It’s fair to say I am a straight-A student; haven’t always been in high school or my earlier college years, but now that I’ve chosen an actual career and have a family to support, I am definitely working hard to earn good grades.
From the beginning of nursing school, I decided to read every assigned chapter and spend lots of time and energy gaining as much information as I could. Being in an accelerated program, with each class lasting from 1 to 2 months, time management was of the utmost importance. I would spend nights studying, since my days were filled with classes, my full-time job, and taking care of my three kids. I would say I was doing everything right as far as being a nursing student was concerned.
Then hit Med Surg I & II – easily the hardest four months of my life. I was not prepared for how intense of a class this would be, both in lecture and clinical. For the first time in nursing school, I straight up failed a midterm exam. I was embarrassed, ashamed, flabbergasted – I couldn’t understand how my study habits that had carried me thus far, some seven months or so, had gotten me A after A in classes, tests and assignments, then suddenly I had the lowest score I’ve ever seen with my name on it.
At our school we have what are called “LSPs,” or Learning Support Programs, which require that we maintain at least a 76% percent on all tests and quizzes. When I first heard about this remediation program, I haughtily told myself, “I will never be on a LSP. In fact, I’ll make it a personal goal to get through nursing school without a single LSP.” Well, I must have either jinxed myself or was simply never prepared for what Med Surg would be like until that midterm in the first Med Surg class. It was a complete eye-opener, and it humbled me, that no matter what kind of student you are, there will be struggles and obstacles that will make or break you.
I certainly had my breaking points over the four months of Med Surg. I spent more hours studying away from home, sometimes more than 6 hours even after class going to Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. I found comfort in my friends and mentors who knew the struggle I was facing and could relate to my inner turmoil.
If I could share the top lessons that I learned from that first failed test, it would be this:
1. Study smarter.
If the way you’ve studied in the past doesn’t seem to be working, be willing to ask others their study habits and try to incorporate some new ideas into your routine. Don’t try to read everything, like I had before, but rather find ways to absorb the content in a way that makes sense to you. Watch more videos on topics you don’t quite get and hopefully they have visuals to help if you’re that kind of learner. Find “cheatsheets” online from nursing-related websites to help you memorize better. Don’t highlight everything even though everything seems important (trust me, someone called my textbook a “coloring book for adults”). Find questions from NCLEX-prep books or online to help test you on the content; read the rationales whether you got it wrong, know the answer or guessed and still got it right. It’s always best to know the “why” behind every answer, and I have found this to be most helpful in trying to approach NCLEX-style questions on tests.
2. Use this experience to grow.
Re-evaluate your study and test-taking abilities. Meet with your professors during their office hours. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions in class and clarify something during lecture. Don’t try to wear yourself out more from failing, but utilize your time and energy more efficiently. Most of all, get plenty of sleep; I thought that burning myself out with late-night readings and study sessions would help me but it only hurt me in the long run. I learned the value of sleep and how we remember information better when we get a long night’s sleep after studying. Give yourself a daily To Do list and stick with it, but make your goals manageable so as not to overwhelm yourself. Most of the classes in nursing school, like Med Surg, will cover a lot of material every week, so try focusing on one topic at a time instead of a bunch so you can better retain the information.
3. Everyone struggles in nursing school.
Because I failed one test, I felt like a failure. But, that isn’t true. Because nursing school has a wide range of topics that it focuses on, from theory and leadership to pharmacology and specialty areas, we are all bound to get to a subject that challenges us. While I found pharmacology and obstetrics to be fairly easy, others did not; same with Med Surg being my weak spot whereas others found it to be a breeze. Just because you fail one test doesn’t make you a failure or less than your peers; take this opportunity to not be discouraged but rather to push yourself more and test your abilities of what you can do. Two of my favorite teachers I’ve had in nursing school have shared their stories of struggling when they were in school and how they have retaken classes only to come out stronger in the end because of it.
Nursing is my newest passion; everything I do revolves around my life’s aspiration to become a registered nurse. This was not always the case as I once pursued a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature and spent years working for a regional newspaper until a sudden life change sparked an interest in the nursing profession. The years I have under my belt working for a community news publication has taught me a great deal about the power and impact of networking. I’ve learned that, in almost any career path you choose, it’s all about who you know. Making connections and establishing yourself as a credible individual in any field is an essential element to becoming successful.
My piece of advice for nursing students: Don’t wait to graduate–network now and network often.
There are many ways that you can get your name out there and make acquaintances with potential employers, or with people who may have tips on where to find the ideal job you’re looking for. Among the many avenues to network are:
Facebook – it’s not just for social networking; it can aid you in your pursuit for job leads and potential employment opportunities. To begin searching for groups and pages, simply type “nursing” in the search bar, and click on the “Pages” tab. This will result in countless groups and pages by businesses and nonprofits, as well as community groups. “Like” as many of the groups as possible so that your feed is full of news and postings that are of interest to you. If the group is closed, don’t be discouraged; I’ve never been denied a request to join any private page before. Many groups and pages have a list of related pages on the lower left panel under the heading “People Also Like” or “Liked by This Page.” It would be in your best interest to “Like” or subscribe to as many nursing-related topical pages as possible to be informed and up-to-date on the latest news in the nursing world. You can also get great tips about interview opportunities, such as on the RNInterview Tools group page. I have found myself engaging in conversations with experienced RNs and nursing students alike who are all willing and able to share their experiences and advice on becoming successful nurses. This information is priceless and readily available online.
LinkedIn – the professional’s choice social media platform. As someone with an All-Star profile strength status and a considerable list of connections at 3,100+ and counting, I have to say that my experience with LinkedIn has been fairly rewarding. I’ve communicated with thousands of individuals I otherwise never would have met in person. I’ve created professional relationships with people from all walks of life and from a wide variety of industries. I’m also able to follow certain companies and get the latest scoops on job opportunities or company announcements.
Organizations – join nursing student associations. I’m fortunate that my school has a very active nursing student association that encourages students to participate as early as orientation. Membership benefits include in a mentorship program, academic credit for participation, community service opportunities, workshops, and more. If your campus doesn’t have a nursing student association for you, there are state and national ones as well.
At school – there’s nothing better than meeting others face-to-face and starting an authentic relationship with potential employers. I have found that many, if not all, of my professors are full-time employees at major hospitals in the region. Ask individuals on campus who are faculty and/or staff that you come into contact with if you could keep their information as potential referrals. We are in the industry of caring and, in my experience, have had great luck approaching others on this subject. Some students are also employees at local hospitals and health care organizations that can keep their eyes and ears open for job opportunities.
These are just a few examples of great networking opportunities available at your fingertips while you’re in nursing school. Don’t wait until you’ve graduated to start making connections; establish professional relationships now to help you stand out later.
So you’ve made it to nursing school. Congratulations! You’ve just voluntarily signed up for months of sleepless nights, constant reading, ambiguous tests, and long clinical hours.
As daunting as the idea of nursing school is, there are plenty of resources and tools available to help you succeed in your education. Among them is my personal favorite: the one and only Google Drive.
With the bombardment of information you’ll be receiving not only from your classes, labs, and textbooks, but online as well, staying organized is the key to success. Simply create a free Google account to access 15 GB of free storage online. As nursing students; we should all be excited when we hear the word “free.” Also, you can access the Drive anywhere from your laptop, mobile phone, or tablet; just download the Google Drive app for iPhone or Android devices.
With Google Drive, you are able to create documents and folders within folders; share them with other users and allow sharing/editing; easily label and organize folders (who doesn’t love to color-code?); and transfer files from your computer desktop to Google Drive by simply dragging and dropping files into the window.
What we learn in nursing school isn’t just for obtaining our degrees; we will be learning vital information that we can store on the Drive to access in the future.
Also, if you have multiple Gmail accounts, they don’t link so that means you can have 15 GB of free online storage per account. This is great if you’ve made a Gmail account specifically for school-related items and correspondence. You can use this account to upload files for school and share study material with fellow nursing students. This is especially helpful as items are saved immediately while you’re working in the document and lessen the chances of “your dog eating your homework.”
Whether you’re an expert organizer or a novice in need of organizational direction, Google Drive is ideal for each of you and everyone else in between. And, if it doesn’t seem like you’re kind of thing, the only price you’ll have paid was the time spent creating a Google account.