How To Prepare For Nurse Practitioner School

In the US, advanced practice nursing is state and federally regulated. While autonomy may vary based on your location, some states allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to have full practice authority. Nurse practitioners (NPs) can assess patients, diagnose, and prescribe medications. The full extent to which an NP can practice varies by state. To become an NP, you must first be a registered nurse (RN) who has completed an undergraduate degree in nursing and then continue on to a grad school program – nurse practitioner school.

If you’re looking at nurse practitioner school, you’ve obviously come a long way to get here. Still, many people get a major shock when they get to grad school. Because grad school is more research-oriented, you’ll need to know and understand the material at a much deeper level. It’s no longer about passing that test or writing that essay, but consistently engaging in in-depth discussions and being able to pose thought-provoking questions. Therefore, it’s even more important to come to classes prepared.

It’s best to start the year on a good note. Taking the time to really get organized before the year starts can be what keeps you from starting off on the wrong foot. Here are some tips for making the switch from undergrad to grad school and general tips about preparing for nurse practitioner school.

  • Get as many errands as you can out of the way. In the video, you can see me getting my car washed. Go to the bank, get any medical check-ups you need to be done, and file your taxes if you need to. You’ll be happy you did it when you’re in the library surrounded by notes about medication side effects.
  • Organize all your school supplies beforehand. Go shopping for all your pens, notebooks, binders, and highlighters. Make sure you have everything you need, so you don’t have to go running to the shops in between classes. Think about how you’re going to organize your notebooks and binders before classes start so that you have one less thing to think about.
  • Get a planner. You’re going to need to get used to budgeting your time. Some people like having everything synchronized on their phone or Google calendar. Some people like having a day planner to write everything down by hand. Others prefer having a big wall calendar. Personally, I like to use all three. Bullet journals are another option that might help you. Experiment and find out what works for you before school starts to relieve some of the pressure.
  • Test out several apps. There are so many apps today that can help you in school, from calendar apps to apps that will block websites for a certain amount of time a day. Storage apps can help you access your notes everywhere, whether you have your laptop or phone with you or not. Try out some apps before the semester begins so you have a sense of what works for you.
  • Make some visual reminders. Some people like vision boards. For others, a phone reminder will do. When you’re mid panic attack and thinking of quitting, it can be helpful to be reminded of why you’re doing all of this in the first place. Write down your motivations for going into nurse practitioner school and keep them in an accessible place. Read through it when you’re struggling. It can help you through a hard day.
  • Get to know your classmates. Maybe you pulled through undergrad alone, but it can really help to network with other students. Even if – and maybe especially if – you’re doing an online program, your fellow students can really pull you through some dark spots. Your classmates might be a very diverse group, as some people continue to grad school straight after undergrad, while others go back after years of working in the field. There are lots you can learn from them, so take the time.
  • Rest and relax. Look, I’ll say it again: grad school is busy and it’s hard. You can get through it with a social life, but there will be times that you will be really stressed. Take the time before you begin to have some fun and do things that you might not get a chance, like catching up on a show you wanted to watch or having a weekend road trip. It’s not going to be the last time you have fun, but you’ll still be grateful that you set aside the time to do it.

Feel free to join me in this video that I shot while preparing for my fifth semester of grad school. I show you how I like to get organized and what kind of school supplies I like to use.

Good luck and have a great semester! Remember, you’ll get through it!


How To Succeed In Nursing School

Nursing is a wonderful profession, but the journey there is not easy. There are several paths to becoming a nurse in the US. While you can do an associate’s degree, some employers choose to only hire people who have Bachelor’s or even Master’s degrees. Once you finish your degree, you’ll have to take another exam to become licensed in order to practice.

It’s especially important to study properly in nursing school. Not only because the material can be difficult, but because it requires more than memorizing. You’ll be using what you learn in nursing school on the job, so it’s important that you really understand what it is that you’re learning.

I made a video with my tips on how to succeed in nurse practitioner school, based on my own experience. These tips got me through undergrad nursing school and NP school. I wanted to go more in-depth about each tip and offer a few more.

  • Stay on top of everything. Treat the first test as if it’s the final. Getting into that mindset from the beginning sets you up for success. As I mentioned in my video, the library is often quite empty at the beginning of the semester, making it an even more perfect place to study. If you follow the readings all throughout the semester, you’re not going to be rushing to catch up before finals. You’ll be able to use the extra time to review the material and practice demo tests instead of studying some things for the first time.
  • Keep a steady habit. Learn the best ways for you to study. Some people study better at night, while others are most focused when they first wake up. Some people study better with friends, while others need to learn the material by themselves. You might find that you work best in a coffee shop where there’s background noise. Or you might need the complete silence of a library or their own room. Once you find what works for you, stick to it. If you find that you study better at night, like me, find ways to make that possible for you.
  • Exercise and eat right. It might be tempting to just grab whatever is fastest and easiest to keep you going all night, but you’ll be harming yourself in the long run. Exercise and eating clean with help you manage the stress. Not only by getting your mind off of school while you exercise, but keeping your body healthy will help your body regulate your stress hormones.
  • Find a life outside of school. Keep up with your friends and hobbies. It will keep you sane. Having a steady habit will help you stick to a schedule, as well. Knowing that you have yoga at 7 so you only have 2 hours left to study, will make your studying more productive than feeling time stretch ahead of you. You’ll study better when you’re happy – so make sure to have some fun with friends.
  • Take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep (6 to 8 hours a night). You can’t produce the same quality of work when you’re tired. Not only that, but sleep is essential for memory consolidation. You might think you’re being smart by skipping another hour of sleep to be able to read some more pages, but it’s wasted time if you’re not going to be able to hold on to that information for long. And the last thing you want it to be barely able to keep your eyes open during a test. Set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed if you need to. You’ll thank yourself later. 
  • Be prepared and focus. Review the material before class so it doesn’t sound as though the professor is speaking a foreign language. Put your phone on airplane mode to minimize distraction when you sit down to study.
  • Try a study group. Studying with people can help you organize the material in different ways. You might think you’ve understood everything when you’ve read it by yourself, only to realize you’re not able to explain it well. Teaching someone else the material, as well as quizzing each other, can really help the material sink in. Keep in mind that your closest friends might not be the ones to study with. Not only because you might catch yourself talking instead of studying, but you might have different times or ways you prefer to go over the material.
  • Take demo quizzes. This is super important. You can know the material inside and out but struggle on the final if you haven’t practiced answering any questions. Luckily, most textbooks offer practice tests at the back and online, even if your school doesn’t offer any.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize. Even when you practice all these tips, it will be hard. There will be times of stress and anxiety. There might be times where you wonder if you should just quit. Remind yourself of your end goal and exactly why you are doing this. The hardships are temporary and necessary to get where you want to.

Nursing school can be difficult, but if you’re effective, you can make it through and be successful without burning out. Remember to go easy on yourself and set realistic goals. You don’t have to go too easy on yourself, but practice self-compassion. Try not to compare yourself to others, and instead focus on doing the best you can.


How To Avoid Dwelling On Past Mistakes

We’ve all been there. You lie down to go to sleep at night, but instead, memories come back to haunt you. From something as innocent as calling someone by the wrong name, to that time you left an interview and realized you’d had a big stain on your shirt the whole time. Or maybe you keep beating yourself up about that time you fell asleep when you were supposed to meet a friend, leaving them stranded alone somewhere, waiting for you. These memories of your past mistakes can often haunt you and follow you around – at school, at work, during dinner with your family. They mess up our focus and our good mood.

When these memories come up, judgment usually follows. You find yourself thinking, “I’m stupid, I always mess up, I never get it right”… We can be quite creative with the ways we come up with to bring ourselves down. We’re often our own worst critics, and hold ourselves to higher standards than we do others.

Thinking about our mistakes isn’t necessarily bad. After all, we do want to improve ourselves by learning from them. However, it’s a pretty thin between thinking about our past mistakes and ruminating on them, and it’s easy to fall into the latter without realizing it.

Repeatedly thinking about your mistakes can be a form of rumination. Rumination literally means “chewing the cud” – as in, when a cow regurgitates it’s food and chews it over again. This term can apply in a similar fashion when we do the same with our thoughts – we bring them up and keep going over our negative experiences repetitively. Rumination can trigger depression and anxiety. Therefore, learning how to recognize and deal with it can be essential. The real question is how to do that. Here are some tips.

  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes. It’s impossible to go through life without making them. If you don’t make any, you probably aren’t doing enough. The only way you wouldn’t be making any mistakes is if you locked yourself up in your room – and even then, you would probably spill a glass of water on yourself or drop and break your phone at one point or another. Listen to Big Bird on repeat if needed. Remember how a child falls down a thousand times before they learn to walk, but you wouldn’t be judging him for it. Try and grant yourself the same level of understanding.
  • Remind yourself of the good things you have done. Yes, you’ve made a mistake. What else have you done? Listened to a friend who really needed to rant? Helped out someone at work? Gotten praise for an essay you’ve written? Gone to the gym consistently, even when you didn’t feel like it? If you really dig into it, you’ll probably find that the list of good things you do easily measures up to your mistakes.
  • Give yourself 24 hours to dwell. I refer to this as the Marcus Mariota Rule in my video. The NFL quarterback recommends giving yourself a set amount of time to think about what happened. For an hour or one day, you can sit and think of nothing else other than your mistakes. Then, you let yourself move on. That way, you prevent yourself from turning one loss into another.
  • Read about cognitive distortions. When we dwell on our past mistakes, we tend to get attached to our stories and judge them. Familiarize yourself with some common cognitive distortions. Coined by psychologists Aaron Beck and David Burns, cognitive distortions are a major part of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) – an extremely popular and effective form of therapy. When you find yourself dwelling on the same stories, label your thoughts – “ah, there’s that black and white thinking again”, or “Oh, I’m just catastrophizing”. You’re probably tired of hearing it, but meditation can help you practice the skill of noticing, labeling, and finally letting thoughts go.
  • Talk to someone about it. We’re often so locked in our own mind, that we can’t see the situation objectively. Hearing other people’s opinions can change your perspective about the things you judge yourself so harshly for.
  • …And pretend that someone else is talking to you. Imagine that your friend is telling you about the mistake that you’ve made – except they’re the ones who made it. Picture them describing themselves as you are doing to yourself. Would you let them call themselves failures? Would you recommend they let their mistake follow them around all week? Think about what you would tell your friend, and then offer the same advice to yourself.
  • Remind yourself that you did what you could at the time. It’s easy to judge ourselves in hindsight after we know how things turned out. We forget that when we were at that moment, we only had a certain amount of resources. Perhaps we didn’t have enough information, or we may have been distracted, tired or stressed.

Check out the video for a more in-depth look at the Marcus Mariota Rule, how he deals with losing and how to stay focused.


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