Posted by on 5/5/2020 to Let's Talk: Dealing with & Managing Stress at Work
Surviving Nursing School
Six years ago I graduated nursing school and roughly 8 years ago my girlfriend graduated nursing school. Yes, times change and the practice evolves, but nursing school was hard 10 years ago, and it will be hard 10 years from now. With COVID-19, things have gotten even more complicated for nursing students!
However, it's for good reason though, we are taking care of probably the sickest patients and generation ever. With the advancement in technology and medicines, people live longer and the population grows older.
New treatment plans and drugs are popping up seemingly every day, along with the newest evidence based practice research (EBP). If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, people tell me nursing school doesn't prepare you for the "real life" as a nurse.
Some points are well taken and I get that the stress of actually being responsible for sick patients may not be entirely yours as a student nurse, but many of the concepts learned in nursing school actually do translate directly to the profession.
How can you survive nursing school? What advice can we give you to help in your own journey?
5 Tips For Surviving Nursing School!
So we've combined these four points because they kind of go without saying, the more sleep you manage, and the better you eat, the harder more proficient you'll be able to work. Trust me, I worked a full-time job while going to nursing school, so it's even more imperative you're putting things in your body that will keep you energized and focused.
- Establish a meal plan with a calculated cheat day each week. You work hard so reward yourself!
- Reach out to a nutritionist or dietitian for a one time visit or session to chat about healthy foods and foods that will keep your mind right and boost energy!
- Keep a regular, moderate-type exercise routine. Vigorous exercise schedules can easily wear you down, if you stay consistent and have realistic goals for exercise routines you'll be better off.
- Regardless of what you're doing, set a sleep time. Lights off, TV off. You are going to have nights where you have to push though a little longer then your set time, but make sure you are reaching this goal the majority of the time.
The University of Michigan offers some good content discussing "healthy eating to decrease stress". Examples of some tips include; limiting caffeine consumptions (for all you coffee lovers), caffeine can make stressful situations even more intense. How many of you have ever been anxious, nervous or stressed, it tends to make it harder to think straight. This is not what you want in nursing school.
Other tips on healthy eating involve, limiting alcohol consumption, and using mealtime to relax and calm, instead of grabbing and going.
A quick note on sleep and it's importance in everyday life, especially nursing school students daily tasks. Sleep is crucial for helping our brain recharge, and when we don't get enough sleep it can affect memory, mood and even judgement, according to an article published by the American Psychological Association.
Nursing students need proper sleep to make good decisions and help retain information learned, whether in the clinical or classroom setting. There was even a study done showing that specific workers who slept 5 or less hours had higher odds ratio for high stress awareness, or perceived stress. To adequately manage stress, you need sleep!
We couldn't go on without discussing exercise and stress. Another vital piece of the puzzle here for nursing students in getting some degree of exercise on a consistent basis. Research has shown that "people report feeling calmer after even just a 20-30 minute aerobic bout of exercise".
As Dana Foundation explains, as we workout and our heart rate increases, so does blood flow to the brain. This means more oxygen and nutrients, as well as inducing proteins in the brain responsible for keeping brain cells healthy. Exercise also stimulates the releases of chemicals like dopamine and endorphins, or your "feel good" hormones. So if you've had a rough day or rough nursing school week, this becomes imperative to help control your mood and emotions.
You can find another interesting read here on how regular exercises improves memory and thinking skills.
2. Establish a Group of Like-Minds:
Early on in nursing school, focus on people that are like-minded and have good study habits.
- People within close proximity are best for time reasons.
- Be social, find out what others do for a living and how they are managing study habits.
- Share interesting ways of taking notes.
- Share diagrams or charts that you made with one another to help you learn more efficiently and time effectively.
- Review notes within 24 hours of each lecture - This is HUGE, it will help you recall information much better!
- Set one day a week to meet and chat with those people in a group setting on the hardest material that week, and review it with them.
I found a really interesting article posted by Oxford Learning, discussing the benefits of studying alone vs. within a group, and when to do each. Let's face it, there will be times you study in both types of settings in nursing school, but as Oxford Learning states, it's "easier to memorize information by discussing it".
In nursing school, there is a ton of information you just have to know, which involves your memory of information. Motivation is another key element here. When you have like-minded individuals, you can motivate each other more effectively.
3. Practice Real World Scenarios:
We cannot stress this enough. This helps 3-folds. Not only will this be beneficial when you have in class graded "real-life" scenarios, it will help you digest the material and visualize what you learned in the classroom sessions, and be more ready for clinicals. Examples include:
- Taking Vitals
- Dosage calculations
- Medication administration
- Various basic skills
- Understanding the concepts of certain interventions and the "Why"
Scenario based learning takes the context or subject material that you are or have learned, and applies it to a specific "real world" scenario to better help you understand content and why things are done the way they. are It also provides an opportunity for written or oral reflection and self-assessment on the process.
4. Don't just Memorize, Understand:
If I could give you only one piece of advice in getting through nursing school, it's this. Understand what you are learning and how it applies to nursing.
Don't simply memorize concepts, yes you have to know what certain concepts mean, diseases and interventions, but then take it one step further and understand the "Why". Understanding why your are doing a certain intervention.
You are going to be given an immense amount of real-world scenarios, take them seriously. Often times there were scenarios in each chapter of the textbooks, that I would overlook in my hast to get through the material, take a second and review the scenarios and outcomes.
Purchase a study book early on in nursing school, many of these books coincide or mimic what you learn along the way in nursing school. No matter what anyone says, you can improve your own critical thinking, and one way of doing so is simply being prepared.
Knowledge breeds confidence, and knowing the material will lend itself to more confidence in your approach throughout nursing school.
5. Take Advantage of Clinical Time:
Don't just go through the motions on this one. Look, you are going to enjoy certain clinical rotations more then others, but really take this time to practice your communication with patients, how the rooms are set up, and what a nurses daily work flow looks like.
- Take notes of things you see that the nurses face on a daily basis and maybe the challenges that they create.
- Nurse stress is real, make sure you start trying to develop your own ways to cope, even while at work. Yoga, meditation and/or other mindfulness practices can be great outlets for coping with stress, and anxiety.
- Ask questions. Many clinical instructors are very knowledgeable and have been doing this a long time, don't be afraid to ask.
- Understand that you are there to learn, but be confident in the things you know and practice the things you are not comfortable with. Ex: One of the most uncomfortable things for me was daily baths, I don't know if it's because I am a guy or what, but I just felt awkward and assumed that's how I probably presented myself to patients. So, what I did was I started asking other people in my class (admittedly most of them were female) if I could help with there daily baths because this although simple was strange for me. After time, the task became second nature and I would get in, get the patient clean and be done.
We hope some of these tips resonate with you on how to survive nursing school, and if you're looking to go into nursing school, know that you can for sure do it. There are a ton of options within nursing.
As always, whether you choose to do something with administration, management, education, or even informatics, we always recommended to get just a few years of bedside to get accustomed to what the art of nursing is, it's very important.
Thanks, and we hope you have a great day, good luck, hope to see you again soon.