Being a successful nursing student often comes down to one key factor: organization. The schedule is beyond demanding, often confusing and changes from one day to the next. Having a system in place for keeping home and school running smoothly is absolutely vital to your success.

The Master Schedule
At the beginning of the semester I would take each syllabus and input all my tasks/assignment due dates into one long-as-heck Excel spreadsheet. I would then sort the spreadsheet by date, so I’d end up with a list of assignments/tasks in order of when they were due. This was fantastic for keeping me organized and was also a great way to count down the end of the semester…I loved crossing things off that list! Here’s an example of one from 4th semester, which isn’t all that bad (compared to 1st and 2nd semesters!): Master List

The Binder Dilemma
Rather than carry around a binder for each class, I carried one 2-inch binder to school each day. It had dividers for each class, and I used plastic tabbies to divide out the topics within each class section. That way, I always had my current notes with me no matter what day of the week it was…if I had a few extra minutes, I could whip out my binder and study. After each exam, I would take that content out of my daily binder, and file it away into my huuuuge master binder which also has topics for each class (and by huge, I mean it’s huuuge….the biggest ones you can buy).

I also had a separate white binder for clinical items: syllabus, care plans, brain sheets, paperwork and whatnot.

The Calendar Situation
During nursing school I relied heavily on the UnCalendar…it had lots of space for taking notes, making lists and keeping track of my ever-evolving schedule. While I really, really liked my UnCalendar, I didn’t LOOOOOVE it and often thought it could be improved upon. That’s why I am currently in the process of developing and producing an Academic Planner to end all academic planners. Stay tuned for more…but in the meantime, I highly recommend the UnCalendar.  UPDATE: The academic planner is FINISHED! See my Etsy shop for all the fabulous details 🙂Uncalendar

Getting Stuff Done Around the House
Toward the end of first semester, I got tired of sitting on my tush studying All The Time. So, I made audio notes, uploaded them to my iPod and would listen to them while going for a walk, doing the laundry, cleaning the house. It was one of the best ideas I had during nursing school. In addition to just having notes, I would also record Q&A sessions…I’d ask myself a question, pause, then state the answer…I would listen to these Q&As all the time…it’s flashcards for your ears! At some point, I’ll create some audio notes here, but I also think it’s a great idea to do your own. It saved my bacon more than once!

Speaking of Flashcards
Rather than write out flashcards by hand (how tedious, right?) I used Google Docs to create electronic flashcards that I accessed on my iPod Touch/iPhone using gFlash)…probably one of the best inventions for students ever. I used the heck out of this app, and may even still have my flashcards on my Google Docs account…I’ll have to look!

Lugging it All
To carry all my goods with me, I invested in a rolling backpack. Dorky or no, a rolling backpack saved my back and allowed me to carry a whooooole lot of stuff to school each day. Typical contents always included: my daily binder, any books I was using, a pencil bag full of pens and highlighters, my wallet, a small stapler, a small hole punch, girlie supplies, gum, headache meds, eye drops, a few emergency protein bars, extra tabbies, my faithful calendar, a calculator, my iPod Touch, cell phone, etc… I basically lived out of that thing during the school year. Get one with one main compartment and lots of outside pockets and sturdy wheels. I seem to recall that the wheels on mine lit up. It was all kinds of awesome.

Good luck!

10 thoughts on “Organization is key

    1. Nurse Mo

      Funny you should ask…I was just looking at that the other day! It is so awesome, but also very expensive to print! My goal is to boost the readership of my blog by next year so I can go into production. In the meantime, I may make something that can be downloaded so people can print it themselves and use the ARC system or something similar…stand by!

    1. Nurse Mo

      It will depend on what you decide to print…if you don’t use the project pages or the note pages then you wouldn’t need to print them. I am going to devote some time in the next week or two to getting the layout finalized. It will also depend on whether you go with a full-size layout or the half-page. I am hoping to have both available. Thanks for your interest!

  1. Katherine

    So glad that I stumbled upon this… I begin nursing school next month and could really use this great advice!!! Do you recall which rolling bad you used?

    1. Nurse Mo

      I don’t remember…I gave it away after graduation. I think it was one I got at an office supply store at back-to-school time, so now is the perfect time to get one! I do know it had loads of pockets, which made it easy to keep things organized. Good luck with school!

  2. Katherine

    I will definitely look around. For your clinical binder, was it also 2″ or smaller? I’m lucky enough that for the first few semesters I only have to take one class at a time so I am debating how big of a binder I will need for each. Thx!

  3. Nurse Mo

    My clinical binders are 2-inch, but 1.5 may also work. If you’re only taking one class at a time, a 1.5 could work. One thing I did that I LOVED, was I had my chemistry text book unbound and drilled for a 3-ring binder. I then was able to carry around my current section of my chem book with me at all times, without having to carry the whole thing!


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