Advice For Surviving Third Semester Of Nursing School

August 18, 2020

 Where do we even begin?

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The third semester of nursing school was a beast, and full disclosure, it almost broke me. But that's a different discussion for a different day.

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Classes that are taken during the third semester:

  1. Maternal Health (OB)
  2. High Acuity/Critical Care (Med Surg 2)
  3. Nursing Research

My advice for each class:
  • Maternal Health
    • This is the first time you're going to have TWO patients you have to worry about. 
    • If I had to sum up this class, I'd describe it as a constant "what's going to kill my patient the fastest?"
    • Almost always in OB, the things I never suspected were the right answer. The good news: once you figure out how to think like an OB nurse you've got it.
    • I'd also describe OB as being Peds + Med Surg. 
    • Approach OB with a fresh mind and consider the picture you're presented with. Throughout nursing school, we're taught to use our cumulative knowledge to answer questions but with OB you have to throw all that out of the window and relearn how to think. Everything seems like a trick question, and it's exhausting. I think OB was so hard for me because we're trained to think about every little thing going on so naturally, your mind wanders to all the possible outcomes but with OB you have to approach every scenario with a clean slate mindset.
    • This class got the majority of my attention/study time during the third semester and I consider it to be the "weed out" class of the third semester.
    • When you're studying take the slides and line them up with the text. Taking notes this way was more effective with me. The slides are a skeleton for you to build on. My professor for OB was brilliant and a straight shooter; she told us from the beginning that you'll succeed if you just read the text and take supplement notes. 
    • There is some material you won't understand without YouTube videos (ex. Fetal Heart Rate strips) and that's ok! 
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  • High Acuity
    • This class is the sum of everything you've been learning throughout nursing school - Fundamentals, Patho, and Med Surg. With that being said, this class shouldn't be terrible. It exposes what information you don't have a solid understanding of.  Cardiac is a beast, it always is. But there are so many resources on YouTube, Pinterest, and the internet in general, that will help ease the transition. Start strong so you can chill at the end of the semester. With this class it always starts with the hard content and ends with the easier stuff.
    • Take a lot of notes, ask a lot of questions, and read the textbook!
    • This is not the class to procrastinate in. Studying a small amount each day will make a big difference. The material is dense but it's interesting. This class is honestly applicable no matter what specialty you pursue.
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  • Nursing Research
    • Most people are not interested in research while in nursing school. The major focus of this class was a research paper and poster presentations. The librarians and all the resources they offer (paper editing, how to cite in APA, finding credible references, editing a PICOT question, etc.) will be your best friends! Take advantage of these resources and check in with your professors often. Knock out this project early so you can focus on your other two heavy-hitter classes.
    • This class was honestly a lot of busy work and reading - just being honest. The bright side, it's very cut and dry. Straight forward, so it's easy in that aspect because there's no guesswork.
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My advice for the semester as a whole:
  • Your grades mean something this semester. The grades you receive in these classes play a MAJOR role in your senior practicum placement. If you want L&D, OB, or Pediatrics, you should be aiming for an "A" in OB. The same can be said for wanting a practicum placement in the ICU or ER, you should be aiming for an "A" in High Acuity.
  • This is not the semester for procrastination. Every semester has its "hell week". This semester was just consistently hell. For whatever reason, each class had deadlines that overlapped all in the same week and the professors would not budge when it came to rearranging things. Invest in a planner, desk calendar, or whatever works best for you. You must stay on top of all your assignments and exams because this semester is 16 weeks of "it just snuck up on me". Which brings me to my next point...
  • If you don't have accountability buddies, find them, ASAP. Also, be a blessing to someone else. If you know there's a homework assignment due at 11:59, remind your people. I can't tell you how many stories I heard at the end of the semester + experienced personally about forgetting to do one assignment and it dropped your FINAL COURSE GRADE XYZ amount of points. As I mentioned before, this semester is rough and sometimes everyone needs a little reminder!
  • This is the semester that you will truly learn the definition of discipline. I honestly think I spent 1) more hours on campus in the library studying than actually living in my apartment during the third semester and 2)I studied more this semester than I did any other semester in nursing school. Some might even say through all of nursing school. The only class I enjoyed was high acuity. It was hard but because I was genuinely interested in the course. I couldn't care less about OB or research so naturally, I had to put more effort into them because I wasn't enthusiastic about the material. 
  • If you can, scale back on work. There were some weeks where I'd be in clinical three days a week (3-4 hours of campus clinical, 12 hours for OB, and 12 hours for high acuity). It takes a lot out of you, physically and mentally. By the time you reach the end of the week any free time you have should be dedicated to studying for upcoming exams. At work, it's almost always a toss-up if you'll be able to sneak in a few moments to study during downtime. Map out your exams, clinical days, and any other school obligations at the beginning of the semester so you know when you're free and when you're able to work.
  • Invest in compression socks and comfy shoes. This will always be my standard advice. If you've never worked longer than 8 hours you're in for a surprise. 12 hours workdays can be humbling. If you're going to be working that long you might as well be comfortable!
  • Take mental health breaks. In case it wasn't already clear, this is a stressful semester. My classmates and I would joke about the number of mental breakdowns we had throughout this semester and it's sad. These breaks don't have to be an elaborate vacation or a spa day. Sometimes it could be watching one episode of your favorite show with your favorite snack. Maybe it's just taking a nap longer than you normally would. It may seem silly but you have to recharge.

    It's a heavy semester but that honestly made it fly by! I hope these tips were helpful and can guide your thinking + study habits.

    As always, if you guys have any questions feel free to reach out!

    Thank you for reading and I'll talk to you guys soon.

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