“….and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1
So last night I was cleaning up my room after it should have been labeled a “disaster area” long ago, forbidding anyone to come near, including myself. For some reason, whenever it came time to study for any sort of big test, I neglected all responsibility. I threw my clothes all around, my bed became my desk, my wall a pin board of nursing charts, and my floor was just the holding place for what was next to dive into. It’s just how I studied! I call it “organized chaos.” Any how, needless to say, after studying for boards, I had a big task at hand.
After cleaning up, I came across every note card written, every typed lecture note, every lab hand out, and every care map I completed. What was I to do with all of this hard work? Throw it away? I don’t need it anymore. If I kept it, in 10 years chances are half of the information would not even be current. I felt so guilty putting it into the recycling bin, but I did. Every drop of sweat and tears that went into all of that, sitting in a big bin ready to go get shredded up and turned into my Sunday newspaper.
After those laborious 2 years of my life, there is much that I learned coming out of nursing school. Not just about nursing, but about myself. About life, and enduring in the midst of struggle. I don’t plan on blogging every morning, but I have the time on my hands until I begin work and figured “why not?” Today I want to talk about the things that helped me succeed in nursing school. I don’t consider myself the “typical” type-A, organized, diligent nursing student. I’m very laid back, free-spirited, happy-go lucky, and never really studied my whole life. I always heard the reputation nursing schools got of being insanely difficult, miserable, and that you had no life. I was determined to have a life, and not believe what I heard. That kicked me in the butt fairly quickly. After failing one of my classes the second semester, I had a huge wake up call. I had one more chance to fulfill my dream, or I was out.
It was during this time that I prayed and prayed and prayed a lot about where my life was going, and what I was doing. There were things with my personality that needed adjustment. I needed to be more diligent with my studies. I needed to be more committed. I needed to cut out a lot of extra curricular activites that were also passions of mine (Younglife, work, playing guitar, being involved at church, working out). I spent so much time in the other areas, and not enough with nursing. I knew I was being called to devote my time to this area of my life right now, and I was being taught a big lesson in doing so. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our desires to fulfill God’s desire for our lives. Ultimately, his will become ours. And that happened with me as I made these adjustments.
Not only did nursing school become one of my main focuses, I started to love what I was doing, because I was seeing the fruit of my labor. I developed study habits I never had. I sought out help when needed. I exercised regularly, and ate well. I started going to bed at 10, instead of pulling all nighters to cram in information. The rest of my nursing school career, I finished it out with B’s, graduated, and passed boards. Didn’t think the day would come. The things I will discuss below are mainly focused towards nursing students, but I feel many students can benefit from them! This is coming from the girl who had no discipline. I have undiagnosed ADD, and never knew what “study habits” were. So wether you’re struggling with procrastination, too much on your plate, feeling like its “just too much”, or never developed good study habits…..been there done that. If I can do it, so can you.
My success plan:
1.) PRIORITIZING! I had to get my priorities straight. I threw myself into a lot. I was super involved with an organization called Younglife, and would neglect studying to go to events and “club.” I would go to dinner with friends and spend hours at a time, talking and chatting when I needed to be studying. I’d work out a long time to avoid studying. I also worked at the hospital a lot to pay the bills….a little too much though.
I made the decision to step down form leadership with Younglife. I cut down my hours at work. Financially things were rough, but I had a family who was a GODSEND in my life. They let me live with them rent free. I remember crying on the phone with the wife because I couldn’t believe their offer. I could not have made it through that year without them, and they will never know the blessing they were to me. It was so hard, but I began to see the fruit in the way I was now utilizing my time.
2.) MAKE A PALN!I would go to class in the mornings from 8-12 and come straight home, eat lunch and head off to study. I’d study and read until about 9 every day. We had clinical F, S, SU, so I would not study on those days. Thursdays were our only days off. I’d usually use that day to study in the morning, and then have the evening off. It became a SCHEDULE! I had a PLAN and I stuck to it.
3.) Accountability. I had friends I studied with. We’d call and text each other to meet at the local coffee shop. Even if it was just reading with each other, no one understands the “labor pains” of nursing school like the ones going through it with you. On the days where everyone was at football games and beaching it on holidays, we were in the books…..but together. It made all of the difference to have that one friend. Mine was Taylor. Could not have done it without her! We went to lab together when we both dreaded it, compared notes, and just basically had each others back. Get that buddy! SO worth it.
4.) SLEEP! Make sure when you have a plan, you stick to it. Don’t go to bed at 2am and wake up a 8am. Not COOL! I’d pull all nighters and spend days recovering. It’s been proven how your brain makes connections over night with sleep with what you’ve learned the day before. Eat well. Lay off the sugar. I started getting into green smoothies after a while. Lot’s of vitamins and minerals to fuel your brain.
5.)DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS!!!! Everyone studies differently. If you study with a big group, chances are they are going to know different stuff than you. Don’t base THEIR knowledge on YOUR success. I had plenty of tests where people knew absurd amounts of details and I was like “ WHAT?!” . I always followed the lecture notes and knew everything about what the lecture notes said, and I did just fine. Don’t compare. Just be confident in what you know, and know it well.
6.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I avoided office hours like the plague. It never really helped me out because some of my professors weren’t very pleasant. I’ve heard for some it was beneficial though. One thing I did do was discuss my study plan with my professors. With nursing, there is just SO MUCH so it’s hard to know it all. The truth is, you can’t. You strive to know enough to get 75% of it so you can pass! I would ask my professors at the beginning of the semester if “this” was a good way. I altered my plan accordingly. Always helpful.
7.) Look to those who have been there. Asking previous students for tips on how teachers test and what was expected in clinical. This might kick you in the butt, but in my experience it was only helpful.
8.) Don’t compete. Nursing school is already stressful enough. Nursing students are notorious for being competitive. So not worth it. Be a team! Help each other out. If you’re giving someone information you found and they don’t know, that’s their deal if they don’t know it by now. You do, and that’s all that matters. I was always wanting to help people out because I know sometimes I miss things and have been rescued. I was blessed to have an amazing class I graduated with.
9.) Creative Learning. I am a visual learner. Understanding Anatomy and Physiology is huge. If you understand well how the body works, nursing school will be a whole lot easier. When it came to things I didn’t get, I drew. I drew out the blood flow through the heart. I drew out the brain and it’s functions. I drew pictures of someone with Addison’s and Cushings disease. What they’d look like and their symptoms. I could picture that stuff while testing. It was fabulous! Make charts, make up stories about situations, songs, acronyms….what ever helps. I remember a song I made up about how to insert a Swanz Ganz catheter. Oh Laaawd. Something about going to see some swans in LA. (Left Atrium?) Ha I don’t even know! It helped though!
10.) Experience. If you’re just getting into nursing school, finding a job at the hospital helps with being comfortable at clinical and also nursing knowledge. I recommend you look into your local hospital. They have Nurse Extern positions for nursing students, and some offer scholarships as well. The hospital I work at paid my whole way through school. It was amazing!
11.) ENJOY clinical!!! Love on your patients. Most patients love student nurses because we give them our FULL attention (because we only have just them 😉 ) Sit down and talk with them. Ask about their lives. Tell them about you a little. Go the extra mile. Don’t get caught up in being scared about giving meds and procedures. You KNOW it. Trust yourself. You may not have the time to sit down with pt’s as a full time RN. You may just make a difference in their hospital stay. I always filled out my lab values and things I could do before clinical, so I wasn’t spending time on them at the hospital. I could spend more time with my patients. I’d sometimes sing to my older patients because I’m a dork like that. They loved it though, and it warmed my heart! One thing I always told myself is “This could be my mom/dad/grandfather/sister…..how would I want them treated?”
12.) PRAY. Last but not least, pray. Trust that God will get you through this. It may not be the time you want. It may not be the way you want. It may not be who you want to be with. You also may question whether or not you’re even supposed to be in nursing. Don’t skip church to study 🙂 It’s an hour folks. We all spend an hour facebooking while studying. AT LEAST! It would always be the perfect message for me on the days I was able to go when I didn’t have clinical. It kept me pushing through. He is first, nursing is second. Without Jesus, I am nothing.
So whether you’re thinking about applying to nursing school, or you’re enduing it now, GOOD LUCK! You will be great. You will make it. It’s hard. No one will understand except you and your classmates. You will cry home, but you will make it!!! These are the things that helped me!!!!
“They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou