So you are free for the summer...the shackles of nursing school have loosened. You have just a few short months to create some semblance of a personal life before you have dive back into clinical rotation when you'd rather be diving into a cool swimming pool. What should you do during the summer months to keep all of your newly acquired nursing knowledge in the palm of your hand and not lost in the sand?
Two words...Career Path. Plan your future. Maybe you have always wanted to be a nurse because you want to help people, or maybe nursing will be your second or even third career that is your best effort to provide for your family. Either way, you must have a clear set of goals organized into a career path so you can maintain forward momentum. Instead of reading a juicy romance novel while lying on the beach, look up the median salary, educational requirements, specialty certifications, renowned speakers and authors, and organizations that are related to your chosen career path. You have spent the greater part of the year studying drug cards, practicing IM injection on manikins, and writing care plans, why not take a little time learn about the practical profession of nursing.
Look into professional nursing organizations. Many organizations have meetings that students can attend and some organizations allow students to join at a discounted rate. Professional organizations may meet as frequently as each month and invite guest speakers to present relevant nursing research or evidence-based practice to the group. You may even meet future hiring managers or meet nurses that can help you land your dream internship or better yet, your dream job after graduation.
Do your due diligence and learn about entry level salaries of nurses in your area and become familiar with median salary ranges. In terms of salary, chances are you won't have much bargaining power as a new graduate nurse, but after gaining a year or two of experience, you may be ready to move up in the nursing world. If money is a motivating factor for you, align yourself with a nursing specialty with a median salary range that appeals to you. The summer is a great time to look into your future, because you'll be back to the grind of nursing school before you know it.
So you want to be a nurse practitioner someday, but you don't know that DNP stands for? Look it up. The summer is a great time to create and educational plan. If you want to become an advanced practice nurse you might as well get used to studying. Look into graduate programs and their requirements. If graduate school interests you, you may be able to start working on some of the requirements before you even graduate pre-licensure nursing school. Learn about the minimum requirements for entrance and make sure you are on the right track. Don't know what GRE or MAT stand for? Do your research. Many graduate schools require entrance exams that you can start studying for on your own or by taking a prep course. When the new semester starts, you'll be too concerned with short term goals like you midterm grades, the summer is a great time to work on things that are important for the achievement of your long term goals.
If you are truly ambitious and generous, use your summer to help others by volunteering in the hospital or free clinic, alongside those nurses that will soon become your peers. Get real experience. If you're work experience is a long list of summertime jobs that starts with ice cream scooper and ends with head life guard, volunteering in the health care setting would be a great resume booster.
However you chose to spend your summer is ultimately up to you, but remember that graduating nursing school is real. It is a short term goal. In a few short semesters you will be studying for your board exam and then be looking for a job. Maximize your professional potential with a little summer time effort. Explore your chosen career path, do a little reading and research about salary ranges and professional organizations, volunteer alongside nursing professionals. By being just a little bit studious when you don't have to, you will lock that nursing knowledge in your brain, and who knows you might even learn a little bit more!