School, work, and Sanity as an Essential Worker During a Pandemic

Young female student nurse in scrubs poses with an iced coffee
Annie Jensen, student nurse and NU Scholar

Annie Jensen, BSN student

NU Scholar, Oct 2019 Cohort, Fresno Region



If there is anything I’ve learned from taking 100’s of yoga classes, it’s that balance can make or break your success. As an essential worker in this pandemic, my stress level has increased due to the higher demand for health care workers along with the stress of becoming an online learner. I would not have been able to survive this unconventional time without keeping a steady balance between my school, work, and activities.

Taking Charge of my Education

A counselor once told me the only person in charge of my education was me. Little did I know this would take on a whole new meaning in 2020. Not being able to physically be at school in the last six months has forced me to take my accountability for my education to a new level. Although it has been more difficult, finding activities to do as a study tool has helped me learn the information faster and doubles as a form of entertainment while in quarantine. For example, when I’m memorizing flash cards, every flash card I get wrong I do 5 jumping jacks. This activity encourages me to get some exercise in while learning the information. And we actually learn and retain information better when we’re physically active!

Work-Life Balance

Young white woman in nursing scrubs, with badge, surgical mask, eye mask
Masks can be scary for little kids, especially in a healthcare setting. A goofy thumbs-up is a smile that everyone can share.

As a self-diagnosed workaholic, keeping a work-life balance is easier said than done – but acknowledging this in myself is the first step. I feel so incredibly blessed to be an essential worker during this time and having the opportunity to still work full time. At the same time, balancing work and school has always been difficult for me, and has been increasingly more difficult with the high demand for healthcare workers right now. I know many individuals are, instead, having to take a step back from work because of the situation at hand. Nonetheless whether you’re not working enough or are putting in overtime, finding a good balance is always important. In the past few months I’ve realized I need to calm my mind before going to bed. One thing that has helped me is getting back into guided meditation for 10 minutes at the end of my night. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and are having too much relaxation time, I’ve found maintaining a consistent routine and structure to be helpful. Whatever you’re “normal” is, try to keep the same schedule by doing house projects, exercising, or reaching out to people you know who are alone during this time. You’ll not only put a smile on someone else’s face, but this has been found to be a great way to boost your own social-distance blues.

Keeping my head in the game

Young white woman with long dark hair and sunglasses, sitting in a car, very excited about an iced coffee
For me, an iced coffee is the perfect treat and excuse to take a few minutes for myself. How are you creating some small moments for self care during this time?

Working as much as I do and going to school full time, I don’t have very much free time. At the beginning of this quarantine I would push through week by week going without time for myself and I got burned out fast. I realized that I needed to change something, fast. I started experimenting by doing home workouts twice a week or watching an episode of Criminal Minds, just basically doing anything that made me not have to critically think for 45 mins. This decision transformed me into a new person. Just by doing one activity a week whether it be working out, Netflix, or going to the Starbucks drive thru to get a coffee, I’m able to refresh myself back to my equilibrium. National University’s new Mind & Body Wellness Student Organization has been a great way to get in some workouts while connecting with peers.

Even though I haven’t had much time to myself during these past few months, I’ve actually learned a lot about who I am. I’ve figured out what my learning language is, what my limits are, and learned to appreciate the simple things. Most importantly I figured out how to balance my mind and body, and it’s helped guide my way to where I am now as a student and healthcare worker.


It’s my Time – Being a Student Nurse in a Time of COVID

Young female student nurse in scrubs sitting in front of
Japheth Chin, NU Scholar and Student Nurse

By Japheth Chin, Bachelor of Science, Nursing, San Diego.

It’s my time.

Life gets complicated. And when it does, it’s easy to put large dreams like finishing school on the back burner.

Sometimes the hardest part of achieving your dream is finding a place to start. Especially right now, when everything seems to be changing daily, it’s difficult to imagine finding time to sit down and complete classes. I feel so lucky to be a student at National University during this pandemic- despite all of these changes, I have had the support I needed to continue my education. I really appreciate how hard National worked to keep their programs running smoothly and to keep their students afloat in a sea of difficulties and changes.

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In this carefree pre-COVID snapshot, Japheth connects with her fellow student nurses – never guessing how soon they would all be moving to real world COVID care.

For me, this time has a lot in common with my journey to go back to school in the first place.

Going back to school meant accepting my life up to that point as it was, and realizing that, as hard as things were, and as much as I wished they might be different, I could take action to make things better for myself and my future family.

As an aspiring nurse, I did all my core prerequisites for nursing school through National University. Even before getting accepted into their nursing program, I loved the format –  The 1-2-month classes made it easy to take small steps in what I felt was a very big journey; I also really appreciated that they were specifically geared toward working adults and those looking to change careers, and that staff and faculty understood the need to be flexible when life brought changes or complications. I remember feeling like getting into the nursing program was so far away, and then, once I was in, like graduation would never come. Now I am counting down the months on one hand until I graduate with my Bachelor’s in Nursing.

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Japheth perfects her clinical techniques on a lifelike medical simulator.

I feel so lucky to have found a family within my program, and I am strengthened by the support of my classmates. I love moving as a cohort in such a small group of people from class to class in pursuit of the same degree because of the continuity of support, the growth in understanding each classmate over time, and the willingness of other students to provide help. I owe so much to my cohort in their sustained support, especially during this pandemic, as they kept me on track even when I felt anxious.




When the quarantine was ordered, I was so anxious that my plans for my future would be delayed; however, the lengths I have seen the professors and staff go to care for the students during this time is amazing. I especially struggled with the move to fully virtual schooling and imagining how finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing online would really look like. Professors adapted quickly to online-formats while fighting against phones, food, babies, and other distractions and applauded our resiliency as we push forward to graduation. I have been so lucky to have gained so many meaningful and memorable experiences during my COVID-19 clinicals – from working at an outreach call center to taking temperatures of nurses on shift at the hospital, to swabbing at testing sites. Although it was not what I expected for clinicals, I enjoyed knowing that my university was going to lengths to help me get my clinical hours to graduate on time.

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In a flash, NU student nurses found themselves on the front lines of COVID care – taking temperatures, answering phones, and administering swabs.

I think it is so great that National University is defying the traditional 4-year university and making it possible and comfortable for everyone to have an opportunity to dream bigger. They have adapted their learning and are continuing to change as the life gets more complicated, and have always been so easy to reconcile into the life’s many obligations and responsibilities. I am grateful that I pushed myself to start on this journey because every step counts.