Woo! Caribbean Blue!

There obviously isn’t much yet to update on as far as Nursing School goes as I won’t be starting classes until August, but I did get a little bit of a thrill yesterday when my nursing uniforms arrived!! Woo!

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It’s really starting to feel real – my new scrubs are a tangible item that makes me feel like the summer will just fly by and I’ll finally be in Nursing School in no time!

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Pre-Orientated to the Program

The nursing classes haven’t started yet for me, but it’s all starting to get moving – little by little. We had a basic pre-orientation type day last week in which we registered for our classes, met some of the nursing instructors, and got an overview of the program.

It was exciting – it felt as though I had finally made it into nursing school. Well, I mean it was exciting when I got accepted in to the program officially back in early January too, but this made it feel more real.

After all, I had made it into a few nursing programs back in 2012 when I had initially intended to start in autumn of that year before finding myself preparing to move overseas and having to decline all of my spots.

Looking back, while I am frustrated to an extent that I am not an RN right now, with my BSN already; like one of my besties, Erica, who I would have been going through nursing school with back in 2012-2014, I am also realizing that perhaps it is better timing for me to do the program now. I am at a point now where I don’t HAVE to work, especially not full time – whereas in 2012 I had to keep my full time job to even consider continuing school, let alone the need for my paycheck with the family finances. This makes it easier to focus on school – this college is not the first one that has told their students that the RN program is a 40 hour a week job in itself.

I also have kids that are a little bit older, not babies as they were back then, which at least makes it easier to rationalize with them and send them off to be quiet and play while mommy needs to study – and/or send them off to school when I have classes and study times.

Anyway, I got my class schedule for first semester minus the specific clinical times I’ll be assigned (we just know the days and approximate AM/PM shift times but not whether we’ll be on AM or PM for either day yet) and minus the apparent skills practice and check off times that will be every week. I am unsure yet if we will be assigned individual times that will be the same every week or if it will change each week – regardless that is something the instructor decides.

I also signed up for the non-mandatory, but highly suggested, 4 week skills course called “Safety in Numbers.” It’s basically to help you pass the math skills check off. I should have no issue with that test/check off – I’ve already taken a Dosage Calculations course at my previous college, plus all my required general maths;  however, it’s been many years now and I could do with a refresher. Especially since they said there was not an additional cost as it was considered an addendum to the Nursing Skills class.

This week I went ahead and ordered my nursing student uniform, so that was exciting too! Partially because the school gave us a code which would give us 10% off the order during this pre-orientation, but when I went on the uniform site to look at the prices, etc… Well, turns out the code actually took a whole $10 off PER ITEM for a limited time sale. This saved me, like $35 instead of like $7.50 off the total price (tax and shipping included) if it had been only 10%. Soooo, I went ahead and ordered them now! Cuz, hell, why not?? I only ordered two tops and a jacket since the pants didn’t need to be embroidered and I had recently bought two pairs of the same brand, in the same color… so even though they were extra cheap through the site… Well… I had to control my urge for deal shopping just for the sake of it, LOL!

The next step will be a “Welcome Day” in late August which will be a more in-depth type of orientation, and the day we’ll get our school ID badges and name badges for Clinicals. This will be, like, a week maybe before the classes themselves start.

I’m getting excited… and nervous… and excited again! It’s all happening!

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Image credit: Pinterest (with a broken link :/ )

LPN or RN? Which Program Should You Enroll in?

For those of you who are first starting on your journey towards gaining a nursing license, and I mean you’re at the very beginning. You’ve decided you want to be a nurse, you’re starting to look at programs… But all you know is you want to be a nurse, you don’t know yet if you want to be an LPN or an RN; well this post is for you.

First I will outline the differences in what an LPN vs an RN does, what career considerations you’ll have with each choice. Then I will give you my personal opinion and why I personally am aiming for the RN degree.

What is a CNA?

We’ll start first with explaining what a CNA is for those that don’t yet know. Most nursing programs I have come across these days require a CNA certification as a pre-req to starting the program. I’m told by some current nurses that it didn’t used to be this way, but now it is done to make sure prospective nurses get a true sense of what nursing will be like before wasting time on one of the most difficult degree programs, or taking someone else’s spot that would be more committed to the program.

A CNA is a Certified Nurse’s Aide. Sometimes they are called CNTs (Certified Nurse Techs) or PCTs (Patient Care Tech) among other company-specific terms. A certification can be gained in as little as 3 weeks to a handful of months, depending on the learning institution and how often you meet for theory and clinicals. Each state has their own requirements for education hours and their own tests to be certified so you will have to research the specifics of your state. CNA programs can be done through your college, through independent learning centers, or free through nursing homes (who will then require commitment to their facility for a certain length of time post certification.)

CNAs can find work in nursing homes, in home health, and in hospitals. In nursing homes and home health they tend to stick strictly to patient care and providing assistance with ADLs or “Activities of Daily Living” i.e toileting, washing, feeding, dressing, changes linens, walking, etc. In hospitals there are generally a lot more clinical based skills expected to be performed and will be taught by the hospital to their employees and then the CNA can do whatever is included in the scope of practice as outlined by their company. Some skills in my scope of practice in the past have been: drawing blood, wound management (changing dressings), inserting and discontinuing foley catheters, discontinuing IVs,  gathering samples for labs, doing EKGs, patient transport, among many, many other things. CNAs work directly under the nurses and assist them with various tasks and are assigned along with a nurse to their respective patients or residents.

What is an LPN?

An LPN is a Licensed Practical Nurse. In some areas this is also known as just a PN (Practical Nurse), or LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse.) This is a diploma program and tends to run 1 year to 18 months. Then you take the NCLEX-PN test to gain your License.

LPNs can give medications and do things like placing IVs along with various other basic nursing skills – at a higher level than a CNA, obviously. They would learn some of the same skills that a hospital CNA would learn, but LPNs don’t tend to work in hospitals.

LPNs work primarily in nursing homes, home health, and clinics. LPNs also tend to have to compete with Certified Medical Assistants for clinic jobs. If you have an interest in working in hospitals, attaining your LPN should not be your main goal.

What is an RN?

An RN is a Registered Nurse. RNs have more education than the LPN and tend to have more responsibility, a higher level skill set, and more room to grow in their careers. New Grad RNs are eligible to apply for residency programs at hospitals that have them which give them a ton more practical real-world education. By that I mean they work the floor for a much longer time directly with a preceptor as well as attend classes through the hospital for the first year as an RN which give them immeasurable experience.

You can attain your RN through a 2-year ASN/ADN (Associate of Science in Nursing/Associate Degree in Nursing) degree or a 4-year BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing) degree. Both degrees fit the criteria for the basic education you need to take the NCLEX-RN, which is the test you take to gain your license. However, nurses with BSNs do tend to be in higher demand and I have noted that some establishments are moving or have moved to hiring only nurses that have their Bachelors degree.

RNs tend to be more science minded/educated and can go into management, become educators, become specialist nurses, and work in a wide range of areas/specialties. RNs generally don’t work in clinics, but it can happen depending on the location (more likely to find in specialist clinics if anything). RNs can be found in nursing homes, in home health, and of course all areas of hospitals. They also tend to be paid more than LPNs.

My Choice

I’ve gone back and forth in the past about the best course of action to take. Originally I planned to do my LPN first and then my RN – I’ve always intended to be an RN in the end; it’s just a matter of the course I would take.

The only reason I had initially intended to do the LPN first is because the nurse that taught my CNA course recommended it. She was of the mind that LPNs got more practical skills before becoming an RN and were more comfortable with the job when they got out into the real world on their own. I have since had other nurses dispute that viewpoint.

I think it entirely depends on the program the RN is in. The LPN will bridge to an RN program in most schools, but be aware that you could put in 1 year+ into becoming an LPN and many schools will only give you credit for your first semester of your RN program – even if both courses are through the same college. So make sure you research your prospective RN schools before deciding on that course of action.

LPN diplomas do tend to have less pre-reqs than the RN programs, and that could be enticing to someone who just wants to get going and be a nurse already! But keep in mind that if RN is your ultimate goal, you may still be having to make up those courses or extend your time by at least a semester even if you bridge.

I had eventually decided to forgo the LPN and just go straight for my RN, however at the school I have ended up in here in Wisconsin actually has set up their programs so that the LPN diploma program is set up exactly the same as the whole first year of the RN degree program. The LPN program had a huge waiting list, but the next class of RN program was wide open for enrollment – which I thought was odd given that even the RN program students are able to sit for the NCLEX-PN and gain their LPN mid-program.

So I intend to do that so I can say I’m a nurse a whole year early 😉 Plus it will give me real NCLEX practice and help me prepare for what to expect the next year. I am definitely going for my RN and then my BSN after the ADN is completed. (I also hope one day to get my MSN – Masters of Science in Nursing – but BSN definitely!)

Personally, I love hospital work and I love education/teaching so I hope one day to become an educator in such an environment.

 

Do Yourself A Favor: Quality Nursing Equipment

You guessed it, this post is going to be about advice on some items to get for nursing school. These recommendations are primarily based off of my own experience in the health field as well as discussions with other RNs I know.

The thing with Nursing school is that they often require certain equipment items which they will also provide through the college bookstore. As a general rule, one should expect that the items there are usually of the cheapest and poorest quality – not always, some items are fine… But I’ve gotten some pretty crap stethoscopes, for example, from a college bookstore. While some items you can get away with getting the items as cheap as possible, other items are not worth getting poor quality. Either it will break too quickly and you’ll just have to continue to replace it, or it will make your studies more difficult. For instance – a poor quality stethoscope can be very difficult to hear through and makes it exceedingly difficult to learn your heart sounds, etc.

Plus, if you start with better quality items, they will continue to serve you well after you graduate!

Now, being a student in general means you are probably tight on money and if that is the case, you may just have to settle with cheaper items while studying. Especially if you perhaps have a grant or scholarship that you can only use the funds through the college bookstore… If that’s the case, you gotta do what you gotta do!

Quality Nursing Shoes

Trust me, TRUST ME, you need to invest in your shoes. During clinicals and beyond you will be on your feet for seemingly endless hours a day. My preference is Dansko brand clogs, I will praise their qualities in just a moment – but generally people either love them or hate them. So if you are one who doesn’t prefer the clog life, just be sure you find a good pair of shoes that is as comfortable as can be for your foot. Make sure they provide good support. It’s a good idea to have patent leather or some other material that is wipe-able or are otherwise able to be washed in a hot washing machine without being ruined. Because germs, ew.  And again, quality footwear that won’t fall apart in a matter of months.

Now, here is why I recommend Danskos. There are other similar brands I have heard good things about as well, so be sure to shop around and try stuff on before committing as they tend to be slightly pricey. Also… don’t be afraid to shop on ebay and such to find a much cheaper pair to try out.

The first time I wore a pair of Danskos for a 12 hour shift was the shift I was converted forever. They are not cushy in the sole, so some may immediately think they are not “comfortable,” (which could take some getting used to) however, I noticed the difference right away in the pain in my legs and back… or rather the lack thereof once I moved to Danskos. They provide incredible support for my legs and back.I also find them exceedingly comfortable as they provide plenty of room for your feet to move. There’s a boxy toe that gives toes room to wiggle, and if you have the right size the heel is supposed to be loose and move as you walk. It keeps blisters far away from my feet and that’s awesome.

Except for the vegan canvas clogs, they are also all easily cleanable – leather that is easy to wipe down with disinfectant wipes.

Dansko does also make sneakers which I have not yet tried for myself, but I have heard good things about them too. Maybe one day I’ll score a pair 😉

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My collection of Dansko clogs (minus one pair that sits in my work locker currently 😉 ) that have been collected over the past 8 years

Quality Stethoscopes are so Important

I may not be a full fledged nurse yet, but I have done plenty of jobs that require the use of a stethoscope. It makes a HUGE difference if you have a crap stethoscope. Those super cheap ones that are considered “disposable” in hospitals (otherwise known as what came in my CNA supply pack at CNA school) are tough to hear through. They’ll work in a pinch when you have a contagious patient in which you’ll dispose of your equipment after using it on them… I also find that the double tubed style and the ones with pretty enamel covered bells are also terrible. Don’t give up function for a slightly more attractive model.

A Stethoscope is going to become part of you, it will be something you use for years – assuming you don’t let a doc walk off with it (it can and does happen… Make sure yours is clearly marked with your name! Engraving especially if you have a pricier one. There you have proof it’s yours if someone tries to take a walk with it!) Do yourself a favor and go ahead and get a good quality one to learn on and use after you graduate.

Littman tends to be THE name in Stethoscopes. That brand is very good. Don’t worry about the specialist versions – much more expensive, and while they have awesome clarity, it is not necessary unless you eventually go into a specialty. Once you do that you can splurge. I do like Littman, but I have also found that MDF is of just as good quality, especially in the more basic models and are usually half the price of a Littman.

I have a couple MDFs – one I use at work regularly, and one infant one… But I did splurge on a Littman Classic III for nursing school as a treat for myself and because it was highly recommended as the best for learning on.

If you are able to try a few different types it pays to shop around. I’ve heard some people dislike the rubber earbuds because of them closing up in their ears and makes it harder to hear, so they prefer the hard plastic ones. I personally prefer it the other way, the rubber is comfortable for me and I can hear really well through them… But the plastic ones hurt my ears. Just like Harry Potter and his wand, you’ll need to let your stethoscope find you.

 

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My Littman Classic III and my Infant MDF

As a side note: take your color selection in consideration… Tubing tends to get marked up easily (note the infant one above that has some black marks though it was rarely used) and I’ve seen white ones that look downright grungy within weeks. My light blue MDF one in my locker at work… Less than a month and it was covered in marks. I’ve heard that colors like red tend to fade quickly as well, though I’ve not had experience with that. Do yourself a favor and get darker colors that won’t look grungy shortly after you start using them.

Stethoscope case… worth it?

I have gotten a stethoscope case now that I have my “fancier” Littman, and I cannot yet tell you if it is worth it to me. I like that I can keep it safe and clean in my bag and that it has space for extra earbuds etc… But there is no room for any other item. Including the tape dispenser I got to go on it… Which is kind of a pain… I wouldn’t want to take the dispenser on and off every time I want to put the stethoscope away.

If you don’t plan to use one of those, however, and are aware ahead of time that it will literally only hold the stethoscope and at most some extra pieces and even the book that came along with it… then yes, I’d say it’s worth it to keep it from getting crushed or gross when not in use.

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Wipe-able Note Books

I got these at the recommendation of my sister. Pencil notebooks that survive “even in wet conditions” …Sounds perfect for clinicals/working on the floor, no?

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Nursing Bags

Every student needs a quality book bag, no? This will end up being a preference thing or a what-works-for-you thing. I’ve talked to different nurses who all had differing opinions especially about the bag to use for classes.

A few nurses suggested not only a rolling back-saving bag for the massive books you’ll be hauling each semester, but the one in particular I got (below right) was recommended to me for being deep and having a wide opening. Backpacks tend to not have enough room for all the books you may need in a day, so I’m told. However, one of my BFFs that has her BSN says that she tried such a bag and it was difficult to maneuver around the lecture hall and, for her, she found it more of a pain than necessary. She decided it was easier on her to leave her stuff in the trunk of her car and swap out between classes as needed.

One thing that I have gotten consistent recommendations for is to get a nursing bag for clinicals which can also then be used once I become a nurse. The one I got (below left) is a “Nurse Mates” bag and is the one repeatedly recommended by nurses I know because it has plenty of room as well as several organizational pockets. Again, though, just use what works for you.

While I got both of these bags through Amazon.com, there are a couple rolling bags through my college that are the same as what I got (different color, limited options) and a backpack of a good brand quality – these items I suppose aren’t strictly nursing items and general school supplies in my experience do tend to be better brands in the college book stores. But again, the backpack version is not nearly as big as the medical one.

Penlights

This item is not strictly necessary to get the “best” – The generic cheap ones are just as good. Plus they tend to stock them at hospitals for use by staff. After many years, however, I decided to get my own that have the ability to replace the batteries instead of having to toss them once they eventually die.

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Trauma/Bandage Shears

Every nurse needs these. Used often to cut bandaging among other things. Even as a CNA I have used these fairly often. I have another pair that has served me well for many years, however I have now acquired one with a built in carabiner that I can more easily hook on my scrubs. It’s something that works better for me given that not all my scrub pants have the loop to rest them in.

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Mini Sharpies and Highlighters

Sharpies and Highlighters are not just for studying! I use them all the time at work. I learned a long time ago that these mini versions work super well for attaching to badge reels so they are always on hand.

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Tape dispenser

So useful. Tape is always on hand and easier to get to especially if you don’t want to put dirty hands back in a pocket… Keeps it from falling off as well for those that put the tape directly on their stethoscope. Totally worth it. I have another one on my stethoscope at work.

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Pocket Organizer?

Put this under the not worth it heading. At least not for me. I got one a long, long time ago. I still have it somewhere, but I never use it. I found that I can’t easily reach in and get what I need without looking and I found that I can do that a lot easier when things are free-range in my pocket. The one nice thing about it is having everything ready to go so that you can grab it and toss it in your pocket as you are getting ready to go. Quick and easy and you know you have everything… but… then it gets annoying to me. So, to each their own.

Clipboard

Clipboards are a must. Get one with compartments that can hold your paperwork. Good for clinicals, but even a lot of established nurses use them on the daily. Helps to keep you organized on the go. It also doesn’t hurt getting one that has assessment/nursing reference notes printed on it.

Compression Stockings

Trust me, TRUST ME, …Again! An important part of your uniform is your hosery. They help to keep varicose veins from forming, keep swelling down, and also make your legs feel significantly less tired after a long shift. There are different levels of compression, so try a few and find whatever is the most comfortable for you. I tried some brands in the past that I couldn’t even get on! I have three different brands – My favorite is Landau and Landau FootweaRX, they are a nice medium compression. Nurse Mates brand are comfortable enough but give hardly any compression compared to Landau. They are more like snug trouser socks, in my opinion. I have also started wearing Crazy Compression on occasion. These are much stronger  of a compression level.

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In conclusion, since this is already much too long of a post, quality items should be invested in when possible. If you must cut corners with some equipment, you gotta do as your finances allow… But keep in mind my strong recommendations to not skimp on your shoes, stockings, or stethoscope!

Is there anything in particular that I missed or you have a different opinion on? Is there something else that you have a question about? Maybe I can help 🙂 Comment below!

 

 

Welcome to The Heart of a (Student) Nurse!

Good Morning, Lovelies!

Rae here – about to start on my nursing school journey. Actually, it has been a long time coming – which is something I will explain in later posts.

Today, however, is the day I finally get to register for my nursing classes that will start next semester! Yaay!

I am already an established blogger in other areas, and a writer with a children’s book soon to be published – so I thought why not chronicle my nursing school journey via blog as well?

I know, I know… There are so many nurse blogs and nursing student blogs already… But we are a curious type, we nursing students. We like to be prepared and, hey, we’ll all need support to get through this! I figure, each perspective is a little different and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an extra voice join in the discussion.

So join with me as I journal my experience, as I stress out, as I (hopefully) rejoice in a good grade or ten, and as I most likely bitch about how tough it all is along the way.

I will share tips I have learned and will learn, I will give you some stories to read about my time in the healthcare industry… This blog will likely end up being a modge podge at times… But it will always remain, at heart, a nursing student’s blog.