Saturday, October 29, 2011

The saga does continue...

I promise I will be back soon; life has been crazy lately with working full-time M-F, my son's soccer season, and Cub Scouts. Bear with me...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The saga of my first nursing job, part 2

If you're just starting to read this, please read part 1 here first. This story will make way more sense that way.

After I was turned down for the hospital internship, I continued to send out applications to local hospitals, but wasn't expecting too much in return. I knew they didn't send out rejection letters, and also felt like having my RN would have a greater advantage. I chose to concentrate on passing NCLEX, and I would worry about looking for a job afterward.

I took NCLEX on June 28th, and paid for early results, which I received on June 30th. We decided to go out to dinner that night with some friends to celebrate, and had to wait a really long time for a table. During one of the numerous trips to the bathroom with my daughter, I saw one of my nursing classmates at a table, and stopped by to say hello. She told me that she had gotten a job in home health, and they were looking for one more nurse who lived in our area. She gave me the owner's contact information, and I emailed him my resume that night.

Early the next morning, I received a phone call from the home health agency's owner, and he interviewed me over the phone, and basically offered me the job. I told him that I was concerned about having to drive long distances, and he reassured me that I would be seeing patients in the area where I live after I completed training, which would be before school started for the fall. The office is 45 miles from me, and includes 6 tolls on each roundtrip. I also told the owner that I did not want to work weekends, and he said that they were optional, and that he paid extra for weekend work. I told him that I would think about it and call him back. The pay wasn't great, but I knew that I had to start somewhere to gain experience.

I thought about it for a couple of hours, made childcare arrangements, and called the owner back to accept the job. He asked me to start the day after Independence Day, and I agreed. We spent the weekend cleaning the house and preparing ourselves for some long days ahead. I was to be in the office from 8-5, leaving at 6:45 in the morning to arrive on time. My husband would wake the kids up and take them to daycare so they could sleep a little later. I went shopping for some non-school-colored scrubs, and was so excited to have my first nursing position!

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The saga of my first nursing job

Here I am, three and a half months after graduation, and I have already been through my first nursing job. When I graduated, I was still optimistic that I would find that perfect L and D position; I just might have to work nights or a less than optimal shift. Little did I know...

I started sending out applications to all of the local hospitals as soon as the excitement from graduation was over. I never received a single response, not even a "No, thank you." The hospitals advertised internship programs, but I think you would have had to work for them as a PCA while in school to have a chance for a slot. I heard that some of the hospitals weren't even having their internships, even though there were positions posted.

I did get an interview with an infectious disease doctor, but they were looking for someone to start right away, and I wanted to wait to start working until my kids were out of school for the summer. I didn't realize that would cost me the job, but apparently it did. I never received an official rejection from them, but when weeks passed and I didn't receive a phone call, I put two and two together.

In early June, I received a phone call from someone in HR at one of the local hospitals; someone had dropped out of their graduate nurse academy before it started, and I was recommended as a candidate. I was extremely excited about the opportunity, and went in for what I thought was a successful interview. The nurse manager who interviewed me assured me that I would hear from him whether I got the job or not, and they were trying to make a quick decision, because the program started soon.

During the second week in June, I volunteered as the camp nurse at Cub Scout day camp. It was my job to clean out the nurse's station and make it presentable, (and clean enough so that I felt I could treat patients), shop for first-aid supplies within a budget, administer medications, and treat campers and adults for cuts and scratches, as well as heat exhaustion. I learned that a popsicle can go a long way toward making a child feel better! I sent one child to the hospital that week with a broken arm, and only one other child had to go home, because he was vomiting. It was a lot of fun, and I made a contact that week with the local county's hospital district. He asked me to send him my resume, which he would forward to a recruiter.

I was scheduled to take NCLEX on June 28th, and decided to focus my time for the next couple of weeks on studying, and not worrying about looking for a job. After all, being an RN and not a GN would make me much more desirable...I called the hospital where I had interviewed, because I never heard a word back from them...they went with another candidate who had some nursing experience. That confused me, because the job was part of their Graduate Nurse Academy; we were going to be trained on every aspect of the job, and everyone was a new nurse. I was disappointed, but not discouraged yet.

...To be continued

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm still here...

I am going to try really hard to get a post up about graduation, pinning, taking NCLEX, and starting a job. I am still trying to get used to my new schedule, and it's exhausting. I haven't forgotten about the blog; please email me at if you need to get in touch with me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pinning Details

I ordered my dress for pinning, and you can see it here: Scrubs - White Cross Tie Back Scrub Dress | Lydias Scrubs and Nursing Uniforms We have the option of wearing white scrubs or a white dress, and I figure this is probably the one and only time I will wear the white nursing dress, so why not? I ordered my pin from my school, but I think I was one of the few students in my class who did. Everyone complained about the price, but we were given a price sheet back in November, and it is something special that I will look back on and be glad that I have. I am also wearing the traditional white nursing cap, and already have that tucked away in my closet. I can't wait to put the whole outfit together, and recite the Florence Nightingale oath with my classmates. I just have to get through HESI first!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

HESI Results

I went into the HESI exam last Friday feeling like I was completely unprepared and nauseated. I spent two hours taking the tests, having to sit on my hands at times, because I am an extremely fast test-taker, and I really wanted to slow down and read the questions carefully. I took one break when I was halfway through, but I just wanted to get it over with and put it behind me. There were a few questions that had terminology that I was unsure of, and there were many questions that had me staring at the screen, trying to decide between two answer choices.

I was shocked when I submitted my final question, and saw my score of 804. I kept my composure as I reviewed the rationales for the questions that I missed, then went to the room where the score analysis sheets were printing. I talked briefly with our program director, who was monitoring the printing room, and left as quickly as I could. My goal was to not talk to anyone before I reached my car, and I managed to hold it together until I reached the parking lot.

That afternoon, Facebook was all abuzz with celebration, and I didn't have good news to share, so I kept quiet. I had a long talk with my husband, and he realized that I need more time without the kids to study. I researched online test review programs, as well as more books on Amazon, trying to decide what my plan of action is going to be in order to be better prepared when I retake the test on May 10th.

So, here's my plan: I met with my clinical instructor to analyze my results, and she has suggested rereading the chapters in my med/surg book relating to assessment (that was my weakest category), and rereading my psych book. I know I can't possibly make it through all of my review books in the next month, but I took a diagnostic test on the CD that came with my Saunders book, and it gave me a 6-week plan for chapters to tackle each day. Since I only have 4 weeks, I do have to condense that a bit. I am going to continue with Hesistudy, and I've registered for the online Kaplan review. BTW, if your school subscribes to the Kaplan program, you can take the class for $300 if you call them to register.

So, basically I am going to try to live and breathe HESI for the next month. The dishes will have to wait, the kids might watch a little too much TV, but I am determined to graduate in May. I have three more clinical days, one more unit exam, and a comprehensive final standing between me and graduation. I can't wait to get my life back!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

HESI is next Friday!

Eek! I haven't studied nearly enough. Several students in my program attended review classes that focused on HESI and NCLEX over Spring Break. The ones that I heard about were the Kaplan program, and the Hurst review. I've heard good and bad points about both programs, but chose to spend Spring Break with my children instead of attending a review class.

I have four review books for HESI/NCLEX, and we have a weekly schedule that we are supposed to be following to study for the tests. I haven't kept up with it, for several reasons. First, there's just not enough time to prep for class, attend class, study notes from class, prep for clinical, attend clinical, complete clinical paperwork, keep with the kids, the house, the husband, cooking, grocery shopping, Cub Scouts, etc, plus do hundreds of review questions each week. I've been focusing on the questions that relate to the subject that we are studying in class each week, and that has helped me to further understand the pathophysiology, symptoms, nursing diagnoses, tests, treatments, etc. for each disease or disorder. I do plan to spend some time in the next week going over subjects from earlier in nursing school, but it is a standardized test, and with such a broad subject area, it's so hard to study effectively. I hope this doesn't come back to bite me!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Looking for more resources

If you know of any other student nurse blogs that I need to follow, or helpful sites for student nurses, please leave those links in the comments so that I can add them to the site. It will help me, plus help keep others informed.

Student Nurse Survival

I just received a Twitter notification that I had a new follower, SNSurvival, and clicked over to check it out. I also checked out their website,and there is some valuable information on there. Please go and check it out, and tell them I sent you!

***Update 10/29/2012: that website and Twitter username seem to be gone.  Any idea where they went?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Stroke Collaborative

Here is a great website that we came across in class today. It discusses stroke, and the 5 signs that you need to seek medical assistance.

Google Body Browser

One of my friends just posted this on Twitter, and I had to share. It's a page where you can go, and it shows you the human body by layer. You can click to see the muscles, bones, etc. I did have to download Firefox 4 to see it, but I have a Mac, and so many things aren't compatible with it. Go and check it out!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Estelle’s Guide to Nursing School: Part 6 - Surviving Clinicals Your Fundamental Semester.

Hello, my loves. My name is Estelle and I write over at the little blog *Word Lust*. Over the past few months, I have been writing a series of articles so creatively named *Estelle’s Guide to Nursing School* [click for parts 1-6] The purpose of these articles is to give you some no-BS advice about surviving nursing school and possibly even having a bit of fun along the way…while at the same time providing you with a few laughs in order to keep your sanity while nursing school tries its damnedest to make you a mental patient. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. ;-)

I am not going to lie. Clinical can be scary, especially if you are like me and had NO hospital experience what so ever when you entered your program. Some of my classmates had a slightly easier time adjusting to it than I did because they were nursing assistance or patient care technicians before they got into nursing school. With me, no such luck. I was an English tutor.

Clinicals during your fundamentals semester are designed to get you comfortable dealing with patients [or clients…however your programs refers to the people who you will be taking care of]. The focus is on physical assessment, assistance with ADLs [activities of daily living], and communication. Basically, can you take a pulse, give a bath, and ask someone when the last time they had a bowel movement was without blushing yourself to death?

But no matter. Even if you have never taken care of another human being in your life, your program will likely understand that. This is why you must log so many hours in the practice lab or perform so many mock physical assessments before you ever lay eyes on a real live patient.

Generally, your first semester you will be taking on the role of nursing assistants. You will be recording vital signs [blood pressure, pulse, respirations per minutes, pain rating, etc], performing very basic physical assessments [checking skin condition, peripheral circulation, heart and lung sounds, etc], and assisting the patient with anything they need [bathing, eating, walking, linen changes]. You will probably also administer medication under the watchful eye of your professor. Depending on the skills taught your first semester, you might even have the opportunity to perform a few skills you have learned in the practice lab (wound/ostomy care, dressing changes, Foley catheter insertion, etc).

Here of some of the things I learned my first semester in nursing school:
1. Take advantage of preclinicals. Meet your patient and their family if you can. Explain who you are and what you will be doing the next day [or whenever your actual clinical day is]. Look around the room. What do you see? Does your patient have any IV fluids running? What about a bedside commode? Also, remember to check the doctors’ orders while you are gathering information. Does your patient have any scheduled activities? Physical therapy, occupational therapy? Do they on bed rest or up ad lib? These are all things you should be looking to find out so you can keep the surprises to a minimum the next day.

2. Ask your professor what is expected of you. I know this sounds simple but clinical instructors know that you are going to be anxious about dealing with real, live patients for the first time so talk to them about it. More than likely they will do their best to alleviate your fears [unless you have a sadist for an instructor…then you are completely fucked....Haha. Just kidding....kind of].

3. Get some sleep the night before. I know this is difficult because, generally, you will be up for quite a while stressing over careplans and medication cards to do any actual sleeping. But at least try.

4. Have your clinical bag packed and your scrubs laid out the night before. I know this sounds like common sense but you would be surprised how many people don’t do it. The morning of your first clinical day, you will probably be fumbling around or in a daze. That is just one less thing to worry about.

5. Coffee. Change of shift at most hospitals or nursing homes is at 7am. So expect your report time to be 0630. If you are like me, you are probably going to get there around 0545…which means you leave the house at 0515…which means your alarm is set for 0400 or earlier. Trust me, you will learn to love coffee or you will be a zombie.

6. Fake it til ya make it. Walk in your patient’s room like you have done it a million and a half times. The less anxious you appear, the more confidence you inspire in the person you will be taking care of.

7. Remember, this is not the patient’s first rodeo. More than likely, they have been in the hospital before and this is not their first day on this visit. They have had nurses take their vital signs and NAs help them bath or walk to the bathroom. More than likely, you are more embarrassed about it than they are.

8. Take advantage of any opportunity you are presented with to perform a skill. Chances are, you learned, not just how to do a physical assessment but also have to put in a Foley catheter and NG tube, and how to give an injection. The nurses on your unit will know that students are there and will often inform your instructor if anything like this comes up. Jump at the chance. Your professor will be right there with you the whole time and who knows when you will get another chance.

9. If it looks wrong, chances are it is. It is scary to think about but the unexpected can happen while you are in the hospital. If you suspect something is not right with your patient [they seem listless or agitated, they are having trouble breathing, there is any change in their vital signs or any abnormality in their physical assessment that the nurse didn’t mention to you upon report], inform your instructor and/or your primary nurse immediately.

10. Most importantly, don’t do anything without checking with the instructor first! Never give a medication [even if the primary nurse tells you to], alter IV flow rates, screw with the oxygen settings on the wall…basically anything…without clearing it with the instructor first. Yes. It seems like a pain in the ass [especially when the ordered medication the nurse is asking you to give is normal eye drops] but the instructor is responsible for everything you do while on the unit. God forbid, something goes wrong. They are only trying to protect their job…and their nursing license.

The whole purpose of hospital/nursing home clinical is to give you some real life experience taking take of real patients. Relax. You won’t kill anyone.

Take care, darlings. And happy learning. :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

So far, so good...

This semester is turning out to be a lot more enjoyable that last semester, and there seems to be a lot less pressure on us as students. The instructors seem to be spending a lot less time introducing us to new concepts, and instead are trying to show us how to use the concepts that we have been taught to make the connection to actual patient care.

My lecture class has been focusing on role of the nurse issues and concepts, and how to practice within the scope of the Nurse Practice Act. We are getting into a perception unit right now, and will move on to maternal-infant (my favorite) next.

We just had our first clinical day this past week. I actually did two days of clinical; one day was in a long-term acute care children's facility, and the next day was my regular med-surg clinical day. The children's facility was an interesting, but sad experience; a lot of these children are CPS cases, or have been victims of abuse or neglect. I am glad that I was able to go, but I don't think I could handle it emotionally to work there. I have an opportunity to go back later in the semester, as well.

As far as my regular clinical day, I am in the same hospital as last semester, but with a different instructor. It's always hard to get used to a new instructor, and their expectations, but I think I am really going to like this instructor, as well as learn a lot from her. I didn't get to do a whole lot this week; I had to be checked off on PO meds again, and did a lot of drink-fetching for the patients. It was good to ease back into it, though. Next week, we begin team nursing, and I am actually the team leader. I'll have three other students working with me, and we will be in charge of 4-6 patients. We actually evaluate each other, and I hope I do a good job with it. We'll spend the next four weeks in teams, rotating through the positions of team leader, medication nurse, treatment nurse, and float nurse. I am excited, but nervous about it.

Later in the semester, I get to go back to the specialty areas where I am considering working. I am looking forward to that, because I am still unsure exactly where I would like to work. I started nursing school with my heart set on labor and delivery, but as time has gone by, have become more interested in pediatrics. If I am being realistic, in order to get a pediatric job, I will have to drive into the medical center downtown, but I don't want to be that far away from my kids. Most of the local hospitals have very small pediatric units, and send the more acute cases to the children's hospitals in the medical center. I think I could really like labor and delivery, so that may be where I will apply initially. Who knows if I will even be able to get a job in a specialty area; I may end up in a med-surg unit (although I really hope not) for the first couple of years. I don't think I want to do ER, OR, or ICU, either. It's so funny that I can actually talk about looking for a job in the near future...

We are supposed to be doing somewhere around 350-500 NCLEX/HESI questions per week this semester as a way to practice for our actual HESI test on April 8th. I have been trying to make the time to do that, but have not been successful every week. This week, I had class or clinical every day, and that combined with the stubborn sinus infection that I had, was exhausting. Having a week like that makes it so hard to study, or do any other work outside of class. I'm determined to pass the HESI on the first try, so I need to keep my eye on the prize.

Have a great week!

Looking for guest writers

Does anyone out there have a nursing school experience you want to share, or maybe a great resource that you have found beneficial? If you are interested in writing a guest post, please send me an email to the address in the sidebar.

Helpful sites/resources

I am trying to compile a list of websites that nursing students or even professional nurses might find helpful, with resources for different topics, notes, NCLEX or HESI help, etc. If you have a site that you like, please leave it here in the comments, and I will add it to the list in the sidebar.

I know I have neglected this site lately; I had envisioned it as being a resource of its own for nursing students, but I am finding it hard to juggle school, my family, my house, and my Cub Scout leader responsibilities. I am trying to do a better job of managing my time, and hopefully will be back soon with more posts. In the meantime, any suggestions or comments that you have would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Last semester, here I come!

My final semester of nursing school starts on Tuesday. I can't say that I am fully ready to spend a large majority of my time either studying, or worrying that I am not studying enough, again, but it is so nice to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. These past couple of years have been a crazy whirlwind, and I sure hope that I look back on them and think that all of the sacrifice was worth it. I started school when Zoe was eight months old, so that is all that she has known.

This semester is supposed to be all about preparing us for the transition from the role of the student to the professional nurse, and they cover resume writing, as well as do their best to prepare us for the HESI, which is a standardized test that we will take in mid-April. We have to pass that test in order to graduate, as well as to sit for our national boards this summer.

I have three classes this semester: theory, which is our lecture course, an online jurisprudence class that helps us to pass a jurisprudence exam (another requirement, by the state, I think), and clinical. We no longer have a lab class; we've learned all of the lab skills that they deem are important, and are supposed to be ready to practice any of them in the hospital. Let me tell you a secret; I learned how to start IVs from a 7-minute YouTube video, and I have practiced once in the lab on a severed arm from a mannequin. That arm bled all over the place, because I guess I didn't do it right. There is no way that I am ready to start an IV on a real live human, so I am planning to practice in the lab to hone my skills first.

Like I tell myself every semester, I am going to try my hardest to better manage my time, keep up with the kids and the house, and spend less time on Facebook. I do have the added pressure of needing to study for the HESI this semester, and look for a job, so I am sure I will have an even harder time sleeping than I normally do.

I am hoping that six months from now, I am gainfully employed in a job that I enjoy, and look forward to going to. I keep wavering back and forth as to which department I want to work in, but I think I will just be happy to quickly get a job. I really thought about pursuing a school nurse position, or a position in a doctor's office, but neither of those jobs will pay what I need to make to climb out of the debt that I have put us in the past couple of years, and one of the reasons that I left teaching (not one of the main ones) was that I didn't want to work 40 hours a week anymore. Sure, I won't get weekends, summers, and holidays off, but I only have to work 3 days a week, which means I will get at least two days a week where I will be home alone. Bliss! Maybe that means I'll once again have time for regular hobbies.

For now, I have to keep myself busy with printing out PowerPoint presentations and completing the assigned reading. May 11th, here I come!
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