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At SimpleNursing, we are absolutely thrilled to announce our newest must-watch series: “Nurses Tell All.” In this episode, Nurse Mike meets with Nurse Barbara (@youngnursingeducator) to discuss whether she regrets not becoming a doctor, what she wishes she had known before nursing school, and the strategies that have helped her thrive as a nurse. Trust us, you’re gonna want to hear this!

We asked: “When did you know you wanted to be a nurse?”  

“I’ve always loved medicine,” Barbara admits, “I was so fascinated by the human body and everything it can do, the fact that we cut ourselves and it magically repairs, the fact that we grow human life…[I knew I was] gonna end up in medicine, one way or another.”

But becoming a nurse was never part of her plan. Barbara says she planned to go to medical school and eventually become a doctor, but then, in her junior year of college, something happened that would change her career path, and the way she viewed the medical profession, forever. 

In that third year of her undergraduate schooling, Barbara received a job as a personal support worker for a young man with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, weakening muscles and impacting the ability to physically function. Although medication and therapy can slow ALS, there is no cure at the present time. 

Barbara explains that this young man, who couldn’t move or talk but was still fully “with it,” taught her to see medicine in a different way, beyond the textbooks and lectures. She was in awe of the strong connection she had made with this young man and his family, through the simple act of caring for him. That’s when Barbara  realized that nursing might actually be her true calling. 

“What was it like to switch over to nursing? Were you totally over prepared for nursing school?”

Transitioning to nursing wasn’t quite the walk in the park that Barbara had envisioned. Because she had already completed a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences, Barbara figured nursing school would be similar to her previous coursework. She could not have been more wrong. 

“It was completely different,” Barbara opens up, “the amount of reading you have to do in nursing school, I mean, it was a lot. There is no way to fit in all of the things you have to do: all of your readings, the labs, clinicals, papers, lectures, PowerPoints, and assignments.” So what does Barbara wish she had known?

“What are your top 3 study hacks for nursing students? What do you wish you had known before starting nursing school?”

#1. Make a list of everything you have to do. Prioritize the list from most to least important. Start at the top and work your way down. When you’re a nursing student, you have to be selective about how you spend your time. It’s impossible to do everything, so make sure you prioritize your tasks before completing them. 

#2. If you’re studying for an exam at the last minute, only focus on the content covered in the course Powerpoints as well as content brought up by the professor on more than one occasion during lecture. It’s impossible to read every single chapter of your textbook before the test tomorrow, Barbara says, and that’s why you should only study what’s in the PowerPoints and what’s been discussed in class. If your professor mentions something more than once, it’s probably a good indication that it is important – and yes, that means it’s going to be tested, so study up!

#3. Seek out moments of peace, relaxation, and self-care (also known as, treat yourself)!

Barbara’s final piece of advice is one that you might want to listen to, like, now. If she could do it all again, there’s really only one thing that Barbara would do differently. “I did wish I knew how hard [nursing school] was going to be, so I could go back and take myself on a nice vacation,” she laughs.