For Meaghen Scalley, RN, BSN, the toughest part about balancing school and work is time management. A staff nurse on the postpartum unit at Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital, Scalley is pursuing her master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner, often devoting several hours a day to studying.
Enrolled in a three-year program, Scalley recently found herself cutting back her hours at the hospital to accommodate the clinical portion of her coursework. “It was a hard decision for me because I love my job so much and enjoy being there,” she said.
Having her master’s degree will help broaden her skills, create more opportunities and offer more flexibility throughout her career, Scalley said. Her class schedule includes a combination of online and on-campus courses, with Scalley commuting 40 minutes each way about once a week to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “I knew I wanted to get a higher degree not only for my own benefit but to be a benefit to the community around me,” Scalley said.
About three years ago, John Sward, RN, MSN, patient service manager for Yale-New Haven, was where Scalley is today, juggling his duties at the hospital with studies at Yale University. Sward graduated in May 2011 with a Master of Science in nursing. Obtaining a master’s degree was something Sward considered when his hospital began seeking Magnet recognition, which was awarded to the facility last year. One day in 2008, a colleague encouraged Sward to attend an open house at Yale School of Nursing.
“When I saw what they had to offer and how accommodating and welcoming they were about people returning to school, I knew it was the program for me,” Sward said.
Like Scalley, Sward faced the challenge of balancing life at work, home and school. Taking a combination of online and on-campus classes part time for three years, he remembers having two hours of homework each night after working 10 or 11 hours. “It made for a long day,” said Sward, who has a son and daughter in college. “But Yale-New Haven was very supportive of me finishing my education.”
That type of workplace support has been beneficial to Scalley. Although she reduced her work hours, she has the flexibility to pick up extra hours. The hospital also offers an RN-to-BSN transition program with tuition reimbursement, as well as scholarship money.
“You can’t get any better than that,” Sward said. He financed his degree with tuition reimbursement and student loans.
But to nurses such as Sward and Scalley, the added cost and schedule conflicts involved with furthering their education are minor sacrifices. “The end result is well worth it,” Sward said. “The world is changing. Our consumers want educated caregivers.” •
Geneva Slupski is a freelance writer.