Ep35: Keeping My Head Above the Water

how to keep head above water in nursing school
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Today’s question comes from a student asking how to keep her head above water.  Be sure to visit RNcrush.com to try the new app.

Hey guys, Jon here with NRSNG.com, RNcrush.com, and nursingstudentbooks.com.
Thank you so much for checking out the show. We really appreciate it. Be sure to go check out Rncrush.com. It’s a new app available for mobile phones. It’s an NCLEX® preparation game, okay? It’s a great way to study without even realizing your studying and have a little bit of fun as you prepare for the NCLEX® . That’s right. I said have a little bit of fun as you prepare for the NCLEX®, okay?

Today our question comes from another frustrated student. Trust me guys I get it, okay? Nursing school is very frustrating. I’ve been there and it does end okay? I will be over soon and you will get through it.

As a nursing student at blank university the thing I struggle most with currently is scheduling and sticking to study times. It seems like every week is finals week and I’m barely keeping my head above water with being prepared for tests, check-offs, whatever. I do not want to cram but it seems like I can’t catch up.

Okay raise your hand if that sounds familiar. Okay if you could look around you I’m sure everyone listening to this show would be raising their hand right now. This is something that is very complicated with the nursing school. Trust me, a lot of the emails I get are along these same lines. It’s just every single week there’s 10 chapters to read, right? Your professor will say okay just read the assignment for tonight and come back tomorrow and it’s 8 chapters.

Make a Schedule (use Excel)

Here’s a couple tips that I want to give you to help with this. There’s a lot of things we could talk about here but I’m just going to give you a few tips to help with this. First of all, I’m going to say make a schedule okay? That sounds a little bit over-simplified I’m sure but the first thing you need to do you just really have to make a schedule. We had one girl in our cohort who was just an angel. Every single week she would make an Excel spreadsheet with each class and each class would be color coded. For example, I’m looking at one. I actually have one saved on my Google drive so this semester we’re taking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 courses, okay? What she would do is she would color code each course so it would be N361, I believe that was a med-surg course she color coded that one red. Then N319 she color coded green. Okay so those are all going down in the spreadsheet each color coded. Next to that she made a column for the assignment and where it would be located. Next to that she would put the due date of it. Then she left a box open for finished to where you could check off if you finished it or not.

This is the way that she would do it. She would make this every single week and she would email it out to those in the course. What I would do is with nursing school you have to become very short-sighted, okay? You can’t look 3 weeks ahead. You can’t look 4 weeks ahead. You can’t look one semester ahead. You have to focus on this week and then you have to even micro that down even more and you have to focus on today. You have to look at the week, what is due at the end of the week. If I have a big test at the end of the week, I need to study a little bit each day for that. If I also have a bunch of little assignments due during that week I need to be completing those along the way.

The first thing I would say is make this schedule. Make a weekly schedule that shows exactly what is due for that week. What time it’s due, when it’s due, where it’s due, and exactly what the assignment is. Then from there you need to break that down into complicated tasks versus things you can complete in 5 or 10 minutes. If it’s just a little reading assignment, if it’s just a little quiz, you need to complete that quickly then move on to what really matters.

Focus on What Matters (don’t stress the small stuff)

The next thing I’m going to suggest that you do is you focus on the most important first. For example, in my school med-surg was worth like 5 or 6 credits, I don’t remember how much, but with the lab and the lecture part of it it was worth about 6 credits. Whereas our health informatics course or whatever was worth 1 or 2 credits. For me to do well in med-surg, it meant much more than me doing well in the health informatics course both by the percentages and also by my ability to work as a nurse.

What you need to do is you need to find those courses that matter the most and you need to focus a proportional amount of energy on those courses. If you have a lot of busy work in these other courses that maybe aren’t going to matter to your GPA or to your ability to function on a unit, then you need to redistribute your energy to those courses that are going to matter most. You need to prioritize on the most important courses, most important tasks.

For example, your cardiovascular test is much more important than for example like a discussion post in your health informatics course about a time when Facebook mattered to you. Just for example, I don’t know.

Don’t stress about those little things. Get those little things out of the way. That’s how I like to work. I like to bust out all the little things, use Monday and Tuesday to get rid of all the pointless work, and then use Wednesday, Thursday, Fridays to study for the big exams and the things that matter. Every night, you need to be focusing on the bigger things.

What is the “One Thing”?

Another thing that I’m going to suggest to you is that you start each day with one thing that has to get done for that day. There’s a really good book called “The One Thing.” It’s a new book. It’s on Amazon. It’s on Kindle. I know you’re not going to have time to read another book but this is a really good book and basically what it focuses on is it focuses on you need to have one thing that matters more than everything else every day. When you wake up in the morning, you need to write that one thing down. If that one thing is completing the final draft on a paper for your research course, that’s the one thing.

If you accomplish that task during the day, you need to be happy with yourself. You didn’t accomplish everything for the week but you accomplished that one thing. If your task for the day is to study med-surg for 20 minutes, then if you accomplish that be happy with yourself and move on. Check out that book if you get a chance, if not also just understand that the main thing is you need to have one focused task that will make a difference if you accomplish it and then if you do accomplish it you need to be happy with yourself.

Trello – Saved My Life

The next thing I’m going to recommend to you is an app called Trello. I found Trello a couple months ago and I absolutely love it. I didn’t have this during nursing school but I’m using it a lot now for my personal life and for the business and for everything else. What Trello is is it’s basically like a virtual white board. You open Trello up, -T-R-E-L-L-O, and you can start a bunch of little task boards and you can move tasks over. What I would suggest for nursing school is I would maybe have a main board that would be like a to do board for all your nursing assignments and then I would have a doing board and then I would have a done board. What I would do when I woke up in the morning is I would probably move all the to do tasks that I need to complete that day I would drag them over to my doing board. If I complete them I’d put them in my done and then I can forget about it. If I don’t complete it, leave it in my doing and the next day when I way up I start with that task.

Check out Trello.com, -T-R-E-L-L-O. It works on mobile phones and it also works on the computer and it syncs very quickly. You can also create Trello boards for group projects. You could have a group project, assign each person a different board and you could make it work that way. Very, very helpful. I would definitely recommend that to you if you’re struggling with this as well.

Facebook Groups – Group Therapy

The last thing I’m going to recommend to you is to start a Facebook group. During nursing school, we had a Facebook group for everyone in our class. This was such a helpful tool because not only did it provide an outlet for us when we were frustrated, which you ultimately are going to be frustrated during nursing school for sure, but it also provided a way for me to ask other students what they were working on and to figure out if I had confusion about a topic rather than just trying to ask one person or trying to get ahold of a professor I could ask the entire class. This was a Facebook group. It was open to everybody. We could help each other. We could suggest things to each other. It was just a huge assistance while we were in nursing school. Start a private Facebook group, add the people in your class that you work well with to it and use it as a way to vent as well as a way to organize your work with each other.


Those are my suggestions for this. I understand where you’re coming from. This is something that everyone struggles with in nursing school. You’re going to feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water the whole time. These different suggestions will help but you’re going to feel like you’re sinking. That’s just kind of how it is. I think that maybe in some ways that’s a good thing because if you work in a busy hospital for the 12 hours you’re at work you’re going to feel like you’re sinking the whole time too. Learning how to prioritize and focus on what really matters really is something that actually matters quite a bit in nursing.

It is hard and I understand that and you will figure it out. You’ll figure out something that works for you but at the same time it is an important task to learn. You can do it though. A lot of us have done it before and I’ve 100% confidence that you can do it too.

Good luck. Happy nursing and be sure to check out Rncrush.com to check out our mobile app game that will be coming out incredibly soon.
All right guys. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you soon.

Do you have other suggestions?  Share them Below!

What are you struggling with in nursing school?

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