How to Stay Motivated as an Online Nursing Student

It’s a thrilling time. You enroll in an online nursing program, filled with dreams, ambition, and enthusiasm about being a nurse. You excitedly page through your new books and get your computer ready to go. A week goes by, then a month. After a while, you may notice that it takes more effort to open your books or log in for class. Suddenly, everything else in life seems more appealing than nursing school.

What’s missing? Motivation. That drive, that all-important energy that fires you up to do great things.

When motivation dips, what was a pleasure before can seem like an insurmountable task. When heading toward a long-term goal like a nursing degree, keeping your motivation high is essential to avoid giving up halfway through.

Below, we look at five ways to stay motivated as an online nursing student. Taking care of your mind, body, and study space lay the foundation for a successful school experience. By tailoring each tip to your needs, you can design habits that will carry you through to the finish line.

Set Goals

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many of us have heard this saying, and you may have even said it to yourself. But it turns out, there’s actual scientific research to back up this two-stage process. Motivation (the will), whether internal or external, leads to your cognitive ability (executive function) creating the way to achieve your goal.

Goal-setting has been proven to effectively increase productivity. Goals hold you accountable and provide a tangible outcome for you to attain. For best results, experts often recommend making SMART goals, those that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.

The key is setting goals that are challenging but still possible. Having an impossible goal can lead to discouragement, hopelessness, and a sense of failure, definitely not what you want when pursuing an online nursing degree.

Practice Self-Care

It is too easy to read one more chapter, write one more page, and schedule an extra study session. But don’t let all that motivation we discussed earlier drive you to create unhealthy habits that will backfire on you. Self-care is just as crucial for your success as is dedication and discipline. If anything, you may need discipline to take care of yourself, ensuring your energy, health, and morale stays high.

What does this look like?

Good nutrition, adequate sleep, and time away from your studies to give your brain a break are all necessities. After that, you can customize your routines to include things that bring you joy and improve your mental and physical well-being. This may include reading a book, calling a friend on the phone, sipping your favorite coffee, or taking a luxuriously long shower.

No matter what it looks like, nurturing the health of your body and mind is the only way you’ll have the endurance and energy it takes to earn your nursing degree.

Stay Positive

Remember those goals we talked about? A positive mindset plays a big role in how likely you are to achieve them. According to several studies, students with a positive, confident outlook on their abilities succeed in reaching their goals more often than those who doubt themselves.

Of course, it’s hard to feel confident when trying to do something you’ve never done before. But try opening your personal history book and remembering what you’ve accomplished in the past. Draw strength from those memories, knowing that you’ve overcome obstacles before, and you can and will do so again.

Also, take note of the progress you make along the way, and use it as forward momentum. Every goal you achieve, deadline you meet, new skill you learn is evidence that you’ve got this!

Reward Yourself

Did you set a goal and meet it? Did you ace an exam? Then, it’s time to celebrate. Rewarding yourself along the way to the end goal of graduation helps build your morale and maintain a positive outlook on the whole process. This could be going out for ice cream with your family or friends. Or maybe it’s a long-overdue manicure. It could be something as simple as staying in and watching that movie on Netflix you’ve been wanting to see.

Want another way to reward yourself?

Give yourself positive feedback. Sometimes, it’s too easy to downplay your talents and accomplishments or always focus on the next milestone and miss the one you just reached. That’s not helpful here. If you want to be confident in your abilities, then you need to acknowledge them and what you’ve done. This is even more important when studying online without a teacher or other students there to recognize your achievements.

Stay Organized

Having an organized system in place to keep assignments, study materials, and deadlines straight is crucial for long-term success and minimizing stress. If you’re constantly scrambling to finish a paper you forgot was due, trying to cram in last-minute study time, or looking for misplaced notes, you’ll most likely feel overwhelmed and frustrated.

Specific organization tools and methods will vary from person to person, but the basics typically look the same. Some kind of planner that gives you an overview of upcoming deadlines, events, and assignments will help you stay on track with what to work on next. This could be digital, paper, or both. Creating a study schedule that fits in with your work and home life will ensure you have adequate time to do your work.

A tidy, organized workspace can also make it easier to focus on the job at hand. Sitting down to study tends to be easier without the chaotic clutter of papers, notebooks, pens, chargers, and dirty coffee cups.


Earning a nursing degree online is no small feat. It takes time, dedication, focus, and most importantly, motivation. Unfortunately, motivation can run dry when you’re grinding out day after day of classes, studying, work, and meeting all your other obligations. Therefore, it’s essential to do everything possible to fuel the motivation that set you on this path to begin with.

If you try some of the suggestions above, you’ll find that they are interconnected. Doing one will lead to another. Practicing self-care can help give you a positive attitude, which leads to achieving your goals that you can celebrate. Use each one as a stepping-stone that boosts you higher and propels you forward on your education journey. Before you know it, you’ll be stepping into your new career!