Several of my friends from work, Deanna, Leanne, Klara and Gina, will start or continue the nursing program this Fall. They are the one’s who inspired this post. I’m so excited for them, and vividly remember the months, weeks and days before I started nursing school. They ask me questions, like “how will I have time for my family or a life while in nursing school?” This was a question I had too, before starting the program. One of the very clear emotions I felt was a slight bit of anxiety, anxiety over wether or not I’d still have time for my family and friends, and maintain somewhat of a life beyond nursing school. Two years have passed, and I not only survived nursing school, but I met some wonderful friends along the way, maintained time with the ones I love, managed a house that was somewhat tidy and clean, worked one day a week, made good grades and had time to see movies, kiss my husband during date nights, and enjoy the holidays. But, I had a plan. I will share with you some of the ways that I made it through nursing school, while maintaining time with my family and enjoying life along the way.
First of all, we’ll start with this old saying by Benjamin Franklin~ If you want something done, give it to a busy person. There is so much truth in this statement. When I was a stay at home mom (for nearly 8 years), I felt as though I had all the time in the world. I would subconsciously say to myself, “I can do that tomorrow”. I had no expectations or deadlines, and I held the thought that I had all the time in the world to get things done. But, when I was suddenly thrust into a tight schedule with due dates and deadlines, I had to come up with a plan. Because time really mattered to me at this point, I got things done….. I had to. I was forced to, and it was a great thing! There was no sense inside of me that I had “all the time in the world” anymore. So, with a good plan and schedule, and the realization of how valuable my time was (like gold), I got things done. If you want something done, give it to a busy person – Benjamin Franklin.
With this thought in mind I decided to become intentional with my time. But, before I could come up with a plan, I decided to let my family and friends know of my intentions. Many of my close family and friends asked how they could help me through nursing school. My response, “please understand when I have to say no. I won’t be available as often as I have been, because my focus will be on school, and my family.” I composed this letter for my friends and family to share with them my new journey and the fact that for the 2 years to come, I may be a little less available. My time would have to be shifted to focus on schoolwork, Doug and the girls.
Then I created a Master Family Schedule with color coding. Every minute of every day was planned out, including and especially time for myself, time with Doug and time with the girls. Scheduling time with family, time for fun, and time for oneself is just as (if not more) important then the school/work related activities.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always follow this schedule to a T, but it was helpful to create this schedule as a guideline. Things come up, and plans change. But, having this was a sort of security blanket for me. It was peace of mind, knowing that I had a plan. And, it’s not like I even looked at it everyday. When you write it out and plan it out, a schedule kinda stays put in your mind. It free’s up the space in your brain that was occupied with the thought of “how will I have time” and makes space for the thoughts like” I have a plan, and I can do this!”. It really is important to have a plan, and just as important to know what you want as well. The plan/schedule is a tangible item, and knowing what you want can be tangible as well, if you write it out. What do I mean by this? Basically, when you write out a list of things you want or “goals”, you stay clear on why you’re doing all of it anyways. For example, my “what I want list” included:
- Make time for myself each week (at least 2-3 hrs) to have fun, read, get a pedicure etc.
- Maintain date nights with Doug every other Friday or Saturday night
- Maintain at least 1 hr of uninterrupted and focused time with the girls each day
- Maintain story time with girls every night
- Make great grades throughout nursing school, and fully understand the content
- Make phone calls to family and friends every other week, to say hello and I love you
- Maintain time to exercise at least 3 times a week
……and the list goes on. This is just an idea of some of the things I stored in my mind, as a way to be clear of what I want in life. It’s easy to lose focus and put all attention on school work when there’s so much to do there, but family and life has it’s place in the schedule too…it must!
Another thing to keep in mind as you plan your own schedule is, never underestimate the power of “chunking” time. There were times in nursing school when I’d look at the huge list of reading that had to be done and think to myself that I’d need to find about 8-10 hours to sit and read it all. That’s not a smart idea for two reasons (1) You brain may not consume or retain material in such a huge amount of time (mine never did)… you need a break, and (2) Who has a chunk of 8 hours in a day to spare, especially those with kids? Don’t underestimate the power of reading or working in as little as 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there, if it’s uninterrupted of course. There will be times in school when you’ll have an hour long break. Eat in 15 minutes, and then study for 45 minutes. It may seem useless, but every little bit of reading and studying you do will chip away at the massive reading list that sits in front of you. I read for an hour during Sara’s dance class every Tuesday, and then another hour at Sophie’s dance class on Fridays. I read for an hour and a half before lecture days, because I didn’t have to be at class til 8 am. I woke up at 5am, was ready to leave by 5:45 am, landed a spot at Starbuck’s down the street by 6am, and studied til 7:30 am when it was time to head to class. I did it with a cappuccino too. This was my routine at least 2 mornings of the week, and it was some of my most valuable time I had for learning. If you can’t get to Starbuck’s then sit in a quiet designated spot at home with your coffee, and study while your loved ones sleep. Yes, sitting at your desk with large quantities of time ahead of you, a silent home, jazz music playing in the background and a glass of wine would be ideal and awesome, and sometimes it’s easy to want to wait for the ideal time, but that’s not practical. Just start reading, even if you only have a chunk of 30 minutes here or 45 minutes there.
Whenever I spent time studying, if I didn’t understand the material, I’d watch videos. I found this amazing website called Khan Academy that helped me SO much in nursing school. I loved watching the videos on this site, and it helped me a great deal with pathophysiology.
Another tool I used through nursing school was the recorder on my phone. I recorded every lecture, and then when I was at home cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, or folding laundry, I’d pop my headphones in and re-listen to lecture as a way to study. Clean and study, that’s a way to save time in your busy schedule multi-tasker! To re-listen to lecture after reading is very beneficial too because it seals it all in. What you didn’t get in lecture will become clear after you’ve read.
Nursing school is busy. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do! But, many have done it before you, and some of them with bigger schedules, like my friend who was a single mother of 4 and worked full time while going through nursing school. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you think you’re busy, I promise you, someone else is busier. Which brings me to this next quote:
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Anything is possible.
Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, stop and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Imagine yourself walking across the stage at your pinning ceremony, and the feeling you’ll feel when you have completed your nursing degree, as the ones you love and adore cheer you on. I will never forget the amazing feeling I had when Doug, my girls, my parents, grandparents, sisters, cousin and Godmother embraced me at the end of the ceremony. I was overwhelmed with congrats, love and flowers, and it was the most amazing experience ever! I had accomplished a lifelong goal!! Read about that here . Better then that, imagine yourself caring for others, in their most vulnerable and scary moments. You’ll be the person who hold’s the patients hand when they’re crying or scared. You’ll nurse the patient back to health. You’ll be the one who advocates for the patient. You’ll be the support for the family who has to make a very hard decision. You’ll be the one to share in the excitement of a new baby, as you hand the child to the first time mommy or daddy. You’ll be the one to watch the motorcycle victim walk for the first time in 3 months, knowing you helped in his/her recovery. You’ll be the one who helps the sick get well. You’ll be the one who gets to assist the surgeon as he/she opens a chest in the OR, and you’ll be the one to watch the magic of the heart beat and the lungs inflate. You’ll be the one that all of the hospital staff will turn to in regards to anything pertaining to the patient in your care. You’ll be the one who’s handed a thank you card from the parents of the little girl you saved, all because you had a hunch that something wasn’t right, and the course of action needed to be changed. You’ll get to experience and do so much as a nurse, things you can’t comprehend right now. That’s amazing, and those thoughts are what helped me get through nursing school. I’m so proud to be a nurse, and I can’t wait til my friends who are nursing students now, get to carry the same title I so proudly carry. It’s so rewarding, and so worth it. So proud and excited for my nursing school friends. Y’all are going to rock this, and if you need help along the way, call me : )
Lorena Webber RN