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.
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