Monday, November 29, 2010

The End is Near!

I am sure I have written this somewhere already, but I want to see it in writing again, to prove to myself that I have made it to the end of this awful semester, and am going to be 75% finished with nursing school.

As of right now, I have:

* 3 more days of lecture
* 2 more lecture exams (one is a biggie)
* 1 more lab (my last new skill in nursing school-IV starts)
* 1 more clinical day (how happy that makes me!)

I will be a free woman December 14th, around noon. The madness starts up again January 18th. Can't wait...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where did the semester go?

I knew it had been a long time since I posted on here, but I was shocked when I clicked onto this page and realized that I haven't added a new post since the semester started. Where did the last three months go?

This has been a very challenging semester for me, for many reasons. It's been really hard for me to get used to a different set of instructors, with different agendas. My grades haven't been all that great, even though I have studied harder this semester than I ever have. I'm having to come to terms with being okay with Cs in my classes, which is hard.

Clinical has been beyond challenging, with an instructor who is so focused on checking us off on certain skills that she makes it not fun at all. We, as students, are focused on patient care and increasing the level of skills that we can perform on the patients. My instructor is focused on getting us all checked off on central line dressing changes so that we don't have to do that skill in the lab at the end of the semester. It's hard to understand how she grades us (when a large part of the rubric consists of how we interact with the patients) and consistently gives us grades much lower than we expect to receive. Needless to say, it's been really frustrating, I haven't enjoyed clinical this semester, and am excited that we only have one more clinical day to go, and we can put this behind us.

Because of all the difficulties we've experienced, my clinical group has grown very close. It's great to have such a wonderful support group, and I don't think I would have made it this far into this semester without them.

We haven't had a holiday since Labor Day, and I was so excited when I realized that my son has the entire week off for Thanksgiving. Not so for me; tomorrow, I have 5.5 hours of lecture, and Wednesday, we have an exam on the material from last week's lecture, as well as what is being covered tomorrow. It's all downhill from here, though. We have clinical December 1st, one more exam December 10th, and our final is December 14th. I can't wait to be able to say that I am 75% finished with nursing school! We found out this week that pinning is May 11th and graduation is either May 13th or 14th. I'll be counting down the days soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

...Here We Go!

Nursing III starts for me tomorrow. I have made sure the house is clean, the pantry and fridge are stocked, meals are planned for the week, childcare has been arranged, and all of the PowerPoints and assorted notes that were posted this weekend are all neatly organized in my binder. I have everything that I need in my backpack: a fresh supply of ink pens and notecards, my new Trapper Keeper with dividers that are labeled for each of my classes, my adorable Lilly Pulitzer planner, and my MacBook and power cable. I still need to plan my outfit for tomorrow and pack my lunch. Class starts at 8:00, but enrollment is up by 40% at my school this year, and due to construction, a lot of parking is blocked off. So, I will try my best to arrive on campus by 7:30.

We have already been given several files to print and take to school with us tomorrow and Tuesday. Tomorrow is orientation all morning, then lab packets and concept map planning in the afternoon. Tuesday, I believe we have our first lecture on Role of the Nurse, then will do some math practice in the afternoon. Wednesday, we start hospital orientation, and my regular lecture and clinicals will take place beginning next week. I guess there's no easing into it this year...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Other Tips and Tricks

Here are some things I've been thinking about to help ensure success in nursing school. I apologize if any of them have been mentioned in earlier posts; I'm simply too tired to go back and look, and want to get these ideas written down before they disappear from my head.

Time management is a huge issue in nursing school. It's hard, but during the semester, you almost need to schedule your entire week. Now, if you are young and single, live with mom and dad, and don't work, your time will be spent entirely differently from students like me who have a husband, kids, and house to take care of during the week. We have many students in our class who also add a job to the mix. I don't think I could do that, as well, but for some students, it's a necessity. Time needs to be allotted during the week for pre-reading before lecture, preparing for lab, maybe answering some questions for lecture, going back over your notes after lecture, and after clinical, you may have a care plan due that will take you between 10 and 15 hours to complete. With all that, there may be an exam to study for, as well. Most students in my class give themselves Friday after a test off from studying, but then pick back up Saturday morning. We always start a new unit on the Monday following an exam, so there are always several hours' worth of work to do to prepare for that new unit. In addition to the ongoing work for lecture, lab, and clinical, we are always reminded that we need to be doing NCLEX questions each week. The way I like to handle that is to try to work on questions that pertain to the topic that is currently being covered in lecture.

I am still trying to find a better way to study. Material for nursing school is so different from prerequisite or basic classes; in most of those, you memorized facts, regurgitated them for the test, and moved on to something new the next week. In nursing classes, we study individual body systems or diseases, and you have to know pathophysiology, pharmacology, side effects of medications, what to watch out for, etc. Each semester builds on the last, and lab and clinical help to further cement that knowledge. I pull out my A&P book at least once a semester for help with studying.

I really want to work on finding the best time to study this semester. Last year, I waited until after the kids went to bed, and by then, I was so tired that I had to review the material several times in order for it to sink in. This semester, I don't have class until 11:00 on Monday and Tuesday, so I am going to try to either find a quiet place on campus and study before class, or stay at home and study. Being away from the house is better for me, because there are too many distractions at home. I tend to clean or watch TV when I have free time and should be studying. I really want to keep my grades up this semester so that I can apply for an internship after graduation, and most of them require a 3.0 average.

I also am trying to figure out the best place for me to study. I tried my dining room last year; it was a big enough surface to be able to spread out on, but if the kids were awake, they were coming around and bothering me. This summer, I set up a folding table in my tiny little office, and I am hoping to use that as my study area. I'll be able to leave things spread out and close the door, and little hands won't color in my books or take my things away. I have to study in a distraction-free environment, and sitting on my bed doesn't work for me. Our school library is really open and loud (I guess they don't teach people to be quiet in libraries anymore), but there are several quiet places on campus that I might be able to find to use.

That's all for now. When I think of some more tips, I'll be sure to post them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seven hours the magic number for sleep: Study | Nurses Notes

Seven hours the magic number for sleep: Study | Nurses Notes

Wow, I rarely get that much sleep, especially during the school year. I am really hoping to get into a better study routine this fall, so that I can get more sleep. I ran into the problem of having to wait until my children went to bed to study last semester, and I found that I was always tired, and it took me twice as long to read and understand the material that I was studying. I also drank more caffeine in order to stay awake, and ate more late at night, which led to weight gain.

Does anyone have any tips on how to manage study time better, or want to write a guest post? Contact me at with details.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Useful books that are not on the required reading list

As I said in my last post, I had to spend about $1000 on books last summer, but they will be used for both years of nursing school. There were some optional books on that list that I didn't purchase, like workbooks that go along with some of the textbooks. Some people might find those beneficial, but there are only so many hours in the day that a person can devote to studying, especially with a husband, kids, and a house to take care of. I haven't found that there is enough time to read all of the required material for school, then put in more time doing exercises in a workbook. I'd rather spend the time watching a Youtube video about a specific skill than answer questions about it.

There are some extra books that I have purchased and found useful. The NCLEX is the exam that a graduate nurse will take to become an RN, and throughout nursing school, a lot of the exams that we take contain NCLEX-style questions. Most of the NCLEX study books that you can purchase have questions divided up by body system, so I have found it helpful to answer some of the questions from my review books that go along with the same thing that we are studying in lecture. Most of the books will come with a CD that contains questions that you can go through and answer. After you answer the question, it will give you the correct answer and rationale. I have purchased the Saunders book (recommended by my school), HESI (we take HESI exams almost every semester), and Hurst. I think Hurst is my favorite, because of the plain language that she uses in her book. If you have the opportunity to take a Hurst review course, I have heard they are wonderful.

In addition to NCLEX books, I have purchased several drug guides. They are all arranged differently, and some of them come with a CD, which is helpful when writing care plans. The reason I bought several was that none of them were Mac-compatible, and I was trying to find one I could use with my computer. The drug guide that I have ended up using the most is the one in the Nursing Central application from Unbound Medicine. I won a year's subscription on Twitter a few months back ($159/year), and have really found it helpful. I can use it on my iPhone, and that is one less book that I have to haul to clinical. It also has the Taber's medical dictionary on it, which is useful, too.

I had a hard time with writing care plans in the beginning, especially with the pathophysiology of the diseases. I bought a pathophysiology reference book that I really like; I went to Borders and looked through all of them before deciding on one. I also bought a care plan book, but haven't used it a whole lot since the first semester.

Fluid and Electrolytes was the hardest unit for most of us in my class, and a lot of students found this book to be helpful. I did, but didn't have a whole lot of time to look it over once I finally broke down and bought it. I had more time to look at it during Nursing 2, and it did help to explain things a lot simpler than my med/surg textbook did.

I took pharmacology online last spring, and our teacher simply forgot about us for weeks at a time. We had lots of notes and quizzes at the beginning of the semester, and then time would go by where there was nothing posted for the class. I didn't care much for the textbook, and there was no posted phone number to get in touch with the instructor. I made an A in the class, but came out of it feeling like I knew nothing. Pharmacology is an important concept that is going to be revisited all through nursing school, so make sure you have a better instructor than I did. My clinical instructor from Nursing 1 teaches pharmacology at the school where I go now, and I really wish I had taken her class. Anyway, here is the pharmacology book that I ended up buying, but have not spent a whole lot of time looking it over. Yesterday, I checked out the textbook that my current school uses for pharmacology from the public library, and I've started looking it over in the hopes that I will be better prepared this fall.

If you have any other supplemental books that you use for school, please post them in the comments. It's always nice to have additional reference sources when there is a difficult subject being taught.

Beyond Books: Other Nursing School Essentials

Before you begin nursing school, you will probably get an extensive list of textbooks that you will have to spend your hard-earned money on. I am enrolled in a two-year ADN program, and once we begin the program, all of our courses are in the nursing department. We use the same textbooks for all four semesters, and the cost is about $1000. That's a huge initial investment, but we get the book list during orientation in early June before starting the program in August. That way, there is plenty of time to shop around online to get the best deals on the textbooks. I was able to buy all new books last summer for the same price as the used ones in the school bookstore.

If you purchase new books, they will come with a CD and usually an online code that will get you into the publisher's website. Depending on the publisher, you will have access to the complete text online (very handy for class), chapter summaries (love to print these out) quizzes, videos, and other supplemental materials. Sometimes we will have assignments from the CD and/or website, depending on the professor, and sometime I like to use the material as additional reinforcement for studying.

Besides all these lovely books, there are some other items that I consider to be essential for my success in nursing school. (Side note: I am a visual/tactile learner, and lessons presented to cater to auditory learners are completely lost on me. I do not record lectures, because I would never go back and listen to them. I also firmly believe that I have a raging case of untreated ADHD, and my hands must be kept busy at all times, so I don't drive everyone around me crazy. I was that kid in elementary school who would finish their work first and was always either drawing in the margins of my papers, reading a book on my lap under my desk, or sitting on the floor cleaning out my desk. You could also find me writing extensive letters to my friends during class, or creating sculpture out of tissues and staples).

Anyway, I know you've seen those students on campus with the rolling backpacks and wondered who those chumps were. Guess what? Those are the nursing students, trying to prevent back injury from everything that has to be taken to class. Those textbooks are heavy, and some days, you may need to have 3 or 4 of them with you, in addition to your binder with your printed out objective questions and/or Powerpoint slides, laptop to take notes during lecture, power cord for the laptop, flash drive, ink pens, highlighters, calculator, sticky notes to mark the pages in your textbook that you need to read, water bottle, travel coffee cup (even if you never drink coffee, it will become your friend during nursing school), and your lunch.

On the days that you have lab, in addition to lecture, you will also need to have a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, penlight, bandage scissors, your lab manual, and any objective questions or notes that were assigned before the class. You may also be carrying around a catheter set, IV bag, or a bunch of syringes for lab. It all depends on what skill is focused on that week.

On the days that you have clinical, you will generally be at the hospital from 6:30 am to 5:00 pm. On those days, students have the distinctive pleasure of getting to wear real scrubs. At our school, we wear teal pants and white shirts with our school's logo worn on a patch on the shirt's shoulder. It is also highly recommended that we wear white t-shirts under the white scrub shirt, and white socks with our white shoes. Some students prefer more athletic-looking styles, but I go for comfort and the shoe's ability to keep me moving and not in pain for many hours at a time. (See previous post about shoes).

There are several books that have to be taken to clinical, depending on how your specific instructor does the care plans. We have to have our drug guide to look up meds before giving them to a patient, nursing diagnosis handbook, lab values guide, Texas Nurse Practice Act book, and it is always a good idea to have our lab skills book, to brush up on a new skill before doing it with a patient. We also have to have our stethoscope, pen light, bandage scissors, a black ink pen, and something to write on with us. By the end of the day, I will also have alcohol pads and possibly bandage tape in my pockets. I almost wish I could wear scrub shirts every day, just for the pockets. It's nice to have my hands free, and have somewhere to store my phone and car keys.

In my next post, I'll talk about supplemental books that I have purchased and found to be useful.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Walk a mile in these shoes...

You will walk somewhere around 3 miles on your average 10-hour clinical day.  At my school, we are required to wear white shoes with our uniform scrubs, and most of the students in my class went on a mission to find the cutest ones they could.

From my years of teaching, I have tendinitis in one of my ankles, and have suffered from plantar fasciitis in that same foot.  I know that I cannot wear shoes that are not supportive, because I won't be able to walk the next day.  I wear Danskos on a regular basis, so I immediately started shopping for Dansko nursing shoes.  I found a style that I really liked, and was able to buy them for about $80, with the student discount, from my local nursing supply store.  Some of the students in my class were appalled that I had spent that much on my shoes, but I won't have to replace them during our two years in school, and they will last many years afterward, as well.

After a day at clinical, I don't have a sore back or feet like a lot of my fellow students do.  I can still walk comfortably, and don't have to go home and immediately put my feet up.  So, my recommendation is that when you shop for nursing shoes, you shop for shoes that are supportive and comfortable, not ones that are cute!  Here is a photo of the shoes that I have (and love):

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A good stethoscope makes all the difference!

When I started nursing school, we had a four-week summer class that we had to take prior to the official start of school, so that we could learn how to do a physical assessment, take vital signs, and learn some other basic lab skills.  On the first day, we were told to buy a cheap stethoscope and blood pressure cuff to use in class.  I went to the local nursing supply store, and bought a blood pressure cuff that cost about $25, drooled over the nice stethoscopes, and bought one that cost somewhere around $20.

When we went to lab the next day, I couldn't hear a thing when I used that stethoscope.  I couldn't take an accurate blood pressure reading, because I couldn't hear the pulse, and couldn't take an accurate apical heart rate, either.  After struggling with that for a few days, I became very nervous that I wasn't going to pass the class, because the final exam was to successfully take vital signs and do a physical assessment on someone.  I'm not used to failure, and it really stressed me out.

One of my friends started lending me her stethoscope whenever we had to use them for something important, and I began perusing the websites of companies that sold quality stethoscopes.  Also, it was one of the hot topics among the nursing students in my class.  I decided that I wanted a Littman Classic II SE in red, but the cost was prohibitively high for me to just go out and buy one.  My husband gave me one as a birthday present last September, and it made such a huge difference in what I was able to hear, both on real patients, and on the SimMan that we have in the lab.

I highly recommend that new nursing students get a good stethoscope right off the bat.  Ask for one if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up, or try to get a part-time job to cover the cost.  There's just no comparison, and it should last you your whole career.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Need to hit the books

I've been out of school for six weeks now, and haven't really done any studying.  I know I need to get back to it, because this fall is supposed to be the hardest semester for us, and I don't want to be rusty at any of the skills, diseases, or concepts covered last year.  We have a remediation packet that is provided by the people who did our final exam this past spring, and I plan to download that to go over the questions and concepts that I didn't score well on.  I also want to go over the Powerpoints from the past two semesters, and look up the terms and concepts that I am not comfortable with.  I have three NCLEX books that I can review and do questions out of, as well.  I have a copy of last fall's Nursing 3 syllabus, and I guess I could start going over that, too. 

It's just hard to find time when I'm not busy with the kids, cleaning the house, or cooking a meal.  Since there is no pressure to do schoolwork right now (the first time in two years for me), it makes it hard for me to actually do it.  I am in the middle of cleaning out my office right now, so maybe having a clean space to study in will be enough motivation.

Does anyone have any tips for what to review over the summer break?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


If you are a nursing student and have a blog, or just know of any student nurse blogs, please leave the addresses in a comment for me so I can add them to my blogroll.  It's always nice to know who is also in the trenches!

New Adventure

I've been blogging for five years about various things, and I started thinking today that I wanted to start a new blog where I could share information related to nursing school.  This will hopefully benefit aspiring and current nursing students, as well as me.  Please feel free to leave a comment with post suggestions; I plan to share information that I have learned about helpful websites and books, as well as experiences I have had as a nursing student. 

Some background info on me:  I was a public school teacher for eight years, and when I had my daughter in the fall of 2007, I had a really great experience in the hospital.  During those late nights during maternity leave, I started researching different careers, and thought it would be fun and rewarding to teach the childbirth education classes at the local hospitals.  When I looked into it further, it seemed to me that no one would hire me to teach the classes without an RN, and my sister and I joked that I should just go to nursing school. 

In the summer of 2008, I decided to go to the local community college, take A&P I, and see if I could handle school on top of raising two children and keeping up with the house.  I found that I loved the challenge of learning new things, and really enjoyed the class.  In the fall of 2008, I started back to school full-time to take the prerequisite classes to apply to nursing school.  I applied during the spring of 2009, and was accepted into the two-year ADN program beginning in the fall of 2009.

I've now survived a year of the program, which is half of its length.  I am the president of my school's SNA (Student Nurse Association), and am juggling my courseload along with a very energetic 8 year old boy and mama's girl 2 year old.  I am a Cub Scout leader, and love to cook and read.

Please feel free to ask me questions if there is anything else you want to know!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...