Hack Nursing school: 9 Tips from my BSN degree experience
Last updated on July 30th, 2017 at 10:37 pmHow did you hack nursing school?This is a question I’ve encountered many times over the years given that I belong to the cohort of Kenya’s first 500 Bsn Degree holders in Kenya. Trust me this won’t be another sorry “back in our days” story.
When one receives a letter to join a nursing school , it’s a big deal. In Kenya an individual belongs to the community. Your community will be part of your journey to nursing school. Prayers will be held. Ceremonies are abound. Most annoyingly, advice will be thrown your way from all and sundry.
Believe it or not, that same advice you received whilst on your way to high school will be recycled and regurgitated. Never mind that this is Bsn Degree not K.C.S.E certificate. University and not high school. A different ball game. Primarily because in the pursuit of higher education, besides yourself, no one really gives a damn if you get your Bsc in nursing degree.
Personal responsibilityMy assessment of who cares might be harsh, but you go figure. You go through the gates of Nursing School alone. Gnash, get chewed and regurgitated by the rigors of the system alone. Yet, when you are done, they will be there to party. Such is life. Why am I harping on this? So as to crystallize the only thing you need to know about hacking nursing school: It’s your responsibility! Internalize that.
Granted, your parents, guardians and community will go an extra mile to see to it that you have a soft landing in the university. For my case, this was the first time I came into contact with an executive suitcase. The type with wheels and made of material not metal. Inside, I had two pairs of skirts, there t-shirts , a sweater and my underwear. All my earthly possessions. I missed my metallic box from high school. Stepping in through the gates of nursing school, I felt new.
Stepping out four and a half years later, I had been beaten to pulp. Exhausted. No longer the blue-eyed girl from Musakasa. Burdened by the wisdom & knowledge accrued. I had made it. With just enough left to tackle the rigors of looking for a nursing job. In a way, I was a freshman all over again. But this time I knew stuff.
Weather you are pursuing an accelerated nursing program, upgrading from RN to Bsc in nursing or fresh from high school, its my hope that these tit bits will be of help as you seek to graduate from your nursing program.
1. Don’t date in 1st year 1st semester
If you are already in a relationship,get tested, do Prep and condoms, then enjoy that man or woman. For those still searching, there is a reason for the pseudo name: University freshmen. Things is, you actually feel new. There is this air that you are the most brilliant human on the planet that engulfs you. Then almost every guy in sight will be hitting on you. Every girl you hit on will giggle at your awkwardness. At every turn, there will be guys in pairs huddled up in dark lonely paths. If you are a village girl me, all this might confuse you.
Partly because there is no worrying over the village gossip lurking somewhere in the bush waiting to tell on you. Mostly because you’ll keep wondering: “Did I just grow beautiful/handsome overnight?” By then, all those lectures and prayers by family and friends will have faded in the manner of your once deep knowledge on, photosynthesis, Timbuktu and Mesopotamia.
Don`t be cheated. Nobody grows beautiful overnight. You are a deer in the headlights. Take your time. If only to sample what’s on offer. Kukula na macho they say. Dealing with an ex is time-wasting. Do not be part of the gold rush madness.
2. Satisfy nursing school examiners
The only way to graduate from nursing school in time is to satisfy examiners. Not how brilliant you are like it was the case in high school ( in any case undergraduate programs shun individualism favoring collective effort). You will not build a nursing career alone. So strive first to be part of the normal flora before finding your niche within the tribe.
The way to do this is to know by heart your nursing school requirements towards being awarded with a Bsn Degree. There will be requirements on lecture hours, C.A.Ts and exams. Passing nursing school starts with your instructor knowing your name or at the very least recognizing your outrageous hair do or Rastafarian fashion sense.
In universities in Europe and the America’s grading starts with participation in lectures. The lecturer even reads out the grades of each one of you at the end of the lecture. A model that I’d love for Kenyan universities to experiment with. Some faculty members make their exams entirely from the lectures they give in class. Others base theirs on take away assignments.
I remember this lecturer who’d stop for effect whenever he wanted to instruct on an important point. Believe it not. All his exams came from these moments of paused for effect.Spoke. Then repeated for emphasis. You can imagine how hard it was passing his unit if you missed his lectures. Drop that high school thing of locking yourself up in the library.
3. Join a discussion group
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree is an academic degree, meaning that at every step there is stuff that you ‘ought to know’ and stuff you ‘have to know’. Discussion groups help with the latter. During discussions, you get the chance to spur against classmates. Here, you gauge how much you’ve mastered the absolute minimum i.e ‘have to know’.
Let’s face it , from nursing theory to nursing process and general science topics adapted to nursing practice, the Bsc in Nursing curriculum is wide. One way of telling the competencies of a faculty member are the pass rate of his/her class. One way of telling the competencies of a nursing student are the grades they score.
In the first scenario, we are able to tell the instruction skills of the nursing school tutor by testing students on the ‘have to know’ concepts as spelt out in course curriculum. For students, a pass is achieved by satisfactorily answering when quizzed on the ‘have to know’ aspects.
Getting it right with your discussion group in nursing school
A discussion group equips you with the ‘have to know’. Meaning, with the right group, your chances of failing nursing examinations decrease. On the contrary, private feet-in-cold-water-bucket-dead-in-the-night studies get you the ‘ought to know’ knowledge. Fringe know-how that is good to know, not necessary, but increase the chances of a credit or distinction. However, one can easily end up in a kufa mkanga, kufa dereva situation.
Choose 2-8 diligent people to be part of your study group. Nursing students who’ve cut a niche in certain aspects. Like those with strong clinical competency in your discussion group. Remember, medicine is an art and a science.
As a rule, be a member of a discussion group whose membership will leave your friends wondering: “What the hell do you doing with those guys? ” There is this guy ahead of me in nursing school whom I’ve never forgotten. He was party-animal-in-chief but was member of this discussion group that drew membership from the university chorale. Needless to say, he passed without having a retake.
4. Spend time in hospital wards sharpening your clinical acumen
One way of telling the quality of Bsn Degree is to weigh the nursing school’s arrangements on clinical teaching. Most accredited Nursing schools have an intimate the relationship with a hospital. In the same vein, the more intimate you are as a student with the wards, the more refined you get.
I urge nursing students who I mentor to take this approach: See one, assist in one and do one; for all the procedures in their nursing school log books. Other units like midwifery require more. However uncomfortable it maybe undertaking some nursing procedures, the more you place yourself in those situations, the more you give yourself a chance to beat your anxieties.
Think of it as flooding therapy technique used in psychotherapy. Motivate yourself by breaking the goal into small tasks. At times all it takes is dragging your lazy bum to the wards. If this doesn’t help please do realize that spending time in the wards provides a chance at meeting prospective mentors, referees and connectors to nursing jobs that you can do whilst still a student.
While on the wards take time to build lifetime habits like time keeping, patient counseling, communication etc. You will get better at these soft skills with time. They will help you be a better nurse.
5. MnemonicsDo you remember how we used the phrase “Richard Of York Gave Birth In Vain” to remember rainbow colors? Nursing school requires you to remember tons of information within a short time span. Make use of mnemonics as much as you can. Make them even using your native language. A simple one that I still use as a nurse practitioner is:
It is from the Swahili word Mimi (me). Mnemonics gets you going whenever you meet a case that gets you stumped. Some nursing school concepts can unexpectedly sound strange at first. Some are understandably complex. As a result, as a student of nursing, at times all that is required is for you to list some concepts in order to pass your nursing examinations.
Most of the time, the overload comes from ‘have to know’ information. Like the 206 Latin names of bones of the body and supporting structures like nerves, veins and artery. ( A simple mnemonic to remember the anatomical arrangement of the supporting structures is VAN – vein, artery, nerve – moving medially to laterally).
Pinetrest appears to be the home of nursing mnemonics on social media. There are tons of Facebook pages and groups, YouTube videos and twitter profiles. Other places to find them include:
6. Pay attention to detailStudying for a nursing degree program is an exercise in being mindful of the details. Details make an excellent nurse. Like noticing changes in a patients vitals following transfusion. One area I implore up and coming nurses to mind are the unique side effects of drugs.
Why? because these are things a nurse can readily remedy . They are likely to encompass the majority of your nursing practice. Essentially, a nurse is the surveillance system of the war on disease. When you are at war, your camp can only be overrun once your surveillance is blindsided. Similarly, healing cannot take place in the setting of poor nursing services. In fact, the outcomes of a hospital are dependent on the quality of nursing.
As a student of nursing though, minding some of these unique details like the vitamin B6 deficiency occasioned by Isoniazid use in TB treatment. Or the caution of use of over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the third trimester of pregnancy over concerns of early closure of the patent ductus arterious. Such gems might rescue you from a fail in a viva exam and even catapult you to a credit.
7. Hustle hard!This is one area am sure, I’ll depart from the tired advice you were flooded with. Nursing school isn’t just to make you a nurse. It is an opportunity to grow and flourish in a protected environment as close to life as possible.
As you have seen with your parents, whoever, there is nothing like blind fidelity to a profession. Some farm, teach while others are SACCO warriors and even drive Uber during their night offs. It is not a Kenyan thing, nor a nursing thing, but rather a phenomenon of the times where several skills are necessary to make a descent living.
I have had classmates who sold sweets and airtime to supplement their income. There were also mini boutiques owned by students of nursing selling second-hand braziers. On my part, I sold clean gloves in the Anatomy and Physiology classes.
When you can, purchase resources from your seniors for resale and to save a buck. Be a master of timing knowing when seniors are about to graduate or when guys are broke as HELB loans thin out. During these lean times many wish to dispose of stuff like TVs, utensils, iron boxes and used text books at a good bargain. I still use the iron box that my husband bought for a paltry 200 bob from a departing senior keen to shore up his party fund.
Most colleges offering nursing programs have student organizations like Young Christian Society, Christian Union, Mulembe students association, Abagusi medical students association etc. Join all associations of your interest or otherwise. Run for office even. University student leaders get a healthy stipend for their trouble.
Besides honing your skills in different areas outside nursing, these student groupings attract the attention of professional bodies like Caritas Nurses. Once done with school, you can seamlessly transit and pursue your goals.
In nursing school, this might mean a few coins here and there as these student organization to help organize medical camps, conferences or campaigns. Besides, you will get chance to travel and meet new people. Share your profits with your mum back in the village when you can. She will pray for you.
8. Past papersGet notes, revision papers, assignments, text books from seniors in nursing school. Use them to make sense of whats expected of you especially when revising for units that despite your best efforts whizzed by and their content remains a rumor. You know what? Once done you are done with the past papers you can sell them on to supplement your income.
9. Pooling resourcesWhenever possible try to pool resources. This is a delicate balance. You do not want to get stressed with the nursing school program and your friends. Get a reliable friend to share food and accommodation costs. This will significantly reduce your living expenses.
I’ve heard of heart breaking yet also humorous stories of food-for-work kind of programs. Here university students who somewhat found themselves in a destitute situation with no food, integrated themselves with others in such a way that they got food.
In exchange they did their best to earn their keep by shopping for the food, cooking and cleaning the utensils. In well crafted respect centered arrangements, where people pool resources together, it might be cheaper living in hostels outside colleges that offer nursing programs.