Is Earning an Online Nursing Degree More Stressful?

If you’ve chosen nursing as your profession, you may be researching the best way to earn your degree. In previous years, the only option was attending on-campus classes. Now, thanks to technology, there are many online and hybrid nursing programs that make this career more accessible to people who can’t attend daily, on-site classes.

At first glance, online schooling may seem like a no-brainer. The flexibility, convenience, and money saved on commuting and/or dorm expenses are significant benefits. But, like everything else in life, there are aspects of it that can be quite stressful if you’re not prepared for them.

Below, we take a look at some of the areas that make it more difficult to earn an online nursing degree. When considering whether online or onsite schooling would be best, you’ll need to assess your personality, budget, and preferred study style.


Not to be confused with self-discipline, self-regulation has been proven to be a more accurate indicator of academic success. According to this research article, “Within the academic domain, self-regulation encompasses purposeful actions, monitored and sustained by the learner, to achieve learning goals.” Self-discipline is important for decisions like reading instructions or studying instead of watching TV, but self-regulation appears to be the overall governing factor in scholastic success.

Self-regulation is especially important in an online schooling format. The make-your-own-schedule approach can be both a freedom and a burden. Yes, you have the flexibility to fit school around a work schedule and a family life, but it’s also your responsibility to create a study schedule and then stick to it.

Traditional school leaves no room for questioning when or if you should be studying or attending class. There’s no guesswork, no indecision, no options. In essence, you don’t have to expend extra mental energy into coming up with a schedule. You simply show up and put in the work.

When studying at home, there are a multitude of distractions and temptations that just don’t exist in the classroom. A spouse, kids, the TV, the kitchen, pets, and your bed can and most likely will call your name at any moment. If you’re aware of this when starting out and prepare your mind ahead of time, you’ll have a far better chance of success in not allowing daily distractions to pull you off course.

Time Management

Time management is essential when pursuing an online nursing degree, and it goes right along with self-regulation. In order to develop and maintain an effective study schedule, you must accurately assess your daily life and how you spend your time. Consider your responsibilities, lifestyle, and personal preferences. When are you most alert and productive? Do you have pockets of time that could be devoted to school somehow?

Try thinking outside the box too. That’s where online schooling shines. You can access it anytime, day or night, so it fits into unconventional schedules.

Another important part of time management is knowing when to say no. Packing your schedule will put you on the fast track to burnout. Time and energy are limited. Prioritize who and what is most important in your life and make time for those. Then, set boundaries between those and whatever else threatens to intrude on your precious time that could be spent studying.

Social Connection and Networking

A room full of other people in the same boat as you, trying to master the same skills, absorbing the same information, evokes a sense of camaraderie. You’re all in it together. And there’s always someone around that may have the answer to your questions.

Not so in online schooling, at least not in an immediate sense. While there are live classes and group sessions, you’ll most likely have to ask questions via email or a forum and wait to get answers. Earning a degree online can feel like a solitary endeavor when you’re spending hours studying during the weekends. After all, it’s just you and your computer.

Because socializing is much more limited, networking can be more challenging as well. Casual passing conversations that may lead to a contact name and phone number don’t happen every day. It takes a conscious effort to reach out virtually and interact with someone that you’re not rubbing shoulders with on a regular basis.

This aspect can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as make it more difficult to find a job.

Tech Troubleshooting

Technology makes online schooling possible, so when it glitches or goes down altogether, so does your education. Depending on your location and equipment, you may struggle with a weak internet connection or a malfunctioning computer.

For those who aren’t tech savvy, this can be a massive stressor. Imagine trying to submit a paper right before a deadline, and you can’t do it because of a software bug. You can’t just physically hand it to the teacher. You have to contact the school tech department and wait for them to get back to you with a resolution.

This is where the convenience of online schooling becomes a major inconvenience. If you spend a lot of time trying to fix technical problems instead of studying, you’ll have trouble keeping up with the coursework and learning the material.

Lack of Resources

There’s no doubt about it. The internet is a vast, seemingly endless wealth of information. But when it comes to resources, the internet still can’t do everything people can. For instance, if you’re taking classes on campus, you can walk into the school library and speak with a librarian or faculty member. They can not only help you find what you’re looking for, they may also offer personal insight and advice that can be the difference between passing and failing an exam or getting your foot in the door at a prestigious company.

When you’re home alone listening to a lecture or writing a paper, you don’t have as many physical resources at hand. Yes, you can and should reach out to your professors and interact with your peers as much as possible, but this still isn’t the same as being on location with immediate, personal access.


Because nursing is a people-focused profession that centers on interaction, earning an online nursing degree can be stressful in ways you may not expect. It’s important to consider the various aspects of online education and whether they fit your personality, needs, and lifestyle. Factors like technology, networking, resources, and self-regulation all play a part in how difficult it is to complete an online nursing program. To avoid, or at least minimize, potential obstacles, it’s wise to be aware of all the ways online schooling can affect your life and then see if you can make adjustments to accommodate them. This will go a long way toward making your education journey successful.