New Grad RN Orientation: My Experience and Helpful Tips

So far orientation has been a great experience! Not only have I learned so much, the skills lab that the hospital put together really helped relieve some of the anxiety I had about using equipment and performing certain skills. I feel really fortunate that the hospital has taken the time to put together such a program for new graduates. Though the new hire process can be somewhat overwhelming, there are some recommendations I would make to those newcomers.

1.Buy a Dedicated Notebook

The orientation process is really like an extenuation of your schooling experience. There is information presented that you are expected to retain, and will even be tested on; and yes, you can fail these tests and you will have to repeat the course if you do! So, don’t be afraid to write things down.

To be honest I was a little surprised that so few people were taking notes. I thought to myself, either all these people are geniuses, and retain every verbal instruction they’re given, or they’re very foolish.  During the orientation process you will be bombarded with information.  Some of this information will be general and pertain to the organization as a whole and  its mission statement, while other information will pertain to policy and procedures that are your responsibility to know and follow.

Getting yourself a dedicated note book will help you stay organized, and serve as a log you can reference later down the road.  Throughout this two week orientation process I’ve already needed it several times.

Personally, I prefer notebooks of medium size that have hard covers, are bound, and can fasten shut. Typically I’m pretty hard on my journals. I like to carry them around with me every where I go because I never know when I might need to write something down for later reference, or when I’ll need to reference previously noted information. So I like a book that can handle my handling.

For my workbook I decided to go with a slightly smaller journal size than I normally would, and I decided to try doted instead of lined pages.  So glad I did! The next personal journal I get I will definitely be going with this format! The reason I’m so pleased with the dots instead of lines, is that it really cam in handy when I started taking notes on ECG interpretation.

Side note: I’m a super cheap person! You don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent journal. I found mine at wall mart for around 7.00$. This is the one I went with (click here). It’s cheaper in store, but if you don’t have time or if your wall mart doesn’t carry it, I think its worth it to spend a little extra.  The pages do really well with not bleeding through; which is good because I only used G2 ink pens (click here).

2.Write Down People’s Names

I think there’s probably a good reason for the saying “kicking ass and taking names”; because people who are being really awesome and staying on top of things, know the names of the people they’re dealing with.  No one knows who that one girl is that did that one thing. Or maybe they do but they also forgot to write down her name.

I’ll be the first to admit it, when it comes to names I’m horrible. For some reason the names of people and cars oddly enough are not my strong suit.  The good news, since I know this is a weakness of mine, I’ve worked really hard to overcome it by writing peoples names down, and making an effort to use people’s names in conversation.

During the orientation process I met with many presenters, educators, managers, etc. All of whom are resources that can be used when you need information. Every presenter we had I made sure to write down their name, and depending on their role, request contact information.

So, when I began having trouble with my login, I knew exactly who to contact.  I’ve also been able to help other new grads in the program by giving them the names of people they can meet with to solve their particular problems.  They would have had this information, if they had written it down!

I think part of the problem is when we enter employment at a huge corporation many assume that the business has worked out all the kinks when it comes to onboarding, but that’s far from true.  Things can and will go wrong, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time looking for the person who can help fix your problem, if you just write down people’s names and titles to begin with.

3. Print Out Important Papers and Keep a 3 ring Binder

I don’t think I could tell you all emails I’ve gotten over the past few weeks pertaining to orientation. It seemed like each email came with a lengthy set of instructions and a series of attachments; which also contained to-do lists, with instructions.

The first thing I did was print everything out. This might seem like a wast of paper. I’m sure environmentalists are screaming “why print it if you can just reference it in your email”.  I get it. We have email access on our smart phones, we take our smart phones everywhere, there should be no reason to print it all out.

For me personally, I found that I best retain information that is on a physical paper.  I like to annotate and underline key points.  Doing this made it easier for me to put together a schedule and prioritize what appointments I had, what online learning modules I needed to complete by when, classes I needed to sign up for (ACLS, BLS, CPR, etc.). Once I had a time line in place, I felt way less overwhelmed.

Another reason for the binder, is to protect your check off lists. I’m not sure how other hospitals work, but the one that I am starting at seems to have a check off list for everything. We have check off lists for the online modules we have to complete, skills we’ve performed, where key items are on the unit, journal entries, weekly goal worksheets… I think the list about ends there, but it feels overwhelming when you first receive all this paperwork.

After printing off everything I bought paper protectors and put all the  important check off lists that I knew I’d be referencing over the duration of my orientation in them. If your facility has you do these check off lists, I would recommend scanning them into your computer as you do them.  It was strongly emphasized that if we lost these papers and could not provide proof of the skills we had performed, we would have to start over. I plan to scan mine in weekly.  Just in case.

4. Pay Attention During Your Orientation

I know that people’s eyes tend to glaze over during some of these orientations, but you should do your best to focus on what is being presented. These presentations aren’t random.  A large group of people, who got to where they are for a reason, all decided that the information presented was vital. Considerate as such! This goes for the online learning modules as well. Read through everything!

I’ll admit, the process of sifting through all the benefit options made me stop and consider whether or not stabbing myself in the eye with a fork would be more fun; but then I thought, well if I did that I’d want to make sure I had good coverage, so… I persevered. I’m glad I did because, as previously mentioned I’m cheap, and I was able to find conditions where this employer would contribute to your health savings account if you had a physical. Since the amount was almost a 1000$ contribution, I was sure to write down, in my dedicated notebook, who to contact when I was ready to do this.

I was also careful to pay extra attention during the computer training portion.  I think a lot of people blew this off, thinking “well, I’ll learn it as I go”.  For the most part this is true.  Its difficult to retain that kind of stuff unless your doing it frequently, but I did notice one bit of information I was particularly pleased with myself for noticing. During the computer training, on one of the screens at the very bottom, I saw a link that provided information on how to get continuing education credits for using the hospital approved information search engine “uptodate”. Jackpot!!!

In Arizona, where I live, CE (continuing education) credits are not required for nurses as long as they work a set amount of hours per year. However, they are required in other states. The reason I was so pleased to learn about this though, was because during one of our other orientation days, when we were going over our companies mission statements, we were told that for this company uses a leveling system to determine pay increases.

Basically, when you graduate you are a level 1, then after orienting you become a level 2.  Levels 3, 4, and 5, are based off several factors including continuing education. Boom! Why not sign up to get credit for using a program to look up information, which I know I’ll be doing anyways. When I saw this as an option I immediately wrote it in my book, marked with a little square next to it, indicating it was a task that needed to be checked off. I checked it off yesterday, and have already earned several credits using the uptodate program to do research for my schoolwork. Can you say “multiple birds, one stone”.

5. Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Although I have to say, I don’t agree with the idea that there are no dumb questions. People do ask a lot of really bad questions, but how I see it is, I’d rather ask a dumb question and suffer that embarrassment, then not know the answer to a dumb question during an emergency! I’m willing to let my ego take a punch to the face, if it means I’ll provide better care or be able to do my job better.

6. Manage Your Time Wisely

for my orientation process we have a lot of online modules to complete by set due dates. If these are not completed on time, we can be written up and deemed ineligible to work.  Yikes! Don’t want that. So stay on top of things.

Also, when it comes to certification classes, like ACLS, classroom space is limited, and these courses do run on a first come first serve basis. I signed up immediately, and was surprised to learn during the process, how few classes were offered in the area, and how few seats were available.

Other than certification courses, there are also monthly new grad forums that you are required to attend. For us, we had to make sure we scheduled these days off.  This is something that was our responsibility to take care of. If the hospital you plan to work at has something similar, make sure you talk to your manager a head of time. Remember, even big hospitals make mistakes.  Double check your schedule as soon as it comes out to make sure everything is copesthetic.



I hope these tips were helpful.  I’m really excited to have my first day on the floor in the medical ICU. I look forward to sharing this experience.

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I’m interested in hearing how other people’s orientation process went. Please share in the comment section, or you can email me personally at



13 Ways To Rock At Nursing School While Working and Being a Mom

FontCandy (13) #1. Support System

If you’re a mom and plan on going to nursing school, or are already in nursing, the importance of having a good support system cannot be stressed enough. If you’re a super independent person, its easy to get caught up in the “go it alone” mentality, but don’t fall into this trap. While that perspective may get you to where you want to be, you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. Make things easier for yourself and your family by reaching out to others for help.

When I started nursing school I had a 2 year old and a 4 year old. Pre-reqs weren’t a problem because most the courses I needed were offered online, and the ones that required labs were offered in the evenings after my husband was already off work. The actual program on the other hand was very different.

The program I attended was an associates degree course, so it only took 4 semester; however, each semester was demanding when it came to required presence. For each semester,  I had at least 4 days a week that I had to be somewhere. First semester I was required to be at either class or clinical 5 days a week. Add work and family to the mix, and you’re looking at one busy lady. That doesn’t include study time.

Keep in mind, nurses and nursing instructors can be a little on the anal side, and for good reason. When it comes to your health and emergency situations, you kinda want someone who is by the book and will do things right. On the flip side this also means they are going to hold you to these same standards as a nursing student. Don’t think you can get away with rolling into clinicals 5 or 10 minutes late and nothing will happen.

The policy at my school was pretty rough. If you were more than 10 minutes late without prior notification and a good reason, it could be counted as an absence. If you’re less than 10 minutes late it was just considered a tardy; but, two tardys are counted as one absence. Most rotations or semesters would fail you after two absences. During our specialty rotation we were only allowed one absence. Two meant failing.

What I’m getting at here is, plan for rain. Things can and will go wrong. Plan for that to happen. Don’t just have one sitter arrangement, have at least two. Three is better. You never know when something might come up last minute, and your sitter bails out on you. If you’re ready for something like this, it won’t seem like that big of a deal. If you’re not ready, it could mean the difference between passing or repeating a semester. Having a good support system to help with childcare is a must for parents in any field, who want to be successful.

#2. Organization

Organization goes right up there with support system, when it comes to things that are absolutely necessary to do well as a mother, an employee, and a nursing student.  Being a parent in general is a juggling act. If you’re a parent who has to work, congratulations, you’ve reached level 2. Add schooling to the mix, and guess what, that’s right, you’ve leveled up again! This means you will be insanely busy. In order to hold on to your sanity, you’ll also have to insanely organized.

For me, organization starts with minimalism. Eliminate excess and keep only what is essential.  My logic: the fewer things I have to organize, the less time it takes to organize, and the easier organization will be. This concept of minimalism and organization is one I try to share with all areas of my life. From dress to mess, and everything in between.

When I came across the idea that decision making drains you of energy, it was a concept that really resonated with me. Every decision you make throughout the day, no matter how small, requires thought and effort; this translates to energy.  Having to constantly decide on what to eat or what to wear, may not seem like much, but the energy required for all these little decisions, quickly adds up.  I found that by eliminating excess clothes, dishware,  rotating meals, meal planning, and creating routines, I have a lot more energy to focus on my studies and organization is much simpler.

Besides decreasing the amount of stuff you have to organize, learning methods of how to go about organizing our time and schedules is also helpful. If you haven’t already checked out my other blog post on things you should do before starting nursing school, you can check it out here. One of the things I recommend doing is reading Steven R. Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and for good reason. This book is basically a how to guide when it comes to getting organized.  There are three organizational concepts he presents that are real game changers.

  • Time management matrix
  • Weekly scheduling
  • Roles and Goals

#3. Time Management Matrix

The time management matrix is basically a four square or punnet square that categorizes everything you do, based on its urgency and importance, into one of four quadrants.  The key to effective time management, based off the model Covey promotes in his book, is to spend most of our time on tasks that are important but not urgent.  time management matrix-nursing-nursingschool-studyOur objective here is to be as proactive as possible.

It takes a lot of time and energy to put out a “fire” (a metaphorical crisis), it takes far less time to anticipate where or how a fire might occur and implement measures to prevent the outbreak. Doing this preventative work is what it means to live in quadrant II. The more time you invest in preventative work, the fewer fires you will have and the smoother everything will be.

The hard part is finding the time and having the  discipline to focus energy in preventative work; especially when you feel like you’re already surrounded by a bunch of tiny fires: exam on friday, care plan due tomorrow, what’s for dinner, crap I for got to pay the….  Don’t let all these urgent important matters stop you from chipping away at preventative work. Investing in quadrant 2 activities is something that takes practice and a lot of time at first, but ends up saving you time and hassle in the long run.

For example: having a single babysitter lined up is a required minimum. Lining up a back up child care provider, will save you the crisis when your normal person calls in last minute. Typically, I would have two sitters lined up at any given time, and then a daycare center if everything fell through. I recommend taking some time and looking for a day care center that allows for drop ins. This is important because of lot of places don’t allow this. Then get your little ones registered, so when that crazy day comes, when everything seems to go wrong, you’re already set up to avoid the crisis of “what to do with my kids”.

Other examples of quadrant 2 activities include getting the maintenance done on your car so it will actually get you to class, having extra ink and paper on hand so that when you go to print your assignment and you run out of ink there’s no need to panic. Its all theses little details you need to stop and consider and address proactively in order to be successful.

#4. Roles Goals and Weekly Scheduling

Weekly scheduling is huge! Not just weekly scheduling, but daily and monthly as well. There are few maxims I enjoy more than the age old adage, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Nothing could be more true. Every time I hear someone say it, it makes me smile. Dreams become goals when you break them down into actionable steps. Regardless of what your peers or your instructors tell you, getting A’s, even in a difficult nursing program, isn’t impossible; and it doesn’t have to be a dream. You can make this a goal and a reality with proper planning.

During the first day of orientation for nursing school, we were told as a group that “B’s are the new A’s.” We were told not to be so hard on ourselves and that a lot of students who are used to getting A’s don’t get them in nursing school.

Challenge accepted.

I worked hard, planned, and was able to hit my mark. I got an A in all of my courses.

Then, during the first week of second semester, I met with my academic adviser, who was also one of our instructors, to discuss how things were going in the program. This was a routine meeting required of all students. After looking over my transcript and noticing that I had a 4.0 GPA, she commented that I had done well, and then flat out told me not to expect to get an A this semester.  She was basically trying to prepare me for the disappointment.

So I had to ask, “how many people got A’s in this course last semester?” I think she might have been a little surprised that I questioned her perspective that an A was unlikely, cause she made a curious face before responding.  After taking a second to consider it, she told me, “I think there were two, one for sure, but there might have been another.” This was out of around 80 students.

Again, challenge accepted.

Again, I worked, planned, and was able to an A. I actually managed to get a 94% that semester.

Planning effectively was a big factor in how I managed to do this. Planning and my support system. Not only did I plan time for things like reading and assignments, I planned everything! Meals, shopping trips, household chores (dishes, laundry, floors, bathrooms), car maintenance, work schedule, clinical schedule, scheduled activities for my kids (soccer, school, daycare, quality time). Every activity was accounted for, had an allotted time, and was placed on the schedule. A lot of time went into determining what routines were most effective.  I was constantly striving to be in quadrant 2 as much as possible.

A question I liked to ask myself on the days that were the most busy, and I knew that getting everything on the list done was going to be impossible, was “what’s the one thing I can do today, that will make things easier for tomorrow?” This is quadrant 2 thinking. Be proactive. The importance of planning and preparation is too often overlooked when we become overwhelmed. You have to be intentional with your time, because your time is precious, and if you waste it by being sporadic you won’t have enough of it to go around. Take the time to determine the most efficient way of doing things.

Planning is an important part of success, but this is a management task. It’s important to manage your time, but all this time management means nothing if its not getting you to where you want to be. The direction you want to go in is determined by leadership. Leadership is the vision you have dreamed up; its the process of determining what your dreams are and transforming them into an achievable goal. The vision developed through leadership is carried out through management. Goal setting is how this transition occurs. Another question I like to ask myself is: “What activities are most crucial to getting me to where I want to be?”

In Steven Covey’s book, he recommends identifying the roles you have in life, and setting weekly goals that move you towards how you envision being in each role. Roles that I set for myself include: individual, mom, spouse, chef, student, homeowner, employee, friend.  For each of these categories I have a vision. This vision guides the weekly goals I make for each category. I would then schedule time for each goal. I found that scheduling this way helps to promote balance. You address all areas of your life, which helps you to not be consumed by any one area; ie: School.

Here’s what my schedule looked like using this method. Mind you, when I was doing this it was for personal use. I had never intended on sharing it, so please excuse the sloppiness.






For more information on how to break down reading assignments check out my other blog post here, where I cover ways to increase reading retention of your nursing school textbooks.

 #5. Activity Combining

Pairing activities and combining activities are great ways to create routines and multitask to boost efficiency.  As a parent who’s also a student, I’ve found that combining activities is crucial to getting everything done and bonding with my kids.

Something that’s drilled into your head in nursing school, is that every moment is a teachable moment. The same goes for being a parent. Every activity can be bonding activity and a teaching activity. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves of this, especially as we get stressed out with exams and assignments.

When I’m in the store with my two little girls, the biggest key to my sanity, and to bonding is to keep them busy. No, I don’t mean passing them your cell phone and letting them watch cartoons while you get the real work done. I mean involving them. Have them grab the produce bags, count the fruit as you put it in, tell you what numbers the price tags say. All they want is to help and make you proud. Just give them your attention as you shop. Let them practice being an adult. Let them push the cart, give the cashier the money, and hold the receipt. This is bonding and teaching.

Study time is another good time for activity combining. If its not an ideal time to get with classmates who have kids around the same age, go to a park and study. If weather doesn’t permit, go to an indoor play place like McDonald. No one says you have to eat there. If they do… just buy a coffee.  This way your kids get to run around, and you get to read.

#6. Meal Planning

Meal planning is so important to doing well as a parent. This goes double if you’re also a student. It will save you so much time and hassle; not to mention, money. Getting your meal planning game on point is a must do!

Meal planing is something that I personally struggle with. Not just as a student, but in general. I just don’t like to do it. I’m not much for cooking either, to be perfectly honest.  But I am really into eating healthy. This might be part of the reason I dread the task. I belong to the paleo perspective, so I’m not a big believer in ready made food. I believe this diet is ideal, but I’m not a Nazi about it. There were certainly pizza nights while in nursing school.  Overall though, I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Working on how you meal plan definitely helps with this.

Strategically making enough for left overs is one way I learned to cut back on the work load of meal planning; lunch almost always consists of last night dinner.  Crock pot meals  that last for 2-3 nights are also a good idea for those days leading up to an exam.

Though meal planning is important, do not underestimate the wonders that can be brought on by food preping. For me, this was especially helpful for breakfast meals, since morning is such a busy time.  One of my favorite morning pre-made meals is frozen paleo pumpkin pancakes. My girls love them; I love them. They’re healthy and super easy to make. I’d usually make a batch on Sunday to use throughout the week.

Sunday I know is a day of rest for many, but for this busy mama, Sunday’s were meal plan, food prep, laundry, and family time days. If a Sunday trip to the grocery store was missed, it was like an evil snowball effect, where this one slip up would just lead to an ever growing annoyance that acted as a continuous thief of time, money, and health. You lose money every time you eat out, it takes time to eat out, and nothing you pick up on the go is ever healthy.

Do yourself and your family a favor by working on the art of meal planning and prepping! It’s worth the time investment.

#7. Budgeting

Budgeting is not only an important part of meal planing, its an important part of adult life. Personally, I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey. If you’ve never heard of him please, please, please, go look him up! Right now. Stop reading this blog and look into what he’s all about. I’ll even help you; here’s a link. That’s how strongly I feel about what he teaches.  The information he shares can and will change not only your life, but “your family tree”.

A lot of people like to down play the importance of money. Especially when it comes to student loans, or career choices. For instance, its taboo to answer the question “why’d you get into nursing” with an answer that involves the pay; but money is and should be an important factor for any career decision. Money means options.  The more options you have, the less trapped you feel.  When you feel free, you feel good; or at least I do. No one wants to be a slave to student loans, or constantly have to answer to debt collectors; or even worse, get your wages garnished.

Getting your money and budget under control will also help decrease stress levels. If you’re in nursing school or plan to be soon, this is a good thing. The last thing you need is more stress. Not only that, money problems have a way of creeping into all aspects of your life. Not only will poor money management keep you from doing necessary up keep on things like your car, which you depend on to get to class and work, it’ll create problems in your relationship. Money is one of the biggest reasons couples fight. You don’t want to be fighting with the person who plays the leading role in your support system while you need them the most. Nursing school is stressful enough! Don’t let money be an added factor.

When it comes to financing school, I don’t recommend getting student loans. I also don’t recommend going to a university. At the end of the day, most employers don’t care where you got your degree as long as you passed your boards. I’ve heard people claim employers prefer nurses to have a bachelor degree over an associates, but for me it hasn’t been an issue. I  went to a community college, got an associate’s degree, and was offered an ICU position before even graduating.

Community colleges are so much more affordable! If you want to pursue your bachelors, to advance in management or become an advanced practitioner, there are many cost friendly online ADN to BSN programs. These programs can also be done while you work full time. An added plus!

Going this route I was able to 100% cash flow my education for my ADN. In total I paid around 2,000 out of pocket after grants.  If you’re married with dependents and you’re  able to live off of your spouses income, its super doable to make it through without debt. For this to be possible, I did have to work part time while in school, and most of my wages went straight to childcare costs, but it was still worth it to graduate debt free.

I know that nurses make decent money and how easy it can be to fall into the line of reasoning, “I’ll just pay off my student loans when I graduate,” but why get them to begin with if you don’t have to?

If you’re already in a nursing program, and you already have debt, that’s okay. Not in the “its okay, don’t worry about it” type of way, but in the “it’s okay, you made some mistakes, but you can fix it” kind of way. The first step is getting you and your team mate on a budget.

If I could go back to before I ever even started my prerequisite courses, even back to before I graduated high school, and give myself financial advice, there are two things I would tell myself:  1. Don’t borrow money to go to school 2. begin investing your money into retirement accounts immediately.

Compounding interest is no joke my friends! Don’t wait until you’re in your 30’s. Start now! Like, today! I’m serious. Even if its only 50 bucks. Retirement needs to be a part of your budget. Also, start a college saving account for your kids.  That way your kids won’t have to struggle their way through school like you had to. Both saving for your kid’s college and your retirement need to be a part of your budget!

Nothing says “you rocked at parenting” like getting your kids to go to college and then being like “Boom! here’s tuition, now go be awesome.  And…. guess what kids? You don’t have to take care of us when we’re old cause we planed for retirement.”

#8. Say No To Extra Activities and Events

More is less, and less is way, way more. Don’t spread yourself so thin by taking on too much. Simplicity is genius! Think minimal in all aspects of your life (except studying). It’s okay to say no to commitments others ask you to take on. Right now is the time to focus on the commitments you have already made– the commitment you have to your family, your work, and your school.

Don’t be that crazy person who joins an extreme weightloss program! Don’t offer to organize a blah blah blah for your blankety blank. Just say no. You don’t have to be sorry, you just have to be firm. You currently have bigger fish to fry. So no church bake sales for you for a while. At least not unless your kicking butt with all your other responsibilities. In that case, you’re awesome, and proceed. But… If you’re struggling in school, or you can’t remember the last time you washed your jeans, just say no.

The hardest part is that this minimalist perspective extends to your kids as well.  I’m not saying everything is out until graduation, but you definitely have to prioritize what works with your schedule.  My husband and I were able to manage getting our kids through soccer season, but one activity was plenty. Don’t feel like you’re depriving your kids because they didn’t get to do softball, or dance too. All in good time. For now, prioritize.

#9. Mommy/Daddy Study Buddies

Find them! Mommy study buddies are the best. I went my whole first year without exploring this option. It was stupid. I stayed in my comfort zone with people I knew from my clinical group. Doing this seemed like a good idea at the time, but most of them didn’t have kids.  This meant that to study with them I had to get a sitter. Well, not really. To tell the truth, I never asked if we could meet in a kid friendly place, but I felt like it would’ve been an inconvenience. This equated to more money spent on daycare, and less time around my kids. Not a winning combination. I should have pushed myself to explore this option sooner.

It wasn’t until third semester that I was fortunate enough to find my tribe; a parent study crew. Really it only consisted of myself and two other parents. Trust me though, when it comes to dense material small study groups are superior. The more people in a group the more likely you all are to get off track, or disagree on where to focus your efforts.

Finding other parents to study with makes being a good student and parent much easier. Instead of meeting at libraries, you meet at houses, parks, or as previously mentioned, McDonald’s. There’s a sense of understanding when it comes to the struggle. Also, there’s a greater sense of urgency and focus. When you’re a parent, and a student, and you have to work, you don’t have time to mess around. You’re on a mission: Learn the material, and get home. Mostly to make dinner and do other parenting tasks, but also to relax.  Before I found my tribe, when I would study with individuals who were single, no kids, no job, I noticed they didn’t have the same sense of urgency (unless it was finals week). I noticed more time was wasted on gossip, or personal drama, and that the study time wasn’t as efficient.

If you’re a parent, and you’re in nursing school, and you work, find people that are in the same boat as you early on. Get your kids together for play dates that double as study sessions. It will make your life easier, save you money on childcare, and even though your kids will be busy playing and you’ll be busy studying, they’ll still be with you.

#10. Delegating Duties

Get that list of things to do and start passing it out! kids are capable of so much more than we put on them. I think that with each generation kids have fewer and fewer responsibilities; not my kids. 5 years old and you’re doing laundry. 4 years old you can sweep and mop.  3 years old you can pick up toys. There is so much kids can do to help you out, even at young ages!

I’ve found though that putting your kids to work is most effective when you have a group clean time. They only want to do what you’re doing. So how I’ll usually work it is, I’ll tell them “okay girls, its clean up time” and I’ll ask them what chores they would like to do. Sometimes the answer is none. Fair enough, I don’t really like doing chores either. When that happens I’ll let them be the boss and tell me what I can help them do. This really gets them looking for things to clean. Sometimes racing the clock, or making bets that I can finish a set number of tasks before they finish all of theirs, works. Other times it doesn’t. You really just have to be creative about turning work into play.

I think putting your kids to work is also good parenting. Not only does it teach them to pick up after themselves, it instills discipline, and work ethic. I use chores to teach my kids about money as well. The catch here is that in our house, only extra chores get pay. Cleaning up after yourself is expected, paid work is something you do in addition to this. To make money they have to not only pick up after themselves (clean room, clean bathroom, clean table, sweep, mop, vacuum, laundry), and take care of their dog (feed and poop scoop), but do things in addition to that. Usually I’ll pay for them to clean windows, pull weeds, dust, or help with folding our laundry.

Luckily my kids are still young, so I can pay them in quarters. Some of what they make they can spend, some they have to save. For them being able to buy a pack of gum to share makes all the work worth while.

#11. Prioritization

Being successful as a parent, an employee, and a student, all really come down to being good at the same thing, prioritization. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so you have to be intentional. What you decide to do with your time will either take you closer to the life you envision for yourself, take you farther away, or keep you where you are. Getting to where you want to be is rarely easy. The majority of the time it means giving up the leisurely activities you enjoy the most. How I see it is, it’s the struggle that makes us stronger. Our goal in life should be to find peace in the struggle as we venture towards our dreams and full potential. Time is precious, and to waste it, is a waste.

My priorities and how I prioritize my time are two different things. To me, the most important things in life aren’t things at all, but people. Above all I prioritize my husband. My husband is my best friend and partner in life. He is the one who gave me my beautiful children. He is the backbone of my support system. He hold me up, keeps me accountable, pushes me forward, and without him the life I envision would be very different. We are a team. The stronger our relationship is, the stronger our family unit is as a whole. I could do everything in the world right by my children, but if the relationship I have with their father is broken, then something will always be amiss. This is why I put my husband first.

(to be fair, I married an amazing man. I wouldn’t suggest that if you’re married to an abusive psycho you should put him before the safety and well being of your kids.)

Putting my husband first, doesn’t mean that I spend most of my time focused on him. In fact, I probably spend the least amount of time on him. What it means is that our goals are aligned. We make all of our decisions together. We consult each other on everything. Even small purchases. Pretty much if it costs more than 50$ and isn’t groceries, we discussed it before hand. Putting him first means going the “extra mile” for him. It means, back rubs, laundry, buying his favorite foods, and looking at every stupid truck he finds on craigslist. I do my best to make him happy and encourage him to follow his dreams, and he does the same for me.

My children are my second priority. Together with my husband we strive to provide for them in every conceivable way. Although I say that my husband is my first priority, and my children my second, the amount of time I spend with my kids, or on doing things for them, far exceeds the time I spend on my husband.

A lot goes into being a mother; cooking, cleaning, teaching, comforting, playing, school, homework, tantrums, time outs. It really never stops.  Its an amazing experience, but it will literally drain you. When it comes to prioritization as a parent, there’s a whole lot more on the to-do list, than when it comes to being a wife.

How I lay out my priorities as a parent comes down to my children’s basic needs. They need to be fed, they need to be taught, and they need to play. I prioritize food first, because without a good diet, none of the others are possible, or they’ll at least be more difficult.

As previously mentioned, I believe in eating a paleo diet, which if anyone has gone that route, it can be difficult because of its lack of convenience. There were definitely times throughout the nursing program that we weren’t eating for our health, but for convenience, especially around finals. As a parent I have guilt about this, because I know how important nutrition is, but I also know that by going through school I’ll be able to make more money, and be able to afford better foods.  In the long run, the short sacrifices are worth it, even though they’re hard to make at the time.

The topic of teaching brings us back to the idea of pairing activities. Every moment is a teaching and bonding moment; from grocery shopping, car rides, household chores, meal time.  Each activities gives an opportunity to talk about topics your child needs to learn; sharing, colors, numbers, letters, reading, respect, discipline. All of these lessons are easily incorporated throughout the day, if you’re intentional with how you spend your time. It may be easy to hand your kid a phone with apps that teaches all these things for you while you shop in peace, but then they miss the bonding aspect. This is something no amount of technology can replace, or at least not hopefully in my life time.

Play goes hand in hand with teaching. Teaching and bonding should be a part of play.  These activities should be fun. Boring chores should become games, races and competitions.  Kids also need a lot of physical play; running and horse play. They’re like tiny little monkeys.  If you don’t take them to get that energy out, they’ll use it against you to drive you crazy. Take them to the park while you study. Let them run. Then when you need a break from the books chase after them. Bond with them.

After my kids, I prioritize my extended family and close friends. My primary obligation is to my husband and kids, but after that all others that have made their way into my hearts comes next. The caveat to this, is that I consider my employment and my schooling an extension of my service to my family.  The purpose of employment is to provide for my family. The purpose of school is to better provide for my family. In most cases these activities come before that of extended family members and close friends.

For instance the one semester of nursing school I didn’t get an A, was because I put family first. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer, so instead of prioritizing my studies to get the best grade possible, I spent quality time with him in the hospital. At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, people are what really matter. Its nice to make good grades, and to keep all your options open as a result, but there are times when doing so isn’t worth the sacrifice. I’ll say it again, time is precious. Once spent it cannot be unspent. There are no do overs when it comes to time.


#12. Make Time for Those Special Events

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re in school. Finding peace in the struggle, not only means finding peace in doing the work it takes to pull yourself forward in life, but it also means finding balance. You will have breaks during school, use them to have fun adventures with those you care about. Don’t be afraid to use some vacation days at work for actual vacations, not just before test study cram sessions. Trade shifts so you can go to your bestie’s wedding. Live life!

#13. Perspective

For those times that your obligations prevent you from partaking in those special events, and have to sit it out in order to make your dreams happen, just remember, its not forever. School flies by! Before you know it, you’ll be making better money, you’ll have more time, and all those fun events will continue to happen.  Though its true, you can never get back missing your grandparent’s 50th anniversary party, or  not going to that tom petty concert before he died, life goes on, and there will be plenty of other amazing opportunities waiting for you.

5 Mistakes To Avoid While In Nursing School

Nursing school is no cake walk! Even for students who are used to making good grades. Most of us aren’t really prepared for the curve ball that gets hurled our way. Not only is there a massive amount of reading, there’s lecture, lab, simulation, and clinical assignments. It’s a lot to take in. While I was going I noticed there were certain things that those who were unsuccessful consistently did. So here it is. The list of what not to do.

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#1. Don’t Rely Solely On Lectures and Power Points.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of people in my program who did just this and passed… But, there were also plenty of people who did just this and didn’t pass. Do yourself a favor and do the reading. The instructors will lead you in the right direction, but they can’t instill you with the knowledge required to practice competently with just a few hours of lecture content a week.

I’ve found that the biggest benefit of lecture is not to learn content but to find out what content I need to focus on, and what content I can braze over more quickly.  Lecture will let you know you what topics you need to have an understanding of but it doesn’t provide you with that understanding.

To get A’s through nursing school, you’ll have to do more than record the lectures and read the power points, you’ll have to actually read the book.

#2. Don’t Ignore The Resources That Go Along With Your Textbooks.

It took me until the end of my first semester to catch on to this one. So glad I did though! I know that different schools use different texts, but many these days have online companions or paperback study guides that go along with them. Take advantage of these options.

Most instructors test off of what is in your assigned reading, the study guides consist of questions that are aimed at helping you better understand the key points presented in the book.  This means that if you know all the content in the study guide, it’s likely that you’re going to rock that test!

Below is a picture of the med-surge study guide book by evolve. This is one of the most common texts nursing schools use. If you’d like to check it out on Amazon you can use the following links: 9th edition, 10th edition. Personally, our school used the 9th edition, and it was a huge help! If you get it though, make sure you read the rationales in the back of the book. It’s just as important to know what makes wrong answers wrong as it is to know why right answers are right. Many of times I’ve noticed that the wrong answers are actually referencing other key concepts, but are off by a word or two. See if you can identify what key concept their referencing and how the question can be reworded to be a correct statement.


If you’re lucky enough to attend a school that uses evolve, first off, good for you, secondly, take advantage of their adaptive quizzing! This is a great resource. Basically how it works is you enter in the chapter you’re studying, pick the topic you’d like to focus on in the chapter and it will run you through questions and provide rationales. What I particularly like about this program is that it goes through levels that get progressively more intense. I’ve found that the “mastery” level or “level 3” questions were significantly harder than most of the questions on my exams. At this level many of these questions are alternative format that consists of select all that apply, ranking items, and fill in the blank.

If you’re stuck using a text that doesn’t have an online companion or a study guide, which in today’s age I really hope is not the case, but if it is, beg your teacher to make one for you! That or storm out in protest and demand they switch texts…. If this tactic fails as well, the only advice I can think to recommend is to purchase a study guide from another book, or even adaptive quizzing from Elsevier Evolve, and just do your best to focus on the topics your instructor is testing you on.

I know it may sound tempting but I don’t recommend quizlets. I know this is a really popular platform, but the information is not always accurate.  A lot of times it’s also really vague. I think that this can lead to a false sense of reassurance. People have a way of convincing themselves that they have an understanding of material because they memorized some facts or definitions, but this is only a basic level of understanding. This level of knowledge will not get you A’s in your courses and it’s not enough for you to pass the NCLEX-RN and get a license.

#3. Don’t Be a Loner

Nursing is a team sport. Turns out, studying for nursing school is something that is also better done as a part of a team. Find your team, create your team, do what has to be done for success. Don’t be a loner and isolate yourself. Break out of your shell and reach out to new people.

Prior to nursing school I had always preferred to study a lone. Personality wise I’m more of an introvert, so getting out there with my classmates was something I really struggled with at first but it was critical to my success! You need to make yourself uncomfortable to grow as a person. Growth as a student in no different.

One of the ways that I went about finding a study group was I would go to the library, find people from my class that I recognized by face (not necessarily by name), and ask to join their group. I’ll admit, there were times when I’m pretty sure I wasn’t wanted but out of politeness was allowed to join. This made for some uncomfortable situations. But hey, I wasn’t there to make myself or anyone else comfortable, I was there to learn.  I was on a mission, I had goals, and determination to meet them.

The biggest benefits I’ve found from group study are that it gives you an opportunity to verbalize what you know, get answers to questions that you don’t know, and stay in the loop.  When I say “loop” what I’m referring to is that general knowledge students gain from word of mouth by asking teachers questions about the tests, assignment expectations, and different study strategies. This was the way that I actually learned about the med-surge study guide that went along with our book.

#4. Don’t Spend All Your Time On Social Media

During nursing school its a good idea to limit how much time you spend on social media. I know that a lot of nursing students will make a facebook page so that they can communicate as a group, but I think the majority of the time, this is a waste of time! Don’t get sucked in. What I found was the people that posted the most on these group pages often did the worst. Just worry about getting your studies done, not on how everyone else is doing, or what funny memes they’ve come across.

Remember its okay to give yourself a break from social media. It won’t kill you! Believe it or not but the mortality rate for account deactivation is still 0…. Shocking, I know…. And, although this may give you some social anxiety, maybe even a thumb spasm, just remember, all your friends and followers will be right there where you left them. After you’ve graduated and you post that nursing degree selfie, I’m sure they’ll all be eager to congratulate you.  Although I do recommend deactivation if you’re not quite ready for this move at the moment, at least try to limit your use to certain times of day that won’t interfere with your study groups or reading time.

The exception to this deactivation recommendation, however, would be pinterest; that is as long as you are using it as a resource. The reason I give pinterest a “pass” is that it can be used to find blogs and articles that contain useful information. I also don’t consider it a super “social” social media. It’s kind of an antisocial media to be honest. Perfect for those who need to focus and not be distracted by constant comments and likes.

I also think that resources like Youtube and Khan academy are acceptable, again, as long as you stay focused. Youtube can lead you down a dark path if you’re not careful.  If you’re easily distracted by the recommended video list on the right, maybe its best to stick with Khan academy.

#5. Don’t Start a Weight Loss Program

I remember the first day, in our first orientation, we had someone come speak to us who had just recently graduated. She came in to offer words of encouragement and tell us what it was like to go through the program. She seemed really nice and really excited to start her career. She was also little on the husky side, which makes no difference, only that when she asked if anyone had any questions the girl sitting next to me raised her hand and asked if it was true that people gain a lot of weight while in nursing school.

It was so hilarious because the question seemed so inappropriate and out of nowhere, but it was an honest question. I was able to keep from laughing, but I’m not sure my poker face was as good as it should have been. I was shocked but the bluntness of her question. The girl who asked the question though did so sincerely, and was genuinely worried about weight gain.  The guest speaker, who fortunately was not offended, then went on to tell everyone how she had gained 50 lbs over the 2 year period.

Personally, I gained 15 lbs while in school and it wasn’t easy to see myself packing weight. To minimize the damage I did my best to eat healthy and exercise as much as possible, but lets face it, activity levels take a nose dive when you have hundreds of pages to read for your next test and assignments on due weekly.  Just remind yourself its temporary. Do Not join a weight loss program! I know it’s difficult to see your body change, but don’t do it.

There were two girls I knew during nursing school who started intense weight loss programs while in school. One of them failed and had to repeat the semester. The other passed with a B, which is really great but she had gotten all A’s before that. I truly believe she would have gotten an A if she hadn’t joined that weight loss program and focused on her school work instead.

Remember, there will be plenty of time for weight loss after the program.  That being said, don’t ignore your health. I’m not trying to give you the green light on Pringles. You definitely should exercise while in school. There are loads of benefits to cognition and stress relief. All I’m saying is put first things first. Don’t overwhelm yourself by committing to too much.

Thanks for reading! Hope this was helpful. Congratulations on nursing school, and may you pass all of your classes with ease!

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13 Strategies On How to Improve Reading Retention of Your Nursing School Textbook

If you’re reading this post then you’re probably already aware of the fact that while you’re in nursing school massive reading assignments are the norm. It’s not uncommon to be assigned a couple of hundred pages per test.

Ahhh! I feel like I’m reliving the anxiety just writing about it, anyways…

The idea of learning all of the information found in even a single chapter of a science textbook can leave even the best of students feeling overwhelmed. However, there are strategies that can be implemented to facilitate the learning process and increase comprehension.

“Bring on the tips”

Some of the strategies I’m going to share are ones that have been supported by research; others are ones that I used to get A’s through the nursing program I attended.


Part 1: Breaking Down the Reading Assignment

First off, let’s start with the reading assignment.  Okay, so this topic doesn’t directly have to do with how you read, but when you read. Retention takes time. Pulling an “all-nighter” may get you some right answers on the test the next day, but it’s not going to make you know the information or put it in your long term memory.

When it comes to doing the assigned reading, you need to spread it out… like butter. We want a smooth and consistent spread, not here a chunk, there a chunk. Although, everywhere a chunk, chunk, does start to sound slightly more appealing, it’s still not the preferred method of toast buttering by your palate.  For optimal digestion your reading needs to take place over time. To do this you have to know the time frame you’re dealing with. This means knowing exactly how many pages you have to read, and by what date.

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people just consider chapters instead of looking ahead at pages. Then they get behind because they didn’t realize the last couple of chapters were the longest.

#1. Count the Number of Assigned Pages

Once you know how many pages you have to read, determine how long you have until your test. For the school that I went to schedules varied depending on the class and the semester. As a general rule though, I like to have everything read as soon as possible. For every 5 days of reading consider scheduling 2-3 days of review.

Simply completing the reading assignment will not get you an A. In fact, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students say they read the material 2 or 3 times and still got a C.

With that in mind, don’t buy into the hype that “B’s are the new A’s”. That’s crap. A’s are, and always will be, the only A’s. If you want an A you can get it! You just have to be willing to put in the work and know how to work effectively. Reading is only the first step, review is where the real magic happens. But, in order to review effectively we first have to take in the information effectively. This comes down to basic time management skills and textbook reading techniques.

#2. Divide the Number of Pages By the Number of Weeks Until the Test. Leave Out Time For Review.

(# number of pages)/(# weeks until test – review) = pages per week

Now that you know how many pages you have to read per week, bust out that planner and determine when you are available to get it done.  If you’re a pre-nursing student, and don’t have much practice reading science texts, whatever amount of time you’re planning to schedule to do the reading, multiply that by at least 120%.  For time estimations, I’ll usually estimate to take an average of about 5 minutes per page.  Keep in mind this is a goal time estimation. I like to work under pressure. It’s not always realistic though. Some pages take 10 minutes, some take 2. It just depends on the content.

Once I know how many minutes, I convert it to hours, divide it by the days I have available, and voila! You have an estimation of how many hours per day you need to schedule to read the material. The key to this is not to cram all of your reading into one day.

More days is more better! Spread it like butter.

#3. Estimate How Long it Will Take You to Cover The Material.

(Number of pages per week) * (5 minutes per page) / (60 minutes per hour) = (hours per week)  (Hours per week) / (# days available) = estimation of time per day
Ex: (100 pages x 5 minutes per page)/ (60 minutes per hour) = 16.667 hrs            (16.667 hour per week) / (5 days available) = 3.33 hours or 3 hours and 20 min per reading day.


After determining how much time you’ll need to cover the required number of pages, it’s time to determine the order of how you’ll cover the information. I know what some of you are probably thinking:

“What do you mean, ‘the order’? Our teacher tells us when what topics are being lectured on.”

I also know that this goes against what most professionals recommend. Most “how to study” articles tell you to read what is to be lectured on before you get to class. I agree that this is ideal, but not a priority. I think it’s false reasoning to think that most learning occurs during lecture. I believe most learning occurs during review, where you personally verbalize what you have learned and “play” with the material.

One of the reason’s I was able to do so well through nursing school, other than actually doing the assigned reading, was that I read things out of order. There are probably a number of type A people out there whose toes are cringing at the idea, but hear me out.

Not all information is of equal importance! Let me put it in other terms: you know how celebrities are ranked as either A listers, or B listers, or etc, nursing concepts can be ranked similarly. You better know those A lister topics like the back of your hand, but its ok to forget the name of a D lister, as long as you can remember the role they played in that one movie.  I know it’s hard to believe that any teacher would be so cruel as to require you to learn material that wasn’t absolutely essential, but the fact remains, some concepts are more essential than others. Just because that C lister doesn’t come up in conversation often, doesn’t mean they aren’t important. When they show up on your nursing assignment they may be the star of the show.

For example: When studying pediatrics, do you think you should focus more time on Kawasaki disease or Type 1 diabetes?

We focus on Type 1 diabetes, of course! It’s a no brainer. Why? Because it’s more common, therefore the information is more useful, therefore the information is more important!

In an ideal world, all instructors would spend more time on the more important topics and present them earlier, but we live in the real world, and we know things aren’t always ideal. Instructors are people too. Sometimes the class gets off topic with questions, or maybe there was a story to be shared. For whatever reason, the most important topics aren’t always as heavily emphasized as they should be, and sometimes the most difficult concepts are presented right before the test.

If your instructor is particularly free spirited when it comes to covering lecture material, ask before planning out your schedule what topics they want you to focus on. Some teachers will be really nice about this and break it all down for you. Others will take this as you fishing for answers, and tell you everything is equally important. It’s not.

The best way I’ve found to determine what topics are most important is to ask myself how common they are and how lethal they are. More common and more lethal equal more important. However, fundamental concepts are always most important. These are the concepts that play a role in all conditions. For example: fluid and electrolyte imbalance, inflammatory response.

#4. Determine Which Topics Are Most Important, and Put Them At The Top

After establishing which topics are of most importance, adjust your list by moving complex topics towards the top. For instance, least important and least complex should be covered last, while most important and most complex should be covered first.  Again, ideally this would be how your lecture topics are already sequenced, but in my experience, there have been few occasions where I haven’t shuffled the reading assignment around.

#5. Determine Which Topics Are More Complex. More Complex and More Important Go At The Top

As a side note: steps 4 and 5 work best for information that does not need to be taught in a chronological order. In other words, if you’re working on something like math or chemistry, where concepts are built upon those previously introduced these steps may not be currently applicable to your situation, but they are something to keep in mind for future courses.

Congratulations!  You’ve completed part 1 of how to read a text book for increased comprehension. You now know what you will be focusing on, how long you have to focus on it, and what order the information will be mastered.

Now it’s time to discuss how to read your text.


Part 2: Reading the Text

To be an effective textbook reader you have to make a conscious effort to retain what you’re learning. Simply encountering information does not mean you’ve learned it. For example, how many times have you been looking for something, only to find it’s already in your hand? It sounds ridiculous, but let’s face it, it happens.

To read complex text and retain it you have got to focus on it! I highly recommend that you practice visualizing a web diagram.  At the center of the web is your main idea, related concepts branch off. The farther away from the center the more detailed the information. Visualization increases many people’s ability to retain information and is an important tool. I literally want you to close your eyes and see the topics. You can imagine written words, pictures, whatever works best, but see it.

#6. Understand the Big picture and Visualize it.

As an example, when reading a chapter on heart failure, your center should obviously consist of a patient with heart failure.  That part’s simple enough.  Now go through the chapter reading only the headings. These heading are the chunks of information you need to visualize branching off from your center focus. Pay attention to the color of the headings and the sizes. Often times in texts as information becomes more detailed the colors or the sizes of the headings (or both) will change, indicating a change in the level of depth.

#7. Read the Subject Headings Throughout The Chapter. Group Information Into Chunks. Direct Focus Based on Level of Importance

After getting an overview of the chapter by reading the headings you should have a good idea of how the information will be organized, and how you will be mentally grouping it.  You basically have a rough outline of your webbing.  As you begin to fill in the details of your webbing, remember to consider the significance of information. Not all information is of equal importance. Ask yourself “Why do I care?” or “Do I care?” about the information being presented. Relate information to familiar topics and ask yourself: “How is it similar?” or “How is it different?” Frequently texts contain information that is interesting to know, but not necessary. It’s ok to want to learn the details at the most in depth level (I encourage this), but make sure you have sufficient understanding of the core first.

Once you’ve established what information you do care about, and why you care about it, ask yourself simple questions about it.  Then as you read try to answer these questions.

In a study published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, subject’s comprehension of textbook reading was found to be significantly increased when they were asked simple questions every 150 words about what they had read, compared to the control group subjects who were not questioned.  Although this study was conducted in 2010, the strategy of using questions to increase one’s understanding of a subject actually predates Socrates.

Does the Socratic Method ring a bell?

This method has long been a standard in the instruction of medical students, used to bridge “the gap between textbooks and clinical care” according to an article published in the AMA Journal of Ethics.   So, to bridge the gap and increase comprehension, ask yourself questions.

#8. Ask Yourself Simple Questions About What You’re Reading

Summarizing as you read is also important. For each paragraph summarize in as simple of terms as possible using a short sentence. Then state how it relates to the paragraph above it. After reading all the paragraphs under a heading summarize again, and again state how that section relates to your center focus.  I know this sounds redundant, and it is, that’s the point. Repetition will get you that A I know you want.

#9. Summarize Each Paragraph. Summarize each section. Relate the Paragraphs to The Section, and The Section to The Center Focus

Lastly, read with the intention of teaching to a child. Keep in mind: children ask why, children don’t know big words, and children need things to be explained to them as simply as possible. Too often we trick ourselves into thinking we know something, only to find out when we are questioned on the topic that we don’t know it as well as we thought we did. This happens a lot with definitions of complex words. If you can’t break it down enough to explain it to a child, chances are you don’t really know what it means. If you can explain a subject in terms simple enough that a child can understand it, then you understand it. If you understand it, you are more likely to remember it, and there is a decreased need for rote memorization.

#10. Read With The Intention of Teaching

Part 3: Verbalize What You Have Read

Okay, so this part doesn’t exactly have to do with the actual reading of the text, but it’s important for retention and validating that you comprehend what you’ve read. You have to be able to say what you know! If you can’t say it or discuss it, you don’t actually know it.

#11. Review By Verbalizing

Get with a classmate and verbalize the mental web you’ve put together.  Start in the center and move out through the tears into deeper and deeper levels of detail. Remember all those simple summaries you did for each paragraph and topic? Bring them back to the fore front. Teach your classmate as if they were a small child. Keep it simple. Then, remember all those simple questions you asked yourself while reading? Test their knowledge by seeing if they can answer those questions correctly.

This is how I recommend spending a large portion of your review time before a test, but don’t wait until the test to start verbalizing what you’ve read! This should be a daily practice. Verbalize to yourself immediately after you’ve read (not necessarily out loud, but you can if you’d like). Imagine yourself teaching this information. Verbalize with someone else as much as possible, at least once or twice a week. Have them quiz you.

#12. Teach A Classmate

Have your classmate return the favor by verbalizing what they know, and then asking you questions about it. Remember, if you can’t verbalize it you don’t know it. I can’t stress enough how important the verbalization aspect of all this is. During testing situations you will not have notes to refer to.  In real life nursing situations you will have resources, but there is certain information patients expect you to know off the top of your head. When you can’t give them a quick answer to a simple question their confidence in your ability to care for them goes down.

#13. If You Can’t Verbalize It and Answer The Why Questions. You Don’t Know It Good Enough

That’s all for how to read a nursing text for more comprehension. I hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m excited to hear if these tactics helped improve anyone’s test scores.

Happy studying.




5 Things You Should Do Before Starting Nursing School

Nursing school, like any form of college these days, is far from cheap! First you have to pay for all those prerequisite courses, and then there’s the program itself, not to mention having to support yourself while attending all those years of schooling. Make sure it’s the right career move for you before you break the bank taking out thousands of dollars in student loans.

#1.  The Best Way to Know if Nursing is Right for You is to Get Experience in the Medical Field

It’s always unfortunate to come across a nurse, who’s bitter and hates their job.  Their negativity permeates throughout the unit. Not only are they miserable to work with, their attitudes don’t do the patients any good either. Plus, who wants to wake up every morning and cringe at the thought of going to work.  If you don’t love the work you do your whole life is going to be negatively impacted. On the other hand, when you’re passionate about what you do that positivity follows you around, and can play a hue role in how you grow and develop throughout your career.

That being said, nursing is a highly rewarding career!  I know for myself I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be stressful and demanding. This works for my personality type. I thrive on rising to the occasion. For me, you can’t feel rewarded without feeling the struggle.  Again, not everyone is up for the challenge.  The most important thing is to know yourself and what conditions you enjoy.

5 Things Nursing school

There can also be a bit of a culture shock. A lot of people don’t realize how intimate of a job nursing truly is.  It’s not all that trauma and drama you see on TV. There’s a lot more bed pans and bed changes involved than blood (at least on a good day). You see people when they are at their lowest points. You see them in pain, suffering, embarrassed, angry; and yes, they will take it out on you. It’s a good idea to test the water to see if you can handle it. Not just all the Foley’s, ostomies, surgical drains, but also the emotional aspect. Not to say there aren’t other career paths to take with nursing if your not a people person, but med-surge is kind of the bread and butter of what we do, and  patient CARE, requires actually CARING for the patient.

For me, patient care is the most amazing part of nursing. As their nurse you’re given the opportunity to be the person to help lift them up when they’re physically and spiritually down; to educate them on their condition, to heal them, to help them heal themselves.

Getting experience in the medical field will not only tell you if you’re making the right career choice, it’s also a great way to make money while going through nursing school. An added bonus is that it will make learning the material much easier.  You’ll hear the terminology, see the patients, and meet experienced nurses who will take you under their wing.

Just to clarify, when I say experience, I mean patient care experience.  Volunteering and clerking are a good in their own ways, but these positions won’t give you the hands on patient care you need to make an informed decision. There’s a pretty funny saying for describing what kind of experiences qualify that goes: “if you can’t smell the patient you aren’t close enough.” So remember this saying when start looking for opportunities to explore this career path.

#2. Practice Reading Textbooks the Right Way!

Don’t be fooled, there are tricks to everything, even to things as seemingly simple as reading– which trust me, you will have plenty of even in your prerequisite courses. This is something that if you practice doing effectively before nursing school, you’ll be a much more efficient learner, and therefore, save yourself a lot of valuable time.

As a side note, I’d just like to mention this is a brief overview. For more information on this topic check out my other blog post here. There’s also a great podcast on the topic you can find here

So, how can we read textbooks in a more effective manner, you ask?

First off, start with the big picture. Then work into the fine details. If I show you a picture of a boat and ask you to describe what you see, you probably won’t tell me the make and model.  Our brains naturally like to group things based on their relation to other things. Don’t fight this tendency by being tempted to memorize. By grouping and understanding relationships you will naturally remember things easier. To begin, start by flipping through the chapter just reading the headings. Clarify with yourself what it is you want to learn and why it is important.

Secondly, once you have the big picture in your head understand that all the little headings within the text are chunks of information that pertain to the whole. While reading you need to build a visual web of how these chunks are related, and why you care about them.  As it turns out, text books are crammed with a lot of information that is nice to know, but necessary. Rid yourself of responsibility for any information that is not required of you. I’m not saying don’t go above and beyond. All I’m saying is you need to prioritize. A concept that will be drilled into your head by the time you graduate from a nursing program. Fully understand the core, then move on to the details.

Thirdly, read the chapter, but as you do practice summarizing and relating chunks of knowledge back to the whole —  always while keeping in mind the questions “why do I care?”  When you understand the why, you gain a deeper knowledge of the information and eliminate a lot of memorization. For every paragraph you read, mentally pick out one to two key points and how that relates to the section. In the following paragraph, do the same, but summarize how it relates to the preceding paragraph and section as a whole.  After reading an entire section using this method, summarize how that section relates to the chapter as a whole.

Lastly, read this information with the intention of explaining it to a child. If you can simplify it enough to explain it to a child, you understand it. If you understand it, you’ll likely retain it. When practicing this, keep in mind, kids ask questions.

Guess, who else asks questions, that hopefully you’re able to answer correctly…? Your instructors, who write your tests; the doctors you work with; the NCLEX people, whose test you have to pass to get licensed… Oh, and your patients!!!

A huge part of nursing is educating our patients. Not everyone goes to college or even graduates high school. Wherever you may be practicing most likely at some point you’ll be taking care of patients whose first language isn’t English.  Being able to take complicated concepts and reduce them down to digestible bits of information phrased in simple terms, is a skill that will help you throughout your career.

Finally, once you’ve read a chapter, verbally explain it to someone, anyone; preferably a class mate or someone with knowledge of the material, but an animal will do.  Before you do this think of the mental web of knowledge you’ve created, all the chunks of information, how all the chunks interact and relate to the whole, and why some chunks are more important.  Then explain, and be ready for those anticipated questions.

#3. Learn to Speed Read

Oh, how I wish I would have worked on honing this skill before starting nursing school. Instead I took the route of excessive note taking. Excessive note taking and reviewing worked for me, but I’m still palming myself to the forehead for not having worked on this skill, along with the techniques of verbalizing and summarizing as I read, sooner. When time is of the essence efficiency is key!  Excessive note taking may be effective, but is it as effective and as efficient as these other techniques?

If you’re not already on the speed reading wagon, the big premise behind the skill is that we are generally pretty ineffective in how we read.  Our eyes constantly jump around the pages, darting back and forth between sections we’ve already read, slowing down both how many words we read per minute and our retention.

One of your main objectives as a pre-nursing school student should be to master this skill! The faster you are able to read and the more you retain, the less stressful nursing school will be for you.

#4 Get Organized and Become a Highly Effective Nursing Student


My favorite book on this topic is one I continue to reference, re-read, and recommend. The 7 Habits of Highly effective people is a must read! This book by Stephen R. Covey cannot be boasted about enough. It’s sold over 25 million copies and has been one of the best selling nonfiction business books in history.

In his book, Covey discusses what habits highly effective people possess and how to work toward developing them. In order to be successful in implementing and integrating these habits into your daily life, Covey stresses the importance of character development.  Before summarizing what the habits are let me first briefly elaborate on what Character Ethic is, and how it is different from Personality ethic

The idea of character ethic presented in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is that there are set truths that govern positive social interactions across all cultures. He proposes that these truths are unchanging throughout time and refers to them as principles. Values, he proposes on the other hand, change, and are not based on the fundamental truths but your preference. In other words, you can value characteristics that are not in alignment with principles or the “natural laws” that govern positive social interactions. He gives the example of a gang of thieves who share a set of values, but whose values are in violation of principles.

Character ethic concludes that individual’s naturally become more effective by shifting their perspective to be in greater alignment with fundamental principles. By shifting perspective, success is achieved through an inward out approach. Ensure that the center of your character is based on correct principals and that your social paradigm is in alignment with “natural laws” and success will follow.

In contrast Personality ethic, deems that success can be achieved from an outward in approach. In other words, that there are a set of techniques and social strategies that can be utilized and applied; and that once done so correctly, can bring about success. Covey argues against using these techniques. He believes this approach is shallow and only brings about superficial success.

To summarize: before attempting to integrate these habits into your life take some time to focus on your character.

Now for the Habits:

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win-win
  • Seek first to understand the be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the saw

Covey does a great job going into each habit in his book. If you’re interested to learn how you can utilize these seven habits to become a more effective Student, check out my other blog post here.

I also recommend you purchase the book. It’s not that expensive and worth way more than it costs. Normally after I read a book I’ll give it away to someone I think can use it, but this is one of those books that’s good to hold onto. If you’re interested in getting a copy you can use this link to get to Amazon.

Disclosure: I do get a percentage of the sale as a commission. Part 2 of disclosure: its not much and will probably be spent on kombucha making supplies.

#5. Work on Those People skills

People are social creatures! We crave understanding and acknowledgement. Some people I know are intuitively good at working with people, but I believe there’s always room for improvement. Ironically, the book that I’ve found to be most helpful somewhat contradicts some of the ideas presented in my beloved The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; However, it’s still really helpful!

The book I recommend for people who aren’t naturally people inclined is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. This book, like the one previously mentioned, has withstood the test of time and has managed to stay in print for over 75 years.

Side note: this is just a brief overview of some of the topics in the book. For a more in depth review check out my other blog post (here).

Some of the suggestions made in the book to facilitate social interactions include:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile
  • Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest sound in any language
  • Encourage others to talk about themselves
  • Talk in terms of other person’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important

These are all great tools, but like Covey noted, if they’re not coming from the right place these techniques will make you come across as fake and patronizing. This is why the ideas presented by Covey on character ethic are so important.  That being said, while you’re working on building true character, the methods presented in Carnegie’s book are still very useful.

The technique that has been the hardest me personally to implement, but has had the greatest impact on my professional life, has been using people’s names.  The importance of referring to people by their name may seem obvious to most people. I know some of you reading this are probably thinking, if you didn’t refer to people by their names, how did you address people? The truth is, mostly with the word “hey”.  It’s pretty embarrassing to think about it now, but it never occurred to me how rude it was to not use a person’s name while talking to them was, until reading this book. When it came greeting people, I would usually just use the generic “hey, how’s it going?” You’d be surprised how things can change for you socially by simply following up “hey” with their name.

Well, that’s all for this post. I hope you’ll find the knowledge that I’ve shared with you helpful. Thank you for taking the time to drop by my blog. If you like what you’ve read feel free to subscribe, and don’t forget to spread the love by sharing this post on social media.

Also, congratulations on contemplating Nursing as a career path. It’s a wonderful move! I wish you the best in all your endeavors. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to put them in the comment box below. Since I’m new to the whole blogging thing too, feel free to message me tips, pointers, constructive criticisms welcome.

Thanks again! Hope to see you again.