Even before your first semester of nursing school classes start,  you will be OVERWHELMED with the amount of paperwork, which is why I came up with thee easy nursing school paperwork hacks. Use these tips to create a foolproof system for organizing all your documents for easy reference and to help keep your sanity intact. Feel like you’re the only one drowning in paperwork?  Here’s a note I received recently from a reader in St. Louis:

I have a difficult time with organizing my notes, clinical paperwork and secondary resources that I accumulate. Is there a systematic way that you approached organizing your paperwork. Like did you have multiple binders where one was lecture only, another clinical paperwork and then may another with supplemental mnemonic cartoons and miscellaneous information that you obtained from other sources. I’m curious to see how your response on organizing the massive amount of material. Thanks again for your dedicated passion to helping other struggling nursing students. 

Oh yes…been there…done that. If you’ve read my book Nursing School Thrive Guide (thank you!) then you already know the answer to this question and many, many more…if you haven’t, here’s a brief overview of how to organize your nursing school paperwork in a way that makes absolute perfect sense.

Color coding is cool

Each course is going to come with its own syllabus which outlines the basic “rules” and schedule for the class. Print each syllabus out on colored paper and staple all these together. You will refer to this document again and again and again…and by color-coding it, you can quickly tell them apart. My first semester I had six different courses….SIX! Keeping track of what went where, when and why was mind-boggling. So, I color-coded my syllabi, then even went so far as to put a sticker on the spine of each book…for example, my Fundamentals syllabus was blue and my books for that class had a blue sticker on the spine. It was a small step that made my life a lot easier.

One binder to rule them all

Actually, it’s three binders…but the most IMPORTANT binder is your Daily Binder. In this magical, wonderful binder you are going to carry everything for your classwork that you need RIGHT NOW. Not the stuff you studied six weeks ago…the things you are going over NOW, for the upcoming test and the upcoming test ONLY. Have I made that abundantly clear? Ok, good.

In  your Daily Binder, you will have tabbed dividers for each class (if you can color code these,

too…kudos!). To designate each topic within the dividers, I used those page tab things by Post It…the ones you can write on. Once you are finished taking your exam for a particular course…you move all those lecture notes and associated paperwork over to your Mega Binder.

MEGA BINDER is mega awesome

Mega Binder

These little tabbies sure come in handy!

Your Mega Binder is where you store your archive of notes and resources for ALL your classes…and yes, it will become enormous…that’s why it’s called Mega Binder and not Cute Little Dainty Pink Binder with Unicorns and Rainbows. Here’s a goofy video of me talking about Mega Binder….you can see how huge it is! When it comes time to study for finals…all ya gotta do is pull out ol’ Mega and you’re good to go.

And don’t forget clinicals

I kept all my clinical paperwork, careplans and resources in a separate white 2″ binder…white just seemed like a good “hospital” color and it helped me easily differentiate it from my Daily Binder. I also included an insert on the front cover with my name and phone number in case it got left at the hospital somehow…didn’t want to lose that one!

Super important resources

Things like mnemonics, study tables (like this one here) and misc resources usually went into a plastic page protector in my Daily Binder…then moved to Mega Binder as needed.

And, on a personal note

Not sure if you guys like reading about the actual LIFE of a critical care nurse, but in case you do…I may start adding little updates here and there. When I read a blog, I like to get to know the person writing it, so I thought I’d return the favor.

I am SO EXCITED to announce that I am off night shifts (hopefully forever…we’ll see!). I was working part-time NOCs in a Trauma/Neuro ICU and needed to convert myself over to full-time…and there was just NO WAY I could survive working nights full-time. So…I am heading back to MICU with the added bonus of also working in CICU as the need arises. And on day shift! My last night shift was last night…I have been honored to work with such a great group of fun, smart and helpful nurses…I’ll miss their faces and hilarious sense of humor!

Here at home, we’re getting our downstairs wood floors redone, which means we can’t access the stairway to the upper part of our house…so basically, my husband and I are moving into the one room without wood floors…the den. It’s gonna be crowded, but I can’t wait to get the floors done! I don’t think it will affect my blogging/podcasting schedule though…so no worries! I am setting up an “office” down in the den (along with a bedroom, a “kitchen” and a closet). Did I say it’s going to be crowded? Oh boy.

Got a great paperwork hack to share? Let us know in the comments below!


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Get a handle on all that nursing school paperwork with these simple hacks that WORK!