It’s here! The Nursing School Thrive Guide!!

I finally finished my e-book, The Nursing School Thrive Guide! It is chock-full of tips, advice and strategies for nursing students to help you not just survive nursing school, but THRIVE! You can see more by visiting Amazon…spread the word! Let’s make every nursing student an AWESOME nursing student :-)

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A sneak peak at a planner just for nursing students!

Though I love love love my Erin Condren Life Planner, I couldn’t help myself and had to design something specifically designed for nursing students. I hope to soon have these available as printable PDF for you to use in a disc-bound system such as ARC or any other half-size planner system. So, I thought I’d put up a sneak peak and see what ya’ll think. It’s still a work-in-progress, but I am really liking how colorful and functional it is so far.

This first pic is the right side of the weekly spread. You fill in the upper right pink box with the month, then fill in the circles with the dates. I considered doing a dated version, and may still do that…pondering.


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This next shot is of the left side of the weekly spread. Here’s where you keep your lists of “to-do” items for that week, separated by home and school. In addition, there’s a while list just for assignments due…there are lots of these in nursing school! In the middle you see a bunch of colored boxes…the blue boxes are for tracking water, the green are for your fruits/veggies, and orange is for your daily exercise/meditation/prayer/social time…whatever keeps you grounded in your spirit.

Left-side of weekly spread.

Left-side of weekly spread.


And this last one shows the Project Pages…you will do a TON of group projects in nursing school…a ton! This is a handy place to plan out your project, assign tasks and sketch out ideas. Fun!
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I am also toying with the idea of doing a dated version with little tid-bits throughout that related to nursing school stuff…you can see what I mean here with this example of a full-size dated version. Sorry if it’s tiny, maybe if you click on it it gets bigger?

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So, let me know what you think! I am contemplating a full-size version as well, along with doing dated versions starting with August (which is coming up fast!). Ideas? Thoughts?

Be safe out there!

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Commonly used abbreviations

When I started nursing school, I remember having to puzzle over the myriad abbreviations used both in lecture and in clinical. As a nurse who still uses PAPER CHARTING, I also highly value the use of abbreviations provided they are standardized and approved (this will vary by organization, so always double check if you aren’t sure.) For example, I wouldn’t use “thx” to denote “therapy” in my charting, but would certainly use it on my report sheet. On the other hand, using a “c” with a line over it is a perfectly acceptable way to write “with”… a word you use more than you think!

Some of these abbreviations are things you’ll see in doctor’s notes, your lecturer’s notes or even on doctor’s orders (especially the weird old-school style of writing out 1 and 2 with the little dots). Hopefully this list of commonly used medical abbreviations will help you understand what’s what right off the bat!

Write notes like a rockstar!

Write notes like a rockstar!

And here it is as a PDF if you want to download it, print it, snuggle it and love it: Abbreviations List.

Be safe out there!


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Which kind of nurse are you?

There are two kinds of nurses…those who do the least amount possible and those who do as much as they can for their patients. You’ll recognize the two types pretty quickly.

The former spend most of their shift at the nurse’s station, complain when they have to get up and do actual patient care, leave their rooms a mess, leave their patients a mess and have piles of unorganized paperwork cluttering up their work area. When they give report, you’ll hear a lot of excuses about how busy they were and notice that several of  your patient’s needs were not addressed (because that would entail more work.)

The latter spend most of their time in their patient’s rooms, leave their patients clean, ensure their rooms are tidy and keep their paperwork organized. When they give report, they’ll talk about what actually GOT done and make solid recommendations for what the patient’s ongoing needs are. The choice you have is which kind of nurse you want to be…and if you’re reading this it’s because you want to be the best nurse you possibly can…good for you!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into my patient’s room in the morning and found a mess. Discarded alcohol swabs and end caps on the floor, a cluttered bedside table, overflowing garbage bins, filthy suction tubing, crusty Yankauers, dinner trays that have been sitting there all night, half empty water cups, empty juice containers, full sharps containers, lines a tangled (and unlabeled) mess, linens on every available surface and a plethora of supplies stacked here and there. Not to mention the paperwork that’s just piled haphazardly in the nurse’s work area, rather than filed away neatly in the bedside binder. Sound like any rooms you’ve seen lately?

Leaving your work space an absolute disaster conveys a message, and probably not the one you want to convey. It says that you don’t take pride in your work, don’t care about the comfort or dignity of  your patient and basically that you’re lazy. Granted, there are busy shifts where the shilolah does hit the fan…but that should be the exception and not the rule.

By keeping things tidy, you’re showing respect for your work and respect for your patient who deserves a room free of clutter and overflowing, odorous garbage bins. Granted, a lot of times the clutter is brought in by the family. When this occurs, I always try to designated a “family stuff” area and a “nursing stuff” area….and yes, I will throw out half empty soda bottles that have been sitting there for more than 12 hours, because that’s just gross. If family questions why I am rearranging things, I always say that “an organized room is a safe room” and no one can argue with wanting their family member to be safe! Imagine a room full of clutter and a room organized with the essentials…which nurse do you think is more prepared to react quickly and efficiently?

So how do you fit all this tidying-up into your already busy day? I always try to do a little first thing in the morning, before things get intense. At the very least I’ll label my lines when I’m doing my initial assessment (since verifying lines is part of your assessment, ya’ll). Then, throughout the morning I’ll do a little each time I go in…and if I have time to commit 15 minutes to it, I’ll just take care of it all at once. After that, it’s easy to keep your room clean…you just CYAG (clean as  you go) and voila…the end of your shift arrives and your patient and room like as fresh and tidy as a new admit! Next thing you know, nurses look forward to following you from shift to shift :-)

Oliver says, "I can't bear to see the mess!"

Oliver says, “I can’t bear to see the mess!”

So what about when things DO hit the fan? A code or emergent bedside procedure can leave things in your room an absolute horrific disaster. Take care of the patient first, but if you work in a supportive unit, someone will come by and ask how they can help. If you’ve got patient care handled then don’t be shy asking someone to tidy up the room. When I offer help and the room is a mess, I’ll often go in and tidy things up, label lines, change bloody gowns, file paperwork….you’d be amazed at how much these little things help  your coworkers, so be helpful and don’t be too shy to ask for help when you need it. By doing so,  you promote a culture of organization and helpfulness…I always say, “be the change you want to see in the world!”

So, which kind of nurse are you going to be today?




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Making prioritizing a priority

As students, it is super easy for you to focus on tasks and not see “the big picture.” And no worries, that’s exactly what’s expected of you. But, in order to make the successful transition into new graduate RN you’ll need to start thinking more globally…here’s some tips.

I always advocate new nurses come up with a schedule for the day…my daily schedules as a student were insane…seriously down to 5 minute blocks. As I gained more experience, my schedules became looser and by the time I started working as an RN the schedule listed what I needed to do each hour. These days I go off more of a “to-do” list, but those early days of actually scheduling out my time were invaluable.

With that said, a schedule doesn’t mean you can throw prioritizing out the window…while a schedule will help you with your time management, prioritizing is a dynamic activity that takes place continually throughout your day. And yes, many times, prioritizing means re-thinking your schedule as you go, making adjustments and acting accordingly.

Things to consider as you prioritize throughout your day:
- who is your most critical patient?
- how long will a specific task take?
- what is the most important piece of data you need right now?
- are  you prepared for the unexpected?
- what are your patient’s needs, what will serve them the best?

Who is your most critical patient?
The thing about this question, is that it can change throughout the day. Just because patient A starts off as your sickest patient, doesn’t mean things will stay that way. Maybe patient A will stabilize and patient B will start showing signs of respiratory failure…now, who’s your most critical patient? Understanding that you may need to adjust your focus based on changes in patient condition is imperative to being a good nurse.

How long will a specific task take?
Considering how long a task will take vs other things you need to do will help you keep the most amount of time available for the most important tasks. Let’s say your patient is sitting in the chair and wants to get back to bed…you know it’s going to be a group project and will likely take a while. In the meantime, your other patient is on an insulin gtt and needs a blood sugar taken every hour otherwise they might get more insulin than they need which would be extremely dangerous. It is OK to tell your chair patient, “I need to go take care of one quick thing, then I’ll bring someone to help me get you back to bed.” Not getting bogged down in time-consuming tasks when essential things MUST get done is a key to effective prioritizing.

What is the most important piece of data you need right now?
This will vary depending on what is going on with your patient. Let’s say you have a fresh craniotomy patient and a patient on a vent. Your orders indicate you are to do hourly neuro checks on your crani patient, and your patient on the vent needs a daily blood gas. Considering that neuro changes can occur very quickly, you’d want to conduct your neuro check first…the blood gas, though important, is a daily task and can probably wait the 5 minutes you need to conduct a neuro assessment on your more critical patient. If your patient is on pressors, you want to know their blood pressure at all times…if he’s in renal failure, you’ll be eying his urine output like a hawk. Knowing what key data you need at any given time will help you prioritize what needs to be done/assessed in relation to everything else you have going on.

Are you prepared for the unexpected?
Knowing what potential crisis could occur, can make you keen to what your priorities for the day are and help you be prepared. For example, knowing that your patient presented to the ED in complete heart block and that your other patient is at huge risk for cerebral vasospasm put you in the mindset of being ready for (and assessing appropriately for) any disasters coming your way. I always start my shift with a little “what if”…and a plan for what I can do to prevent it and react to it.

What are your patient’s needs and what will serve them best?
Each patient will need different things based on their pathophysiological process. Knowing what these needs and priorities are will help you keep the most important things at the forefront. For example, let’s say you have a septic patient whose K is 3.3, Mg is 1.8 and has multiple IV meds due at 0900…vanco, potassium, magnesium and a banana bag. You’ve only got one available IV site (your other two sites are being hogged by an insulin gtt and bicarb gtt)…what meds are you going to give first? Remember he’s septic, so you’re going to give the antibiotics first every single time. If his K were 2.6 and he were having ectopy, you’d need to either give it PO or start another line….sometimes prioritizing means doing two things at once. I’ve always said I’d be Super Nurse if only I had three hands ;-)

Oliver loves nurses who make his cat treats a priority.

Oliver loves nurses who make his cat treats a priority.

I hope that helps you get an idea of how to get into the mindset of prioritizing and re-prioritizing continually throughout the shift. Soon it will become second nature!

Be safe out there!

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My ultimate “to-do” list

For the past couple of years I’ve used post-it notes to write out my daily to-do list…but then I bought a laminator and decided to make something reusable and stylish! So, without further ado, here is my new and improved (and reusable) to-do list for the ICU. I’ll use a wet-erase marker and it won’t smudge and will come clean easily at the end of the day. Plus, the chevron pattern is just too darling…if nothing else, it will make me smile in the middle of my 12-hour day :-)

Just because I don't have a creative job, doesn't mean I can't be creative!

Just because I don’t have a creative job, doesn’t mean I can’t be creative!

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Save $10 on the best planner EVER!

This post is mainly for the ladies (sorry guys!) Are  you looking for a beautiful, functional and stylish planner to keep you organized through nursing school? Then I need to introduce you to Erin Condren…she makes fantabulous personalized planners that would have had me drooling in nursing school (well, actually they make me drool now!). I only became acquainted with the Erin Condren Life Planners in this past year or so (before this I was using the UnCalendar which is also great but in a not-as-fancy way), but I am already a huge addict! Here are some pics…let the obsession begin (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

This first pic here is of the monthly spread…the planner comes with some event stickers and I also use washi tape to embellish upcoming events such as vacations and whatnot.


This next pic is a shot of the weekly spread…lots of space for writing appointments and list-making :-)


Here’s a cute little spot on the weekly pages to keep a list of your goals.

And a handy spot at the bottom for meal planning, workouts, etc…


On the monthly pages I write a list of things that are possibly happening that month or that I don’t have firm plans for yet. I also keep track of birthdays!DSCN3347

The planner comes with a bunch of “birthday” stickers…my birthday is my most favorite day!


There are lots of cute little touches throughout.


The back of the planner has a bunch of pages for notes…I make lists here, plan goals, and keep track of projects.




More cute note pages!


Here are some of the stickers that come with it…you can also add customized stickers for things like clinical, exam, project due, etc…


In the back of the planner is a little folder pocket for keeping track of loose papers…this is where I keep extra stickers, copies of my work schedule, misc whatnot type of stuff.


And check this out! A darling zipper pouch that Erin fills up with GOODIES…adorable goodies with your name on them. Love! I also added a bunch of stickers, post-its and whatnot.


You can even add on personalized notepads that you can adhere to the inside back cover.

DSCN3355Here are some of the cute stickers that she includes…intended for slapping on a gift…so darling!


The beautifulness! Choose from a gazillion cover designs, select your colors and add your name!

The beautifulness! Choose from a gazillion cover designs, select your colors and add your name!


And check out the colorful tabs for each month…and the cute little strap to keep it all tidy. I love this planner!



And wait! It gets even better….the brand new life planners were just released today and there are loads of improvements!! You have to just go check it out to see what I’m talking about…you will LOVE it, I promise! You can also go to and search for “Erin Condren Life Planner” to see how other gals are using (and embellishing) their beautiful planners!

Want to save $10? Use this referral code and save $10 on your first order with

Have fun shopping!

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