Nursing School

How to study every day

So yesterday, I posted about how nursing school is like prepping for a marathon and that one important thing to do is study every day. I truly believe that because there is so much material and so little of it is memorization that going over a little bit every day makes the monumental task of each test a little easier. It occurred to me that not everyone may know how to do that, so I’m going to go over what I do to study every day (and it’s not just re-reading all my notes!).

  1. Write it down – if you are of the age of computers, you may not ever spend much time writing things. You probably type. There’s nothing wrong with that but there are studies that show that writing things by hand helps you remember them more. Yes, it’s hard to do and it takes longer but honestly, I think that’s why it sticks better. You have to think about what letter to write. I take my notes in class by hand, following along on the powerpoint. If I can’t get everything down, I will make a note in my notebook to go back to look at a slide again. Writing by hand helps me remember a LOT of stuff. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be legible.
  2. Read what’s in the book – and not just skimming it. I mean actively read what’s in your book. Most teachers assign reading and it’s not because they’re mean. It’s because there is so much that you can’t possibly get it all in class. You may not even be able to read everything (I’ll get to this is a bit though) but you should try. If nothing else, find the sections in your book that correspond to what you did in class. Chances are that your instructor finds that material important. While you read, look for anything that stands out as different from your notes. That way you can ask questions the next day (or email your instructor and ask).
  3. Answer practice problems – Nursing school is unique in that every student must take the NCLEX before they can become a nurse and begin to work. So most nursing schools base their tests around NCLEX questions. So you have ready made question banks to practice with. Buy a book or an app or whatever you want. There are plenty of free resources online (but be sure it’s a good source!) that have questions as well. Do those questions before your test. Most books also come with question banks that you can access online as well. Use those resources. I promise your instructors do too. If nothing else, you’ll be getting good practice before you graduate and have to take your real NCLEX.
  4. Make flash cards – it sounds high school and odd because not everything is memorization. However, this gets you to write again (or type it, if you insist on not writing by hand) and gives your brain another chance to process the information. The more times your brain sees it, the more you will recall later.
  5. Schedule time to study – Time management is crucial in nursing school. The more you have to do, the more crucial it becomes. It’s also important of you are a person who gets easily distracted by things like Netflix. Write down a time to study and stick to it. My life is super scheduled and it helps immensely. It’s very easy to get distracted by something and lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s 10 at night and you’re saying you’ll look at it tomorrow.
  6. Reread your notes – again, more exposure.
  7. Complete the extra assignments – sometimes you get those things that you know won’t be graded. Often times, they get pushed aside and only half heartedly completed. Put effort into those assignments though. Again, your instructor assigned with a purpose in mind. I’ve yet to met any instructor that assigned something just because they felt you needed to be kept busy.
  8. Take breaks – your brain needs time to process. Make sure that you take time off from the notes and reading and other things. Give your brain a chance to figure out what it knows and what it doesn’t. You may be pleasantly surprised if you take the rest of a night off and go back the next day.
  9. Apply material when you can – use clinical time or friends, whatever you need too (please don’t stress your friends out, just think about them if they’ve ever had the disease process you’re studying). Especially clinical time, really think about the disease processes your patient’s have and try to apply what you learned in class. That doesn’t mean you have to go into a patient’s room and go over everything with them. Just think about it. Look at medications, symptoms, behaviors and apply what you know.

So that’s my process. I do each of these things before every test, when I can. I don’t always have extra assignments and sometimes I can’t do everything because there isn’t enough time. That’s especially true this summer when we’re taking a class crammed into four weeks. Do what you can everyday though and you’ll be surprised when you get to the test just how much you can recall.

If you’re in school or about to be, I hope this helps you. The rest of my blog readers (if you read this!) I’ll have something non-school related tomorrow, I promise! Until then!

Nursing School

Nursing school is a marathon

Perhaps the better way to say that is it’s like preparing to run a marathon. I’ll admit that I have not run a marathon yet. I did run a half marathon five years ago and that was rough. However, I’ve been reading about distance running again. After all, my goal of running a marathon is out there and I am going to get through one some day. So here are my thoughts on why nursing school is like prepping to run a marathon.

  1. Run just enough – or rather study just enough. This is crucial to ensure that you continue in the program.
  2. Build your training slowly – build up the amount of time you study over the semester. And the entire program because as you get further in, it only gets tougher.
  3. Recover, recover, recover – you know, sleep for a whole day, read a book that has nothing to do with nursing, eat, drink, be merry.
  4. Do your long runs – there are days and even weeks when you have to buckle down and study hard. For some people that moment comes early in a class and for others it comes later. Everyone has that moment though, when they have to dig into that book and really study hard.
  5. Practice your marathon pace – well, this is more like a way to avoid the previous item. If you go at the material a little every day, the big sessions will be smaller and may not even happen. But if you just try to go by those long runs, the days may seem to be really, really long. Also, don’t miss classes because those days may end up being your nemesis in the end.
  6. Eat your carbs – because how else are you going to get through this????

The second four weeks of summer has officially begun. Hold on tight folks, it might get a little bumpy here. Four weeks left, four weeks left, four weeks left….

Life, Nursing School

Stop saying I’m smart!

The conversation goes like this:

Random Person: Can you show me how to do this (fill in math problem, science problem, etc , etc)?

Me: Sure.

Goes through entire process to show how to set the problem up and get the answer.

Random Person: Wow, can I just have your brain? You’re so smart!

It sounds like a complement, right? I mean, in a way it is. They are clearly impressed by what I am able to do. So what’s the problem?

Well, more often than not the person who is talking to me is also smart. And honestly, I’m not that smart. No, seriously, I’m not. I’ve never taken an IQ test but I don’t see myself blowing anything out of the water. I am not Mensa level.

Let me address both of these things. We’ll start with the fact that I’m not that smart. And I will immediately brag on myself. I took lots of math in college – Calculus (3 levels, in fact), Linear Algebra, Statistics, as some examples – and science classes too – basic Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Earth Sciences and then some more advanced Chemistry and Physics classes. I also took a long list of general education classes spanning from Economics to Theater. I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. I completed a semester long research project under the supervision of my advisor. Clearly, I’m not dumb. However, I’m no smarter than any of the other people that I took those same classes with. There were a lot of us. I will say, I was one of the few females in most of those classes. That doesn’t and shouldn’t matter though. So why does everyone think I’m smart because of this?

Honestly, I think the answer is two fold (and will lead to my addressing the other point there about those other people also being smart). First is that those classes are not easy. Nobody has ever accused a chemistry class of being easy. Or a physics class. Or most math classes. People will often refer to things like psychology as easy though. What’s the difference? Well, it has a lot to do with how you have to think about these things. Science and math demand that you think critically all the time. Very early on, you learn how to deduce things from information that you don’t have in order to make educated guesses. If you can’t do that, you probably won’t do well because those classes are dependent on that skill. In psychology classes, most people can get away with a very basic understanding of what’s going on and never really put much thought into the deeper connections at work. You can memorize your way through psych class to a passing grade. You can’t do that with science and math because it’s not about memorizing. There’s no way to predict in the real world what numbers or situations will present themselves.

Now, this is also very true in psychology. People who go on to higher levels need to learn how to take the basic knowledge and use it to develop critical thinking skills. Nobody ever walked into a psychiatrist or therapist’s office and said “You know, I think I have some PTSD going on. Tell me how to fix that.” Instead, the professional needs to talk to the person and get a deep understanding of their past and what could be going on before they can begin to think about diagnosing a problem. That’s critical thinking.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that most college majors don’t need to critically think. It’s more about how much critical thinking needs to happen at any given level. Scientists have to be able to think critically like that from day one. Often, people can take an introductory psychology class and never think critically once (this isn’t the teacher’s fault, by the way and I’m sure they intend for their students to think critically).

The other issue at work is this idea that win order to do math or science, you have to be “smart” and if you struggle with it, you’re not “smart”. Some of us have those things come to us more easily than others. For example, I can not spell. I rely on spell checkers heavily and sometimes still have mistakes slip through. My brain works in images and pictures and while I can visualize an atom in my head, that means that I see words that way too. The word dog brings an image to my mind and not letters. While dog is pretty easy to spell, there are much more complicated words out there and the letters elude me. A lot. Nobody would say that makes me not smart. And yet when the same is true for someone who can’t visualize molecules like I can, they feel not smart. That’s silly.

We also have a heavy stigma around women and their abilities to do math and science. I am a woman and society says, I shouldn’t be able to do math and science well. Yet I do, so I must be really smart. Except I’m not. I do, however, work very hard. Effort is what got me this knowledge, not some random gift bestowed upon me that makes me different from everyone else. I will admit that I have some skills that make parts of this easier for me, but that’s not true for everything. I still have nightmares about trying to derive Schrodinger’s wave equation (look it up). I kept at it until I learned how to do it though.

Some of this may be because people see applications for psychology more easily than they see applications for science. Ot perhaps it has to do with the fact that dealing with people is easier than abstract concepts. Either way, the fact is that a lot of people walking around seem to think they’re not smart with regards to critical thinking skills.

So, please, stop calling me smart. Take credit for what you know. Give me credit for the work that I do/did to understand these things. We can all do this, if we’re motivated to do it. I have confidence that you can do it. You’re smart.

Until next time lovely readers.

Bucket List, Bullet Journal, Life, Nursing School, Travel, Writing

Day Zero Project

So, I am an adventurer of sorts. When I graduated from college I decided that I needed a fresh start. I moved from Rhode Island to Boston. Granted, this isn’t a huge move but I was going from a place where I knew a lot of people and the area to a place where I really didn’t know anybody. Just because. When I picked a college, I deliberately picked a school where I would know nobody. Just because. I have a desire to go to places that I don’t know and where I don’t know anybody. I feel a need to find new places and explore new things. And in the past several years I haven’t been able to do those things. Or at least, that’s how I’ve felt. But I had no idea how to get out of that rut. Until I found this.

The Day Zero Project, as I’m working on it is to do 101 thing in 1001 days (or just under three years). I have started working on a list of things that I want to do. These are not all things that involve travel but they are things that are pushing me to do things that I never would have done otherwise. So, as of July 1st, I am officially on the path to completing 101 tasks by February 26, 2020.

Now, honestly, I don’t have 101 things on my list yet. I actually only have 51 things. So I need to add 50 things still. But some of my tasks are not exactly earth shaking. However, I tried to pick things that would push me to do things that are different. For example, one of my tasks is to ask 20 friends to choose a book for me to read. That’s 20 books that other people think I should read. Some of them may be books I don’t like, but I think it’s important to see other people’s ideas. Hence, the task. Other goals are ore challenging and will require me to get creative. For example, run a 5K a month for a year. I don’t think I can do that while I’m in nursing school, so it needs to wait until I finish (which granted isn’t to much longer, but still). Some things are travel related, like sleeping in a travel train and eating a lobster in Maine. But others are simple like perform five random acts of kindness for strangers.

If you are interested in the project, you can visit the site for ideas at Day Zero Project. I am hoping that this will get me jump started on my bucket list as well. My bucket list is a source of consternation for me because I have done almost nothing on it and I’ve had it for quite awhile now. I keep using nursing school as an excuse but it honestly does eat a huge amount of time since I have to work on the weekends and have school five days a week. This will get less difficult once I finish this first part but that’s still eleven months away.

As an aside, I have almost finished week three of eight. There is very little of this first class left – just next week, really and then it’s on to a second class in another four weeks. This is a hard road since it’s almost no time to think about what we’re learning and that frustrates me but I keep reminding myself that I just need to get through this. The fall will be better, with less stress, even though the work load may be heavier. More time always means a little less stress.

So that’s it, my lovely readers. Take a gander at day zero, if you’d like and see what kinds of adventures you can embark upon. Find yourself and be that. Until tomorrow!

Nursing School

First test (figuring it out?)

Last week was my first week of summer classes (first week of eight, I should point out) and my first test (of a whole lot…). The test was on immunity which is a huge subject, to be sure. There was a lot of material to read through. I was really pleased with the grade I got, a 96. I wasn’t sure how well I would do initially because I changed how I was studying a bit. Most people would probably say that was a bad idea because I’ve been doing well so far with my current methods. However, when you have three days of material and a test, there is going to be a LOT of stuff to go through. More than what I really had time to learn completely.

My new method involves focusing in on what’s really important and looking over briefly the stuff that isn’t. But what is the important stuff, you might ask? Well, that part is easy. The important stuff is the details that I would need to know to take care of a patient with this condition. Seems obvious right? Well, let me give you some examples.

We spent a lot of time talking about the various immunoglobulins in the immune system. We were also supposed to know the functions of those immunoglobulins (there are five of them). I will admit that I don’t know the functions of those things. Now, I will go back and look it over again and eventually, I may learn all the functions. But as of right now, all I can tell you is that there are five of them (M, A, D, G, E) and I really only know two details. IgE is involved in allergic reactions and IgM and IgG are the two most common in the immune system. Why didn’t I learn the functions? Easy. It’s not relevant to taking care of the patient having immune system issues. It is good information to know, without a doubt. I want to know the functions, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not needed.

I looked over all my notes and skimmed through the reading and I found the pieces of information that are needed for patient care. I looked at the nursing diagnoses and thought about what kinds of details are important to look for in people with the diagnoses – if a person has inadequate perfusion, what symptoms will they manifest, for example, and how do you help them? And in doing that, I realized something that helped a lot.

I know a lot of this already.

I know, it made me stop suddenly too. I really do know a lot of this though. There are huge pieces that I don’t need to spend time going over again or only need to spend a little time on because they are already in my head. I just need to get them to the front of my brain. Taking care of the patient involves knowing their diagnosis, to some extent but more importantly, it means knowing how to treat their symptoms. It occurred to me that on the floor, often the nurses don’t know the diagnosis. The doctor may not have made one yet. They may have an idea of what’s wrong but sometimes, they’re wrong. They aren’t treating the patient by their diagnosis. They’re treating them based on their symptoms.

We spend a lot of time in class talking about the details of disease processes and those details are important. I am not suggesting they aren’t. In fact, in many cases, I am intrigued and I want to know more. That information could be really useful to both me and the patient. However, in treating the patient, from the nurses’ perspective, the diagnosis is secondary. After all, we don’t diagnose – we aren’t going to be doctors. We treat the symptoms the patient presents with and often, those things overlap.

Now, I have another test Wednesday and we’ll see if this new method of studying proves to be successful again. If not, I’ll have to reassess and see what to do differently. I really didn’t feel like the first test was difficult though and I think that’s telling since there was so much stuff in class. I’ll keep you all updated on the crazy that will be my summer semester (2 classes in eight weeks!). Hopefully come the end of it, there will be a celebration for a few weeks before fall semester starts. Love to you all and if you are in a crazy semester, I am sending you all sorts of good vibes!

Nursing School

First day back

Today, my classmates and I officially became senior nursing students. It’s a little odd to go from freshman to senior but when you’re in a two year program, it’s what happens. I was glad to be back because the waiting just makes me apprehensive. I get more nervous thinking about all the possibilities and the what-ifs that could happen. Then I get into class and it’s never as bad as I thought. This semester is also an adjustment for me because for the first two semesters of our program, we’ve had the same teachers. I got used to how they taught and got comfortable with their testing and lecture styles. Now, there are new teachers that I’ve not had before. That makes me uncomfortable, although to be fair, our first teacher is someone we’ve had before. I also love her, which helps. A lot.

The new material is a mixed bag, I think. Some of this may not be as hard as I thought while other pieces may be much more difficult. It remains to be seen what that will mean for my test grades. Several times already, the things I enjoyed the most and thought I understood well were areas that I struggled with on tests. That frustrates me but I have decided to not stress about that and simply learn what I can and move on. I continue to learn and fix errors that I made before and I think that’s one of the most important parts.

I had a smile this weekend at work because several of the people I work with are getting ready to start a nursing program. I remember that feeling all to well. Seeing others stress about it, trying to get all their paperwork in order and wondering what it’s really going to be like makes me feel better about where I am. I kept reminding them that they’ll do ok if they just keep working at it. Purposefully moving forward. That might be my new mantra for the semester. Moving forward. I need to decorate my notebook with my motivational quotes.

I put a sticker on the front of my bullet journal to remind myself to not stress to much – Positive Mind, Positive Vibes, Positive Life. Last semester I really saw a difference in how I felt when I stopped stressing and just kept reminding myself that I could do this and I was doing the best I could.

So if you’re starting a new semester or a new part of your life, try to remember that. Keep working, as hard as you can and you will eventually get there.

“I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have.” -Coleman Cox

Bucket List, Life, Nursing School

What’s after nursing school?

This is the question, right? I mean, all this time in school needs to lead somewhere. The ultimate question is where. I’ve alluded to this before. At it’s heart is a question of where my strengths lie and how I can best grow as a person and help others. This is no easy question to answer. After all, there are a few things that could be affected by this decision. And it’s also not all about working although that’s the most important point. It’s also a question of where I want to continue my education and what I want to do later on in my life.

I’ll answer the work question first. It’s actually the place where I feel like I have the most options. I have almost always worked with kids of varying ages. I started babysitting when I was 14 years old. While I was in college I became a lifeguard and taught swim lessons to preschoolers. After college, I spent some time as an after school counselor. Then of course, I spent 12 years as a high school science teacher. Clearly, kids are my forte. I already know a lot about children and I enjoy working with them. My thoughts in regard to nursing are in the same vein. I want to work in pediatrics in some way. Whether that’s a PICU or a regular floor in a children’s hospital, I don’t know yet but I feel like that’s where I’m going to be most comfortable. I have also given thought to a labor and delivery unit as I really enjoyed the time I spent on that unit for clinicals. I’ll have to spend some time thinking on it and looking at job options once I get closer to finishing.

Then there is the question of more education. I know that I need to get a BSN. This is my personality but also due to the fact that many employers prefer that degree. So working towards that is going to happen no matter what. I also am considering after that point though. There are a lot of possible avenues there. I could get a master’s that would allow me to teach or one that would allow me to be a nurse practitioner. Both of those options are appealing for different reasons. The ultimate answer may come after I’ve worked for awhile and figured out whether my strengths lie in a classroom as they have before or if they lie in a clinical setting. I may need to consider whether I want a master’s in a pediatric field (for example pediatric nurse practitioner) which may have more limited options in this area. Whether the option to do that online exists, I don’t know because I haven’t looked that far ahead yet. Knowing myself as I do, however, it is very likely that I’ll get a master’s degree eventually.

Then there’s the issue of my bucket list. One of the things on that list is to get a doctorate degree. I know that I am academically capable of that but again, the question of what that degree would be in comes up. That’s a question that I obviously don’t need to answer right this minute but I do need to be able to answer eventually.

Right now, I suppose that I really need to take a deep breath and keep my eyes focused on the immediate. The list of reading that was emailed today for the first unit in summer classes. We start with immunity, a topic that I am very interested in although I struggled with it somewhat the last time we addressed it. That seems to be a trend with me to some extent – areas that I struggle with are sometimes some of my favorite. Maybe because of the challenge that they present. Either way, I will likely look at those readings tomorrow and see what they look like. Some of the sections are short but others are entire chapters so there’s a good bit of reading. Every time, a little bit more. One foot in front of the other.

Reminder to myself… I still need to do the remediation for my Kaplan assessment for last class. I may go back and do those tomorrow as well. At least it’s short.

Happy Wednesday everyone!