How to Get Ready and Out the Door for Clinical Mornings in 30 Minutes or Less

Only one thing sucks more than having to get up at 5:30am for clinicals: Having to get up at 4am for clinicals. Here’s how I’ve trimmed down my morning routine to get me from just-waking-up to out-the-door in just under 30 minutes.

1. Shower the Night Before

In my experience, I end up showering as soon after clinical as possible anyways, so showering the night before makes sense. Don’t have time for a shower? Rub in some dry shampoo the night before or morning-of for a quick fix. Fellows, if you can get away with shaving the night before, it will save you the extra minutes in the morning.

2. Pre-Set EVERYTHING

  • Clinical Materials: I pack my clinical go-bag the night before with all the essentials: Paperwork, stethoscope, pen lights, pens, pencils, ID badge, lotion, lip balm, books to study during downtime, money for lunch (alternatively Pre-pack your lunch and leave your lunchbox in the fridge overnight for easy grab-and-go). . . the list goes on and on to include basically everything I think I’ll need. Nothing gets forgotten, and no last-minute hassles searching for that one important item.
  • Breakfast: My pack of instant oatmeal is sitting in the bowl, with the spoon, next to my travel mug, with a K-cup pre-set and ready to go. The percentage of mornings I eat breakfast before clinical has significantly improved since I implemented this strategy! No need to try for anything fancy–cereal, instant oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit are fast, easy options that will keep you going. Also, taking your drink on the run saves more time and will help keep you awake for the early morning drive.
  • Outfit: I make sure my scrubs are washed and pressed the night before (yes, I do indeed iron my scrubs if needed. Professional appearance is important). Then I lay out my scrubs, any undergarments/undershirts, socks, and nursing shoes, plus a jacket/hoodie/lab coat if I think I’ll need that. No more fumbling around my closet in the dark!
  • Hair/Beauty: Make sure any supplies you will need in the morning in the way of hair supplies, makeup, deodorant, etc are within easy reach on your vanity.

All this pre-setting takes me about 30 minutes the night before (less if I can get away with not ironing my scrubs), and the time and stress it saves the next morning is so worth it! As you get into the routine of packing and pre-setting, it will take you less and less time.

3. Set 2-3 alarms

I set my first alarm for 5 minutes before I want to wake up, my second at the exact time I want to be up, and the last 5 minutes after I should have woken up. I also set the third alarm on a separate (more annoying) alarm clock across the room from my bed. When the first alarm goes off, I have the option of five more minutes of rest, or to get up and have the extra time in my morning. Then I have the third alarm to catch myself if I have slept through the first two or if the first alarm clock malfunctioned, and I’ll only have lost 5 minutes.

4. Routine, routine, routine

Develop an order of doing things, and then always do them in that order. Pretty soon you’ll be doing things automatically, so you can operate on auto-pilot while you’re still waking up.

5. A note on hair and makeup

Although I’m a huge fan of doing the least amount of things in the least amount of time in the morning, I still like to look nice, tidy, and professional. So ladies, this tip is for you. Quickest and best way I have found to look like I put in a little effort in the morning:

  • Quick freshen up: Just a quick once-over with a wet washcloth will help you feel more awake and alive.
  • Hair: Simple ponytail or nice, tidy(ish) bun works well. Spray fly-aways out of your face by spraying onto your hand, then smoothing over the top of your hair–this avoids the “I totally doused myself in hairspray this morning” look.
  • Mascara: Even if I’m running short on time, I try to do a quick once-over with mascara. The extra pop to the eyelashes can really help you look more awake and alert.
  • Eyeliner: I like to keep it simple and conservative, with just the waterlines of the eye (top and bottom) and a moderate line just above the eyelashes. Simple, easy, and just a little definition that says you put in an effort to look your best today.
  • I typically skip foundation and eyeshadow as I’ve found they don’t produce results worth the time involved, and they usually leave my face feeling grimy after an 8 hour clinical day anyhow.

Even implementing just a few of these tips could have you well on your way to shaving time off your morning routine and able to wake up later while getting to clinicals on-time and stress-free.

Playing the Student Card

Is there a type of nursing you’ve always wanted to learn more about, but haven’t had clinical experience with? Is there a certain advanced nursing specialty you’re considering pursuing? Just looking for a way to keep gaining experience over the summer without working as a nurse’s aide? Make the best of your upcoming summer off and play the student card!

Use your connections!

We all have that friend or family member who is a nurse. Reach out to the nurses in your life and ask if you can shadow them or another nurse they know on the job. I reached out to just one nurse and suddenly had a laundry list of contacts, ER to case management to practitioners and more.

Professors and clinical instructors make great contacts as well. Many of them have hospital jobs as well, especially part-time faculty. Ask if you can shadow them, or if they can put you in touch with a few nurses that you could observe for a day.

Make new connections

Reach out to specialty centers in your area–burn and trauma centers, life flight, home health and hospice care, etc. Often, specialty centers are receptive to having students come in for observation. Simply write a nicely worded email or put in a call to the administrative office explaining that you are a nursing student interested in any observation opportunities that may be available. You will be surprised at how many yeses you can get, and if you are turned down you have lost nothing. You literally have nothing to lose and so much experience to gain!

In summation: Don’t be afraid to reach out to the nurses you know in your personal life, instructors, and specialty nursing centers in your area. You can learn so much though observation and getting the opportunity to talk with nurses employed in many different areas of the profession.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight? No, I’d Rather Be Sleeping. . . (How NOT to Neglect Your Lover in Nursing School)

So many times we get caught up in this assignment, that test to next week, these clinicals to get to, the study session with the girls tomorrow night. . . add in the possibility of jobs, housekeeping, and kids, and in the hustle and bustle of it all, we often forget or neglect our significant others. Or if we don’t, we seem to value quality time with our bed more than our honeys.

However, our spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends can often be our greatest source of support and encouragement. We can’t let them down! What are some strategies to enjoy each other even with our busy nursing student schedules?

1. Scheduled date-nights

Make a habit of making dates with your lover, and not to blow them off either. Scheduling a few hours once a week or every other week, or even once a month, to focus only on each other will help you to reconnect. You can make your date night out or in–the important thing is to put the other stuff aside and focus on being together.

Holding Hands

2. Mutual study/work sessions

My boyfriend and I have used this one many times. If you’re both in college, or if your sweetie has some work-related business to attend to from home, work together! It doesn’t matter if he/she is in nursing too. I highly recommend going out to a coffee shop together to work. Have your S.O. quiz you on some NCLEX questions, and in return offer to proofread their essay. Take turns explaining concepts from your classes to each other. They can be a great asset to and champion of your learning!

3. Doing and appreciating the small things

The biggest problem I’ve seen in nursing school relationships is that the nursing student side of the relationship stops giving, while expecting to be given more. Who hasn’t heard after a long clinical day, “I can’t wait to get home and crash on the couch, and make the hubby take care of the house and kids!” While it’s totally okay for your better half to pick up some of your to-dos when your plate is full from nursing, remember the importance of you doing little things too–taking his car through the car wash, making dinner for her one night. . . And by all means, don’t forget to show appreciation for all the extra help you’re getting from your S.O.!

To sum things up, it’s important to remember our partners, even during the demanding course of nursing school. They’re often our biggest supporters, and we owe it to them not to neglect our relationships. If you make an effort to spend time with your lover, and remember to continue contributing to the relationship and appreciating your honey, you’re well on your way to maintaining a happy relationship even among all the stressors nursing school throws at you.

How to Succeed in Nursing School Without Really Trying

Okay, so maybe “without really trying” is a bit of a stretch. But there are some strategies to make your time in nursing school so much easier. Here’s my top 5 tips for nursing school success.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Learn early what’s important and what’s not. Clean house? Nice, but not a priority. Keep a planner of your schedule, school and otherwise. Then, stop sweating your schedule. Learn to say no to commitments that aren’t important to you. Prioritize what you need to do and what you most want to do, and don’t tie yourself down for anything else. You’ll thank yourself later for not having every second of every day booked.

2. Study Early, Study Often

For my last exam, I began studying for the test almost as soon as the material was assigned. The test was Valentine’s weekend, so I studied rigorously in the two weeks leading up to the weekend in an attempt to lighten my study load for the holiday. I spent Fri-Sun enjoying time with my boyfriend, only studying for a few hours over three days. Went in Monday morning and got a 94 on the exam.

The takeaway: Begin studying and doing practice problems as soon as you begin to gain an understanding of the material, and try to have a more relaxed day before your test.

Also, reading the book is great (highly recommend), but be sure to focus on going over practice NCLEX-style questions with rationales as soon as you begin to understand the material. This is what will teach you to apply your knowledge, and also the best strategy to practice for your exam.

3. Befriend Your Fellow Students

Your fellow students are going to be the one’s loaning you a pen light for your clinical head-to-toe when you forgot yours at home and helping you bathe a 300-lb bed-bound patient, not to mention these are the people you are going to be around 3-5 days a week for the next two years. You can learn a lot by teaching and learning from each other. Each of you has a particular set of skills, past experiences, and strengths. Play off these and recognize the value of each of your fellow students.

4. Distance Yourself from Your Fellow Students (Remember Your Non-Nursing School Friends)

Take a clinical group of 8 students, mix well 4-8 hours a day, 3-5 days a week, for 5 months straight (and this is assuming you don’t join a study group, participate in the Student Nurse’s Association, or go out for drinks on the weekends). After a while, no matter how great the group, people are really going to get on your nerves. Don’t be afraid to get away!

It bothers me when people say “only other nursing students understand what I’m going through.” Sure, other friends/family might not know exactly what it’s like to watch a patient stop breathing, or the five different types of wound dressings and their specific uses. But I’ve found that most people can understand that taking care of difficult or dying patients is stressful, or that juggling reading 6 chapters in one week, preparing clinical paperwork, and a part-time job all at the same time drains you. Plus, these are the people that best understand you. Your non-nursing friends/family miss you and want to support you. Take the chance to go out with them instead of your nursing school friends. Vent about nursing school, or forget about it all and catch up on life outside the nursing school bubble.

5. Find Your Effective Coping Strategy

Nursing students tend to smoke, drink, and bitch their way through the stress. But who ever said the strategies we teach our patients can’t be applied to ourselves? Find what helps you de-stress, and schedule time for that. Just make sure it’s good for you!

For me, it’s baking. I love to bake. Almost every Friday–when I’m off from both class and work–I devote a few hours to trying out a new recipe. Flurrying around the kitchen focuses me on the immediate task. Baking is a sensual experience of tactile sensations and wonderful aromas, and going through the motions of baking from scratch simultaneously heightens and calms me. Not to mention the delicious tastes and sense of accomplishment when you’re done! Baking leaves me feeling refreshed to study… my scrumptious treat in hand of course!

What is your effective coping strategy? Reading, jogging, yoga, music, gardening, playing with a pet. . . the possibilities are seemingly endless! The important thing is to make time for something (completely non-nursing!) that you love.  Focusing on something other than nursing once in a while will keep you big-picture focused (see: #1) and dramatically reduce your stress level.

Why I Choose Not to Gossip

“Did you hear what she said to her?”

“I can’t stand her, she’s so bratty.”

“I know, right? I’d never say something like that b–“

And here I’d thought we left the majority of cliques and drama behind after high school. But I guess if you’re in a group with seven other girls that see each other on an almost-daily basis, as my clinical group is this semester, everyone’s bound to get on everyone else’s nerves at some point.

So, why not join in?

1. It’s Unprofessional

Professors, other nurses, and your student colleagues are all watching you and passing judgement on what kind of a nurse you will be. Do you want to be seen as the nurse that talks down other members of the healthcare team when their backs are turned? (And when you could be doing any number of other, more productive things, like actually attending to your patient).

2. Future Colleagues

What happens when that one girl that did that one thing that one time that made you not be able to stand her ends up working with you after graduation? Isn’t it better to try to forge good working relationships, or at least tolerance, with those around you? And even if you don’t end up working together someday, you’re definitely going to work with someone like her at some point. Better to learn now how to deal with it and get along than to let that person or mannerism you can’t stand grind away at your emotions day after day.

3. The Receiving End

Chances are, we’ve all been at the receiving end of gossip at one point, and even if it doesn’t affect you emotionally, I think we can all agree it’s just not nice. And haven’t we all been a jerk at some point, or said something that seemed out of line, or not had the patience to take the time to help someone else?

 

I’m not saying I don’t go home and rant to my boyfriend, best friend, mom, etc about what so and so said or how so and so acted today. And if a nurse’s attitude gets in the way of my clinical experience, or a student says something really out of turn, I will take the issue to the appropriate personnel. But gossip on the clinical floor is inappropriate, and I will be keeping myself as far from demeaning chatter as I can this semester.