Ultimate Guide to Balancing CNA Training and Working Full-Time

Melissa Mills
July 14, 2022
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You’ve been accepted into the CNA program of your dreams! During orientationyou get a calendar with important dates, including classroom, lab, clinical days, and the dates of exams. The more you look at the schedule, the more anxious you get about having enough time to balance work, school, and family life. Oh, and don’t forget that you need to sleep, eat well, and take care of yourself, too. Easy, right? 

Going to school to become a CNA and working a full-time job is a challenge. And, we’re not even scratching the surface of all your home responsibilities. You might have children you need to care for, a spouse or partner you want to spend time with, and extended family who won’t be happy if you go MIA for a few months. But, how do you balance your responsibilities and spend the time you need on school work? 

We’ve created this ultimate guide to help you balance your priorities and give you the time you need to excel at in your CNA training program.

Get Organized

Organizing yourself is the first rule of succeeding in a CNA training program when you have multiple competing priorities. You’ll need a calendar or planner to write down all of your assignments and keep track of what days you need to be in the classroom, lab, or clinical setting. You should also put your work schedule on this calendar to quickly see when you have free time for studying, family, and other commitments. 

Getting organized isn’t just done with a calendar system. You should create a space in your home where you can study and hang essential documents. Find an area that isn’t in the main traffic patterns of the house - think bedroom, basement, or designated office space. Hang a bulletin board or cork board to give you a place to pin up your calendar and any other important papers.

You need to create a few rules about your study space. First, let your family know the room is off-limits if the door is closed. Always leave your phone outside the room during study time. And, finally, only play soft music that isn’t distracting and keep TVs and other technology turned off. 

Budget Your Time

Mapping out your time commitments is a must-do if you want to balance work and school successfully. Jot down your tasks, including work, school, family life, drive time, downtime, and rest. You might need to change your schedule while in the CNA training program to give yourself extra daily hours. For example, consider waking up earlier than normal or staying up an hour or two later at night to focus on things you need to get done. Having just a few hours with no interruptions can make a big difference. 

Talk to Your Boss

Work is essential, and you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it. Being open and honest with your boss will reduce the risk of adding to your stress. Chat with them and tell them when you’ll be in school. You can work together to set realistic goals and expectations while busy. For example, you might see if they’ll agree to not asking you to take on new projects or work late on school days because you know it will be too hard.

Expect Disruptions

Most things in life don’t go as planned, and being in a CNA school is no exception. The good news is that more CNA training programs are no more than a few months long, so you should be able to juggle the ups and downs for a short period. However, don’t be mistaken and think you’ll be able to handle it all and not miss a beat. Instead, expect disruptions and create exceptions to the normal rules. 

Here are a few things you might try to keep work, school, and home life on track:

  • Have a backup plan for chores like daily childcare or school pick-ups and drop-offs. 
  • Talk to your family or trusted friends and let them know about your plans to attend CNA school and see who is available to help if needed. 
  • Ask another parent at school to see if they can help during this short time.
  • Give yourself a break on house chores like cleaning and laundry, and ask your family to pick up the slack. 
  • Try meal prepping for the week, so you only have to spend one day in the kitchen cooking.  

Creating a plan before you need it will help you not feel overwhelmed when disruptions happen.

Manage Your Stress

How do you handle times of high stress? Of course, your mental and emotional health must come first, even during school. But, knowing how you handle stress will help you create a plan to survive this busy time. 

Here are a few quick things you can start practicing now to create good habits before you even begin the CNA training program: 

  • Write down why you want to be a CNA on a note card. Now, hang the card on a mirror in your bedroom, bathroom, or another place you’ll look at daily. Finally, read the card each morning as a grounding exercise to remember why you’re going to school.   
  • Set at least an hour aside every day that’s just for you. Do something you enjoy during this time, like reading a book, practicing yoga, or going for a walk. When you have this time on your calendar, steer clear of any work or school activities.
  • Practice mindfulness by doing 10-15 minutes of meditation each day. Meditation controls stress levels and will help you feel calm and relaxed when trying to balance work and school life. 
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night. The quality of your sleep and stress levels are connected. Create a nighttime routine that includes using a sleep app, soft music, or essential oils to help you fall asleep quickly. Keep the room cool and lights dim to help your brain know when it’s time to disconnect and get ready for sleep.
  • Eat stress-busting foods. Did you know that some foods are better than others during high stress? Try comfort foods, complex carbohydrates, spinach, pistachios, and oranges to reduce stress. 

Enjoy the Journey

Returning to school when you have family, friends, a job, and more is challenging. However, you shouldn’t just try to check off the boxes just to get through. Instead, take your time to enjoy each day, learn as much as possible, and meet new friends and colleagues. You’re going to do great!  

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