nursing school must-haves and apps

Tulo, my constant study companion.

One thing I used to search for before I was a nursing student was other blogs that talked about what one needs the most to be a successful, organized nursing student. One list does not fit all, but I do think combining different ideas is nice and you can decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.

It was not until I was a good month into nursing school that I actually learned how to study, at the ripe old age of 31. Seriously. I’ve never been the A student, but I tried my hardest. I grilled my nurse friends about what they did to study and honestly, you just have to figure out what works for you. First, I had to find out how I learn. I knew that I learned well doing things hands-on and was very visual but how am I supposed to translate this into a study method? I realized that re-writing my notes from power points was exactly how I was going to learn best. This was both visual and tactile and skills were hands-on learning opportunities so I combined those things together and came up with a pretty good study method. So here is a list of some of the many things I do and use to help me throughout nursing school. Feel free to share and comment what works best for you.

  • PENS! I invested in tons of pens. Sharpies, ballpoints, and all the colors. Because of all these pens, I also picked up some cute pencil bags from the dollar section at Target. πŸ˜‰
  • Concept maps: Our instructors gave us a couple formats to try out and the best ones for me are web-shaped. You can google nursing concept maps and find tons of options.
  • Plain white paper: I tried using regular lined notebook paper to write notes, and something about the lines really didn’t work for me. Sounds silly, but really-I now write my notes out on copy paper and use different colored pens to create notes that make sense to me. My fellow nursing buddies have even asked for copies. πŸ˜‰
  • Laptop: I started out nursing school using a Windows PC and within 3 months it was not working for me. I invested in a Mac and love how I can use apps on my mac and my phone and they sync up. I also got a free Microsoft office download from the school that works with Mac so I don’t have to convert my files from Pages to Word anymore.
  • Printer/Copier/Scanner: I also got a new printer. The one I had previously worked just fine but was way too slow for my needs, it used ink up way too quickly and the scanner didn’t work anymore. Having all three features is a must for nursing school.
  • Evernote App: This app is a note-taking GEM! Especially if you use a Mac and an IPhone. I can type notes up on my computer from word or directly into the app and read my notes while out and about on my phone. I can also add photos, graphs, and PDFs that are important. AND I can share notes with friends–and they can share with me! There is a small group of us who do this and it’s so nice!
  • iStudiez Pro App: I use this app to keep track of my assignments and due dates. I can make different sections for different classes and add what I need. I also have an alarm set up to remind me the day before and the day of. Because of this app, I have not missed a due date! There are so many things to keep track of this helps so much.
  • NCLEX RN Pro App: I paid $30ish for the full version of this app and it is amazing. A few thousand questions in all areas of nursing that are actual NCLEX questions. To pass NCLEX (when I am done with nursing school), it is recommended that you do 50 questions a day–yes, A DAY! I admit I am not that good about practicing everyday but its a great tool to have. There are also special lists about lab values and abbreviations and meds and more that are helpful.
  • Amazon Prime Music App: We have Prime because we use Amazon all the time so you could certainly use Pandora or Spotify, but I personally love Amazon. There are tons of stations on this app and since I commute to school, I MUST have good tunes. I also use this app to find great relaxation playlists and study music. Some of my favorite satations are Alt-J, Hozier, Summer Jamz, 90s Pop, and The Lumineers. These stations keep be going. I love music! Maybe next summer I will be able to go to some concerts!
  • Sleep: Obviously to be healthy, we need sleep. And when I was awaiting nursing school to start, I worried so much about how I was going to get enough sleep. I NEED sleep. Like, more than 4 hours otherwise I have no energy and cannot function. My husband, on the other hand, only needs 5 or so hours and he’s good to go. Part of my self-care and overall lifestyle is needing a good amount of sleep and this includes naps. Yes, I manage to do well in nursing school and take naps! I really didn’t think it was possible but it is and is SO important. I will sacrifice other activities to get the sleep I need. That’s how important it is to me.

And that is where I will leave off. There are other little things I’m sure that I cannot think of, but this is a pretty solid list of what I need on a day to day basis to get through nursing school. Like I said, it is not easy, but it is fun and will be more than worth the hard work and sacrifices when I’m finished.

halfway through maternal-newborn

Back when I started this blog years ago, I assumed that once I was in nursing school I would be able to document my everyday life as a student nurse. HA! There are just far too many other things on my plate to worry about and this blog, and writing about what I have been up to, is the least of my worries. However, I still want to be present here. It is not going to be enough, but it will be something.

Since June, I have been in maternal-newborn/OB classes and it has been wonderful! The learning and labs have been so fun and truly light up my soul with passion as I have learned so many new things. A few people (seasoned nurses) have gently tried to tell me that *maybe* I will change my mind about becoming a labor nurse and midwife someday. I kindly tell them that my passion grows daily for women’s health and that has not changed in the least. If anything, being in the area I am passionate about has only made me more excited and hopeful for my future as a nurse.

Despite my strong passion and excitement for this class, the last month and a half have been pretty insane. I had to take a med calc exam THREE times. We only get 3 chances and the mistakes I made the 2nd time were so silly. Three chances was all we are given and thank GOD I passed the exam on Thursday! Focusing on that exam and on the second exam for the class (yesterday) eat up any free time I have outside of family time and work. I truly felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders as I passed that med calc exam. I feel like I can really focus and enjoy the class more. The stress surrounding that was so bad my migraines and other physical pains resurfaced. And there is nothing like pain to make you want to curl up under the covers despite how much work there is to be done.

Nursing school is just as hard as I expected it to be. There was not a moment leading up to starting nursing school over a year ago where I thought “Nah, this won’t be THAT hard…” Nope. It’s hard. Getting through it requires so much self-discipline, focus, and support. My support comes straight from God, my family and very close friends. Self-care has been incredibly difficult for me to make a priority. I know that sounds bad. How can I possibly take care of others if I am not taking care of myself?! Trust me, this is a huge work-in-progress. In fact, writing here is one of the things I cam doing for myself. I know that I will wish I had spent more time documenting nursing school, so better late than never. πŸ˜‰

On Monday, I start 4 weeks of maternal-newborn clinicals in the hospital. I am so excited! I cannot wait to put my hands on a pregnant belly, feel for positioning and contractions and connect with a family as they welcome their baby! I’ve been to several births, but only has an observer and never as the nurse. This week is going to be epic!

7 months

My last post is over 2 months old and I have been thinking about writing an update here for days. I did the math the other day and I have been in nursing school for 7 months. That’s pretty crazy! My concept of time is all over the place. Some days I don’t even know what the date is and before I know it, the month is over! The amount of material and the experiences I have had so far have been life-changing. There is not a single doubt in my mind that I am exactly where I belong. So let’s catch up…

The last post I talked about taking my Pharm comps. That Friday, we were leaving for California for a weekend family vacation to Disneyland and so I was focused on studying and packing. My comps were in the morning and I was ready but very nervous. I always get nervous before I have to perform (more on this later). My scenario was pretty straight forward and I passed! So we left the hospital and headed to the airport for a whirlwind vacation to California with my cousins and despite how quick it was, we enjoyed every second of it. It was also a great treat before starting my Med/Surg class.

Med/Surg was a class that I had been so looking forward to. It was as if I had been through these basic classes to get to the real deal when it comes to nursing medicine and practice. I love learning about diseases and why they happen and am rarely grossed out from things. Week 5 we had comps before we were to head into clinicals. The week of comps was a disaster for me. I had so much happening with work and class that I had no time to practice my skills (NG tube, trach care/cleaning, wound care). I had one day to get it right and I just prayed that I would do well.

I was in the first group of the morning to go. I was up early and ready to rock it. I knew my scenario and just didn’t know what skills or meds I would be giving. Long story short, I failed. I was absolutely devastated! I just had poor time management. I wasn’t organized and I let my anxiety get the best of me. Thankfully, my proctor was so sweet and reassuring that I would get it the next time. She had tons of great tips and I worked on those things and my skills all weekend. By Tuesday, I was ready to really rock my comps and I did. I was, however, terrified that I wouldn’t pass. Another fail and I’d be out. It’s that strict. I get it. Nursing has to be strict because we are dealing with the life of another human and our skills have to be perfect.

After week 5 comps, we started our clinicals in the hospital. I was SO excited to finally get my hands on real people with real issues to apply what I had learned so far. That is how I learn best. Our clinical instructor is wonderful. She told us right away that our time in clinicals was about learning and not about the care plan, though we still needed to do them, she wanted us to focus on the experience. So my first day of clinicals I went to the OR! I followed an awesome OR nurse who was willing and happy to teach. I got to learn more about sterile procedures. I did try to insert a folly cath and I missed but it was a good try! Last week I was able to see an EGD, colonoscopy and a heart cath with stents! I have had great patients with really complicated issues, all of which have really helped me through the critical thinking process. I also placed two IVs with success! Overall, great experience so far.

After fighting off every other germ this fall, my body finally succumbed to strep this weekend. I have been in bed for 2 days and I haven’t had strep since I was a kid! I cannot believe how miserable this is! The timing could not be worse! Next week we have two finals and finish our clinical rotation so send up prayers and good vibes that I can get through the next two weeks PASSING exams and clinicals so I can enjoy Christmas.

I’m hoping that it won’t be another two months before I write again, but that is just a testament to how busy nursing school keeps me. I am so proud of myself. I have never worked so hard in my life and I know that all the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice is well worth the reward in the end.

Surviving Pharm

(Sunrise on my drive to school last week.)

The last 4 weeks and 3 days have been nothing short of insanity for me and my fellow nursing buddies. I knew that pharm would be hard but I never imagined I’d fail my first exam in nursing school in this class. When I say fail, I don’t mean under 59% like most standard grading scales. I mean under 75%. Yes, you will not pass the class or an exam if you cannot maintain a 75% or better. In general, this makes sense. I don’t think most people want an average nurse caring for them who doesn’t even know 80% of her or his job. 

It’s absolutely unrealistic to think that I could ever learn everything about every drug, but understanding basics….I’m there. In two days I will take my first med passing comps and I’m exhausted! The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stress I’ve gone through has been so hard. I’ve cried more this month than I have in a long time BUT it’s a good way to get rid of stress! 😜 

Next week we start a new class and I’ll have my second round of clinicals at the end of November. It’s mind blowing how fast this goes. I have no clue what day of the week it is. But I have my family and friends supporting me and I couldn’t do any of this without them. 

head to toe

On Friday, my lab partner and I had our first lab comps where we had to perform a full head to toe assessment on each other. We had to memorize and perform all the assessments for each system and do it in less than 20 minutes. If there is anything I hate, it’s being timed. Also, being watched at timed. So I am not your typical Leo who likes to perform and be the center of attention–in fact, I hate it! So this is something I really need to get used to and I’m sure it will get easier but the first time was stressful.

The good news? We PASSED! It was pass/fail and remediation for failing was to be done next week and we are so glad that we nailed it! We both certainly made a few minor mistakes but nothing that would have put the patient in any harm. We celebrated by heading up to a famous cinnamon role breakfast spot and had some food all the while in disbelief that we had passed.

Next week we start foundations. We are half way through our transforming care class and our first clinicals start in August.

 

The First 2 Weeks

Nursing school has officially started! I cannot believe it has already been two weeks. I have been wanting to write since the end of the first week and already realize that posting once a week may be more challenging than I had hoped.  In preparation for school starting, I was able to order my scrubs and books ahead of time. I was also able to access the online portion of the class a week before. Even that slight advantage has not given me a head start! You dive right into everything at 100mph and there is no stopping in sight!

The first week was great. My general excitement was at an all-time high. I was getting to now the other people in my class. Our first lab was on vital signs so I felt very confident in the first exam, which we had this past week. I got an A! This second week, however, has been a lot harder and more intense. There is so much to learn! We have been working on skin and neuro assessments. For me, these are not hard tasks. What is hard is memorizing the steps and the methods without forgetting anything. Today I really felt the pressure. I cried. It was a good cry. An overwhelming cry of realization that this is real and it’s going to be real hard. I’m ready, but damn this will be a crazy 24 months!

I am still working on my study methodes so that is part of some of the frustration I’ve had. I am hard on myself and I do overthink sometimes so my amazing tutor keeps bringing me back into the sandbox. πŸ˜‰

Anyone else just starting nursing school? Please share your experience! I will do my best to keep this blog updated often. I’m taking Health Assessment and Transforming Care right now. This is one of the rare times I will be taking more than one class at a time. I’m already thankful there are only 3 weeks left in health assessment, not because I don’t like it (I LOVE IT!), but because balancing more than one class at a time is hard.

That’s all for now!

last week of patho

Hi friends. It’s been a busy 9 weeks and here I am, finishing up the last week of my patho class. I have everything done other than the final, which I am not totally ready for. Hopefully in a couple more days. I am hoping that I will start writing here more often. I want this space to hold the memories of this time while also being a form of guidance for others entering the same career path.

PathoΒ has been the hardest class I’ve taken since Biology 111. There is so much content to learn and the amount of time we are expected to learn it is outragous. Ten weeks is not long enough to cover 39 chapters and over 1000 pages. I’m keeping my book and making flash cards for all the ailments so I can learn more as I go.

Less than 2 months until nursing school begins! I am so excited–and also very nervous! Doing something new has always been a hard transition for me. BUT. I know this will be great. It will be hard but it will be great. The 24 months that follow will go so fast. I’ll be working as an L&D nurse before I know it. πŸ˜‰

Monday I start my very last pre-rec class: World Views. This is a university required course that is only 5 weeks long. I am so ready to finally be done with all these prep classes and dive into nursing! Thanks for following along…

xoxo