Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting Through An RN or BSN Program -- Summary of What I've Read

I just started nursing school in August and will try to focus this blog on that and money -- rather than the random crap I've been writing.

Photo courtesy: Texas A&M Commerce,
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I've read a lot about what to expect in nursing school and I think I how to handle it. I thought I would put together a "summary" of everything I learned over the summer after reading countless blog after blog about how this is going to shape up. I wrote this from a "you" perspective because I like to talk directly to the reader. (See my last few articles and you'll see my style.)

I did come across some great resources out there. I will liberally link to them in this article. First off, the best resource for anybody deciding if nursing is right for them is to check out what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has to say about nursing to get a gist of what this career entails.

It does not matter if you're a first-year student or a licensed RN doing an ADN to BSN program, any nursing program requires a massive commitment to finish your degree.

Courses are difficult because they are science heavy, and clinicals are time-extensive. But it is possible to get through nursing school successfully. We'll start with a few nursing school tips for success.

'What should I expect in my first semester of nursing school?'

The best preparation for the first semester of your RN program is to devour as much information as you can about what to expect in nursing school. Talk to nurses, talk to students, and read all the preparation success tips.

Despite all the information, you'll still be a little shocked and overwhelmed at first, which is common if you questioned, 'should I go to nursing school?' But you'll adapt really quickly, make new friends, and be on your way to becoming a medical professional.

Is nursing school hard?

Nursing is a challenging profession, where technical knowledge needs to be applied in real world situations. In addition to that, nurses have to handle patient care, not to mention demanding family members. It's a tall order, no doubt, but it is a very rewarding profession.

You'll learn to balance and manage stress during nursing school; this is important for you to succeed in nursing school. But you'll also learn how to critically think and do the correct procedure in a given situation, which are known as scenarios in an RN program.

Scenarios can be a bit tricky. You need to assess the situation with a patient and determine the best plan of action. On a test, this could involve choosing between 4 multiple choices answers that are all correct. Only one, though, is the best plan of action to take in that situation. You may have already seen nurses do this, if you were working as a certified nursing assistant and making the transition from a CNA to RN.

How to survive nursing school: Time management

Monitoring time is crucial, which is a skill that will need to be honed. The last thing you want to do is be on the hospital floor, lose track of time, and miss a patient's medication. This is one reason there's a value in the heavy course load you receive during your nursing program.

Nursing school also stresses and fatigues you, putting you in uncomfortable situations, which trains you for the demands of the job. But this does create a problem: Finding motivation to finish nursing school.

Motivation to finish nursing school

Even the most dedicated students can burn out during the time it takes to become a registered nurse, which is why following a few general nursing school tips is important:

  • Sleep at least 8 hours a day
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes day
  • Don't skip class or clinicals
  • Shy away from drama queen classmates

Be humble ... ask for help

Nursing is a career where lives can be at stake. If you don't know the answer, ask.

Your instructor is a nurse first and foremost, which means he/she is willing to help you and is interested in the safety of the patients more than that 4.0 GPA that you think you're entitled to.

So don't think the instructor has a vendetta against you if you're getting low marks and don't beat yourself up over the low marks.

On the other hand, if you are getting good grades, don't be a braggart. You'll introduce an air of superiority and competition into the classroom. The key is to learn to deal with these difficult personalities, rather than be one -- you'll have to deal with enough of them once you get into the hospital.

When you're doing clinicals, remember not to argue with the RN about a procedure. She knows the practical way to do it from experience; you only will know the textbook way.

Find a study buddy

Everybody learns at a different rate: Some fast, others slow If you know the material and can put it into practice, help your fellow students out. By explaining the material to your classmates, you'll cement the information into your mind and will provide an excellent way to study for nursing exams.

You'll also develop a better understanding of when that procedure or material is applicable, which will help when dealing with scenarios.

And when the time comes that you don't understand the material or the procedure -- and it will -- your classmates will be more willing to help you.

Despite all the bookwork, you still get to do clinicals, which are the hands-on portion of your training. This is where all the scenario training comes into play -- only now, the patients are real, rather than words on a page!

Clinicals also provide you with an opportunity to learn from potential future employers.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

You already know the prerequisites to get into your RN program but you can get a jump-start on certain skills -- like critical thinking -- by taking a philosophy course or literature course.

These courses teach you how to think and draw connections between ideas. Learning how to critically think is fundamental to scenarios.

The more preparation you have, the easier your medical education will be. You will have to remember to look into what classes are required for nursing before you apply.

But keep in mind that preparation is not limited to the academic realm, especially when you have bills to pay.

Working while in RN program

Nursing school also requires a lot of study time and dedication, and holding down a job while going through an RN program is tough.

If you have a flexible schedule at your job, you may be able to make it work. (Nursing school generally doesn't have a very flexible schedule.) The key, if you can, is to work part-time.

One option is to work in a hospital. If you are a CNA, you may be able to get a job doing transport, which will give you experience dealing with patients. Besides, a health-care facility is more likely to accommodate medical students' schedules rather than the local burger joint.

What grades do you need to be a nurse?

Getting into an RN program is tough, and selection is competitive. You'll find that most people in your class have high GPAs. You, along with your peers, are the top candidates for the program. But don't let that go to your head.

It takes two years to become a nurse, and it's hard. If you are considering an RN vs BSN, you may need 4 years to complete your bachelor in nursing. Also, if you are thinking of the RN vs LPN instead, you may only need 1 year to finish the program.

Either way, many facilities have a minimum grade needed to pass a nursing course, which is usually a C. After passing the program, you'll still need to pass the boards.

That said, most people find the material sufficiently challenging and will need to study, study, study -- especially without a medical background.

Expect changes ...

The best advice is to go into a nursing program with an open mind. Experience all aspects of nursing before you decide on the nursing area you want to be. You'll be more well rounded and more employable.

The open mind is also important because some folks get so stuck in one mindset -- "I want to be nurse in cardiology," for instance. Then they filter out info about other aspects of nursing that is required for them to pass the boards. Besides, it's possible you might find another aspect you might like better.

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