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How to Survive Nursing School 101
I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to manage nursing school, work, eating right, having a social life, working out, being in a relationship, and making time for your family. I’m not an expert by any means but here are 15 of my best tips:
TIP ONE: GET A PLANNER
Get a planner and not just any ‘ol planner! Get one you LOVE because you’re about to open that sucker up every damn day for the next year. Might as well get some pretty pens, stickers and highlighters while you’re at it! Write everything in there! You can’t afford to miss anything! For me, it was the Lilly Pultzer planner, but I recently got this planner called the Live Rich Planner and it’s AMAZING! There is a monthly section, daily (by the hour) and a weekly section where you can fill in grocery lists, goal charts, housework duties, and meal planning!
TIP TWO: FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Nursing school is already hard enough without having a tribe of friends to help keep each other afloat during the whole thing. These are the same people that understand why you can’t go out that weekend because you have a big test coming up. They understand ya’ll are pretty broke so you find fun activities to do for cheap. Late nights are accompanied by either coffee or cocktails. They make the awkward clinicals bearable. Bitch sessions are necessary. And walking out of a horrible ass test to a group of people all saying what they put for each question will give you the most reassurance as well as the most anxiety.
TIP THREE: FIND A REALLY GOOD $6 BOTTLE OF WINE
Oliver Winery and St. Julian are some of my favorites from back at home! But I’ve recently learned of Total Wines here in Tampa and my goodness, they have too many good ones! If your budget is a little extra tight, Aldi has a moscato for $2.50! And for nights after an exam, know where the best margarita specials are!
TIP FOUR: MEAL PREP
Everyone says you’ll gain weight in nursing school due to late night studying and stress eating. However, that doesn’t have to be true. To be honest, you really don’t have time to be cooking every single day. This will lead you to eating out because lets be honest, it’s quick and easy!
Meal prepping is not as horrible as everyone makes it seem. Pick the best day and crank it out like maybe on a Sunday! Go to the dollar store and get a bunch of tupperware. Take out two different types of your protein. In example, a pack of chicken breast and some ground beef. Cook your ground beef, get some rice going, and make some burrito bowls (add corn, black beans, cheese, avocado)! BOOM! Tastes great warmed up, cheaper than chipotle, and is nutritious! Then throw your chicken on the grill or in the oven, add some rice from the big pot of rice you just made for the burrito bowls and make some veggies (green beans, broccoli, squash, whatever you like). If your short for time, get some in the frozen section and throw it in the microwave. Now you have two meals to alternate with so you aren’t bored eating chicken every day for lunch and dinner. Prepare some snacks (fruit washed and cut up, humus and carrots or naan bread, cheese sticks). Now you have stuff you can grab on the go that is good for you, will save you money and time.
This leads me to a another useful tip…
TIP FIVE: GET A CROCKPOT
Crockpots are amazing because you shove a bunch of stuff into a crockpot, go study for 4 hours and wa-la, dinner is ready! If you are in need of some crockpot recipes, I added a few to the Recipe page! Click here!
TIP SIX: SHARE USEFUL RESOURCES
Nursing school is not a race to see who can get to the finish line first. The goal is to get your whole team across. Sharing useful resources with each other is so helpful. In the real nursing world, your survival as a nurse is sometimes dependent on your team. You have to help each other out.
Got a test on Heart Failure? Send a group message to your classmates with a helpful picture you found or an amazing study guide you made. Some study tools that were helpful for me was the book “Nursing Made Easy.” It had little pictures with the most important things to take away from the concept. I’m a visual learner so that book was perfect and super cheap on amazon!
This is how my camera roll looked like prior to an exam. Everyone pitched in sending each other study tools.
TIP SEVEN: WHAT IS SLEEP?
While I wish I had a solution to this problem, I think it’s an inevitable part of nursing school. You learn to function on 4 hours of sleep. Thrive on 10 minute car naps or 30 minute couch nap (because laying in the bed is too dangerous).
TIP EIGHT: STUDYING AT THE GYM
Group up the stuff you have to do. Need to go to the gym but really need to study? Bring your flashcards and look over them between sets. Watch Registered Nurse RN while you’re on the treadmill. Listen to the lectures while you stretch. Don’t make excuses why you can’t, figure out who you can make it work. Which leads me to…
TIP NINE: REGISTEREDNURSERN
Might as well send your tuition to Registered Nurse RN Sarah because you’ll realize that she teaches you way more than the $20,000/semester school you are attending…
Seriously, go on youtube and watch her videos. Take notes. Do her practice questions. She has one on almost every concept you could possibly need!
TIP TEN: DO NOT CRAM
I waited too many times until the last minute to begin studying and it was bad. You really can’t wing nursing school. You have to know your stuff. So map out your week and what you have to study and when you need to study it. Cramming just makes you stay up until 4:30am the day of your test. If they give you a detailed syllabus, do your best to follow it as best as you can so you aren’t studying 5 new chapters the day before your exam. Please learn from my mistakes.
TIP ELEVEN: FIND A GOOD STUDY PLAYLIST
Make a playlist of all the best study songs. Not “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo but songs that can play in the background to give the room energy but that you can still focus on what you’re reading or studying. For me, it was Frank Ocean’s album Blonde. It was calming but also had good energy.
TIP TWELVE: FIND A GOOD STUDY SPOT
I learned very quickly that my bed is not that location. I can’t count how many times I would fall asleep studying there. Sometimes it was Starbucks with a fat venti loaded with expresso shots, sometimes it was Panera if dinner needed to be included, and on late nights it was at the kitchen table with all the lights on and the K-cup machine brewing.
TIP THIRTEEN: DO NOT START A NETFLIX SERIES
I REPEAT, DO NOT START A NETFLIX SERIES (especially one with 16 seasons…). Don’t do it, friend. Trust me
TIP FOURTEEN: HAVE STRESS RELIEVERS:
You’re going to get overwhelmed. Know what helps you relax: a bubble bath, glass of wine, music, yoga, working out, reading something other than a nursing book, journaling, praying, or going on a walk with your dog. Find what works for you and do it.
I feel very fortunate to have had my husband going through nursing school at the same time as me. We had a lot of vent sessions. We had a lot of pep talks. We would stay up and study so the other one wouldn’t be up alone. We would set a timer and study for an hour and then go play with the dogs and come back and study for another hour.
TIP FIFTEEN: YOU GOT THIS!
Take a deep breath. Have confidence in yourself. You’re going to make a great nurse one day. Even when it seems impossible, realize it’s only going to make you stronger. I’m rooting for all of you!
You WILL graduate from nursing school and you WILL dance across the stage!
Calling All Planner Nerds:
Okay, be honest, who else is a total planner nerd?
The rush you get as you pick out a new planner…the smell of the fresh empty pages…motivational quotes in between each month… colors bursting from the pages… And omg, are those stickers in the back?
There’s something really freakin cool about a planner. There are so many empty pages that will soon be filled in with all the amazing activities of your life; birthdays, anniversaries, sushi date nights, mani’s with the girls, vacations, road trips. And then the not so fun things of course; bills, work, doctor visits (if you’re reading this, I hope you’re not letting your mom make doctor appointments for you anymore). Call me crazy, but I think it’s super cool. What you do makes up that planner and all in all, makes up your year.
There really is no excuse to not get shit done when you have a planner. It’s like a book that helps you keep yourself accountable and organized but also lets you get a little creative!
And that lovely part on the side that says “notes,” use it to write your goals down for the month. Everyday you open your planner, you have no choice but to see your goals. Ask yourself everyday; am I closer to my goal more than I was yesterday? Am I taking the right steps? What else can I do to accomplish these goals? It’s like a self reflection to stay on the path to success. Other ideas are to use it as a place to keep track of your bills or write out a to do list.
If you’re like me you have every color pen you can imagine. And not just any pen, you have a certain pen that makes your handwriting look just amazing. You have stickers galore to make all the really exciting things pop! And you practice writing new fonts in the margins!
If you’re like Leonard then you have a very thin professional planner with everything in black ink (unless you can’t find a black pen, then you steal your wive’s fancy pens) And you cross off each day as you go! And yes, for my boy readers, it’s totally masculine to have a planner. It’s actually attractive because it shows you have your shit together. (Am I right, ladies?)
The last few years I was getting the Lily Pultizer planner and I’m still obsessed but this year I jumped ship and tried Erin Condren. Mainly because I wanted to use our wedding pictures for the cover. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on if it’s really as hyped up as we all hear! (And not to seclude anyone… Erin does have boy planners too!) And yes, to my fellow planner nerds on a budget, you can totally find a bomb ass planner at tjmaxx for like $12! Basically get a planner that you’re going to be excited to use! Find tricks that will help you. If drawing a glass of water for each cup you drink helps you then by all freakin means, draw those cups of water girlfriend! If adding a motivation quote to the page fires you up then gets to googling the best motivational quotes. It’s your space to design and create YOUR year!
I also found these really cool clip-ins. One is a dry erasable grocery list so you can just pop it out and take it with you to the store. One is a wellness log that you can use to meal prep for the week, track how much water you’re drinking and write in what workouts or physical activities you are going to do. And one is a monthly bill tracker! I waited til they had a sale and got them all for like $10!
For some reason, I can’t get myself to throw my old planners away. It’s like throwing away a journal. Throwing away all the monumental things you crammed into just one year of your life. One day I’ll look back and laugh at entry that says “10 days til your final; did you start studying yet?” or the sad face found on each month indicating I started my period. Every little day, whether it was a Netflix and chill day or the biggest interview of your life, make up who you are and what you’re doing to get to the next step in your life.
One thing I need to work on is filling my off days with more experiences. I can’t lie, I’m a home body. I love to chill on my off days but I need to fill in those empty days with new things whether it be a hike on a new trail, trying out a new cafe, or going on a mini road trip!
Okay ya’ll, happy planning! Feel free to shoot me a comment, I’d love to hear what planners you use, what your tips/tricks, and what’re some of your goals are!