The Pros and Cons of Being an Adult Learner
The thought of going back to school after having your life pretty much established for years can be a bit terrifying. That's how I felt after deciding to go back to school after being out of college or years, getting married, buying a house, and having a baby. I thought, do I have time for this? Am I still cut out for college life? The late nights studying, the early morning classes, the financial burden, etc.
But then I thought about something else…Do I feel fulfilled with my current career? Am I happy on the drive to work every morning? Am I doing something I love? Can I honestly encourage my kids to follow their dreams if I don't follow mine?
The answer to all those questions was a HARD no. That's when I knew I had to go back, despite all the thoughts and questions racing through my head.
Fast-forward to my junior year in my BSN program, I've learned that I'm at an advantage in some areas compared to the rest of my nursing cohort.
If you're wondering if it's too late to go back and become a nurse or wondering if you'll have a hard time adjusting to the nursing student lifestyle, read some of my pros and cons below!
How To Prevent Burn Out
Burn Out: Two words, especially during these times; we hear more about nursing school and the nursing field in general. It can be terrifying and brutal to hear about constantly. So how can we prevent this from happening to us? Here are some tips and tricks I have acquired over time to help you, hopefully!
Routines: Having a daily routine or planning out your week ahead of time can alleviate a lot of stress on you! When you become overwhelmed or constantly go go go with no direction or guide, it can weigh on your mind. So having a set plan daily of things going on, something you want to accomplish, and routines are beyond helpful. I make it a checklist layout, so as I go, I check things off, and I feel so much better seeing the list get shorter and shorter! It does not have to be anything crazy either. Daily I try to work out, journal, study, call a friend or family member, cook dinner, and get 7 hours of sleep.
What Is In My School Bag vs. My Work Bag
Before I start this blog, I want to preface this by saying everyone has different things they like to put in their bags for school and work, but this is the system that works for me… make your bags unique to you and your needs for school and work! My day-to-day routine and system crossed over fairly quickly from work to school, so almost everything I carried in bags was for school and work. Here are a few of my favorite items and some tips!
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Flashback to September of 2018, my first year of nursing school. That was a September of so many worries and so much anxiety... would I find my "people," where I would sit in huge lecture halls, would I pass my exams, why was the passing grade 72%, was I as smart as my peers, how will I carry these 40lbs of textbooks around???
These questions made me wish I had a school survival guide, but in reality, the experience will be different for every student, and that is okay.
Here are a few of my favorite tips that I know now that I wish I learned a few years ago.
Is your nursing journey about to start? Are you full of excitement but also scared, anxious, and nervous? Trust me; I feel all of these emotions. When we sit and think about the joys of nursing school, it can quickly turn to thoughts of doubt—doubting our abilities to provide the best care possible to individuals from all walks of life; doubting our ability to think critically. I have an aunt, a nurse, who gave me some advice that allowed me to take that anxiety and doubt and throw it completely out of the window.
Normalize Imperfections: The Nursing Journey
Nursing is one of the most demanding fields that someone can enter into. Maybe I am biased, but I also feel it is a fact. It takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health… you stand on your feet for up to 12 hours a day, helping heal the sick and wounded, giving your everything to this field daily! There is constant pressure to be perfect at what you do, from your friends, family, teachers, future employers, and the most prominent critic of all, yourself. The pressure comes from all sides, and most of the time, it is not intentional! We want to be the best for our patients. I remember being back in nursing school… the pressure I would put myself under would lead to anxiety and make it so hard to focus or do much of anything. Then one day, it clicked… What is the definition of perfection?
How to Make the Best Out of Your Nursing School Preceptorship
You’re about to start your nursing school preceptorship in an area where you may potentially work in after graduating nursing school! How exciting!!! Preceptorship is essentially a time where you get to work with and learn from an experienced nursing staff member and see firsthand what it really is like to work as a nurse.
On my last semester of nursing school, I was assigned to precept at an intensive care unit on night shifts, and I got the SWEETEST and honestly the BEST preceptor I could ever have hoped for. Despite having to precept during the pandemic (where I primarily had COVID patients), my preceptor taught me the value of resilience and of speaking up for oneself, especially when advocating for your patient, as well as helped strengthen my nursing clinical skills. With that being said, let’s jump into some tips/things that I found really helpful during my preceptorship!
Nursing school can feel like an incredibly scary, intimidating monster (and let's be honest, sometimes it is). However, the experience can improve significantly by gaining meaningful connections with your fellow classmates, instructors, and even potential places of employment. The first thing I do on every first day of the class gets at least one person's phone number. Yes, I am THAT person. Having a point of contact that isn't an instructor to discuss due dates, build a study group, or just a supportive friend has made my nursing school experience improve immensely. No one can quite understand nursing school's stress, pressure, and craziness quite like a fellow nursing student. It is important to stick together. It may take some time, but some of the best friends are made in nursing school. I have met some of the most supportive, helpful, intelligent group of girls since I began my journey, and it all started by stepping outside of my comfort zone and introducing myself.
Positive Affirmations & Manifestations for Nursing Students
The one thing that truly got me through nursing school mentally was practicing the routine of affirmations and manifestations. Affirmations are a short phrase/sentence that can provide motivation, inspiration and encouragement towards taking action to achieve all the goals. Manifestation is the process of taking an idea, a dream, a goal, or a vision and taking the steps necessary to make it a reality. As a nursing student, the key to success is to have a good study process as well as a healthy mindset. With setting your affirmations at the beginning of the day and expelling your manifestations into the universe, you can set positive ground for yourself.
Some daily affirmations that I told myself before I start a shift, class, test, or to get the stay started would have to be the following:
Preparing for a Clinical Shift
When I first started clinical placements in nursing school, I was constantly unsure about what I should be packing, preparing, and doing to make myself feel more organized. I want to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way.
Routine, routine, routine: This is so important! I have curated a routine that allows me to ensure I always have what I need for my shift. These steps work for me, and something different may work for everyone; feel free to build off of this.
1. Ensure your lunch is packed and ready in the fridge the night before: The last thing you want the morning of a 12-hour shift is to sleep in and not have time to pack nutritious food. Nursing is a hard job, and you want to make sure you have adequate brain power packed in your lunch bag!
2. Layout a clean pair of scrubs/socks the evening before: I have had a panicked morning or two early on in my schooling where I was digging through the dryer in a frantic search for my school uniform scrubs. Laying this out the night before your shift will save time and stress!
3. Print out any necessary documents 1-2 days before: This helps prove to your instructors and nursing staff that you arrive prepared and show off your organizational skills. Plus - if your printer runs out of ink, you’ll know before it’s too late!
Nursing school is all about adaptation. Keeping up with the course load and managing your personal life, relationships, work, and everything else can be delicate. Figuring out how you learn best is an integral part of studying effectively and not only learning but retaining the material. What works for some people may not work for all. Using resources such as YouTube videos, flashcards, and more can help to solidify information. Personally, I wouldn't say I like reading textbooks. I find that I do not retain the information. Therefore, I have had to develop a system that worked for me by creating my own course study guides and using other resources and material to fill in any blanks.
What's in my Bag? Nursing Student Essentials
Every person has their essentials in their gym bag, makeup bag, or purse, but nursing students having essentials that can help through their nursing school journey. There’s a huge pile of items I've collected throughout my three years of nursing school that I believe EVERY nursing student needs to succeed. Below are some of the items I highly suggest if you are going into nursing or a current nursing school student.
I am the messiest person in terms of keeping all my things together in one place. Sometimes, it is like a treasure hunt trying to find my penlight. But, yet again, RekMed saved me with their compact organizer that I use as my pencil pouch and clinical essentials organizer. The organizer is a hard-shell case that can keep it all together and protect all your valuables.
Specialties: Where Do I Belong?
During and even before my nursing school career, people always seem to have the same question. “Do you know what specialty you want to be in?” Before nursing school, I knew the answer to that in 2 seconds! But as time went on through school, the more experiences I had in all the amazing specialty groups, the answer progressively changed. I would think about my original answer and then make a pros and cons list about a new specialty I am interested in! The process went on and on, and there is no specific timeline of when this must be done, but I did want to take the time to share some advice and tips that might help you along the journey of making that choice!
5 Tips to Stay Organized in Nursing School
There is no denying that a lot comes with being a nursing student – exams, assignments, clinicals, group projects, and more. There is just always something to do! So how do you keep up with all these mounting work?
Imposter Syndrome: Do I really belong here?
In my opinion, nursing students are high achievers. Acceptance grade percentages are on the rise, and you have to be pretty darn smart to get an acceptance letter. But, people don't always talk about what it looks like once you're in.
It’s that time of the year, or time of your life, or time of your choice where you finally begin looking for a nursing job! But first thing’s first, congratulations on making it this far! It is an extremely remarkable achievement to make it to this point, as nursing school is no easy feat. You made it through late nights, exams, clinicals, maybe even a few tears (hehe), and more – so celebrate!
Now let’s begin!
The process of applying for a nursing job varies from person to person. One may want to use prior to graduating nursing school, while others may want to wait until after writing the NCLEX exam. Some may want to apply to RN Residency programs, while others may want to go through traditional orientation programs directly. The options and possibilities are endless!
My journey involved applying for a nursing residency program I was interested in two weeks prior to graduating, where I was offered a position a few days before graduating. Thus, the choice of when to apply is unique to you!
Here are a few tips I found beneficial while applying for jobs as a former nursing student:
- Begin by reflecting. Think about what kind of nursing experience you would like to get into and reflect on your previous clinical experiences to see if you enjoyed a specialty. It helps to have a realistic idea of what kind of position you’d like to apply for.
- Do research. Based on your reflection, begin researching the position that you are interested in as a new grad nurse (or as an upcoming new grad). Think about whether you’d like to apply for an RN role directly or if you would like to go through a nursing residency route.
- Job Search. Once you have an idea of the position you are interested in, begin looking for jobs specific to your interest – and take NOTE of their qualifications. In general, write down what you need to have to apply for the positions. It also helps to see if you qualify for those positions. A lot of the time, job qualifications can include “one year of related work experience,” but don’t let this keep you from applying for the position. This is when your clinical experience comes into play.
- Revamp/organize your resume. Reach out to your school’s career services (if offered). A lot of the time, they offer resume feedback on how to improve your resume. OR you could reach out to your guidance counselor/professor for resume feedback. OR you could look up online resources (even through IG/Youtube) on ways you can improve your resume/make it stand out!
- Apply! Once you know which type of position you’re interested in, go ahead and apply and hit that submit button (along with all the information they need, such as your resume, cover letter, and any qualified certifications)!
- Prepare yourself for the job interview. I recommend looking up “common new graduate nurse interview questions” and practicing answering those questions. You can even watch online videos on how to prepare yourself for a nursing job interview. Other critical key tips are to: learn as much as you can about your potential employer, arrive on time (or be virtually online on time), dress for success, stay true to yourself/be courteous, ask questions, and thank them for the opportunity and time! Another helpful thing to remember is to reflect on your previous clinical experience (I think it will help with clinical scenarios that may come up during the interview).
Overall, give it your very best! This part of your nursing journey is simply another stepping stone, so don’t feel rushed and go at your own pace. You know what is best for you.
Although it may not be much, I hope this little post was of help to you. These were some of the few things that helped me in my journey, but reach out to your peers, mentors, and even professors for more help and guidance. Best of luck, I believe in you!
Love, Annika Grace
Written by: Annika Grace
It is no secret that nursing school is extremely stressful. There are deadlines, clinical hours, exams, papers, and seemingly endless amounts of information responsible for knowing. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed or anxious while trying to navigate through the experience. On top of the expected stresses that nursing school brings, we have been switched to virtual learning for a year due to the global pandemic, thus creating more stress, pressure, and responsibility for the students. Having to navigate through the added stresses of the pandemic and nursing school has been a unique experience, and there was no handbook given to understand how to cope and what to expect. I have personally struggled with anxiety and depression since I was in my pre-teen years, and it is always present in my life, sometimes more prevalent than others. Learning ways that work for me to cope with these things has helped me tremendously.
These are some of the things that have helped me cope with my mental health throughout my nursing school time. The top thing that I do to maintain a good balance is taking breaks and being kind to myself. It is easy to fall into the pattern of feeling like you “should” be studying or getting ahead whenever you have free time. I have learned that every single waking moment doesn’t (and shouldn’t) belong to nursing school. Having a good school/life balance is an integral part of not feeling consumed or overwhelmed with nursing school. Second, I have a good support system. I wouldn’t consider myself overly extroverted; however, I always get classmates’ phone numbers and reach out to them when it comes to school. I have since built an incredibly supportive group of fellow students with whom I can vent, ask questions and give/receive support. It is difficult to form your “group” during the pandemic; however, I know this last year would have been much more difficult without them. Third, I have created a space that is specifically dedicated to studying and schoolwork. I don’t study in bed and try to make sure that it is a quiet, peaceful place. This allows me to separate “class” from “home” and ensure that I can give each one the attention it deserves. Lastly, self-care is essential. Self-care may mean different things to different people. For me, it is eating well, taking time off, going outside, taking bubble baths, and watching my favorite shows.
There are many different ways to cope with the stresses and pressure of nursing school. It is important to determine which of these ways works to manage the negative effects that we may be feeling. Many resources may help you to cope with these things as well. Make sure to reach out to your friends and family and utilize your campus resources if you notice that you are struggling.
Written by: Kym Wisniewski