I have now graduated from the Texas Tech Second-degree Accelerated program in Abilene, passed my NCLEX, and I am hired as an ICU nurse. I must say that this school was one of the best decisions I have ever made! Having an integrated program that provides clinical training from the beginning to the end has given me invaluable experience that many other new grads do not have. I am thankful for Texas Tech's program in Abilene and wanted to offer up advice to any others who are interested in this awesome school.
1. If you live far from Abilene and plan to commute, I wouldn't. Two of our class of 30 commuted from Dallas/Ft. Worth constantly. One could afford an apartment for overnight stay when needed. It was harder for these two due to the travel demands, but they did graduate. How often do you need to be IN Abilene? You have to be on campus daily for the first few weeks for "Boot Camp." Not as scary as military boot camp, much more fun, though demanding, as you will learn a lot hands-on in a short period of time. When you start your clinical work, your schedule will depend on your clinical coach. Many work two days on and then a single day later in the week. At the beginning, you will have one or two clinical shifts a week, but by the end of the year, you will have two or three clinical shifts a week.
2. In regards to clinical assignments, do your homework before starting school to find out what sort of nurse you think you want to be. This school primarily places students on Med-Surg, ICU/CCU, and PCU. Which of these three do you prefer? Not sure, maybe you will get to be a Floater, and get access to all of these floors, but I would try to pick which you prefer. If you have other interests, make them clear to instructors, and they will help you get extra hours in those areas if they can. Also, you have two hospitals to choose from: Abilene Regional Medical Center and Hendrick Medical Center. You might visit them to see which best suits you so you can ask for your preference in hospital.
3. Socialize fast, find others who study similar to you, and get in a study group. Those who studied on their own didn't do as well as those who did together. I found the friendly arguments over nursing questions are what helped me remember most. We were also a competitive group, which kept us all on our toes. In order to meet with your study group, you will really need to live in Abilene or surrounding area and not commute from very far.
4. Answer your blueprint questions before going to review. ALWAYS go to review, as this is the best preparation for finding out which areas to study for the exam. Review is usually scheduled the week of the exam, and I always scheduled my clinical hours around it.
5. Now that I mention scheduling, get a planner you really like. I actually had two. I had a small one I used to travel with to school and the hospital, because you always need to know when you are available or not. The other was a large wall calendar, so my family knew what I was doing and could schedule around me; so I could see what the next few weeks looked like before going to bed; and because the dates changed for so many reasons, I needed to be able to have room to write and scratch things out. I color coded the large one, and I wrote in pencil in the travel one. I regularly compared the travel to the wall calendar to make sure it was all accurate. Some people preferred using their computer or phone for their schedule. Your group will help remind you of upcoming assignments, and it was convenient to have someone text everyone in the group once a week with the upcoming assignments due. Sometimes due dates were changed, and others didn’t know they had a few extra days to work on them.
6. If you have questions, ask the professor. If you want to ask for an extension to everyone’s benefit, this was usually successful, as professors didn’t know they all had their assignments due on the same day. All the professors were nice, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, more explanation, or details on how they want a paper written. (Sometimes a title page was required, and sometimes it wasn’t. Some professors were sort of picky on how their assignment should be written.) Do your classmates a favor and post to the forum! You help out your classmates when you are brave enough to ask the question everyone is asking. In the forum, they can even second your suggestion or ask a similar question without the professor having to repeat herself in a bunch of personal emails. A happy professor = a happy student!
I can’t think of much else right now, but feel free to ask. I am NOT willing to provide old notes, old tests, or old blueprints – PLEASE DON’T ASK!!! Besides, I threw all that stuff away after I passed the NCLEX, and I am not interested in trying to remember what you should study for. Talk to the professors on campus if you have questions or concerns, as they WILL help you out. Another thing, if you can spare a little time, get involved with NSNA on campus!
Again, it was the best decision for me to attend this school, and I am so happy I did. I hope this helps someone out!!