Starting nursing school can be pretty intimidating, let alone surviving nursing school. You don’t know your classmates or their experiences. You just assume everyone else knows more than you and they all know exactly what they’re doing.
Well, I’ve got a secret for you. Lean in a little closer because I need to whisper this – a lot of people don’t want me to let this one slip..
((None of us know what we’re doing. Some of us are just better pretending than others.))
This post is going to provide you with some study tips, life tips, things I liked to use as a nursing student and practicing nurse, as well as explain some of our well known resources and communities. So let’s dive into how to survive nursing school.
The bottom line is that getting into nursing school is tough, nursing school is tough, and so is being a nurse! But remember, you got into nursing school for a reason. Don’t doubt yourself now!
Nursing isn’t one of those majors you can just read up on the information the night before the exam and expect to do okay. It takes a lot of strategy to manage your time appropriately. Each exam is over so much information that you must have a plan of attack!
After your first day, get all of the syllabi together and write out every single due date on a calendar that you actually will look at daily; ideally one that you carry with you (whether this be on your phone or an actual print calendar/planner). After all of those dates are written out, then plan out when you will study for these exams in reasonable blocks of time. This means 2-3 hours here and there, not 6-8 hour chunks of time. No one can pay attention and absorb information in those longer periods of time. It’s an inefficient and ineffective use of your time.
After you plan these study times, then plan when you will write your papers. Schedule short-term goals (I’ll find 2 sources on this date, write my intro this date, edit on this date, etc.) so you’re not sitting down to write an entire paper the night before its due. Schedule yourself to finish this paper 1-2 weeks before the due date, so if you run into any roadblocks (not understanding something, changing a section, clarifying with the professor) you’ve got some wiggle room.
Get a folder and/or notebook for each class. Keep notes together and organize them so they’re easy to find. Have a folder on your desktop for nursing school, with subfolders for each class, then subfolders for each section. I realize this sounds a little organization-crazy but bear with me..
If you have to spend 10 minutes looking for a document on your computer, or 15 minutes looking for a hard copy of something around your dorm room, and you do this a few times a week, you’re losing 30 minutes – 2 hrs roughly just searching for things. That’s an absurd amount of time completely wasted. Think about how much quality studying you could give yourself in 2 hours. Or what if you used that time to nap? Naps are amazing. I would much rather nap than waste my time searching.
Something that is important to remember is YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE. Look to maximize it at every turn. Try to look for and eliminate inefficiencies or wasted time (searching for books, notes or documents because your desk is a mess, taking forever to get your paper formatted because you haven’t taken time to learn how to write in APA, forgetting about a deadline and scrambling to meet it).
- Back to School printables from Simmie’s Studyblr
- The Ultimate Free College Content Library of Printables
- Free Weekly Planner Printables from Eliza Ellis
- Nursing School Planner from the Straight A Nursing Student blog
Don’t just study hard. Study smart AND hard. Don’t say “I’ll just study the whole day before the test” because that’s not going to work. People can’t focus for that long at a time. We retain information best in 20-ish minute increments. Block out everything for those 20 minutes, then take a 10 minute break. Do this for 2-3 hours and it will be MUCH more effective than a full day of staring at your text half asleep. Turn your phone on silent and put it in a drawer. Close all of your tabs. Put your tablet away. Have a snack and a drink near you so you don’t get up.
Break time? YYYYAAAASSSSSSSS!
Try to understand whole concepts, like try to understand and explain the renin-angiotension system to someone else. Do not make the mistake of just trying to memorize the material. There is way too much to try to memorize for this study technique to be worthwhile.
Learn your professor’s teaching style
Let’s be real here; just like people learn differently, people teach differently as well. Some professors are more relaxed and care more about understanding the big picture, while others want every little thing in an incredibly specific way, and many are somewhere in between.
Learn each professor’s style.
This will take some time. If I had one professor that was a stickler for details, I made sure to pay really close attention to that with assignments. But if I had another that was more big-picture, I wouldn’t stress over minute things they didn’t really care about anyway.
You really won’t learn this until you get back some of your first assignments. You may miss some points here and there. You may have wasted your time worrying about things you thought they’d care about when they actually don’t. It’s okay. There’s a learning curve at the beginning. Put in what you think each class requires, see how some of those first assignments come back, and adjust your time and efforts accordingly.
Learn your learning style
I really didn’t figure out my learning / studying style until nursing school. Up until nursing school, I didn’t have to be as regimented about it because I didn’t have to be. Then nursing school came and smacked me in the face. Some people are auditory, some visual, some more hands-on, or a combo. I figured out that I learned best if I took handwritten notes in class, then typed them and added supplemental info from the books, then went back over them and highlighted. Some classmates taped their lectures and listened in the car or while working out. Figure out what works for you and stick to it.
Learn your resources
The quicker I learned how to use APA formatting for my papers, the better. Again, less wasted time is key. Have your books flagged to frequently used sections. Have them next to your desk for quick reference. Learn how to use your school’s online library and databases. The quicker you can utilize your resources, the better.
Two of my favorite APA free resources
Clinical survival tips
Make sure you know where you’re going. If you’re nervous, do a test-drive there the night before. Walk up to the unit. Get your bearings so come game time, you know what to expect.
Have good scrubs (I talk about which ones I use later on). If they’re white scrubs, make sure you have the appropriate eh-hem.. undergarments. Have a back up set in your car in case you get puked/peed/pooped on. (Seriously). Pack your lunch. Have a granola bar or quick snack you can grab if you start to feel woozy.
*Note – I’ve seen so many nursing students pass out that I’ve lost count, make sure you grab a snack
If you got your patient assignment the night before, look up the disease processes and chief complaint of the patient so you’re aware of what they’re experiencing. Get all of your paper work done.
Don’t just arrive on time, be early. If you’re showing up right on time, you’re late.
Clinicals are scary, but don’t be so worried about getting all of the answer correct that you’re not mentally present. Engage with your clinical instructors, nurses on the unit, patients, loved ones, nursing assistants, doctors, nurse managers. Ask questions. Watch procedures. See how you can help. Don’t be that student that stands in the hall, leaning against the wall, waiting to be told to do something.
Make sure you’re also allowing your other classmates to get in on everything too. Find the balance of being helpful and engaged but not so much that you’re taking up all of the instructors time and the other students don’t have a chance to try or see anything.
Also, don’t complain about the patients. Even if someone is rude, or decides they don’t want a nursing student today… please don’t complain about it to the staff. It doens’t look so hot.
Listen during report. Wait to ask any questions until they’re done giving report, as they may end up answering your question later. It’s a
nurse pet-peeve when you’re trying to give report and the person receiving report is continually interrupting with questions. They may speak really quickly. If you don’t know an abbreviation or diagnosis, write it down quickly and ask the nurse or your instructor after.
Get a report sheet that you like. Give it a few shifts before switching to a new one. Click here to download 33 nursing brain sheets for free.
Things to write down when getting report (this is incredibly general and will vary if you’re on a specialized unit):
- Name / MD’s / Code status / allergies
- Precautions (fall, seizure, infection prevention, bleeding, etc.)
- Chief complain / why they’re in the hospital and important things that have happened during the admission
- Pertinent history (it’ll take time to figure out what pertinent and not, don’t get hung up on this one. You’ll also figure out, with time, shorthand/abbreviations for history)
- Abnormal assessment findings from body systems
- If they’re on oxygen and how much via which delivery method (nasal cannula, face mask, non-rebreather, etc.)
- Any tubes (feeding tubes, foley catheter, rectal tube, etc.)
- Intravenous access (IV, central line, port, etc.)
- IV fluids / drips / anything continuously infusing
- Activity level / how they go to the bathroom
- Pertinent / abnormal labs
- Questions to ask MD / questions for any other member of the health care team
- Any psychosocial / family + support system concerns
- Important meds (you can look up this stuff in the chart, but they may mention some meds)
- Any tests, procedures, transfers, etc. that need to occur during this shift
- General discharge plan / what are our goals this shift? (get out of bed 3 times, eat, pass swallow evaluation, transfer out of ICU, etc.)
I actually recorded a podcast about giving a solid nursing report.
Nobody’s perfect. You’re not going to know everything. No one expects you to know the answer to every question or handle every situation perfectly. You’re there to learn how to do things, not show everyone how much you already know at every turn. So take a breath, and relax. It’s okay if you don’t know something.
If you don’t know something, just say you don’t know it. If a patient asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say, “You know, I don’t know the answer to that but I will find out.”
I do understand that need to try to avoid saying you don’t know something because you don’t want to be ostracized in front of your classmates. Some instructors will take this opportunity to make you feel bad for not knowing something, but most will just be glad when you say you don’t know something because it lets them know what they still need to explain.
The sooner you get used to being honest about what you don’t know, the better. This will continue to benefit you throughout your career.
Also, if you screwed something up, own up to it. We can usually tell if you’ve messed something up and are trying to make it seem like you didn’t. Once I saw a student go to hang an IV antibiotic on a secondary line. Normal saline was the primary line. She had forgotten to do something (it was so long ago I can’t remember what) and the antibiotic (which was green) backed up into the bag of normal saline. The instructor came in and saw it and asked what happened. She said that the saline bag came like that.
If normal saline came to you green, that’s a problem and it shouldn’t have been hung in the first place.
However, she held firm to it coming from pharmacy like that. We were all pretty sure she was lying, but no one had physically seen it so we couldn’t refute her.
So we had to do the appropriate incident report, call pharmacy, etc. etc. Basically, we had to do a lot of things that we really shouldn’t have had to if she had just owned up the mistake. And honestly, the mistake wasn’t a big deal. We could have easily taken time to educate about what should have happened, grabbed a new bag of saline and antibiotic and that would have been that.
It’s not just about your patients
Not only are you learning about disease processes and how to care for people, you’re also learning time management. Watch the time management styles of the various nurses you’re following. Once you get to your first real nursing job, you’ll have to figure out how to manage your time and it will be helpful to see how various nurses do things. You can learn how you would like to do things and also how you would not like to do things. I’ve observed how people have done things and learned ways to avoid managing my time because I noted they were always behind or flustered. There’s no perfect, textbook way to do this. You’ll develop your own style.
Pay attention to not only the tasks they choose to delegate, but how they delegate them. How do they work with nursing assistants? The NCLEX® will teach you which tasks to delegate, but that’s the easy part! The hard part is delegating tasks to nursing assistants that have worked on the unit for decades. Developing rapport with your team is another piece of the learning how to be a nurse puzzle and you can learn a lot from watching how everyone interacts. Every does this a little differently, so if you hear verbiage or talking points that you like (“Hey I really like how she asked that CNA to take that patient to the bathroom.. I don’t want to forget that”) write it in a small notebook that you keep in your scrub pocket (I’ve got a link in a later section for said notebooks). Or talking points / responses to nurses dealing with tough situations.
Once I heard a nurse firmly respond with a, “I know you’re frustrated but I am your nurse and you will not curse at me,” and I was like..
DANG – RESPECT.
**quickly ran to the nursing station to scribble it down on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget it**
(That patient immediately apologized and connected with her about what was really bothering him and requested her for subsequent shifts.)
It’s really important to treat everyone you encounter with respect. From the housekeeper to the physician to the case manager to the physical therapist to the nursing assistant. Even if you never want to work in that particular unit, you need to treat the people that have chosen to work there with respect. So if you know you want to be a NICU nurse but you’re starting your med-surg clinicals, make sure you treat all of those nurses, nursing assistants, etc. with respect even though you know you’ll most likely not need to know that information for your potential job. Just because it’s not important to you does not mean it’s not important.
Let me say that again.
Just because it’s not important to you at this particular point in your life, does not mean it is not important.
Nothing frustrates clinical instructors, nurses, and nursing assistants more than that “I never need to know this so it’s not important” attitude. I’m actually getting hypertensive thinking about it. Even though it’s not information that will be practically important to you in the long run, it is still important to someone.
Student nurse-life tips
Being a nursing student and nurse is not just a major and a profession, it’s a lifestyle. There are certain things you can do to prevent burn-out, minimize stress and maximize your personal and professional life satisfaction. Let’s discuss…
Take control of your environment
It’s hard to study and retain information in chaos. A desk in the living room, family room, dining room or in the common area of your dorm is not ideal. Try your best to secure a consistent and quiet place to complete focused study. Keep the area clean and organized with your resources nearby. Every semester, I wrote down all assignments on a piece of paper and taped it above my desk. As I completed things, I would cross them off. That provided a sense of accomplishment that boosted my mentality.
I like to diffuse essential oils while I work / study. I’ve got a diffuser on my desk and will use lemon, wild orange, or peppermint. I mainly use the
Doterra brand, but there are others. I also bought this diffuser from Amazon for about $23 and I keep it on my desk.
I also like to classical listen to music. Piano Guys radio on Pandora (does anyone still use Pandora? Just me? Ok, great…) is an go-to of myself and my husband.
Figure out what puts you in that game-time, get it done mentality. That eye of the tiger, coming down the tunnel for the Super Bowl mentality.
And just do it.
(Ugh.. sorry for the lame Nike reference but it really would have been a missed opportunity if I didn’t.)
Communicate with your loved ones
Nursing school takes up a ton of time. Unless you’re in it, it’s hard to understand the magnitude of things to do and learn. Therefore, be proactive about communicating your needs to your loved ones. Doing things last minute or the night before an exam won’t be the best thing for you during your nursing school journey. You may have to say no to some things you really want to take part in. The, “hey I want you to know that nursing school is my priority right now and I’ll probably not be able to do as much but it’s not a permanent thing” conversation is better to be had before school starts, not mid-heated argument about why you can’t go to another night out, dinner with friends, family event, etc.
Also, make sure to communicate about your needs while studying. If you need to be interruption-free, focused and alone, communicate that. “Ok so if I can be interruption-free for the next 2 hours to really focus, I’ll be able to go to dinner… or hang out with the kids.. or go to that work out class”. I have a feeling there will be some miscommunications and hiccups. Even the best communicators don’t do this perfectly. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive
Prioritize your sleep
I read a quote recently (and please forgive me, I do not remember who said it)… but this person said:
Being tired is not a badge of honor.
I love that. Sleep deprivation is NOT a badge of honor. I feel like whenever I would get to work or class that it was a competition about who got the least amount of sleep. I started to feel like it was another way of saying, “I’m really tired so expect less of me today.” But if we’re chronically exhausted, when can those around us actually have normal expectations of us and not have being tired as an excuse?
We must prioritize our sleep – even if that means going to bed embarrassingly early because you know you think better early in the morning. Or working late into the night because we know we can get the sleep we need the next day. Or taking a power nap in the afternoon.
Do what you can to get the best sleep possible. For instance, I like to get into a made bed, so I make my bed after I get up. I like to shower at the end of the day to relax before bed. I occasionally diffuse lavender or put a drop or two on my pillow. I get ready for bed about an hour before I actually want to fall asleep. I like to take my time getting ready for bed. I’ve got a memory foam pillow, Sleep Number bed, black out curtains, and nice sheets. I read a few chapters of Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, or some other fiction book before bed.
I recently read the 4 hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and he recommended reading fiction before bed and its made a big difference. I used to read non-fiction, but for some reason reading about a story or situation that didn’t really happen.. that takes you to another world, really relaxes me and gets my mind ready to rest. (Update: I’ve been doing this for months and it’s really working to help me get to sleep faster)
Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
You can start to feel like a zombie. Make sure you’re making time to exercise. You’ll sleep better. You’ll feel better. You’ll be healthier.
At the least, look up some You Tube yoga videos do some good stretches. This is my favorite YouTube yogi bear. This stuff really helps so much, especially when you spend so much time sitting at a desk / computer. You can do it in the privacy of your home in as little as 10-20 minutes. Straighten out your neck and back, do some back hyperextension, work your core, do some deep breathing and meditation.
It’s also nice to have something to completely focus on that is not related to nursing. Get your favorite work out music and just escape. I enjoy doing some cardio and lift weights.
Try your best to eat well. If you’re eating a lot of take-out, quick meals, sugary drinks, etc. it can leave you not feeling as full, then to more snacking. You also aren’t putting the best nutrition in your body either. Plan your meals. Occasionally indulge. Eat naturally.
I get a lot of recipes from the Budget-Savvy Diva, Pinterest (link to my Pinterest food board), Minimalist Baker, and I really enjoy the Buzzfeed Tasty Facebook Page. Slow cookers are awesome too. Throw some ingredients in before you go to class and dinner is ready when you get home.
Nurse gear recommendations
A lot of people ask me what kind of scrubs, stethoscope, badge reels, etc. I use. Here is a master list!
Update: My new favorite scrubs are now FIGS scrubs. They’re a bit expensive but worth every single cent. Click here to read my full review.
Another update: FIGS recently launched a student program! You can get a 20% discount as a student. Click here to learn more.
I also reviewed Butter Soft Scrubs from Uniform Advantage, Greys Anatomy, and Infinity by Cherokee in this blog post.
I use the Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope, but I really like MDF scopes as well. MDF is definitely more affordable, yet still high quality. They’re just a lot heavier but I think for the price difference and quality, it’s not that big of a deal. When I was in nursing school, I purchased a $20 cheap scope and it was not worth it. I ended up getting a more expensive one after a semester because I just could barely hear anything.
Nurse tip! Get your name engraved on your scope so no one steals it!
My favorite pens are the Pilot G-2 pens with the clicky top. Never steal my clicky pen. Never.
I’ve heard rave reviews about WhiteCoat clipboards. I know many nurses, physicians, medical students, and nursing students who love these. It folds in half so you can stick it in your pocket, has bunch of nurse-related info printed on it, and folds out to a full-sized piece of paper. Click here to check it out on Amazon.
NRSNG also has some great clipboards and nursing school packs available on Amazon that are awesome.
- Nursing student toolbox gift set
- Pediatric clipboard
- Nursing student toolbox gift set with clipboard
- Nursing clipboard with storage
Badge reel holders
I always, always get asked about nursing shoes. I’ve tried a lot. My current favorite are Work Wonders® by Dansko. I used to wear the regular ones but these are lighter, tighter and cheaper. I did a review on my blog of these as well. Here’s the link!
NRSNG also made a database of nursing brain sheets that is awesome. You can download, print, copy and use – for free! Click here for the database. They also put one of the most used ones on Amazon in a tear-off pad. Here’s the link to the pad.
I also get asked about compression socks a lot. FIGS compression socks offer 20-30 mmHg compression, are long enough and sturdy enough to stay put for 12-hours, and I’ve washed them quite a few times since I got them a few months ago and they’ve withstood the washings and have not faded. They come in the pictured cranium pink, grey pills, or a slick black and grey.
My previous top compression socks were Cherokee True Support, and I wore them with each shift, but since switched them out for FIGS.
Planners and notebooks
I love planner and notebooks. Papersource has some AMAZING notebooks and planners and I want all of them. We live near one and I just like to go in and look at them all and pretend they’re mine. Here’s a link to their planners. And there are some that are more feminine and some that are more masculine – options for all! They also have a great selection of mini-notebooks, which I love. They fit in your scrub pockets so you can use them to take notes in if you clinical instructor doesn’t want you using your phone. Here’s a link to their notebooks.
After a few years in the field I’ve learned a lot of different resources. Here we go!
The big companies are Hurst, ATI, and Kaplan. You purchase these when you finish nursing school. They are all comparable in price and performance. Some nursing schools will host a review post graduation on-site, which is convenient. The main downside is that they come into play at the end and they’re quite pricey.
You can use a question bank only as well. This would be for people who don’t want/need a content review and simply want to take practice questions. Options include:
- UWorld – 1900+ questions
- NCLEX Mastery App – unable to find total number, but 1800 in the free trial
- NRSNG Nursing Practice Questions – 3500+ questions
I recently wrote a blog post going over the Best NCLEX Reviews for 2018, where I dive deeper into multipl programs.
My nursing school NCLEX prep long-term recommendation and plan
My ultimate nursing school resource is by far the NRSNG Academy. It’s an NCLEX prep course, 10 additional content course reviews, a question database of 3500+ questions, cheatsheets, a private Facebook group for support, a Flashcard app, simulation NCLEX, and more.
- The FreshRN Podcast – my podcast where myself and two other experienced critical care nurses chat about the things a new nurse needs to know
- Sawbones – a husband (comedian) and wife (physician) talk about history behind medicine and it’s pretty fun and informative
- NRSNG Podcast – Real life nurse stories, nurse-hacks, NCLEX tips
- NRSNG MedMaster Podcast – each 5-10 minute episode is a different medication and it’s nursing considerations
- NRSNG Lab Values Podcast – each 2-5 minute episode goes over the top things a nurse needs to know about each lab value
- NRSNG Nursing Mnemonics Podcast – each episode is one nursing mnemonic and it is hosted by yours truly!
- NRSNG Nursing School Struggles Podcast – a podcast devoted to the common concerns and struggles of nursing students
- Straight A Nursing – a podcast by Nurse Mo who is an experienced ICU nurse with a passion for teaching nursing students
- Change of Shift Podcast – hosted by an acute care nurse practitioner, this podcast discusses new graduate tips, nurse life considerations, interviews, and more
- The Nerdy Nurse – products, NCLEX® tips, nurse news, blog tips, advice
- Straight A Nursing Student – written by an ICU nurse with a passion for mentoring students! (Pssst – her book is also listened in the book section!)
- NurseCode.com – this is written by an experienced nurse who is currently a nurse educator and has experiences interviewing new grads.. she has such a plethora of highly valuable content
- NurseNacole.com – tons of videos, tips, resources all compiled here by a current practicing bedside nurse, working on her DNP
- NursingCapsAreCool – a wonderful Tumblr nurse blog (or nurblr, as it is referred to in the Tumblr world!)
- MDAdmissions – a Tumblr medical blog, written by an internal medicine resident. It’s fun/interesting to get a peak into what it’s like being a resident.
- CoffeeMuggerMD – another genius Tumblr medical blog, written by a resident
- Half-Great Adventures – a nrblr written by a night shift RN who works in pediatric neurology, neurosurgery, and endocrinology
- Caring Intensely – a nrblr written by an ICU nurse / FNP student
- Mursing Managed – a nrblr written by a nurse who recently graduated so he is very aware of the nursing school struggle. He’s a former firefighter and works in ED/ICU/PCU currently.
- Wayfaring MD – a medical blog written by a family physician working in a rural area
- The EMS Lounge – written for EMS personnel and it. is. glorious.
- Nurse GIF, BSN, RN – seriously hilarious nurse gifs. For a good laugh, go here – STAT.
- Bolus Coffee STAT – just a quality nurse blog written by a fellow ICU RN
- Neuro Science Stuff – I love this one because it’s all of the latest news in neuroscience. There are tons of great articles and studies that they post about.
- FreshRN Tumblr – my tumblr blog!
Specific valuable blog posts
- The Ultimate Nursing Lab Values Study Guide to Help You Dominate Your Labs by NRSNG
- The Ultimate Nursing Pharmacology Study Guide to Help You ROCK Pharmacology by NRSNG
- Interpret EKG Strips Like a Boss by NRSNG
- 5 Tips to Overcome a Failed Nursing Semester by Nurse Mendoza
- Staying Ahead in Nursing School by Kati Kleber
- Pharmacology Tips for Nursing Students – From a Nurse! – by Kati Kleber
- Medication Administration Basics for Nursing Students by Kati Kleber
Some of these are nurse-related, some are life-related, some are medicine-related.. basically this is a list of books that I believe are helpful in the practical and emotional work it takes to become a successful nurse. I went to Twitter and asked people which books they think that nursing students should read and here is the list! All links are for Amazon.
** Prices may have changed – please click on the links for the most up to date price
Books I’ve written
- Anatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey by Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN $19.95
- Becoming Nursey: From Code Blues to Code Browns, How to Care For Your Patients and Yourself by Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN $12.99
- Admit One: What You Must Know When Going to the Hospital, But No One Actually Tells You by Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN $12.99
- What’s Next: The Smart Nurse’s Guide to Your Dream Job by Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN $28
- Test Success: Test-Taking Techniques for Beginning Nursing Students by Patricia Nugent $45
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown $17
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande $26 (*It was also recommended to just read all of his books because they are glorious)
- Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande $10
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kanalithi $15
- I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse by Lee Gutkind $16
- The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patient’s Lives by Theresa Brown, RN $15
- Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Life, Death and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown $15
- From Surviving to Thriving: Navigating the First Year of Professional Nursing Practice by Judy Boychuk Duchscher PhD, RN $30
- Nursing School Thrive Guide by Maureen Osuna, RN $10
I again asked my Twitter buds which apps they recommended for students. Please touch base with a clinical instructor before pulling out your phone and using it during clinical time. When I asked online if clinical instructors were okay with using phones as a resource, I got a bunch of different responses. They ranged from “absolutely not” to “yes” to “only if we were looking at apps for clinical and patients/family could see” (so in a break room, bathroom, med room, etc.). The take home message: don’t use your phone in clinicals unless told that it’s okay.
Here is a list! They are free unless otherwise noted.
- ScrubCheats App – a free app by the NRSNG team designed specifically to be used at nursing school clinicals containing relevant quick reference material
- Medscape – a free medical app with tons of information about varying disease processes, drugs, etc.
- Figure 1 – a free app of medical cases for health care professionals. This one is fun to flip through randomly to see interesting cases and read physicians, nurses, and students chatting about what they think is going on and potential treatment courses.
- Micromedex – there is a free version and a $2.99 version. I love this one. My hospital actually has it within our electronic medical record so I can access it within their med list, so I rarely use the app. The information is awesome though. I use this most frequently to quickly look up indications or IV compatibility.
- Nursing Central – a free app with drugs, definitions, diagnoses, and test info.
- Nurse Grid – a free calendar app that helps you schedule your shifts. (You’ll quickly learn that regular calendars aren’t ideal for shift work.. especially night shift)
- RN Crush – a free NCLEX® review app from the NRSNG team
- David Drug Guide – multiple options from free – $39.99 of a comprehensive drug guid
- Epocrates – a free medical app that has a ton of great information
- Fast Facts for Critical Care – a $30 app that’s the phone version of the widely used hardcover version (Fast Facts for Critical Care by Kathy White)
- LabGear – a $2.99 app that describes various labs in depth (OMG YESSSSS)
- MedPulse – a free app that is the news portion of Medscape
- SmartFOAM – a free app that is Free Open Access to Medical Education
- iTriage – a free symptom checker
- iStethoscope Expert – a free app that allows you to hear heart, bowel, and lung sounds
As someone working their way to becoming a nurse, I just want to say WELCOME to the nursing community. I want to encourage you to connect with others walking through the same journey and find people who are where you want to be and connect with them as well. It can be incredibly encouraging when you’re having a rough time. It can also be really educating as well! You can do this in so many ways. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, professional nursing organizations, student nursing organizations, volunteering, etc.
I want to conclude by saying welcome to the team. Getting into nursing school is no easy task, so congratulations! Nursing school is going to challenge you mentally, physically, and emotionally but in the end, it will be worth it. Something I want you to remember is that while in school you’re learning about disease processes, care plans, procedures, delegation, prioritization… but at the end of the day, you’re taking care of people. When you are so focused on learning that other stuff it can be easy to get distracted and forget that those are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles all sitting in those hospital beds.
They’re sad, scared, nervous, in pain, nauseated, frustrated, fed up, exhausted, and ready to go home yesterday. Don’t forget to also learn how to feel with patients.
How to be present.
How to empathize with whatever they’re feeling.
At the end of the day, they may forget your name. They may never know you caught that med that should never have been ordered or that lab value that was out of range. They won’t know you skipped lunch to help them get their bed bath done. They may forget that you brought their pain pill right on time.
But they will remember that you made them feel safe. Their loved ones will remember that out of all of the other nurses, they trusted you. They felt so comfortable with you that they finally went home to do a load of laundry and take a shower.
Years later, when recalling the day their dad died.. they won’t be able to picture your face, but they’ll remember how comforted they felt when you gently lifted up his head and turned over his pillow so he’d feel the cool side – even though you knew he was brain dead. They’ll remember how they felt when you grabbed them some of the good tissues from the nurses station, stood next to them over looking their now deceased father and gave them a slow, reassuring “I’m really sorry” pat on their back.
Because that’s what being a nurse is. Throughout school, you’ll learn about ventilators, arterial lines, contractility, renal failure, and deep venous thrombosis prevention.
But that’s only half of it.
The other half is learning how to talk to someone who just found out their mom is going to die… how to motivate a patient who has all but given up after fighting breast cancer for 10 years who just found out she has a brain tumor… how to educate a patient with heart failure that doesn’t know how to read.. … how to empower a patient to communicate with his family that he doesn’t want another surgery, he just wants to die..
Because we do both.
In nursing school, don’t forget to also learn about the people behind the diseases because they will teach you more than you ever thought you could learn.
I will look to update this post every so often to make sure it remains current. If there is a resource you find valuable for nursing students, please comment below!
Updated October 25, 2017
Updated April 12, 2018