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As we all know, nursing school requires time, dedication, and commitment. We spend hours away from our friends and family because we are either studying for an exam, writing a paper, completing EAQs, catching up on assigned readings, practicing for skills check off, and catching up on more reading… (the list continues until the end of the semester).
On most days, before the COVID-19 outbreak, we are on campus for lectures, didactics, study sessions, and clinical sites. This valuable time spent away from our families is used to cultivate a professional relationship with our colleagues, instructors, and various members of the healthcare team. This relationship creates the opportunity to form future references, which is very important when job searching. Your time in nursing school should have meaning that makes you a better person both professionally and personally.
Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of your time in nursing school:
My professor once told me that I am accountable for my education, which is very true. You need to show initiative when it comes to nursing school. Go to office hours, ask questions, explain to faculty your ideas about the program – like what can be better, or changed. Form a student group and involve your instructors.
For example, here is what I did this past semester:
I had noticed that during didactics, my peers and I struggled to remember what was practiced during class time. Most of us had different understandings of how to perform some of the skills and conflicting information was being shared. We had eight instructors for didactics, and we always receive eight different explanations for one concept. To help solve this issue, I initiated a 15 minute round table discussion at the end of every class where students and faculty discuss what was learned during that day, what skills were not understood, and address any questions that remain. Taking initiative like this shows leadership skills, your ability to think critically, and to maybe even be a future charge nurse.
Ideally, you want to volunteer in some healthcare capacity, but any volunteer opportunity is great – especially one doing something you’re passionate about. This is a great way to not only show off your various skill sets, but to learn the different scopes of practice in each profession. Make sure to add this to your resume and always put your best foot forward. A job or a recommendation might come out of this.
Shadowing is like volunteering, but also very different. To shadow an MD, RT, RN, PT etc., you must be the initiator. You must put yourself out there to land a shadowing gig. Your academic performance, your nursing skills competence, your past experiences, and a solid recommendation from your faculty or your volunteer project will aid in your shadowing opportunities. See how these aspects build on each other? Because of my clinical presence, my care plan writing, my ability to ask questions when in clinical, and willingness to observe new procedures when on a unit; I was offered to shadow a PICU RN (my clinical instructor) anytime I wanted to. This is how you build relationships with members of the team. Yes, we are students, but we are held to the standards of an actual nurse when on clinical.
Never show up to clinical unprepared. Read up on your patient’s conditions the night before. Become familiar with the labs and medication your patient is on. You are a rock star when you show up to clinical prepared with questions and knowledge about your patient. Ask questions about why your patient is on a certain medication. Be engaging in your reflection session and during shift change. Your SBAR as a student nurse is a tool that helps to show not only your communication skills, but your competency as a nurse. Always have a solid recommendation in your SBAR. Your nursing peers on the unit will develop a level of respect for you and will probably request you as their student nurse. Last semester, I was unsure if I heard course crackles on my patient when auscultating the lungs. For my SBAR, I recommended that the nurse verify lung sounds because I was unsure. The same thing happened when I thought I heard mitral valve regurgitation. L1 nurses, for my program, fall within a certain scope. It was not within my scope to diagnose regurgitation, so I recommended the nurse or MD take a listen.
If you are not working, spend your “free” time in nursing school doing hobbies that you love. Create an image outside of your professional image. Personally, I’m a beekeeper. I also have two 30-foot herb gardens, I tutor middle schoolers who are interest in STEM, and I hike. That is how I spend my “free” time. These activities add to my resume and show that I have other interests outside of nursing. You become relatable to your patients and you can share stories about hiking with a patient who is anxious. Basically, add it to your arsenal when partaking in therapeutic communication.
At the end of the day, your time is your time; what you do with it is up to you. But I believe nursing school is a growing experience. Once we’re out, we are a new person.