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.
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?
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