7 Things My Second Semester of Nursing School Taught Me

September 21, 2019

  • Keep That Same Energy - the First semester of nursing school it feels like you're on a roller coaster of emotions but for the most part, I'm sure we can all agree that we're excited. Excited for the unknown. Excited to make new friends. Excited for clinical. Excited to get involved. Excited to realize your "calling".  Just plain excited. Maybe it was me being naive but I expected this excitement to carry me through my 2-year program; I was in for a rude awakening when I returned to school after a 3- week winter break. Upon my return to school, it seemed reality had set in. I was exhausted. I was having trouble adjusting. At one point I was even convinced I had forgotten how to study or be a "good" student. The reality of all this was simply that I had gotten comfortable. The first semester of nursing school was an adjustment period but once I figured it out how to "hack the system" (test processing, get A's on exams, and effectively manage my time) I was coasting. The second semester I had to give myself more pep talks than I care to admit, but it was necessary. I had to change my mindset. I had to remember how excited I was to start nursing school and use that as my motivation to power through. "You wanted to be here. You worked hard to be here. Don't throw it away now." The moment you get comfortable is when you start making careless mistakes. Anything worth doing is worth doing well the first time. Nursing school is hard enough as it is, I have no desire to experience it twice. 
  • School is more important than work - This is coming from the girl who worked one shift per week (as a PRN Nurse extern) and then added on a second job (PRN Patient Care Technician) midway through the semester. Fact: Money is important. Fact: School is more important. Fact: Money will come. Although it's uncomfortable to admit I can honestly say that I stress about money, especially while in school. Where is the money going to come from? How many hours do I need to work to pay for ___? Am I saving enough money? I like financial stability. It has been quite an adjustment period going from taking prerequisites class, working 2 jobs and just having "endless" money to save or spend however I please. Now as a nursing student, I'm on a "fixed" income. Upon enter nursing school, I signed a contract with my school limiting me to work 20 hours per week. Any time I go to work there is no guarantee if I'll get to sit down and eat lunch, let alone look over my notes for an upcoming exam. When I come home the only things I want to do are bathe, eat, and get in bed. The main objective during these 2 years (1 year for ADN or ABSN) is to graduate and obtain a job as a Registered Nurse. Everything else comes second. Money will always come. Jobs will always be available.
  • People Change - This one may be hard not to take personally. The first semester everybody wanted to share study guides, share supplemental reading material that improved our understanding, and share videos from youtube that helped explain the material at greater length. The second semester there was a shift. Suddenly, nobody wanted to study together, nobody wanted to share how they were studying to obtain A's. Suddenly nursing school began to feel like a giant competition. Nursing school wasn't fun anymore. I once told one of my best friends that nursing school felt like "America's Next Top Model" in the sense that some people may be under the impression that there are only a set number of BSN degrees that will be available on May 9th, 2020 and we have to fight it out to the death. For me I found this to be disgusting. We should want everyone to win/successfully make it through the program. One person succeeding doesn't take anything away from me or my professional goals. All feelings aside, at the end of the day, you have to worry about yourself. If you fail an exam, only you failed that exam. Nursing school is a team effort when it comes to a support system but when it all boils down, it is a singular effort. Only you can take those exams. It is only you who is responsible for turning in your assignments. It is only your name that will be called at graduation. 
  • Seek help early - this will always be my advice no matter what semester or program I am in. The minute you don't understand something or don't like the results you are producing, see your instructor. I live for office hours. Office hours = "free" tutoring. There's no sense in struggling when you don't have to. Even if you "stumble" with your first exam there is plenty of time to correct your mistakes and finish strong. Build cushion at the beginning of the semester so you're not going into final exams panicking that you need a 235 on the exam to achieve the 75% test average. 
  • Always check your planner - Second semester I double scheduled and triple scheduled myself one too many times. Luckily for me, I was able to move things around with no repercussions but imagine not checking your planner for 1 week. Imagine forgetting to submit multiple assignments. Imagine forgetting that you have an exam coming up. Yeah, I don't want to imagine that either. Save yourself the head and heartache and print your syllabi. Transfer all due dates to your planner immediately. If you're fancy, you can take it 1 step further and write all the due dates on color-coded sticky notes and post them on a wall in your room. I do this by my front door - when I wake up it's one of the first things I see. I like bright colors so it immediately grabs my attention. When I'm walking out of my room I have to look at it. I wrote it in bold sharpie so again, it grabs my attention. 
  • Old ways don't open new doors - There is a way that I studied before nursing school and there is a way I study in nursing school. I tried studying the first way and did not produce ideal results in nursing school. Nursing school is one big experiment. You have to try and try and try some more until you find what works for you. Once you find what works for you, stick with it! Although some days the main objective is to "just pass", when I can, I try not to be mediocre. Repeating the same methods and obtaining the same poor results without the slightest inclination to change is insanity and a recipe for failure. Like I mentioned previously, I only want to go through nursing school once. 
  • People like me can be leaders + can get scholarships - My original goal when I entered nursing school was to fly under the radar. I already have a first degree, I had my fun, I made my best friends and now I was just here to get my degree and start my career/adult life. Funny how things change. About one month into my first semester I had a strong desire to get involved. It first started with becoming a Student Ambassador for my school. Then came running for State Nursing Association office. Then I applied for and received a few nursing school scholarships. To now, I ran for the National Nursing Association office and currently serve on the Board of Directors. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and experience new things. I have met so many amazing people outside of my nursing program, networked with hospitals and organizations in different states, been introduced to mentors, and exposed to a wealth of knowledge and skills that I would have missed out on had I decided to really "fly under the radar."
    1. That wraps up just about everything. I hope you found this helpful! If you did, feel free to pass this along to a friend you think would also find this helpful. 

      Wishing you all the best in everything you do!

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