Nursing School Experience

I recently completed nursing school in August of 2018 and it was honestly an amazing yet stressful experience I would never want to take back.

My journey with nursing started in the spring of 2016. For years I had been teetering mentally with a myriad number of career choices and fields, ranging from computer science to pharmacy to rehabilitation sciences. Every time I would pursue one particular field I would feel incomplete. 

It is very interesting to see how a field that was never on my radar for my entire life has come to unravel and become the ideal profession for me.

As I sat down and mapped out the different nursing options such as ABSN and ADN programs I decided what would be best for me is to apply to an ADN program and concurrently work full time (30-34 hours a week). 

After completing a few required courses, the entrance exam, and application, the one place I applied (Broward College) to accepted me. This wasn’t without some struggle. I originally wanted to start in the fall of 2016 but I did not have all my pre-reqs on my transcript so it pushed my application back for the spring of 2017.

Nursing School Mindset

Yes it is true that there are many nursing programs and many registered nurses in the United States. The barrier to entry isn’t as difficult as other healthcare professions. However, do not underestimate or think it is going to be easy.

The mindset I had going in was very clear and open minded. I knew I was there to learn and work as hard as I can so when I come out I can be the best nurse I can possibly be. 

Courtesy of Matthew Henry

How to Study

The best way to study depends on your study style. For me I wanted to get into the habit of reading regularly. So I read each assigned chapter, outlined the chapter, did notecards (if necessary), watched videos as needed on disease processes, and completed nursing style NCLEX questions. 

It seems like that would be overkill, but for me it enabled me to stay focused  on each respective course.

Some resources I used to study were:

  1. Youtube: I liked some of the osmosis videos because of the graphics. In addition to those I would watch some onlinemedED videos and whatever else I could find. Many students used simple nursing or registerednursern videos. I liked those videos as well but I did not use one set source every time. 
  2. Drawing Board: Sometimes when it became hard to visualize the heart pathway or If I wanted to test my memory of different pediatric diseases I would use a white erase board to test my knowledge. It was easier for me than writing on paper or using quizlet because I was able to physically draw diagrams out and was able to reuse the board. Most boards cost 10-20 bucks depending on the size. I bought mine from walmart, but you can find smaller or bigger ones anywhere. 
  3. Quizlet/Notecards/Anki: I started off making notecards but I realized that I was defeating the purpose of making notecards because I would write excessive amounts of information on the notecards. These notecard systems do a really good job of testing your recall. Yes it is important to understand information but there is some memorization necessary to remember certain concepts, pathophysiology, disease processes. 
  4. NurseLabs: I used this website primarily for helping with care plans. Care plans were very tedious but this website simplified everything and put information together in one spot. 

Study Schedule

I did not have a strict block study section but I did study or review 5 out of 7 days a week usually after work or between class. I spent maybe 4-5 hours a day studying and/or making notes.

The best way to study would be finding a consistent schedule at the optimal time for you to learn and remember with minimal distraction. I found for me it was best to study in the evenings, but it is not a one size fits all plan. 

Rest Days

Courtesy of Matthew Henry

This is one thing I advocate. Just as our bodies need to recharge from working out the same thought should be taken into account while studying. Again this is personalized. Some individuals have the attention span and endurance to study 12 hour days, 7 days a week and others may need to take frequent breaks. I was on the less study time, more break spectrum.

I know there are studies out there for optimal studying time and using block studying schedule such as studying for 45 mins to an hour and taking a break regularly. I personally studied and took notes until I hit a goal. Once I read a certain amount of chapters or studied a certain amount of slides I would take a 15 minute break or so. 

One aspect I wish I did a bit more was utilizing and collaborating with classmates a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, we all worked together as a team. We were not all best buddies everyday but we understand that we are all here for one goal and we should work hard to help ourselves and our classmates reach that goal.

Working in small groups and testing the knowledge and concepts that you learned amongst each other helped tremendously in a few of my courses. With differing schedules, with me working about 30-34 hours a week made it challenging to keep that consistent.

How to Test

Personally, answering NCLEX style questions was not easy for me. Half the time every answer seemed like the best answer and then when you throw in SATA (select all that apply) questions in that makes it even more difficult. 

The way I approached testing was reviewing questions any where I can find them on the topic. Sources such as nclex review books, the textbook questions, and google searching questions allowed me to test what I knew and didn’t know.

One recommendation I would make is, do not rush through every question while taking the exam. I was notorious for finishing quickly. This did not translate into having the highest test scores.

If you read carefully at a consistently solid pace you can finish on time and not miss the “gimme question” by just glancing over pertinent parts of the question.

Before the test I always had a routine. I would listen to music and walk around.  I would not study or review the last 30 minutes prior to the test. I wanted to remain focused and hyped up for the test. Just listening to music and drowning out the background helped me stay focused and relaxed. 

The stress is real

Photography by Nick Youngson
Courtesy of Alpha Stock Images

The stress is real… The thought of failure is real also. We all go through it, no matter what field or profession you are in.

All you can do is what you can do. Be confident in what you know and try not to change any answers unless you are 1000% sure you put the wrong answer down. Many times I changed an answer from a right one to a wrong one.

Clinical Experience

The clinical experiences I had were invaluable. Yes the instructors may seem tough but it is only to help guide you and help you grow.

The night before my clinical day I would identify one or two areas I wanted to improve upon or skills I needed help on. I would then watch youtube videos on the topic and then perform them that night. This would be a 30-45 minute process the night before clinicals.

I also made sure I had all my supplies ready to go in my book bag so I would not forget anything. Honestly…. I always kept my nursing supplies in my book bag, even a spare stethoscope because I have a habit of forgetting some items. 

Quick Tip: Make it easy, keep your nursing supplies in your car or use the same bag every time you go to clinical. 

My only advice is to find the positive in the experiences. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and be a good teammate with your clinical group and with the staff and health care providers.

Self Care

Nutrition and exercise is very important and highly underrated. For many years I have neglected my nutrition. I would eat chips for breakfast, not eat an adequate amount of macronutrients and would wonder why I have no energy or have varying moods.

Courtesy of Brodie Vissers

During nursing school, after a minor health scare that included my digestive system, I realized that I needed to do better. There was already so much on my plate, and I mean this literally and figuratively. I ate poorly and I did not work out consistently. I always had excuses that I have NO TIME.

Honestly I did not have a lot of time, but I had to learn to make time for what is important. 

Eating better and exercising regularly actually strengthened my mood and gave me more stamina to get through my days. Going to the gym was also my home away from home to decompress.

This is all easier said than done, most people have kids or a family to attend to but caring for self creates some semblance tranquility through the hectic schedules all of us have. 

Be Consistent/Find your Why

Throughout the 20 month process from January 2017 – August 2018 I maintained my desire and drive most of the times, but at other times I went through the motions but remained consistent. Just continuing to remember why you started this process and not some other type of schooling or job, should be your driver.

My why was to provide for my future family and that I want to help save lives and improve others health. Understand that your role in healthcare is important you are apart of a team with a mission of helping other people to improve their health. 

Take your time.

 Be consistent.

Do not beat yourself up too much if things do not go your way all of the time. Some days you’re going to wonder “why did I even waste my time” and other times you will be inspired to changes lives. I made it through and you definitely can as well.


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