechanisms. The most effective strategies make healthy behaviors automatic, so that busy nursing students don't need to put any thought into the how of nutrition or exercise. 

This could be as simple as finding a fitness buddy and signing up for sports leagues or aerobics classes. This approach turns working out into a routine while also delivering a powerful dose of accountability. Healthy eating can be a bit more complicated, but time-saving habits such as meal planning may help. Other tips worth trying include the following: 

  • Take at least one ten-minute walk or stretch break during every hour of study. 
  • Pack healthy lunches to enjoy on the job instead of relying on fast food or the cafeteria. 
  • Carry a large water bottle everywhere and drink from this instead of consuming sugary beverages. 
  • Stop studying and ditch electronics at least one hour before bed. Use this time to complete a calming bedtime routine. 

Building a Supportive Community and Peer Network

Nursing school can provide amazing networking opportunities, but the relationships developed while pursuing a BSN are not merely beneficial from a professional perspective; these connections can form the basis of powerful friendships and can also provide much-needed support when stress begins to escalate. 

Benefits of Mentorship, Peer Support, and Academic Resources

A well-connected campus community offers immeasurable emotional benefits, including consistent support. As such, nursing students should make a strong effort to cultivate close relationships with peers. These friendships are best developed when forming study groups, which also provide a solid form of academic accountability. Online students can take part in such groups on a virtual level or send texts and emails to stay connected. 

Mentors can also be valuable, providing not only motivation, but also extra insight into various nursing roles or responsibilities. Leverage workplace mentorship programs or seek mentors through nursing programs or alumni networks. 

Don't forget to utilize student services and academic resources, which can bridge the gap when personal study efforts just aren't cutting it. Tutoring and group study services, in particular, are helpful when developing study skills or tackling difficult concepts. 

Promoting a Culture of Collaboration, Empathy, and Support

Nursing students form a powerful community, and seemingly small practices can have ripple effects among students and in the industry at large. This begins with showing empathy and gratitude for fellow students. Remember that small exchanges are sure to be reciprocated. Something as simple as a smile or a few kind words can make all the difference during a stressful day. Reaching out can also make the college experience feel more engaging and personally rewarding. 

Time Management and Work-Life Balance

It would be an understatement to refer to the BSN student's schedule as busy; between work, challenging courses, and study sessions, students can quickly come to feel as if they are falling behind. Effective time management can help as this is a vital skill in the healthcare sector. Begin with goal setting and a clearly marked schedule, but don't forget to set aside time for self-care. 

Practical Strategies for Effective Time Management and Prioritization

Today's nurses require extraordinary time management skills. What better time to develop these than while studying for a BSN? Implement the following strategies to make the most of every minute: 

  • Make the most of days off work. This can be especially powerful for shift nurses, who may get four days off per week and can dedicate that time exclusively to studying. 
  • Prioritize coursework based on importance and urgency. Tackle the most difficult courses early in the day when attention is at its peak. 
  • Leverage online coursework to promote maximum flexibility. Build purposeful, half-hour study sessions into times that would otherwise be committed to commuting. 
  • Draw on professional opportunities to integrate nursing theories or to reflect on the intersection between coursework and real-world nursing. 
  • Use digital planners and other applications or software tools to provide reminders or to guide time-blocking initiatives.

Avoiding Burnout by Setting Realistic Goals and Boundaries

Burnout is a huge issue across the scope of healthcare and, unfortunately, it can also strike college students. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Healthcare indicates that a significant share of today's nursing students experience burnout in the form of emotional exhaustion or even due to perceived "low levels of personal accomplishment." 

While some level of stress is to be expected, burnout should be avoided, as this can prompt many negative consequences. This may consist of reduced academic performance, worse physical and mental health, and a sense of futility or cynicism surrounding both professional pursuits and everyday life.

Realistic goal setting provides one of the most reliable means of combating burnout. These goals should keep personal values and priorities at the forefront, prioritizing skill development in relation to specific nursing interests or career aspirations. 

Boundary-setting is a must, and, for many BSN students, this will center around workplace boundaries. Often, this means scaling back on overtime work while enrolled. After all, while it's possible to juggle full-time work with a full courseload, this becomes exponentially more difficult when taking on additional work responsibilities. Setting boundaries with patients may also prove necessary to preserve nurses' mental health. Boundaries in nurses' personal lives are also important, so be vocal about how loved ones or roommates can provide extra support. 

Level Up Your Personal & Professional Skill Sets With Lindenwood Online

Would you like to develop practical skills and a positive mindset as you advance in your nursing career? Look to Lindenwood University Online's RN to BSN program for a powerful dive into evidence-based practice, including exposure to the field's most impactful theories and cutting-edge nursing research. Along the way, you will gain the comprehensive tool set needed to thrive as a nurse while maintaining maximum balance and career satisfaction. Request more information or apply today.  

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