At-Work Meal Planning for Rotating 12’s

With 12 hours (read as: 13 hours + 2 hours travel time) spent at work on work days, I’ve naturally had to figure out some healthy, easy, affordable meals to pack. For about $30 a week (which for me is roughly the cost of 1 cafeteria meal and drink per day for three shifts) I am able to have a variety of healthy, yummy options to snack throughout my shift.


  • Purchase a couple really nice tupperware containers for packing your lunches. A small investment now will improve your packing experience for years! I picked up a set of Rubbermaid Blox stackable lunch containers at Big Lots for $5 and a segregated salad container at Giant Eagle for $8.

    Stackable, packable lunch containers are the bomb!
  • Focusing on fruits, veggies, and light snacks has really helped me stay alert and oriented throughout my shift without that sluggish “full” feeling of too many carbs.
  • Shop sales and “in season” items. Buy non-perishables (pudding/fruit cups, crackers, etc) in bulk if you find a great price.
  • Buy only as much fruits/veggies as you can reasonably eat before they spoil. I usually try to get a variety of ripe, soon-to-ripen, and not-ripe fruits for the week. I also only buy bagged greens because buying lettuce or spinach in other forms is too much for me to eat in 3 days!
  • I like to shop Big Lots (or other discount stores) for non-perishables, and Walmart for fruit/veggies. These seem to offer me the best deals. Then I’ll sometimes splurge for a trip to Giant Eagle or Trader Joe’s for some variety. Adapt as needed for your local stores, but find out where is the best place to get items you purchase regularly.
  • I will also rotate re-heatable leftovers into my packed meals for the week. I’ll pack just a few healthy snacks to go with the leftovers.
  • Pack the night before (or morning before, for night shift) and put your lunch box in the fridge overnight. Having everything ready to grab and go in the morning ensures you will take your lunch with you and not be tempted to skip the prep and opt for cafeteria food instead.
  • I try to eat healthy, but I will usually pack a treat or two to keep me from spending all my money on cravings at the vending machine. I like buying cookies in snack packs so that I avoid eating too many!
  • I usually just drink water throughout my shift, and I keep a couple K-cups on hand in my locker for those tough night shifts (1am and 3am caffeine keeps you going!).
  • Before my shift I always try to put something in my tummy, even if it’s just some applesauce or yogurt. I also buy juice to have before I leave for work for a little boost of energy and yummyness.

Below are some pictures of meals I actually packed and ate over the last month. Each are from different weeks. You’ll notice I keep some variety by rotating out options from week to week, but there are some similarities between the meals as well.

Turkey, chicken, and cheese sandwich with green peppers, sugar snap peas, and ranch dressing, kiwi, pretzel thins and roasted red pepper hummus, nectarine, and a pudding cup
Mandarin orange fruit cup, pretzels and hummus, trail mix (homemade with sesame rods, dried cranberries, raisins, nut mix, and honey roasted sunflower seeds from Big Lots), peanut butter crackers, goat cheese and mini toasts, and an apple and peanut butter to-go cup (I bring my own apple slicer)
Mango, blueberries, black grapes, pretzels and hummus, baby spring greens mix with grape tomatoes and green peppers salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, kiwi, avocado, cookie snack pack, and bacon cheddar cheese crackers

It is always great to have some munchies I am looking forward to during my workday. I also try to make sure  I always have one or two that I can easily eat on-the-go: If my day gets extra crazy, at least I’ll have something to fight off the hanger!

Enjoy your foodies, fellow nurses!



My New Nursey Life

Dear Readers,

Wow! Been a while since I have checked in to my darling blog. I have since graduated nursing school, passed my NCLEX, and GOTTEN A JOB. Woah! Starting July 11th, I will be orienting to my first job as a critical care RN on a step down unit at a large community hospital.

Coming attractions for my blog include my tips for passing the NCLEX and getting a job, and musings on managing (fumbling through) my first year as an RN.

Yours truly,

-Bolana, RN

Things I Have Actually Learned in Nursing School

In just under two years, I have mastered skills such as taking a manual blood pressure, performing a head-to-toe assessment, administering IM injections, and much more. But the things I will really take away from nursing school weren’t even learned in class. Here are just a few, in no particular order:

  1. How to sleep literally anytime, anyplace – broad daylight, the passenger seat, the bench in the hall at school. . .
  2. How to eat a 6″ sub in under 10 minutes
  3. How to sneak into the patient kitchen for saltines and water without being noticed
  4. That most people in nursing school aren’t worth your time
  5. That a select few people in nursing school will sometimes be all that keeps you sane and are more valuable than even the best Littmann stethoscope
  6. How to prioritize a variety of tasks such as clinical paperwork, studying for exams, completing research papers, showing affection to significant others, and sleeping
  7. Group projects were created to handicap the grades of good students
  8. SIM patients can and will vomit on you
  9. If you’re not early, you’re late
  10. People who are not nurses usually have no idea what nurses do, despite the fact they have probably had a nurse take care of them at least once in their lives
  11. There are opportunities for academic experiences that your program and/or school will not tell you about that you can find and take advantage of
  12. Patients appreciate that, as a student, you have time to attend to their less critical needs, like a warm blanket, having a pleasant conversation, or being able to take your time with total-feeds
  13. Attending four-hour lectures will give you the beginnings of disuse syndrome
  14. Coffee is a necessary ingredient for life as we know it
  15. Some patients have the most interesting tattoos in the most interesting of places

Back-to-School Must-Haves for Nursing Students

Dare I speak the truth: It is almost time for school to start. Now that I’ve admitted the inevitable, it’s time for me to start shopping for those back-to-school essentials. Here’s my top ten items to make sure you have on hand for the coming school year:

1. Planner/Calendar

Without any doubt I would say that the most important supply for any nursing student is some sort of planner or calendar. Hardcopy, pocket-sized, phone or tablet app; it doesn’t matter what kind as long as it works for you. Use it to keep track of class and clinical times, work, life events, due dates. . . Everything.

2. Pens

Be sure to stock up on your favorite pens! Mine happen to be Pilot G2s. I love taking notes with them, and having a pen that feels good in my hand actually makes my handwriting neater, too! But also be sure to stock up on cheap pens that you can loan out to classmates, because chances are you’ll never see that pen again. . .

3. General NCLEX Question Study Book

If you don’t get one when you buy your textbooks, be sure to pick up a fairly current book of NCLEX study questions, preferably broken down by subject matter. Refer to this for extra practice questions throughout your schooling.

4. Good Shoes

Don’t just buy the first reasonably-priced pair of white tennis shoes you come across.
Choosing a shoe with some orthotic support will pay off in the long run. On clinical days when you’ve been on your feet for 7.5 of your 8 hours, your feet, legs, and back will thank you.

5. Hair Supplies

Ladies with long locks, you are going to need to stock up on hair ties and bobby pins! Like, a lifetime supply or so. Hairspray too, to keep those fly-aways back and your buns neat and tidy.

6. Miniature Notebook

The hero of my clinical experience has got to be my pocket-sized notebook. Goodness knows I can’t remember all the critical values I assessed at the bedside when I’m completing gingerbread man worksheets at home hours (or days) later! Vital signs, lab values, assessment notes, procedures you performed, due dates of assignments, and whatever else you might need to remember can be jotted down quickly at any time.

7. Messenger Bag

I’d recommend a bag large enough to carry a textbook or two, and with a sturdy bottom. Use this to carry books, laptop (if desired), stethoscope, and other supplies to and from clinical. Choose a material that can be easily wiped down to make cleaning off hospital germs a breeze.

8. Caddy for Assorted Clinical Essentials

One of the biggest time-savers in my morning is having one small basket by the door with all my clinical essentials–name badge, stethoscope, pens, mini-notebook, bandage scissors, penlight. Long gone are the days of hunting around for something last minute or misplacing items at the bottom of my backpack. I just grab my things on my way out the door and put them in their proper place on my person, and empty my pockets into the basket as soon as I get home. Nothing gets forgotten!

9. Travel Mug

No nurse is complete without their coffee! Save yourself money by making your morning cup at home instead of grabbing something on the way. A nice travel mug you really like will save you money in the long run.

10. Quick and Easy Power Snacks

Stock up on granola bars and other grab-and-go healthy snacks. These are perfect for those 5-minute breaks from lecture or for clinical days when you just can’t make it until lunch. This will save you the money of buying vending machine food, plus healthy alternatives will keep your brain working harder longer!


Summer is finally here! School is out, and it’s time to kick back, relax, and enjoy your time off—as well you should, having spent the last eight months owning it at physical assessment, disease processes, and care plans. But maybe you also want to spend some time making sure you don’t lose all those important skills and critical thinking abilities you worked so hard to acquire. Here are some ways to stay fresh over the summer and be ready to tackle the upcoming semester:

1. Work as a Nurse’s Aide

There are few things as valuable on-the-job experience. Working in a nurse’s aide position as a student nurse will grant you more time at the bedside. You will become more confident talking with patients, gain more experience with basic technical skills, and have the opportunity to observe and talk to nurses on a regular basis. In addition, working as an aide can serve as a foot in the door for when you graduate as a Registered Nurse.

2. Job Shadowing

If working as a nurse’s aide doesn’t fit your schedule, consider job shadowing as an exciting alternative. Simply by asking, you have the opportunity to shadow nurses and other medical professionals in a variety of settings. This allows you to explore employment options for when you graduate, as well as to pick the brains of your fellow nurses.

(For more information about job shadowing, see my article here.)

3. NCLEX Practice Questions

Never underestimate the value of practicing NCLEX questions! Buy yourself a review book, or sign up for a daily NCLEX question to be delivered to your email. Although doing more NCLEX questions is probably the last thing on your mind this summer, doing a few questions every day or even every week will help to keep your mind sharp and to review the concepts you’ve learned over the last year.

4. Continuing Education

Taking a class is a great way to keep your mind working over the summer. There are many free MOOCs (massive open online courses) available on healthcare-related topics. You can take these courses from the comfort of your own home, and some you can work through at your own pace. Furthermore, check out if your local community college offers healthcare-related continuing education or a summer course that could apply toward furthering your degree.

5. Read

Check out your local library for books on nursing history, heartwarming stories of nurses making a difference, and the latest in medical research. Consider subscribing to a nursing magazine or medical journal for monthly or bimonthly articles of interest. And of course, be sure to browse all the coolest nursing blogs! (May I recommend

6. Road Trip!

Why not make the most of your summer vacation by combining vacationing with nursing history? Visit some place in your area or where you plan to vacation that is significant to nursing history or that is celebrating the achievements of nurses.

7. Treat Yourself

Don’t forget the value of taking a mental break. Do something to treat yourself–you’ve earned it! Take a spa day, read that novel that’s been sitting on your shelf, go to a bed and breakfast for the weekend with your significant other, dedicate some time to a hobby you’ve been neglecting. . . take some time for YOU.


It is possible to have a rewarding summer vacation while still not completely neglecting your studious nurse side. Just by choosing a few of these suggestions, you are well on your way to a fun yet educational summer.