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A Nurse and Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Better Sleep

by South University
March 9, 2018
A photo of a nursing holding a sign that says sleep well.

From March 11 to 17, 2018, the National Sleep Foundation is celebrating Sleep Awareness Week, highlighting how good sleep habits help individuals perform their best. Yet, at South University--where over 65% of our students are in nursing and other health professions--we see firsthand how getting quality sleep is particularly difficult for many healthcare professionals. In this field, professionals regularly work nights and long, demanding shifts that make getting a normal night’s sleep challenging, even throwing off the body’s natural rhythms.

As a healthcare professional, you provide essential services to patients who count on you to be alert and at your best. Fatigue is a serious issue in healthcare and can lead to a decline in your own health and an increased risk of errors in your patient care work. So what can you do when you’re working odd or long hours and find yourself struggling to sleep? Below are tips that can help you sleep better, so that you’ll be healthy and ready for the day ahead.

1. Create a wind down ritual and sleep schedule.

Begin to relax at least an hour before going to sleep, and keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule, even when you’re not working. During that hour, avoid your tv or phone as the bright light can stimulate your brain. If you want to read, choose something relaxing that you’ll be able to set aside at bedtime.

A pre-bedtime routine can also be beneficial. Ease any tension with a warm bath or shower, and treat yourself to soothing lavender scents or calming essential oils. Then, clean your face, brush your teeth, and play relaxing music or white noise to signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep. If you’re often anxious at bedtime, keep a notepad nearby where you can jot down thoughts and reminders and consider learning a relaxation technique to help you fall asleep.

2. Improve your sleeping environment.

For starters, use your bedroom for sleeping only, keeping it clean of clutter and anything that might stress you out. You should also minimize light and noise. Light tells your brain to wake up; darkness does the opposite. Invest in room darkening curtains, cover illuminated clocks, and consider an eye mask.

Set your phone to alarm-only mode, leaving it upside down to damper any light it emits. If you worry about waking up on time, set multiple alarms to ease your concerns. If you live on a noisy street, use ear plugs if you can still hear your alarm, or try a white noise machine or a sleep sound smartphone app. Finally, lower your thermostat before bedtime; the best temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees.

3. Ask others to respect your schedule.

Get your friends and family on board with the importance of your sleep. If you have children, explain why you sleep when you do and ask that they only disturb you in an emergency. Request that your housemates avoid loud noisy activities or use headphones while you’re sleeping, and place a Do Not Disturb sign on your door to avoid being wakened by the doorbell.

4. Follow a healthy diet & exercise routine during waking hours.

Regular exercise can lower your stress levels and improve your sleep, so aim for at least 20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, ideally before your shift. Working out within a few hours of your bedtime can lead to trouble falling asleep. Don’t indulge on a huge meal before sleeping, but also avoid an empty stomach. Either one could wake you up in the middle of your sleep cycle. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can also all disrupt your sleep, so avoid these items in the hours before you sleep. (See more of our tips for staying healthy here.)

Are you working in nursing or another healthcare profession? How do you balance your schedule so that you get the sleep you need? Join the conversation and share your advice with the South University community on Facebook.

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Career Outlook: Employment Growth and Salaries for Nurse Practitioners

by South University
April 4, 2017

Nurse practitioners play an essential role in our country’s healthcare system, working in collaboration with physicians or independently to provide primary and specialty care for their patients. If you’re considering pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner or enhancing your existing nursing practice leadership and knowledge, when it comes to both salary and employment growth, the outlook for nurse practitioners is promising!

Employment Growth for Nurse Practitioners

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2014 to 2024, nurse practitioner employment will grow across the country at a rate of 35%—a rate 5 times the average.

Nurse practitioners can expect particularly high demand in inner cities and rural areas, which are frequently medically underserved by physicians. Growth for the nurse practitioner career is anticipated due to factors that are also increasing demand for healthcare services. First, the number of people with health insurance is growing, and these newly insured individuals will want preventative and primary care providers—a role regularly filled by nurse practitioners. Second, as the large baby-boomer population continues to age, this group will also require increased care from nurse practitioners for chronic and acute conditions.

As of their most recent stats from 2015, the BLS estimates that 136,060 nurse practitioners are working in the United States, with Mississippi, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Tennessee having the highest concentration of nurse practitioner jobs in their state’s population.

Nurse Practitioner Salaries

In May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual wage for nurse practitioners of $98,190, noting that some positions also offer flexible hours, educational benefits, and childcare.

Not picky about where you live? Maybe you’re looking for adventure? In 2015, California, Alaska, and Hawaii reported the highest mean nurse practitioner salaries, each over $114,000, followed closely by Massachusetts and Oregon. Nurse practitioner salaries also vary based on your specialization and the area of the healthcare industry in which you work.

How to Build Your Career as a Nurse Practitioner

Interested in a career as a nurse practitioner? South University offers a master’s degree and postgraduate certificate programs with nurse practitioner specializations, including RN to MSN programs which do not require a BSN for admission. Combining online learning with on-site training, these programs are led by professional nursing instructors who can offer valuable support and mentorship as you develop your skills.

For those already working in nursing practice, South University also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program designed to help you enhance your clinical nursing practice, inquiry, and leadership skills. Explore our full list of Nursing programs available online and at our campus locations today!


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015 - Nurse Practitioners

South University does not guarantee employment of any particular level of compensation following graduation.

South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Administrative office: South University, 709 Mall Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31406-4805 © 2017 South University. All rights reserved. Our email address is

See for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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The Role of Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

by South University
November 30, 2015

As you may already know, nurse practitioners serve as important primary medical care providers for many patients across the United States. Among the various specialties nurse practitioners may have, adult gerontology primary care is one that could increase in importance as the average age of the US population continues to rise. Today, we look at the care and services adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners offer patients.


An Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) is a type of a nurse practitioner who specializes in caring for patients from adolescence to adulthood to old age. AGPCNPs provide acute, chronic and preventive healthcare services, coordinating with specialty physicians and other healthcare providers as needed.

On top of diagnosing, examining and treating their patients, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners typically offer routine checkups, assessments, immunizations, and one-on-one health counseling and education. In fact, providing education is a large part of their day and these nurse practitioners work closely with their patients to develop and implement healthy lifestyle and disease prevention plans, often involving things like diet, exercise and physical therapy in addition to any prescribed medications. AGPCNPs will also work with a patient's family to make sure family members are as involved and informed as needed to support the patient.

Places of Practice

Although state laws vary regarding scope of practice for nurse practitioners, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners in many states may have their own private practice in which they see patients in an office or provide home care or do both. AGPCNP may also work in a range of organizations including:

  • Long-term care and assisted living facilities
  • Healthcare clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Correctional centers and other settings with primary care services


All Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners have achieved licensure and credentialing beyond what is required to work as a registered nurse (RN). To practice, every nurse practitioner must complete a master’s degree program, with many earning additional post graduate certificates and even doctoral degrees. Over the course of their career, nurse practitioners continue to grow and maintain their knowledge of healthcare by completing regular continuing education courses and workshops.

Learn more about Nurse Practitioner Careers

To learn about nurse practitioner programs, careers and opportunities, read more articles about nurse practitioners on our blog or explore our Nursing programs, including those designed to prepare students for careers as Nurse Practitioners.

Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Administrative office: South University, 709 Mall Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31406-4805 © 2015 South University. All rights reserved. Our email address is

See for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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Summer Brain Foods

by South University
July 10, 2015
Summer Brain Foods

By Erin Black-McIntyre
Communications Analyst - II
South University, Online Programs

It’s summer time and there is an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies to fill your refrigerator. With so many options, how do you choose what to buy? Rather than relying on your taste buds or cravings to make your decision, why not choose options that help to fuel the part of your body needed to function best for school and work, your brain.

These brain foods help you power through, whether you’re studying for finals or finishing one more discussion post before your next family picnic.

Blueberries –These berries pack a punch of delicious flavor in every bite. Whether you prefer your blueberries freshly picked, baked in a pie, or added to a smoothie, they help to protect the brain from oxidative stress. They also help to prevent and even improve memory loss.

Lemons – This fresh, summery fruit is versatile and can be used in so many ways, it’s difficult to find something that it doesn’t go well with. Squeeze over fish or chicken for dinner and add a fresh wedge to your drinking water to add potassium to your system, which in turn helps your brain to operate more clearly. In addition to helping you think more clearly, lemons can help to boost your mood too.

Watermelon – Sometimes there’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a piece of fresh, juicy watermelon. It’s a mouth-watering treat that is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It’s full of B6, which helps to boost brain power and function. In addition to the vitamins, watermelon is extremely hydrating, which is necessary for your brain, nerves, and body to work properly.

Kale – In the last few years, this green leafy vegetable has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Among its many benefits to your health, kale is one of the best foods for brain health, as it is loaded with antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, E and selenium, which are all imperative for brain wellness. Try oven roasting kale to make Kale chips, which are easy to package, take on-the-go, or grab for a snack while studying.

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Nurses, Here's How to Help Others by Helping Yourself

by South University
May 11, 2015

Managing Your Personal Health as a NurseTaking care of the ill and injured can be physically and emotionally demanding. With 12-hour shifts commonplace in healthcare settings, it makes sense that maintaining healthy habits can be very difficult. In honor of National Nurses Week, we focus our attention on the steps you can take to stay healthy throughout your nursing career.

Eat Small Portions and Often

Adopt a grazing approach to eating, since it helps you to maintain your energy levels and avoid hunger pangs while at work. Bringing light, well-balanced meals such as lean meats and raw salads make it easier for you to control your food choices.

Make Healthier Snack Choices

The snacks you select during your working hours can take a toll on your productivity and performance, as well as your waistline. Trail mix, rice cakes and low fat yogurt are smart snack options as they provide an energy boost without the crash-and-burn effect of junk foods.

Work out before Your Shift

Exercising before work is wise as it will boost your energy levels and help you shake off drowsiness. Even just 20 minutes of brisk walking or cycling can heighten your alertness and help you think more clearly. Avoid exercise after work, especially if you are heading to bed after a grueling shift. You might, however, consider gentle exercise such as yoga or Pilates to relax your mind and body.

Keep Your Options Open

If your schedule is too demanding to allow for regular exercise, find ways to incorporate it into your work routine. Workout by climbing the stairs, walking the corridors or jogging outside on your breaks. Exercise during your shift is a good way to reboot your energy levels when fatigue starts to rear its ugly head.

Prioritize Your Sleep

Take measures to create an environment conducive for sleep, since this will improve the quality of your sleep. Use blackout curtains or blinds, and disconnect anything that will disrupt your sleep. A peaceful setting will help coax your body into falling asleep and staying asleep.

You Can Do This!

Long hours can be tough. It is important to acknowledge your need for self-care even when you feel exhausted. By watching your diet, finding time for exercise and sleep, and asking for support from family, friends, and colleagues when you need it, you can strike the right balance between caring for yourself and caring for others. Keep up the hard work, and know that what you do is appreciated by many, including all of us at South University!

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