Break up big tasks into smaller ones.
There is A LOT of reading to do in nursing school, and it is always in your best interests to keep on top of them. This is on top of projects and studying for tests and exams. Since all
of these activities involve reading, I break up my readings into smaller readings and write this in my calendar. For example, you have a psychology reading to do for your class next Friday. The chapter is over 30 pages. Every day I set little goals for myself to get that reading done: "Monday: pgs. 1-4, Tuesday: pgs. 5-8, etc.". It's a lot easier than reading all 30 pages at once, and will make the task seem less daunting.
School comes before work.
I was able to make it this far working about 8-12 hours a week, sometimes less. As much as I need the money, I am paying to be at school. It's more expensive if you fail a course and have to repeat it anyway. Be honest with your employers about school, they are usually pretty understanding. Be honest with yourself about how much time you need to study and complete assignments. Factor in travel time.
SLEEP is SO important.
As I mentioned above, I would advise NEVER to pull all-nighters unless you absolutely have to. Sleep loss can make you depressed, slow, sick and unproductive - trust me. I treat sleep like a job or a class, something that must be done. Clinical placements require your full attention, so get as much of it as you can.
Learn to say No.
It seems like less-busy friends need you most when you're busiest. In this program, you can't be available all the time. I try my best to push all my social commitments to Friday nights and some Saturday nights. Be honest with yourself and gauge how much work you have that week.
Don't take shortcuts.
This is especially important when learning clinical skills. Our faculty advisor would give us comprehension questions about clinical skills, such as IV and medication safety. Since we were so tired and starved for time, we would copy each other's answers without taking time to really learn. This would come back to bite me when she would ask me a question related to those topics. It took me twice as long to learn those topics. Not to mention, we are dealing with people's lives. Give yourself time to learn.
Don't let everything you need to do in terms of assignments overwhelm you.
Prioritize, and focus on what is due first, then move on to the next "you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time."
Start your exam review the first week of school.
I know it sounds crazy but by making study notes from lectures and seminars will give you more time to study in the end! Making exam notes before exams gives you less time to study and you're cramming for your exams, which can lead to a lot of stress! Pace yourself and it will allow you to obtain and remember the material easier if you start early and review it during your reading break.
Start off at the beginning with good study habit- Make sure keep you up with the readings and that you don't fall behind in class! Your professor won't constantly be there to remind you to study. There will be consequences if you aren't kept up, for example, trying to cram 100+pgs in 2 days before the exam (that was the biggest mistake I made in 1st year, first semester). Also, make friends in your class, because they can be helpful when you want to form a study group or even ask questions! Who knows, they might even be your best friend!
Listen in class and take notes!
If you walk into your class thinking "meh, I'll spend 50 minutes on facebook and will read the textbook later", you will end up doing that. Go to your class with a positive learning attitude. You made it to class so you might as well pay attention carefully. Fully engage your attention to your professor as they might emphasize on any important information!
Normally, I would bring 2 color pens, my lecture note, and a clipboard to limit distractions (like my computer). If there is a class that requires intensive note taking and you'd need to bring your laptop, I have avoided distraction by downloading a program called: Self control (I also use it when I study too!) which blocks websites (facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.), for however long you set it.
Make sure you have free time to do other stuff
If you think about it, you have 168 hours a week, you spend approximately 56 hours sleeping, 18-24 hours going to class, maybe 30 hours studying, meaning this leaves you up to almost 60 hours of stress-free time. School can be stressful, so make sure you spend your free time hanging out with your new friends, going to the gym (super important!), taking fitness classes like yoga, or being involved with extra curricular.
Make sure you keep your life well balanced!
STEP 1 Go to class! It is so important to be visible and to pay attention- often times professors will give hints on exam questions and will definitely point you in the right direction for your studying as to which topics to focus on.
STEP 2 Be on time, especially for your clinical placements- first impressions and the little things do matter and can go a long way for relationship building and marks
STEP 3 Clinical is not as scary as you think. If you show up on time and listen to what your clinical instructor tells you half the battle is won.
STEP 4 Friends are an invaluable resource for support and a helping hand- but don't always believe everything you hear- if you want correct information head straight to the source, either your professors or your year coordinator.
STEP 5 Choose your friends for your group projects carefully, fellow students who are like-minded in terms of goals and grades for the assignment are your best choice. Everyone being on the same page in expectations and desired result will save you a lot of headaches, potential conflicts and time.
STEP 6 As a nurse, you are a piece of the larger context of the health care delivery system. In any clinical placement you will be working with people from other disciplines who may not share similar ideas with you- you must get used to working in groups and collaborating ideas with others.
STEP 7 It is almost impossible to study every detail for every test for every subject. Try focusing on the most important concepts first- the ones that will get you the most marks on a test- then move on to the details.
STEP 8 As soon as you sense that you are falling behind in the course or will be needing help- ask for it! Your professors are there to help you, and can often provide tips, perspective and what topics to focus your studying on.
✔️ Don't spend more than you have. Tuition comes first over clothes and alcohol.
✔️ Live at home if you can. This saved me a ton of money on rent, food, laundry and other expenses.
✔️ Sell books you will not need at the end of the semester. Some books will invaluable throughout your career as a nurse: your anatomy book, your med-surg book, your drug guide, your lab guide, and your assessment book. These books are definitely worth keeping. There are other books that are probably okay to part with. Every year, I sell my textbooks back to Amazon.ca or I advertise them on Craigslist or Kijiji and end up making some money back.
✔️ Keep school-related receipts and payments and put them together in one place. This includes receipts for books, supplies and metro passes/transit. You can claim them around tax time and get money back!!
If you have a job during the school year, realize when your must education takes priority. There is little use of having a part time job, if it means doing poorly in your classes and having to repeat the course. So yes, a job is nice but not if it jeopardizes your grades.
Homemade food - Try packing your lunch, snacks, and drinks. I have found this to be very effective and can significantly reduce spending. Think about each time you line up to buy food you're spending between $5-10, multiply that by five days and that equals $25-50 per week. But don't forget to add in that extra morning coffee and muffin to get you through the day. And by the end of your day you're too tired to cook dinner, so you pick up something on the way home... Eventually everything adds up. By preparing your meals at home and in advance, you get to choose whatever you like - not to mention eat healthier and prevent the dreaded 'freshman fifteen'. Saving money and eating healthy?? Count me in!!
Go to job fairs even when you are not in your fourth year. Meet recruiters and talk to them. Any volunteer health/people related events and organizations in your community try to get involved. It's a great resume builder but it also gets your name out there. You would be surprised how small of a world it is out there when you get involved.
Get to know your professors well
Many professors are actively involved in the research field and can provide a great opportunity for nursing students to become involved as research assistants. Not only will your professors know your name and face, but this may prove to be an excellent reference in the future as well.
Volunteer in the hospital
Volunteering provides a chance for you to become familiar with the hospital setting, and encourages professional and personal development. As a volunteer in the Hospital Elder Life Program I was able to further my communication skills which assisted me in providing client centered care in my nursing career.
Feeling overwhelmed, with a blank screen and impending deadline? Take a break from your laptop. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen (yea I know, eh?). Next, take the rubric or instructions for the essay. Write down the main questions/requirements for the essay of the left side of the sheet of paper. On the right side, write down how you plan on addressing these questions in point form and with quotes from your peer-reviewed sources (keep the name(s) of the author(s) and the year next to the quote so you remember the source when you are writing in APA format). Once you've filled out the right side, number your points in the sequence that makes the most sense. Then type up the points in paragraph form, complete with your APA referencing. Add a grabbing intro, a clean conclusion, reference list, et viola!
✔️ Set aside a time after your paper is written to edit JUST APA, it may take you an hour the first time, but it will seriously help your grades and with time you will become faster at it
✔️ Probably the most important part of writing an essay is following the rubric (down to the letter!) it will save you a lot of time and form the structure of your essay
✔️ If English is your second language or you just have trouble with essays in general most universities have Writing Centres where a graduate student usually helps undergraduate students. They won't write your essay for you but they can definitely help point out where your weaknesses are and usually have tips to help.
Take advantage of feedback - Not many, but some professors may allow students to submit a draft for feedback prior to the final essay submissions. This is your chance to score that 'PLUS' on your grade. By obtaining feedback you know what your professor is looking for and you can improve on those areas of weakness. If your professor does not accept drafts for review, then still keep in mind the comments from final submissions for future essays; this can strengthen your essay writing skills.
TIP: If you are struggling to meet the minimum page requirement for essays or research papers, you probably need to do more research. There are tons of nursing journals and resources waiting to be read. Knowing how to use library databases and resources is key, and if you are unsure of how to do so, ask a librarian.
How To Cope with Unexpected Challenges
Challenging issues that can occur throughout your four years in Nursing School are: personal health issues - such as recent diagnosis of an illness or a chronic health issue, financial issues, emotional issues - such as depression, anxiety, or bereavement (loss of a loved one), etc. Unforeseen challenges can occur at any point in life however when they occur during Nursing School you can feel even more overwhelmed. This is due to the already tight schedule and then you add the shock of an emotional or financial crisis and you can hit your maximum threshold for stress.
STEP 1 First and foremost - ASK FOR HELP!
If something comes up unexpectedly that will cause you to not meet a deadline or miss school ensure let your respective professor or clinical instructor know about your situation. If you can only email your professor and not see them in person due to geographical constraints then just email them as much as you can tell them about your situation via email. If you are in the hospital because you are ill be sure to ask a family member or friend for help in communicating with someone at school. I find it extremely helpful to save all my faculty contacts in my Blackberry. If you have a Smartphone it is wise to save any contacts you ever need for school in this device, as it generally is the most accessible device you will have when a challenge occurs.
STEP 2 Be HONEST
I totally understand and respect confidentiality about one's health and personal situation but when I say be honest I mean be honest to yourself. Be honest about the challenge you are faced with and be honest about what you are going to be able to handle as you go through your challenges. Balance your schedule so you can make medical appointments or work (if the issue is financial) and make sure that you do not cause yourself to burnout. This is already a huge issue in nursing so you do not need to cause yourself anymore risk of burnout especially in your education. Faculty can help adjust your schedule or your assignments so you can have a fighting chance at succeeding just like your fellow classmates.
STEP 3 Accommodations
If you have a medical issue or a learning disability or you feel you need testing/ academic accommodations due to another reason it is always wise to book an appointment with your Accommodation Service at your school. Even if you feel one semester your health/ situation should be okay its better to have the paperwork prepared and submitted so that your professors can be aware of your situation before its too late.
"It's better to be safe than sorry."
STEP 4 Embrace your emotions
...and by this I mean FEEL your emotions, cry when you need to, be angry when you need to, be alone when you need to, be around others when you need to, but productively deal with your emotions. If you feel angry, sad, depressed, happy or maybe even ecstatic show these emotions in a positive way.
If you are going through a new challenge or a continuing challenge or you just need someone trusting and honest to talk to, all schools have some form of a Counseling service. This service is FREE, confidential and does not affect you academically but it helps you learn productive and effective ways of coping.
STEP 5 HAVE FUN!
Even when the going gets tough, you can still find ways to enjoy yourself. After the crisis point of your challenge has passed find a way back to some form of fun and enjoyment for yourself. Sometimes you may need to change temporarily how you have fun due to your circumstances but there are a lot of ways to find enjoyment in life that don't cost too much and that are not too physically demanding if you cannot be very physically active.
I really hope that you find this informative, helpful and encouraging. I wish you all the best in your studies in Nursing School and I hope your journey to become a RN is one you will never forget!