One of the questions I consistently receive in my inbox goes something like this, “I am so overwhelmed. How do you balance school, being a mom, and still have time for yourself?” And while I am flattered that I put out the perception that I have it all together and give advice on the topic, that isn’t the reality. Some weeks, I feel like I am on top of my game, getting ahead on assignments, spending a lot of time with my family, and doing things that I enjoy. Other weeks, however, I feel like I am drowning in assignments, commitments, and household duties. The important thing that we must remember: we are only human. There are only 24 hours in every day, and some days we will get everything done that we set out to do, and other days we simply cannot. The biggest lesson that I have had to learn since the beginning of nursing school was to give myself grace and kindness on the days that I fall short. I wish that I had some secret to effectively balancing everything and excel in all areas all of the time, but my greatest lesson that I’ve learned after a year and a half of nursing school is that I cannot do everything.
That being said, there are ways in which you can try to allocate your time better and plan your week to try to get assignments and studying done so that you have time to do other things throughout the week. The first thing I do is take a look at the upcoming week in my planner and assess what assignments I have due to come up with a “Mental Game Plan” for the week. I try to complete the most time-consuming assignments first, get them out of the way, and then leave the quicker/easier assignments last since I know that I can knock them out. I study in small increments each day instead of going it all to cram last minute. Most of my schoolwork gets completed after 9:00 pm after my son has fallen asleep for the night. While staying up late isn’t the time I would prefer to complete studying and assignments, it is the best time for me to have quiet time and focus without losing out on family time during the day. It is one of the sacrifices that I make to make sure I get as much time as possible with my family. The most important thing to remember is that nursing school is only temporary. Whether it be with family, friends, sleep, or otherwise, making sacrifices is part of the journey. Some weeks may require more sacrifice than others, but all of the work is done to achieve the goal of becoming a nurse.
Written by: Kym Wisniewski
Today is the day you have officially graduated (or soon to be), and you are ready to enter the nursing world! Exciting day but a daunting task, especially if this is one of your first times ever interviewing for a full-time position through a hospital. I get asked all of the time about interviewing, how do I personally interview, what do I even ask them?! I do not have any nursing experience. How do I even get a job or answer any of these questions or scenarios they throw at you?! Just stop… take a deep breath and try to relax. I find interviews to be somewhat fun… yes, you heard it here first! At first, interviews used to freak me out completely- my hands would shake, I would sweat profusely, and I couldn’t stop to breathe when I spoke. But now, I don’t let interviews own me; I own the interview! Here is the thing, what people don’t like to tell you is that all an interview truly at the end of the day is getting to know you as a future nurse. Yup… THAT IS IT! They want to see who you are as a person, what got you into nursing, ask you about past experiences, and know where you might fit in their hospital. From the numerous interviews I have done from CNA, NA to my first actual graduate nursing position, I have picked up some tips and tricks I think may help ease those nerves of yours!
1. Always be genuine when introducing yourself.
When an employer starts off the interview, they almost always ask or say, “So tell me a little about yourself.” This is the time to brag about yourself a little bit- don’t be shy! They want to know about you; name, where you are from, what school you attend, degree, passions (within nursing- especially if they pertain to the job you are applying for!), etc. This can be a game-changer for your interviewer and can set the tone for the rest of your interview! Be yourself! Smile, eye contact (yes- even with Zoom Interviews), let your personality shine through. They are going to love that.
2. No Experience, No Problem, No Sweat!
I get asked almost every time I help someone prepare for an interview, “What do I say to them? I have no experience; I have just focused on school!” THAT IS OKAY! Be honest; they will LOVE it if you do honesty! And want to know a secret? There were plenty of nurses before you who had no experience either, and they got jobs- so can you! In interviews, you can say things like, “I do not have any experience working through a medical facility, BUT during my clinical experience, I did this___.” It does not have to be on the floor RN experience. It could be from nursing school clinical, classroom experience, clubs, or organizations. As long as it pertains to the question, it does apply. Something else to keep in mind, most employers will prompt you and say, “It can be from anywhere clinical, school, etc.” So do not panic.
3. Research the facility and job position BEFORE an interview!
Before you even apply for the position- the first step is to read over the position thoroughly. Make sure you like the description, fit the requirements for that position, and that the things you need from a job match up! If all boxes check, research the facility- their mission, their values, the overall goals of the position and company. If you check all the boxes, you are set! In the interview, they may ask you what made you apply for the position or company- you can then pull from the company mission statement, visions, or even personal experiences you may have had through that hospital.
4. Come prepared… with ALL the extras!
When walking into an interview, you always feel your best when prepared. My best tip to anyone who interviews or goes into an interview- come prepared with “Extras.” Extra copies of your resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, certificates, and certifications. I usually make the interviewer a folder and fill it with all the information printed out. 9/10 times I have had an interviewer say, “I am trying to pull up your resume.” You can pull out this folder and hand it to them, and I have always been thanked profusely and been told this shows them how prepared I am. Brownie points for you- take them! Also, do not be afraid to ask the interviewer if you are allowed to write information down. ALWAYS bring a small notebook and pen to write down anything you may need to jot down or to have questions you need to be answered readily available.
5. ASK QUESTIONS ASK QUESTIONS ASK QUESTIONS!
“Do you have any questions?” I always make it a point to have at least two questions prepared to ask at the end. Whether that is about training, scheduling, orientations, or even more profound questions about the culture of the floor you may be working on. I always ask them at the end of the interview to ensure I know this information, but it also shows the interviewer you are very interested in the position! More brownie points!
I hope these few little tips help decrease the interview anxiety and also help you get prepared to kill that interview! I am cheering you on- you have got this!!
Written by: Haley Goff
I have taken the NCLEX twice and have not passed successfully but I truly believe that the third time’s a charm! (That is a blog for another time!) Through those times of studying for the dready NCLEX exam, I have discovered many resources to use to prepare myself for the big day. Studying does come with a good, healthy mentality, so knowing that you have been taught everything you need to know and learning those test-taking strategies will be a fantastic combination to beat the beast that is NCLEX. Here is the study schedule that I plan to follow for my next attempt at NCLEX & the resources I plan to use.
Day of NCLEX Studying:
0600: Wake up & take a few deep breaths to start the day!
0630-0700: Meditate + do my workout for the day <3
0700-1030: STUDY TIME! Reviewing content from Remar VT & Mark Klemik Audios/Notes (Using the Pomodoro Method)** 30-minute study sessions with a 5-10 minute break per session **
1030-1100: Eat a small snack to refuel!
1100-1200: Review concepts from the morning
1300-1500: Go through a 50-75 practice question assessment through Archer Q-Bank
1500-1700: Understand and review the questions I got wrong with the rationales
1700-Night: No more studying, relax and be proud of your study session for the day :)
For the resources mentioned, Remar Virtual Trainer is an NCLEX-RN, and PN NCLEX review for individuals that want to refresh their nursing mind with the content learned during nursing school. It is a hefty price to pay that includes a review workbook and a study schedule, and videos to go along. Also included is a “Quick Facts for NCLEX.”guide with (as the title says) quick and straightforward high-yield topics that could be expected on the NCLEX exam.
Another resource that I recommend for test-taking strategies is listening to Mark Klemik. Mark Klemik is an ex-writer for the NCBSN who is responsible for producing the NCLEX questions/exams. His audios provide easy mnemonics and tricks to answer NCLEXstyle questions better. He also has available private tutoring and online video sessions for people to participate in.
Lastly, the Archer Q-Bank is my preference in testing my knowledge and practicing for the big exam. Many people use U-World but as a person who has taken the exam twice now, paying for a U-World subscription is not ideal. Archer Review provides asimilar format from U-World, which is the exact format of the NCLEX using vagueness of questions that can better prepare you for the exam. Subscriptions for the Q-Banks are less than $100, depending on how long you want to practice questions. They also have a content review that you can purchase as a combo at a discounted price!
The most extensive advice I can give anyone who plans to take NCLEX soon: Do NOT overwhelm yourself with too many resources. That was my mistake initially; Now I’ve done my research on the resources that I prefer, and you should do the same! Whatever you use, it’s all about taking your time to read the question and answer choices to see what the question is truly asking. Mastering that will help you kick the NCLEX’ butt!
Happy Studying to you all!
You are made for this! You WILL pass NCLEX! You WILL be an RN!
Written by: Kayla Del Mundo
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
Many nursing students thrive on staying busy, constantly filling up their planners with checklists, and maybe downing a coffee on hand. I know I did! Sometimes, we get so caught up with trying to accomplish so many things at once that we don’t realize how much of a toll this “need-to-get-things-done” mindset has on us. In other words, we forget about balance.
Nursing school in itself is already hard. From classes to exams, to projects, to labs, to clinicals, to preceptorships – it’s almost as if we’re wired to function “on-the-go.” Often, many students find themselves in a position where their life becomes centered around nursing school and that they have no time for other things – but this doesn’t have to be the case. This is when self-care comes in. As a profession that seeks to provide care for others, I think it is so important to remind ourselves that we have to take care of ourselves first before taking care of others. That said, here are some of my self-care tips:
- Determine what self-care looks like to you. Self-care is unique to each person. Knowing what makes you feel good, de-stressed, and happy is a great place to start! Make a list and write down all the things that you enjoy. For me, self-care included binging TV shows that I loved (like The Office, New Girl, and Parks and Rec), talking to my loved ones (video chat/phone call), cooking homemade meals, taking long showers, and naps. LOVE naps!
- Understand that it is okay to set aside time for yourself. Because one can be so used to constantly reviewing or studying or always doing something, you must understand that it is okay to make time for yourself. Do not feel guilty about taking time to care for yourself.
- Schedule in your self-care. Yup! Write down your plan for self-care in your planner or calendar. This could be scheduling, getting your nails done or meeting your friend for lunch to catch-up. Scheduling it in means you have decided to make time for it – so follow through with it.
- Say “no” more often. This is easier said than done but learning to say “no” more often makes the difference. This can mean saying “no” to picking up a shift if you work or saying “no” to something you are uncomfortable doing. It keeps you from constantly overloading yourself, and it also helps with your mental health by allowing you to put yourself first.
- Practice positive self-talk. This practice has made the biggest difference in my mental health and my self-care. The things that we tell ourselves will either encourage and motivate us or limit us. Some ways to provide ourselves with positive self-talk is to: be grateful, visualize your success, not fear failure, and surround yourself with positive affirmations.
- Take care of your body. We only have one body, so we should take care of it. Rest, eat, exercise – however, caring for your body works best for you.
These are just a few things that have helped me throughout nursing school! Although it may not include all aspects of self-care, I hope that it still helps someone think a little more about incorporating self-care into their school-life routine. Remember, one of the most important relationships you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list, and the rest will fall into place.
Comment down some of your favorite self-care tips!!!
Love, Annika Grace
Written by: Annika Grace
During our nursing school journeys, we have heard many things about success in school and success in our future careers. Throughout my clinical experiences, I had the opportunity to shadow and meet so many incredible nurses who had great tips and tricks along with advice. But one piece of advice I will never forget I received from a nurse I had shadowed for a day, "Go ahead and keep building YOUR tribe; the earlier, the better." Hmm… that is an odd statement, and I thought about it all day. I already have my tribe- all my friends and family? What does she even mean?
Fast forward to my final quarter in nursing school, and one day as I sat filling out applications for graduate positions, cover letters, reading over letters of recommendations. Taking the time to reflect on my journey truly, like a ton of bricks, finally hit me. Just because I already had a "tribe" didn't mean it was done growing.
Remember, as a kid, hear your parents say, "it takes a village." Well, this is how I think of building a tribe. Yes, do not get me wrong, your friends and family will always be your number one support system!! They are the base and foundation of your tribe. But, never forget about those you met along the way that has helped or may one day help you in your journey. Your professors, the nurses you meet or shadow at clinical, the preceptors, your final rotation, your fellow nursing classmates! Think about it, what if one day one of those individuals interviews you for a job? Helps you find or land that dream job? Teaches you a concept or trick that you carry through your next 30+ years of nursing?
With every encounter, remember, you are building YOUR tribe. If there is someone you connect with, see if they would make a good fit! Introduce yourself, make a great first impression, ask questions, be present and engaged, be willing to help!! Those little things will make an everlasting impression on someone- and they will remember you don't you worry!! Some may want to keep in contact and want to get help with their future endeavors! They will want to be a part of your tribe- they want to watch you succeed and do great things!
There will come a time when you may need help with a job or something like getting a letter of recommendation. How amazing of a feeling to be able to send a quick email or have a phone call and have that help at the tip of your fingers? To have the support behind you at all times? When a future employer asks, "What do you know about ___ (put your name here), they have nothing but great things to say!
I don't know about you, but I would be nowhere without my tribe!
Written by: Haley Goff
Nursing school feels like FOREVER for me! I graduated from my accelerated BSN-RN nursing program in August 2020 and am still studying to take my NCLEX-RN exam. During this self-reflection and nights of studying, I have gathered a list of things that I wish I knew before starting nursing school.
- Determine what kind of learner you are. The different types of learning would be audio, visual, kinesthetic. Within the first 3 terms of nursing school, I learned better visually with pictures and video lectures. It is quite hard for me to keep my head in a book when studying, so I learn by watching hours and hours of Youtube resources such as SimpleNursing.com, Registered Nurse RN, Level Up RN, and Nursing.com. I would have to say that those Youtube videos truly helped me pass nursing school successfully.
- Nursing school comes with sacrifice. Nursing school is no joke, and many people are putting in a lot of time and money to reach that goal of being an LPN or RN. It is important to know that you will struggle to balance time for yourself, your family, friends, a social life, fitness, etc., but it is important to prioritize your time wisely because all of those are possible.
- You will cry A LOT. But that is completely OKAY! I can recall all those late-night breakdowns I had before a test or just over built-up stress/overwhelmed. I am here to tell you that it is completely normal to let those frustrations out through tears because it’s a healthy coping way. What matters is after that cry, you pick yourself back up and be/do better than before.
- It is NOT a competition. I mean that many of the people in my cohort tended to fight and be the greatest in our class and make that their mission. It should not be like that. No one is ever going to be “the best nurse.” What makes you the best nurse is learning from your failures, picking yourself back up, and continuing to keep your heart in the right place, contributing to the future of healthcare and care for those who need us.
- Nursing school will change you for the better. I never thought I was good enough to do something as bold as to be a nurse. But as the program went on, I started to realize that I am capable of everything and anything that I set my mind to. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone during clinicals when you are asked to put in an IV for the first time or do a procedure you only practiced in a skills lab but on a real human being. Change can be scary, but it can be one of the most memorable things that could happen in your life.
No matter if you are thinking of applying to nursing school, pre-nursing, or a current nursing student right now, know that whatever advice you get before, during, and after nursing school can be advised that you can pass down to help future nurses when you become an RN.
Written by: Kayla Del Mundo