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Nurse Mo wants you to ace nursing school!

WELCOME! Maybe you’re here because you’re starting nursing school, dreaming of nursing school or just getting ready to buckle down again for another semester. This blog is so much more than a blog, there’s also a ton of FREE educational resources!

At the top of the page, you see a menu bar with some headers…explore your heart out because this is where you’ll find notes related to nursing school, printable reference sheets, study aids, goodies to buy, a link to my e-book and loads more.

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20 Interview Questions for Your First Nursing Job

New Grad Interview

So, you’ve graduated! You’ve passed your NCLEX! Guess what? You’ve still got work to do, grasshopper! Not only do you have to land an interview, you have to absolutely NAIL IT. To do so, you have to prepare just like you would for any gigantic exam in nursing school. To help you out, I’ve compiled the list of interview questions I prepared answers for when I was looking for a job straight out of school. The end result was 29 typed pages of questions/answers which I diligently memorized. Needless to say, I was ready for anything! So, without further ado…here are 20 interview questions you absolutely must be prepared to answer:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
    With this question, don’t go back to “I was born in a small town…” Start with the most recent relevant information like where you went to school, what you discovered to be your passion in regards to nursing (and hopefully that’s the position you are applying for), plus a few key attributes that tie in to the job.
  2. Why do you want to work in this department?
    Explain why you want to work in the ICU, ER, pediatrics, etc…. and then talk about how your strengths make you the perfect match for the job.
  3. What would your preceptor/clinical instructor say are your strengths? Weaknesses?
    Be honest here, but be humble. You may think you are all that with a bag of chips…but you will quickly find out you basically know nothing. Sell yourself on your ability to learn and adapt. Fess up to your shortcomings but present them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  4. You are driving home from work and had the very best day…what happened?
    Describe what a great day on the job would mean to you. Connecting with a family member, seeing a patient improve, helping a co-worker. Whatever it is, don’t say it’s the donuts in the break room.
  5. You are driving home from work and had the very worst day…what happened?
    Same scenario, different perspective. This is an opportunity to show how you would deal with challenges or adversity.
  6. What is the best criticism you have ever received?
    Choose something that you took to heart and improved upon.
  7. What gives you anxiety?
    This demonstrates how you would function in a high-stress environment
  8. How has your background prepare you for nursing?
    Draw from your varied past jobs, education and skills to paint the picture of someone who is adaptable, quick-thinking, courageous, assertive, caring, etc… Examples that showcase communication skills and critical thinking are also key.
  9. What do you do if the MD asks you to do something and you aren’t sure it’s in your scope of practice?
    The answer to this is to ALWAYS clarify the order and to ALWAYS clarify the protocol on your unit.
  10. Tell me about a time someone disregarded your opinion. How did that make you feel and what did you do about it?
    As a nurse, you will find that people often disregard your opinion. You must show that you are confident yet also open to seeing other points of view.
  11. How have your other clinical experiences prepared you for this unit?
    This is where you can get more detailed with the types of patients you’ve cared for and any special skills  you’ve been able to practice.
  12. How do you work with people from other cultures?
    This is a no-brainer. You LOVE working with a wide variety of people from ALL backgrounds. You just LOVE IT!
  13. Can you tell me about a time when you saw a small problem and acted to prevent it from becoming a big problem
    Catching small boo-boos before they become HUGE disasters is key in nursing.
  14. Can you tell me about a time when your care plan had to be changed due to a shift in priorities?
    This shows you can assimilate data and re-prioritize based on new information. Remember the key component of the nursing process? ASSESS ASSESS ASSESS!
  15. Can you tell em about a time when you had to work in a group and there was a problem…what did you do to fix the problem and what was the outcome?
    Nursing is ALL about teamwork. You MUST be a team player or you will die a slow and miserable death. So to speak.
  16. Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize patient care.
    This is a good time to talk about juggling multiple patients with competing needs/demands.
  17. Can you tell me about a time when you had a different point of view than your patient, and what you did to see your patient’s point of view?
    This shows you subscribe to the whole “patient-centered-care” thing. And that you are open-minded and not a total jerk.
  18. How do you feel about shift work?
    This could come up since you will most likely be doing night shift. And let me tell y’all, shift work is hard. Weekends, holidays…your social life will suffer even if you do only work 3 days a week. I guarantee it.
  19. What have you done that shows initiative?
    This is a great place to tell a clinical-related tale. A real one. No creative writing, please!
  20. How could you contribute to this hospital?
    Hospitals like people who join committees, seek to improve patient care, love research and embrace change.

In addition to these types of ‘getting-to-know-you’ questions, your interviewer will likely ask scenario style questions as well…so be prepared to put your clinical knowledge to the test. What I’ve listed here is just a measly 20 questions and there are tons more! In fact, there are so many more, that I’m working on another Thrive Guide! Look for my soon-to-be-available e-book titled “RN Job Hunt Thrive Guide.” So exciting!!

Be safe out there…and good luck!

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‘Twas the Night before Clinical

Screenshot 2015-12-24 11.44.05As the year draws to a close, I thought I’d share a Christmas story with you. I wrote this for my clinical group instructor “Professor Rose” at the end of our first semester. Enjoy!

Twas the night before clinical and the lights were ablaze.
The student was prepping, her mind in a daze.

The treatments were listed and planned with great care.
In hopes that the professor would notice her flair.

The meds were looked up, with side effects known.
If one thing was missed, her professor would intone:

“This is serious business, you can’t make mistakes!
Do it over, do it over…and do not be late!”

The student was nervous as she turned out the light,
for a three hour nap before the dawn of daylight.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
She sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

It was Collie, and Rui, and Shannon and Nai.
Gloria, Elaine and Svetlana……but why?

Nadedja and Chrystanya called out from the street,
“Our patients were discharged, and we’re all up #&@# creek!”

Mo grabbed her drug book while Collie made a plan.
“We’ll sneak into the hospital, and search through the RAND.”

“We’ll find some new patients, Rose will never know.”
Nai looked at her watch, “We must not be slow!”.

They raced to their cars and headed downtown.
Each student unsure how this caper would go down.

They dispersed to their units, and walked with such stealth.
If Rose caught them here, they would fear for their health.

On 4-East the neuros were snug in their beds,
while visions of cranial nerves danced in their heads.

On 5-South the diabetics were fasting as they dreamed
of needle-less Accuchecks and chocolate mint ice cream.

On 4-North the patients were doped to the gills.
With body parts in traction, the unit was still.

Each student found their RAND and approached with great care.
In hopes the RNs wouldn’t notice they were there.

Just as they thought the coast was now clear,
a familiar footstep echoed in each student’s ear.

And who should they spy coming down the hall,
water bottle in hand, Rose nearing them all.

They tried to scatter, but to no avail.
She had already spotted them and began to wail:

“Girls, it’s two in the morning! You know I don’t sleep!
I’m like Old St. Nick and can hear every peep.”

“Conference room now!” She marched down the stairs.
Their hearts sunk to their knees, some even said prayers.

They walked to their fate, with minds full of dread.
But then saw something wondrous, just up ahead.

Rose was beaming with a twinkle in her eye.
The students were lost, “You mean we’re not going to die?”

“Of course not! You care…and that, I’ll allow!
The fact that you’re here, means you’re real nurses now!”

The students smiled proudly and gave Rose a hug,
when the sound of the alarm woke Mo with a buzz.

“What a strange dream,” she called her friends to compare.
They’d had it, too…that must be quite rare!

They shuffled in to the hospital, holding on to their preps.
And saw Rose looking very perplexed.

“Your patients were discharged, every last one!
The odds are incredible, this has never been done!”

Was it a dream? The girls gave Rose a close stare.
She was in the same clothes, and had rumpled hair.

“Go on, you ‘real nurses’ and pass this last test!”
“We will,” they replied…“we’ve learned from the best!”

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The Nursing Portfolio

For those of you about to graduate (yay!!) you are undoubtedly already thinking about the dreaded job hunt and all the good times (and stress) that it entails. While you may not yet be able to apply for any positions until you pass NCLEX, you can start getting your  nursing portfolio together…doesn’t that sound like THE perfect thing to work on over Thanksgiving break? Ok, maybe not, but it may be something you will want to create and have ready for that first interview a few months from now.

What is a nursing portfolio? It’s basically a synopsis of your achievements throughout nursing school packaged together with your resume. But, more importantly, it’s a way to help make yourself stand out from the crowd, show prospective employers you take yourself seriously, and show you are giving this job search thing all the attention and care you gave to your education. Basically, it’s to show that you TOTALLY ROCK.

So, what’s in a nursing portfolio? All kinds of goodies!

  • The Cover: my cover simply has my name, license and education level, the job I was applying for (RN-STRONG candidate) and my cell phone. By the way, RN-STRONG was the  name of the new-grad program at my hospital.
  • The Cover Letter
  • Your Resume
    • This can be tricky for new grad students, since we basically have no nursing experience when first getting out of school. For my resume, I included the following in this order:
      • Education
      • Certs & Licensing (my RN license, my BLS, ACLS, Cardiac Monitoring course, TNCC and County IV Certification)
      • Honors & Awards from nursing school
      • Preceptorship (here is where I wrote about my 270-hr preceptorship, what I learned, what I did)
      • Clinical Placements (I listed the departments, number of hours and hospitals)
      • Nursing Experience: this included volunteer service and my student nurse highlights
      • Professional Experience: this is good to include for those who have had other careers or jobs with translatable skills
      • Lectures Attended: if you attend workshops, lectures and seminars related to nursing, list those…it shows your interested in staying current in the field.
      • References
    • Faculty Letters: Letters of recommendation from faculty at my school.
    • Employer Letters: If you can get past employers to write recommendation letters for you, go for it! You may need to coach them a little bit so they know which of your attributes to highlight…great at customer service, highly organized, able to juggle multiple priorities, conscientious, caring, patient…etc.
    • Nursing Philosophy: For my leadership class we had to write out our nursing philosophy statement…I figured I’d make it count for something! My statement contains the following sections: Introduction, what nursing means to me, my personal philosophy of heath/wellness, the health care consumer (the patient…wrote about patient-centers care), the environment of nursing (I wrote about an environment that fosters communication, teamwork, respect), Value Development (how my values will help me be a good nurse), 5-year plan (my goals for my career in the next five years. Not sure anyone read it, but I thought it sounded good, so I included it!
    • Clinical Evaluations & Skills: This is where I kept all those clinical evals I’d saved up. Also I included the mater list of all skills we learned in nursing school so they could see I knew how to insert an NGT, by golly!
    • Transcripts: You’ll want to show off all those Straight A’s!
    • Certs & License: I included copies of my certs and my license. So they’d know I was legit, man!
    • Honors: I won some award from a local hospital, got a scholarship, joined Sigma Theta Tau…if you’ve got something honorable, include it…toot your own horn!
    • Course work: I included a really cool and complex concept map for my ICU clinical that I thought would show my ability to analyze a LOT of information about a patient. I also added the LATTE acronym that I made up and a case management paper. Only include things that show you are excellent…you don’t want to include every single thing you ever did…the top 4-5 highlights.
    • Immunizations: I also included a list of current immunizations, but I don’t even know if this is necessary. I was being uber thorough…surprised?

I put it all into a 1/2 inch 3-ring binder with a flexible cover, added Nursing Portfoliotabs (I LOVE TABS!) and used it as a leave-behind for job interviews. Coming up soon…a list of interview questions and some ways to answer them! I am full of the funs these days!

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy your break, do something kind for yourself, see a friend and spend at least one afternoon in your pajamas….PROMISE ME you will, ok?

Be safe out there!

Nurse Mo

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How to get into nursing school

get into nursing schoolI was approached by a college freshman this past week who had a million questions about how to get into nursing school. All the group advising sessions she had been to were basically designed to get students to question their convictions and ultimately change their minds about applying. Yes, in many areas the programs are quite impacted; and yes, if you don’t have “the goods” then you are better off pursuing another degree…but it still left her with several unanswered questions. Nurse Mo to the rescue!

Identify Nursing Programs of Interest
If you are in an area with multiple nursing programs offered, you’ll need to identify what the entrance requirements are for each program. For most community colleges, the requirements will be similar, but a BSN program will likely have additional courses for you to take. Others of you are applying all over the country, so you’ll want to make note of each school’s unique requirements. Make a spreadsheet or chart showing all the programs and all the requirements. Anticipate applying to ALL these programs (even if you are already enrolled in a 4-yr university with its own nursing program…keep you options open!).

Increase Your Chance of Getting Classes
Nursing programs in many areas are impacted…which means there are more people who want to take the course than can be accommodated. This extends to the pre-requisite courses as well (mainly the heavy science classes). It can be extremely frustrating to find that you cannot get into Anatomy & Physiology at your college, so we are going to expand your bank of available classes.

If you are a community college student, look to other colleges in your district. There may even be an out-of-district college nearby, so look into those as well. The idea is to increase the number of campuses on your radar so you can register (or attempt to register) at multiple locations. I drove 45 minutes each way to attend a college where I scored a Microbiology class…it was well worth it!

If you are at a 4-year university, you definitely need to venture out into the community colleges. Many colleges will give priority registration to continuing students. What this means to you is that you probably won’t get into the impacted science classes at a community college your first semester…don’t worry about it. Take ONE class at the community college (make sure it fulfills a nursing school requirement…something like human development or communication). If your school gives priority to continuing students, then you’ll have a MUCH better chance of scoring a Microbiology or A&P class for NEXT semester. If you rely on getting into these science courses at the 4-year school, you greatly decrease your chances of finishing your pre-requisites in a timely manner.

Before you choose just ANY course, make sure it transfers to the institutions you are interested in applying to for nursing school. You can find this information on the web…look for the school’s “articulation agreement.” This is a document which clearly states what courses at College A meet the requirements at College B. This is super duper important, so don’t forget this step!

Make a Plan
Next, you must make a plan. Ideally this starts with your first semester, but if you’ve already started then your goal is to make a plan as soon as possible. Using your list of required courses for each program, you must start now to map out how these courses will fall into sequence. Algebra comes before Chemistry which comes before Microbiology, etc… Knowing what courses are pre-requisites for others is key to getting your degree in a reasonable amount of time.

Make an Appointment with an Advisor
Part of the “make a plan” step is to meet with an advisor at the school(s) you are targeting. Take high school and other college transcripts to see if things like your prior chemistry and math courses count for anything. Some schools may even require you meet with an advisor, so get in there as soon as  you can!

Get Straight A’s
While some colleges are on the “lottery system” others are not. Plan to apply to the most competitive programs out there and start now to ensure you earn yourself a seat. Plan to apply to the most competitive programs out there and start now to ensure you earn… Click To TweetYou will need EXCELLENT grades to get into most merit-based programs (plus you’ll need to take an entrance exam, possibly take a GRE, maybe even sacrifice a lamb…just kidding!). Set yourself up for success by grouping your courses together intelligently. This means DO NOT TAKE TWO HEAVY COURSES AT THE SAME TIME. Do you have that? DO NOT DO IT! Sure, it can be done (and likely has been done), but it is not recommended. Take Chem one semester, Micro another, A&P1 then A&P 2, then Organic Chem…you get the idea. Consider taking summer school if it keeps you from having to double-up during the regular semester. If you DO take summer school, take ONE science class…just one. Promise me you won’t take more than one. PROMISE?? Pinky promise?? Ok, good.

Get Organized
I created a binder (big surprise) of all the different programs I was applying to. It included the course requirements, application process, application deadline, entrance exam requirements and dates, any forms I needed to submit and copies of everything I submitted. Plan to order multiple copies of transcripts well in advance so you don’t have to run to the registrar’s office in a panic and pay extra for rush processing (not that I know anything about that…haha).

Map Out Your Application Strategy
Take a careful look at each program’s entrance requirements and application process. Some schools let you apply BEFORE you have completed all your pre-reqs (as long as they are in process)…this is huge as it prevents you from wasting a semester twiddling your thumbs…awesome!

If you are applying to community college programs and BSN programs, note that the BSN program will likely have additional requirements. If you can arrange to take those additional courses last, you will have all your ADN program courses done first. This means you can start applying to ADN programs while you are still finishing up the additional classes for the BSN program…super efficient! For example, my BSN program required Organic Chemistry and Statistics…so I took those courses last while I was applying to the ADN programs in the area (which are all lottery based). Needless to say, I didn’t get lucky with the lottery…but got in on my first try with the merit-based program because I followed my own advice (and you can, too!).

Rock your Entrance Exam!
Most schools require some kind of entrance exam…TEAS, HESI and GRE come to mind. Plan ahead to take the test at a time when you can devote a considerable amount of energy to studying. I have taken the TEAS and GRE (and I hope to NEVER take the GRE again…what an awful experience that was). The TEAS is basically a re-hashing of 8th grade science courses, basic math and grammar. If you think that sounds easy…think again. The GRE is a diabolical plot to leech even the most well-adjusted individual of every shred of their self-worth and confidence…but I digress. The point is…do not take these exams lightly. They count for a reason, so study like your future depends on it!

Well there you have it! My best advise to help you get into nursing school. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Nurse Mo

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Blog Carnival! Mentoring in the Nursing Profession

As someone who loves mentoring students and new nurses, I thought it might be interesting to explore the culture of mentoring, why it’s important and how we go about it. Without further ado, I invite you to peruse these fabulous blog articles, each of which address the topic of mentoring in their own unique way.

CRNA Career Pro writes about CRNAs helping anesthesia students…a must-read if you are interested in obtaining your CRNA or are curious about this exciting branch of nursing. Nurse John Keith offers advice for being a helpful mentor, something that is imperative in a program known for being incredibly demanding.

Looking to switch roles? One of the great things about nursing as a career choice is there is ALWAYS another path to follow, should you chose to do so. But, as with most things, change can be intimidating. Lucky for you, Nurse Elizabeth Scala has got your back. She provides invaluable advice for transitioning into your new role at her blog Nursing from Within. A great read!

Nurse Donna Maheady, a true angel in my opinion, writes with grace about mentoring nursing students and nurses with disabilities on her blog Exceptional Nurse. 

What about online mentoring? Can it work for you? Nurse Joyce Fiodembo has insightful guidance on a mentoring strategy that embraces technology and connects nurses across the globe in her blog article “Do You Need an Online Mentor?” This is a wonderful idea for anyone interested in branching out into a new area of nursing, or who just wants to learn how things are done in other facilities or cultures. Fantastic!

Nurse Kelly Payne, a dedicated mentor herself, writes at Mommy Baby Nurse and provides a comprehensive list of things to actively work on with your mentor…I love this idea as it give the relationship structure and purpose. Want to be the best mentee ever? This blog post is for you!

At Big Red Carpet Nursing, Nurse Greg Mercer makes the case for mentoring being an essential part of the job. Sure, other things are always going to take priority (patient care and charting come to mind), but making time to mentor pays huge dividends for both mentor and mentee alike. Plus, it’s crucial for the advancement of the profession…see Greg’s “rant” and delightful reasoning here! 

Nurse Lorie Brown (who is also an attorney…color me impressed!) writes about the importance of having a mentor, especially when things don’t go as planned. She reminds us that a mentor can help guide us through difficult decisions or situations. Her blog, Your Nurse Attorney is a fantastic resource for the complex, winding road of legality as it relates to your nursing practice.

If you haven’t yet checked out Nurselyfe, today is the day! Nurse Brittany Stone poses an interesting question about mentoring for advanced practice nurses. If  you are thinking about advancing your practice or are on the cusp of embarking as an APRN, you may be fondly remembering your days as a brand new nurse with a dedicated mentor. Brittany makes the case for mentoring even as we grow through all stages of our careers.

This post was part of the Blog Carnival, a monthly online gathering that explores topics of interest in nursing. Want to be a part of it? Here’s how!

Screenshot 2015-10-05 19.09.18

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First Semester Struggles

Screenshot 2015-09-06 09.23.21Many of you have just started your programs…congratulations! This is often a VERY overwhelming experience…I vividly remember more than one student having a breakdown in those first few weeks. Here are a few of the most common first-semester struggles and how to manage them.

The schedule
The schedule during nursing school can be insane. Here is a snapshot of my first full week of classes…notice all the lists and things to do, places to be, quizzes to take…. It was really really busy and it didn’t let up until the semester was over. I get tired just looking at it.Screenshot 2015-09-06 07.49.08I know people who got through school without a paper calendar, but I honestly do not see how it can be done…it’s such a hassle to make lists on a smart phone, and you can’t see your whole week (or month) at a glance. The calendar you see above is the UnCalendar…I have since designed my own planners, which you can see here (and they are amazing!) My best advice for adjusting to the schedule is to get an time-management system you can rely on and use the heck out of it. Schedule things in advance, being realistic about how long it will take to do a particular task.

For example, you can see here how I planned out a Saturday…rather than just making a list, I gave each task a time slot so I knew in advance what I could realistically finish in one day. Pretty sure the heart means I was planning to hang out with my cute husband 😉 Screenshot 2015-09-06 07.58.37


And here is a particularly crazy week from 2nd semester…notice how pretty much every minute of the day is accounted for. This is how I knew I could get everything done…even things like eating lunch and doing yoga. Screenshot 2015-09-06 07.58.52


I think one of the biggest challenges with the schedule is understanding just how BUSY you are going to be. And embracing it.

Physical Assessment
This was one of the HARDEST skills to master, because each and every person you assess is different. Some people have nice strong pulses, others have little teeny tiny pulses…and you never know who you are going to have to partner with for your checkoffs. So, my best advice here is to practice practice practice. Take your dad’s pulse, your neighbor’s pulse, your grandma’s, your kids…practice on anyone and everyone you can get your hands on. Once you’ve got pulses down…move on to taking everyone’s blood pressure. Learn to tune out the extra sounds your stethoscope picks up so you can focus on those oh-so-subtle Korotkoff sounds. The BP check-off is one of the most nerve-wracking, so do TONS and tons of blood pressures. Going to dinner at your cousin’s house? Take  your cuff…give everyone a BP reading. Seriously. And then go work in the hospital where it’s all automated…haha.

Care Plans
To be honest, I am still on the fence about care plans. I feel like there’s got to be an easier, more straight-forward way to do it…but I can’t change the whole world at once so we’re just going to go with what we got. Care Plans are absolutely confounding to first semester students…and they should be! As a brand-new nursing student you probably don’t have a point of reference for ANYTHING you are learning. It’s like learning a foreign language by just showing up in Japan or Belgium or wherever. So, chances are your care plans will take an unbelievable amount of time to complete, especially first semester. I think the average for most people was 6-8 hours…I am shaking my head as I write this. In my mind a care plan should be super simple: list the patient’s problems and then list what you are going to do about it. But, instead of it being super direct and applicable, it has to get all “fancy” with nursing diagnoses and blah blah blah. Try not to let all that convoluted wording trip you up…get a good care plan book for reference and keep your thinking simple. What are their problems and what are you going to do about it? For example, a patient with pneumonia would have the following problems (note these are not NANDA approved…haha!):
-Difficulty breathing
-Feel like crap and want to stay in bed all day

So…as the nurse, what are you going to do about it?
-Infection? Administer antibiotics, monitor temp, monitor WBC, collect sputum sample
-Difficulty breathing? Administer O2, encourage pt to cough and take deep breaths, administer respiratory treatments (which the RT would probably do, but you’d want to make sure it got done)
-Feel like crap? Cluster interventions so patient can have periods of rest, administer antipyretics since fever makes you feel awful all over, adjust activity to patient’s tolerance (if walking the halls makes their O2 sat drop to 80, you might stick with just dangling on the side of the bed).

Make sense? Of course, your care plan will say things much more “NANDA-y” (and if you don’t know what NANDA is yet…you will!), so it will actually say something along the lines of “Infection as evidenced by gram negative rods in sputum, elevated WBC and fever” or “Impaired gas exchange as evidenced by O2 sat 88% and consolidation in bilateral lower lobes” blah blah and blah. As an interesting side note, the care plans we use at work in no way shape or form resemble NANDA. Just sayin’.

The Sheer Volume of Information
The other thing new nursing students have to come to grips with is the huge amount of information that must be learned to perfection. This is most evident in the skills check-offs and have been known to bring more than one student to tears. For some reason our injection check off really tipped some people over the edge…I think it was the timing (a really busy week) coupled with all the minutiae (what gauge needle, what length needle, for how many ml medication, for what route intradermal, subQ, intramuscular…what are the intramuscular locations? What about the Sub q ones? and on and on it goes) UGH! For learning basic details I used gFlash and for anything related to anatomy I practiced on my friends (like locating the spots for intramuscular injections…good times!). My advice for things like skills check-offs…try like heck to pass those the first time so you can move on to the next thing. Having to keep studying and re-do a check-off just takes you away from the next item on your To-Learn list. With that said…if you don’t pass a check-off, it’s not the end of the world. Most programs give you three attempts because there is such a thing as having a really bad day. Take a deep breath. You’ll be fine. As for the rest of the studying you have to do…the best thing I can say is to stick with whatever method is tried-and-true for you. If  you are struggling or don’t have a method, I am pretty confident in the Straight A way, which I go through in detail in my book Nursing School Thrive Guide. I’ve also got all my notes here on this website to help you through the rough patches. Hang in there!!!

Lack of Sleep
First of all, this DOES NOT have to be a problem. It will, however, be a problem if you waste time on nonessentials like big study groups and un-focused study sessions. By utilizing a good time management system, being accountable for your time, and scheduling out your week you can (AND WILL) get to bed by 2300 every night. That was my goal throughout nursing school and I managed to do it without fail. “But I’m a night owl,” you say. Well, the problem with being a night owl in nursing school is that you will also be getting up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning for clinical, so it’s probably best that you get on an “early-bird” schedule sooner rather than later. Once you’ve graduated and gotten your dream job on night-shift you’ll never have to drag yourself out of bed at 5am again (unless you’re catching a flight somewhere fabulous…haha!). When thinking about your sleep schedule…be very protective of it. I would honestly do “sleep-math” here and there throughout the day…”if I get to the hospital by 11, I can do my pre-clinical prep until 1300, home by 1330, have lunch until 1400, do my care plan until 2100, make my lunch for the next day by 2130, relax for a half hour, in bed by 2200.” If something threw a wrench into my plan, I’d automatically calculate it into my day to make sure I could still make my goal of a 2300 bedtime. This was how I avoided wasting time and just got shizzle done. A girl needs her beauty sleep!

Lack of Social Life
Again, it all comes down to scheduling. In fact…I highly recommend that the first items you write down in your weekly schedule be things that bring you joy. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but let’s say you’re going to be studying at Peet’s Coffee from 1200-1400 on Saturday. Have a friend meet you at 1400 for thirty minutes…a friend NOT ASSOCIATED with nursing school. Chat, catch up, think about frivolous things for thirty little joy-filled minutes! Overall, I recommend you try to do ONE THING every day that brings you joy (take a walk, play with the cat, have a glass of wine, pursue a hobby, give yourself a pedicure, whatever!), and aim to see another human being in a social setting once or twice a week. I promise it is time well spent, and will help keep you balanced and sane!

I hope this is helpful and reduces some of the stress of starting nursing school. Check in with an email or comment below and let me know how you’re doing!

Be safe out there!


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TBT: First Round of Exams OVER!

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Greetings, Throwback Thursday fans! As has become the tradition around here, each week I share a blog post from my nursing school days. Enjoy!

Here’s the breakdown for how my first round of exams went…the first tests are always the most stressful since you don’t really know what to expect. So, in that regard I am very happy that they are over and done with!

First of all, a shout-out to Paige who calmed me down before my Anthropology test. I’ve gotten so accustomed to taking science exams with ONE CORRECT answer, that I was a little freaked out by the open-ended nature of this exam. I ended up scoring a perfect 100% on that one! Whew!

Stats is also going very well. The highet grade for the multiple-choice portion was 41…which several people earned. The highest grade for the free-response part where you draw charts, do all kinds of statistical analysis stuff was 76…again, several people got 76. But how many people do you think got 41 AND 76? At least one!!! :-)

And lastly, chemistry. I have just one thing to say to Robert Burns Woodward, the “Father of Organic Chemistry”: You can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

The first exam did not go as well as planned…I do not want to be one of those students who blames the professor when they don’t do well, so I will try to keep my belly-aching to a minimum. With that said, the general class consensus is that how the prof told us to prepare for the exam did not actually help. I spent hours and hours doing homework questions and felt rather unprepared for the test. The good news is, that 85% is the cutoff for an A…so I am still in the running. Whew!

In other news, hubby got a conditional offer from a fire department near Fresno. Can you say “commute” and “not-moving-to-Fresno” and “have-a-nice-drive-honey”? (originally posted 10/5/08)

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Happy “Start of the Semester” :-)

It’s the very best time of the year…the start of a new semester! All those beautiful pristine notebook pages, the fresh pack of pens, the calendar that looks so promising with all that available space for study sessions and “to-do” items. Take a moment and just let it all sink in.

Your life, as you know it, is over. (Joking…sort of!)

If this is your first semester of nursing (or pre-nursing), then realize that these first couple of weeks are quite the adjustment period. I remember one of the biggest challenges my classmates had was just knowing what class to go to, when to go, where to go, and what supplies to bring. We had something like 7 different classes first semester, so it was a bit daunting. Luckily, I had my Mega Syllabus and Master Calendar to help me keep everything straight. Do you have yours???

If you are returning for another semester, then you might be less excited now that you know what you’re in for. How about I be excited enough for both of us? Maybe this is the semester when you finally get to see a baby born, or the clinical rotation in the ICU that you’ve been dying to do. Maybe you’re super into psych nursing and can’t wait to spend time connecting one-on-one with your clients…I’m sure there’s something to get excited about (even if it is just marking off the days to graduation.)

If I could choose just ONE piece of advice to give new nursing students…I’d say RELAX…put the competitiveness behind you and focus instead on collaboration. Sure, your drive to be el numero uno may have gotten you into the program, but collaboration and… Click To TweetAnd, newsflash, this is what will help you the most when you’re out there on the job as well.

So with that…go forth and be awesome. Enjoy this next chapter in your life…and maybe reply in the comments and let me know what you’re excited about this semester!

Be safe out there!

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TBT: Anxiety Level 4

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Well lookie here! It’s Throwback Thursday time again! Each week I share a blog entry from my nursing school days. In this post, I’m stressing big time about the application process. I just want to go back and tell myself to take a chill pill, but knowing me I would have laughed at myself and stressed anyway. I never learn.

With the application deadlines approaching, I have noticed my anxiety level slowly inching up day by day by day. It didn’t help matters at all to find out yesterday that the university does not yet have all my transcripts. So, I’ve been sending rush orders (when oh when will I ever learn) and just hoping things arrive as they should.

Plus, today is a double-whammy test day…O-Chem (did not do as well as I’d hoped…boo) and Stats. My English class is coming to a close in the next couple of weeks or so and I will be SO GLAD to have those tasks out of my hair!

You know that feeling when you feel like you’re either on the verge of crying or throwing up? That’s kinda how I feel today…the three coffees I’ve had so far probably haven’t helped. I think I will breathe a BIIIG sigh of relief once all my apps are in and I can just RELAX. Of course, then the waiting will drive me crazy, but it will be a different kind of crazy altogether. (originally posted 9/30/08)

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TBT: Essays, CPR and gadgets

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For this week’s TBT, we look back at the nursing school application essay I wrote way back when. Awww….

My Essay, CPR and My First Nursing Gadget!

So, I thought I would show you guys my essay that I wrote for one of the programs I am applying to. Let me know if, in the words of Meredith Grey, you would “Pick me…choose me!”

When I graduated from college in 1994, I wanted a career that was fun. With this goal in mind, I pursued a career in advertising. Now that I am older, my priorities have shifted and I now aspire to have a career that is a direct extension of my values. It is of great importance to me that what I choose to spend my time and energy doing is of value to someone besides just me. I want my existence on this earth to matter to someone. I want to know that someone’s day was better because I was there. I think we all have a responsibility to each do our part to make the world a better place. Spending the past fifteen years writing advertisements has, in hindsight, not afforded me the personal growth and enrichment that I find so valuable. It is my desire to now devote my energy to a more meaningful career, and there is nothing more meaningful for me than caring for others.

To me, nursing is an irresistible collage of compassion and science. It blends the fascinating complexity of the human body with our most fundamental need to care for one another. Being a nurse will grant me a front row seat at some of the most monumental moments in life. It will allow me to witness both birth and death, courage and recovery, joy and sorrow. I cannot envision an honor more great, a purpose more noble or an adventure more compelling than being a nurse.

On another note, got my Healthcare Provider CPR card today. Whoo-weee! Though it would stink if someone actually collapsed in front of me, it would be pretty cool to try my new skills. The class was supposed to go from 8-12, but thankfully I got out around 11:30-ish. I had a test at 1:00 in Anthropology so I was able to grab a quick bite at the crepe place next door to the college beforehand. As for the test…I think I killed it. Stay tuned to find out!

Annnnd, I am happy to report that I am now the proud owner of a red Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope! My husband got it for me through his job, so I am excited! I hear these are fabulous ‘scopes, and I’ve already been listening to the heart and lungs of anyone who will hold still. Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing, but it feels very “nurse-y” and I like it! (originally posted 9/27/08)

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