Nursie’s Guide to Relationships and Sanity

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Hi SN’s!

 

With the Spring semester rearing its head in just days, it’s time to address a topic that I’ve had a lot of questions about: maintaining your sanity OUTSIDE of the classroom.  It’s taken me a while to fully understand this concept so I’ll give you a crash course on my social life throughout my nursing school career.

 

When I started my program over a year ago, I was told that this was going to be a full time commitment and that school has to be the number one priority in my life.  I was active in sports, had a social life, and enjoyed hanging out with my best friend while drinking wine and watching Say Yes to the Dress. I took this advice (from an older student who had just graduated) to heart and immediately shut down my social life to pursue my student career.  My thought process was that if this theory worked for her and she’s graduating on time, it should work for me.  Man, was I wrong.

I stopped hanging out with friends, I dropped out of the team sport I was doing, and Say Yes to the Dress was quickly replaced with youtube videos about maintaining aseptic technique in the clinical setting.  I was miserable.  The monotony of my schedule began to take its toll and I started to spiral downward into a scary place.  My dedication had crossed the line of productivity and quickly changed to anxiety and depression.  All of us SN’s are a variation of Type A Personalities but my Type A-ness turned into obsessing about things I had to do, things I could be doing, and things that other people in my class are doing that I’m not.  It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

So, I hit rock bottom.  I was still getting A’s and B’s in my nursing classes, but my quality of life was mediocre.  I didn’t have anyone to really talk to because I had done such a good job of shutting everyone out to ensure that there was no distractions on my road to success.  Why am I telling you all of this?  It’s not for you to feel sorry for me, but rather for you to realize that there is more to life than books and bedpans.

Quick Tips on Having a Social Life

It Takes a Village…  Ever hear that saying?  Well the same thing is true for us nursing students.  It takes a village to successfully complete any nursing program.  Pick your village and keep them close in times of triumph and in times of failure.  My village is definitely my friends, family, advisor, and fellow nursing students.  As much as I’d like to say I can handle the stress on my own, I’d be lying to you all.  Sometimes I just need my best friend to tell me I’m being ridulous and to put the books down.

Free Time is a Must.  When I was in a really bad place last year, I went to my advisor to talk about where I was at.  She told me that in order to be successful, I had to take one hour a day for myself where I don’t study or do anything nursing related.  For me to stick to that plan, I had to make an hourly schedule so I knew where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.  Once my “Free Time” hour came up, I knew it was time to ditch the books and have some “Me Time.”  Make sure you use this time for something enjoyable-no laundry, cleaning, or errand running allowed (unless that errand is for a bottle of wine and oreos).  My fav is the gym.

The B-Word (G-Word).  No, no-get your mind out of the gutter.  I’m talking about the two bad words in most nursing student’s vocabularies-Boyfriends/Girlfriends.  Most of us, myself included, see maintaining a relationship with anyone but our SIM man to be impossible.  You are so, so wrong!  I recently found a wonderful guy who makes me really, really happy.  He is able to take my mind off of school when I’m stressed and he understands that when I’m in study mode I’m not going to be as available to him.  With romantic relationships, set your boundaries and be upfront with him/her about the demands of your school.  Set aside (at least) one date night a week where he/she is your main focus.  Maintaining this “normal” part of life will ultimately make you a happier person.  

When in doubt, schedule it out.  Go out and buy a simple planner where you can log all your assignments and tests.  This will allow you to see where you can squeeze in a visit home to see your parents, a girl’s weekend with old friends, or a night with your significant other.  

When you put it into perspective, there is no way to truly put your life on hold while you take on your nursing program.  You have to find your own balancing act that works for YOU.  After a few months of struggling, I was able to find the right balance for me which made me so much happier.  I’m back on my sports team, my friends are my rock, and my boyfriend has fallen into his own special place in my life.  Remember, you are capable and worthy of having a life that contains nursing school and a social life.

Cheers to the Spring Semester!

Nursie

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Nursie’s Guide to Surviving Clinical: Peds

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I.LOVE.PEDS.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was a former mother-baby enthusiast until I got arm-deep in the miracle of life (shiver) at clinical. I was honestly scared to death to take care of children.  I think I was more anxious about having to deal with the parents who are ten times scarier when their kid is sick.  They can’t fix the problem which means that everyone is an enemy until the little cutie is back into tip-top, nose-picking, Thomas the Train watching, running around in circles for 30 minutes straight, normal.  Here are some quick tips for Peds.

You are allowed to be goofy: This isn’t med surge-you don’t have to go into the patient’s room pounding your brain about what you are going to say.  Be bubbly, smile, make a funny face, and get down to the kid’s eye level.  Hospitals are a scary place as an adult, imagine being a five year old hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines.

Play.  The benefit of being a student nurse on a children’s unit is that you are supposed to play.  Taking care of children usually involves some sort of play therapy so this is perfect place to get some practice.  Make yourself available to your nurse and ask which kid needs some extra ‘lovin’ time.  I prided myself in being the ‘cuddler’ on my unit-the nurses would grab me to rock a fussy one to sleep or give a baby some extra attention when the parents weren’t around.  You might think this is wasting your time because you’re supposed to be doing something medical the entire 12 hours you’re there… False.  Kids thrive when the have attention.  This is the one thing you can do as a SN that really will make a difference during your shift.

Size Ratio.  Everything in peds is small: little human, little dose, little bed, little everything.  It’s like being Alice from Alice in Wonderland after she drank the shrinking juice kind of small.  You have to learn how to adapt to the difference by doing what we do best-ask questions.

Care Partners=Care Friends. Care partners are going to be your best friend on any unit, especially with peds. On your first day, take some time at the beginning to introduce yourself and ask if you can follow her into one of the kids’ rooms to see how she takes vitals and maneuvers the crib beds.  If you’ve   CP’s are always great at taking SN’s under their wings and teaching us little tricks to make patient care a little easier.
Don’t promise things you can’t make happen.  “This won’t hurt at all.” YOU SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES, STUDENT NURSE.  Be up front with the little cutie, tell them what to expect and put it in terms they will understand.  Instead of saying “I’m going to insert an IV into your vein.  It will be a little painful but it’ll be over soon,” try something a little more pleasant: “I have a special tube that goes into your arm to give you medicine.  It’ll feel like a little bee sting.”  Kids like imagery and they like facts.  Lying to them is only going to cause a trust issue.  Kids smell lies like dogs smell fear.

Your turn-what has been your favorite clinical rotation? Cherish every moment of peds-for next semester you will be back in Med-Surge

-Nursie

 

Nursie’s Guide to Test Taking

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Tests, I hate tests.  I even hated tests back in elementary school when I had to match animal noises to the correct animal. Five year old me was determined that a cow could bark just as well as a dog could.  Some of us just aren’t test takers and that is okay.  This is a hard concept to grasp in Nursing school because tests are everything-you either get an 80 or you fail.  No cushion, no try again, do not pass go, do not collect $200: Fail.

We SN’s are probably our own worst enemies: We see failure as the end all be all of our nonexistent careers.  That 79% might as well be a 30% because you feel as though the testing gods have thrown you down into the pits of “Would Have Been Nurses.”  Repeat after me: My test grade does not define me.  Stay with me here, readers…

My first failure was absolutely devastating.  It was a computerized test, so as soon as I submitted my last answer, I knew my fate: 72%.  I was shocked, I was in disbelief, I was a hot mess.  I studied for days, I ran study groups, I knew that material backwards and forwards. I ran out of the computer lab and stumbled into the bathroom like I was going to fall over.  I locked myself into the handicapped bathroom (since they are so roomy and allow space for pacing) and cried.  You would have thought that someone had told me my dog died, or santa wasn’t real, or that calories DO exist during holidays (they don’t exist and don’t try to tell me any different).  In that one submission of a test, I had convinced myself that my Nursing career was over before it even began.  

A few days later, I met with my professor.  A part of me hoped that she was going to tell me she curved the test and that I really got an 80%.  Wishful thinking.  I told her, “I don’t know what happened. I failed. I’m done.”  My professor then gave me some of the best advice I’ve even gotten: That test grade does not define you as being a failure.  You look at that grade and you use it as a challenge to do better.”  So, that’s what I did.  It’s kind of similar to when that one family member tells you that you might have put on a little weight. You use that KIND comment and turn it into your fuel to put down the pie and pick up the dumbell.  I had two options after I left my professor’s office: I could have admitted defeat and let my failure take me down for the remainder of the semester, or I could use it as my fuel to work even harder.  I chose the latter.

The next test, I worked harder even though I didn’t think I could do anything else.  I formed more study groups, I switched up my study regime, and turned my negative thinking into something more positive.  Here are some of my study/test taking tips.

1. Study in small increments. I used to have these study marathons, like wake up at 9am and study until 5pm.  This doesn’t work for anyone as much as we’d like it to.  After about 2 hours, your brain starts to become mush and whatever you try to shove in there doesn’t stick.  Take two hours, then TAKE A BREAK.  My break is usually going to the gym, running an errand, or watching the latest episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (don’t judge).  Whatever break you decide to take, LEAVE THE BOOKS AT HOME.  I used to take my flashcards to the gym and study while stairmaster-ing.  This does two things: 1)makes you look like a crazy woman/man and 2) you’ll end up dropping your flash cards and the hottie next to you gives you a weird look. Take it from experience, let a break be a break.

 

2.  Study Groups.  Study groups allow you to utilize collaborative learning.  You might be the pro of the patho of bowel obstructions, but your classmate might have surgical complications down for bowel obstruction abdominal surgeries.  You teach him/her, he/she teaches you.  Boom, you both benefit.  Now, there are some potential downfalls of study groups that you have to be aware of.  Repeat after me: Wine does not belong in study group.  Neither does tequila nor beer.  Also, chose your study group wisely.  Think of the members as your own little militia.  You need people that you want to go into battle with so don’t invite Sassy Sally who wants to complain about her boyfriend.  Save that for the night after the test.  

 

3. Positive, positive, positive.  I mentioned this in a prior post, but you need to be your own cheerleader.  If you think negatively, you will ultimately achieve whatever fate you have set up for yourself.  “I’m going to fail, everyone always fails this professor’s tests.”  CUT. IT. OUT!  Nurses are supposed to be the mecca of positive thoughts and cheery attitudes so start practicing with yourself.  Walk into your test with the idea that you are going to show them what cha got. 

 

4. Wear human clothes.  On test days, do your hair, throw on some makeup, and wear a nice outfit.  If you look good, you ultimately feel better about yourself.  As much as you’d love to roll into class with a messy bun and some yoga pants-it just doesn’t make you feel as good as you would if you take a little time for yourself.  Do it, I promise it works.

 

5.  Chop off your eraser.  You read correctly.  Grab that number 2 pencil and snip the eraser off.  9/10 times when you erase an answer, you will kick yourself in the gluteus maximus when you found out your first answer was really the right one.  If you circle an answer, that’s it.  Let it go.  There was something inside you that made you pick it so don’t question yourself.

 

6. The Houdini Method.  This is my test-taking special trick.  Read the question, then cover up all the answers.  Write down everything you know about whatever disease process the question is asking.  Like, if the question states something about what you would see with a kid who was Cystic Fibrosis: cover the answers and start writing-thick poop, salty skin, malnourished, respiratory problems, etc.  Uncover the answers and see which answer matches YOUR answers.  This is a bit of a time consuming trick, but it works.

 

7. Don’t know it? Skip.  Don’t harp on the fact that you don’t know the answer.  If you don’t know the answer within a minute, skip it and come back at the end.  Worst case scenario, you just have to take your best guess.  When in doubt, “C” your way out. I pick C’s when I don’t know the answer…

 

8.  Highlight key words.  I go into tests with my test taking arsenal.  PInk highlighter? check. Purple highlighter? check. Back up highlighter? check check.  Look for those trick key words: Does not, except, ALL THAT APPLY, does not apply, assess first, etc.  Don’t over highlight, just get those key words.  

 

9.  Put in into perspective.  Ask yourself, “What is this question really asking me.”  Nursing school questions are always tricky and are designed to make you think critically.  Pick out the junky part of the question and focus on the key words you highlighted.  When it comes to those “Who do you assess first” questions, ask yourself “What is going to kill the patient first.”  Sounds silly, but it’s a little nugget of knowledge I learned from a fellow classmate.

 

10.  Submit and celebrate.  Leave the test in that classroom.  Don’t take your irrational SN brain home with you because you cannot change what happened to that test once you hand it in.  Be confident in your ability and strut out of that test like the hottie from The Breakfast Club with you fist in the air while humming “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Strut past your classmates who are asking “Well, what did you put for that question about a-fib?”  This won’t help your grade, it will only make you more anxious about your pending score.  Plug your ears and strut out.

Fellow student nurses, you are smart.  You wouldn’t have gotten into your program if you weren’t capable of passing and becoming the nurse you know you can be.  Yes, you will fail a test at some point and that is not only okay, it’s expected.  None of us are perfect.  Take your time, read carefully, and remember: C’s get degrees.  No hospital is going to say “OH, we can’t take him/her, they only got a C in pharm.”  They will look at the fact that you graduated and that you passed your boards.  Your 80% is just as good as Type A++ Personality Polly’s 97% (how the HECK did she get that…witchcraft I tell you, witchcraft).

Go put the book down and have some fun.

 

Nursie

 

How to Love Clinical

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I love clinical days!  This is kind of where everything begins to come full circle.  Reading about diabetes and taking care of a diabetes patient are two very different things.  Clinicals are great for those of us who are more “hands-on” kinds of learners.  Now, when asking some classmates about their take on clinicals, I get mixed reviews.  A lot of them tell me that they absolutely HATE them.  I found this extremely hard to comprehend because this this is where we will eventually be for hours on end every week once we get pass our boards.  I took a poll and here is the haters list-followed by my rebuttal.

 

I hate clinical because…

There’s nothing to do! False.  There is always something to do.  Just like many aspects in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  If you sit at the nurses’ station with a look of complete boredom on your face, no nurse is going to be excited to show you around.  Be aggressive, ask questions, and answer those call bells with a smile.

My nurse hates me.  Even I have fallen victim to this negative thinking.  I always try to spin it around to see how I would feel if I was assigned a personal shadow while I had over a million things to do.  My attack plan has always been this: “My name is Nursie and I’ve been assigned to you for the day.  I’m going to be following you around but if you need some space, just let me know and I’ll hang back.”  This is stating that you are anxious to learn but you are still giving the nurse some sort of control in the situation.  Now, if your nurse is really, really miserable-talk to your instructor!  There’s no reason to be stuck with someone that really doesn’t want you around and makes your day miserable.  You are your own best advocate, after all.

I’m just a student nurse. Look at that sentence, and pick out “I’m just.”  Now, delete that phrase from your vocabulary.  Stating “I’m just” a student nurse is doing yourself a disservice.  You might be a student, but you are intelligent and capable of achieving any goal you set for yourself.  Just like The Help said…You is kind, you is smart, you is important.

Hospital food sucks. I agree with this one 110%. Sorry, fellow student nurses-there is no way to turn this into a positive.  I make an effort to wake up a little bit early and make my own lunch and pack snacks.  This will do 2 things: save you about 10 bucks a week in food and save you some major calories because hospital food is NOT the healthiest.  Most nursing units have a refrigerator that you can stick your lunchbox in so just ask around!

I don’t even want to work with (insert hospital unit/patient population here). This doesn’t apply to me.  Everyone is going to go into nursing school with a preconceived idea of where they want to end up.  The most common one is labor and delivery because who doesn’t love the whole “bringing new life” into the world kind of deal.   A lot of SN’s (student nurses) in my class quickly realized that L&D is NOT what they wanted to do once they went through clinical.  Lesson of this little story: You won’t know what you truly want to do until you get a little taste of every unit.  I was a L&D enthusiast once upon a time until I saw and smelled things I wish that I could unsmell/unsee (I’m sorry, brain),  Look at your clinical experiences as mini internships that allow you to see a bit of everything.  You’ll be surprised with what you end up loving.

There you have it-a quick tip guide to surviving your first clinical experience.  Remember, what you put into it is what you will eventually get out of it.  Now, go look up your meds and iron that uniform!

Nursie

Practicum

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simOh practicum, how I loathe thee. For those of you nursing newbies out there, practicums are skills tests that professors put together to see if you can actually take care of a patient without doing harm.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.  Take a journey with me, readers: Imagine having to do a simple task like washing your hands. Now, imagine being blindfolded, spun around 29 times, and an added bonus: there are bear traps everywhere.  Welcome to practicum, may the odds be ever in your favor.

No, it’s not really that bad-I kid, I kid. I think the worst part about practicum is the fact that your nerves are out of control. I know that it is necessary to have these skills tests, but they really do mess with your head and turn the simplest task into something hard.  Before I shed some wisdom, here is my (not so) finest practicum moment.

Cath Spash: One of my earliest practicums involved inserting a catheter into various dummies’ plastic urethras.  I always decided to practice on the boy dummy because there was no quest for the Incan gold that is the female urethra.  I studied the administration of catheters for hours on end to ensure that I wouldn’t miss a single trick.  I watched youtube video after youtube video of other students demonstrating the skill. The only problem with practicing this skill is that you really can only practice while in the Sim lab.  I like to think of myself as innovative so I made my own little set up to simulate the whole process.  I propped up a water bottle on the counter, got a piece of bread and cut a small hole in it, and went to town.  When my roommates walked in on me doing this, I felt like the kid from American Pie that had a little too much fun with mom’s pie.  I was ashamed, yet proud of my crafty, gluten-clad simulation vagina.

Then came practicum.  I was a mess.  I remember pulling over on my way to class under an overpass and puking my brains out due to the nerves.  I got to the practicum about 2 pounds lighter and I was ready to grasp the world by the balls…pun intended.  I walked into the pretend hospital setting and greeted my plastic friend.  “My name is Nursie and I’ll be inserting a catheter in you today.” I felt like an idiot, but it was mandatory that we talk to these dolls. “Proceed,” said my stoic instructor.  I prepped everything correctly, maintained sterile technique, and was going in for the kill to thread the catheter.  My hands were shaking so badly that as I inserted the cath, my hand slipped on the syringe and I blasted my teacher with 10 ml’s of saline right in the face.  MORTIFIED. She closed her eyes, wiped the fluid from her face, and said “Proceed.”  I finished the procedure without any more mishaps and was certain that I had failed the skill.  Suprisingly enough, I passed.  I was able to say “that shouldn’t have happened” and “this is what I will do next time to ensure it will never happen again.”  That’s the real skill we as student nurses need to learn: admit that you were wrong and learn what you can to to become better.

Practicum Survival Tips:

The Sim Lab is your friend:  Every lab should be open during the week for students to use at their leisure.  Go even if you don’t think you need to. Chances are that you will run into a classmate who has some sort of trick you can benefit from.

If you don’t understand the skill, ask for help!  Professors are there to guide you through the tough parts of nursing school.  They really do want you to succeed even when you think they were brought on this earth to tear you down. Ask and ye shall receive.

Sleep.  Don’t stay up all night thinking you are going to have a revelation on how to do the skill easier.  As much as we’d like to telepathically insert a catheter, science just isn’t there yet. Sleep.

Go in with confidence. Instead of dreading your eminent failure, how about thinking positive?  Go in there with the idea “I’m going to show them what I know.” Wear your sassy scrubs, do your hair, and get ready to WERK (insert Ru Paul sass here).

Have faith. You’ve done this a million times and could probably do it with your eyes closed at this point.  Take a deep breath and just do it.  Worst case scenario you have to re-do the skill.  We’ve all been there and it’s not the end of the world.

Those are my tips to practicum!  Remember, it’s better to mess up on a Sim man than a real patient.

Nursie

Epitaph and Introduction

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 Epitaph: Here lies the soul of a former normally functioning 20-something.  Long ago are the days of undergrad classes and the struggle of taking English 101 while still maintining a social life with a latte and yoga pants in tow.  The days of staying up until dawn and sleeping until dinner time are a thing of the past.  Yes, this girl is long gone.  Where did she go, you might ask? She went to the darkest of caves with no supplies other than a penlight, a prayer, and a bottle of wine: Nursing School.

Let’s Be Friends

Who am I?  To protect myself and my school, I choose to remain anonymous throughout my blogging endevour.  Call me Nursie. Origional, right?

What made you decide to go to nursing school? I’ve wanted to be a nurse as long as I can remember.  I distinctly remember carrying around my Fisher Price medical kit at the tender age of 4 and vowing to cure all stuffed animals of any ailment they encounter.  My family is made up of medical folk, so their influence has a been a big part of my career choice.  I am truly in this field because I like to help others (insert yawns of predictability here).  But let’s be real, you have to really love people to want to dedicate your life to taking care of them no matter what illness they may face.  I also like the ideas of job stability and paychecks.

What nursing track did you take?  I origionally started out at a four year institution for a BSN, but due to some admissions complications, I joined a 2 year program.  I promise to explain more in a post.

What’s your blog about?  Moi, yo, Nursie, ME. I found writing a few years back while traveling and it really helped me get through some tough times. I also don’t think there are enough blogs about nursing school.  My goal isn’t to complain and say how hard my life is: my goal is to bring some laughter to the hell that is nursing school.

Enjoy, Readers

-Nursie

 

Bon apetite, readers.