From Nursing School Dropout to Valedictorian - Owning Your Nursing School Journey
by Meris Shuwarger BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN December 26, 2021 Updated: December 07, 2022 8 min read 1 Comment
Hi, I'm Meris with Level Up RN, and today I want to tell you a story that might be familiar to you either because you know me and you've heard me talk about this before or because this may have happened to you.
So I failed out of nursing school. I failed out of nursing school the first time I attempted to go. I didn't get asked to take a semester off. I didn't decide to take a leave of absence. I failed out. Goodbye. Please do not return. Don't let the door hit you on your way out. And I was very young. I was 21 years old when I went to nursing school the first time. And I remember thinking, why wasn't I successful? I've done school before. I am motivated. I'm dedicated. This is what I want to do with my life. Why did I fail? This was a really big blow to my ego, and it left me wondering if I was meant to be a nurse, if maybe being a nurse was outside of my reach, it was something that I would never be able to do, and if this was even the right career path for me. And I kind of really burned out on the idea of working in medicine after that.
And so for a long time after that, I just kind of put that dream in a box in the corner of my mind and went on and did other things with my life. I worked some retail jobs, customer service jobs. I met my husband, got married, and had kids. And after my daughter was born, I remember thinking, I want to set a really good example for my kids that they can achieve the things that they set forth to do, and that they are capable of going after any dream that they are willing to work for.
I was always told that I could be anything that I wanted when I grew up, but I think that there's a little bit of a caveat to that, which is it's not just that you have to want to be it, you have to work for it. You really have to put forth that time and effort and dedication and tenacity every single day. So I went back to nursing school when my daughter was a year old, and I was actually pregnant with my son when I started nursing school. And I just decided, this time I will be successful. I didn't really know how. I didn't know what was going to be different other than nothing was going to stand in my way. And I just decided I'm going to make this happen.
And I remember sitting down with my husband and having a discussion with him about how this is going to be three years of really hard work, and we're going to have to make sacrifices together. But in the end, it's going to pay off, and we'll just have to keep that in mind the whole time that I'm working towards this. And during this time, I was actually diagnosed with ADHD and realized that a lot of the difficulties that I had had when I was younger wasn't because I didn't have the passion or the drive or the motivation. It's because I didn't know what to do with those things. I had a problem with my working memory that made it really difficult for me to learn how to prioritize my tasks, to keep task in mind that weren't necessarily due tomorrow, and to find that balance between school, work, home life, all of those other things that you have going on. And I felt a lot better when I was diagnosed and realized that a lot of this had to do just with my brain chemistry and wasn't a personal failing on my part.
But before I was diagnosed, I had two and a half years of nursing school time. And it was during that time that I figured out how to manage my time in a way that made sense to me. And a lot of this had to do with figuring out what worked and what didn't work for me in terms of keeping track of my assignments, keeping track of my class times and clinical times, but then also figuring out a way to prioritize studying as well and not let that be a thing that I only did the day before an exam. I actually think that my life was more complicated the second time that I went to school. I now had two children and a husband to think about. I was working two jobs, and I was serving as the president of my state level student nursing association. I had a lot of irons in the fire that I didn't have when I was single and only had myself to think about and failed out of nursing school the first time.
So what changed? Well, certainly we can't discount the fact that I had personal growth in that time, that I experienced a whole decade worth of life and learned things that worked and didn't work for me. But also, I figured out in nursing school how to get ahead and stay ahead. But I did that hard work on my own. I had to figure that out on my own, and I couldn't find anybody who had figured it out and made it so that it was easy for me to do. I didn't really know anybody who had done that hard work and would share it with me. And part of why I work at Level Up RN is because if I had to go through something in nursing school that I found to be difficult or traumatic or hard, I want to make sure that nursing students currently and in the future don't have to go through that same thing again.
So making a nursing school planner was a big passion project of mine that I wanted to tackle as soon as possible. And we finally did. We've got our nursing school planner right here which you can get your very own copy. It's available on leveluprn.com. But everything that I learned from my failure and everything that I learned about how to manage my time as someone with a time management problem is baked into this planner. I put all of the thinking that I had done into this planner with the hopes that you won't have to do that. So for instance, I recognize that if I looked at a to-do list that had everything that I needed to do for school and my personal life in it, it became very difficult for me to prioritize those lists.
So instead, we have separate lists here for you. We have a school to-do list for your assignments, for your clinicals, for things coming up in the future, your papers and assignments that aren't due yet, but you still need to be thinking about, but we also gave you space to plan your to-do list for your personal life. This, for me, was very instrumental in being able to prioritize both lists and then decide from there what was the most important. And we also cooked that into this planner. We have our three nonnegotiables listed at the top of each weekday. So for me, what I found to be the easiest way to plan my tasks in my day was by looking at my overwhelming to-do list and saying, "What three things do I need to accomplish today? What are the three highest priority, the ones that have the biggest consequences if I don't see them through? What are those three tasks that I need to do today to call today a success? To be able to look back and close the book on this day and say, I did a good job. I was successful."
And it's not always school. Sometimes it's home life, right? Sometimes it's doing the laundry or doing grocery shopping or picking up the living room. And sometimes it's school. Sometimes it's writing a paper or studying for a test. And sometimes it's things like, I need to take a shower today. I am getting kind of stinky. Let me take a shower. Or you know what? Today I need to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. And that's okay. But by prioritizing my tasks, it allowed me to figure out what has to get done today and what I can put off until tomorrow. My favorite analogy is that you are always going to drop the ball at some point. It's important to know which balls are glass and which ones are rubber. Meaning, which things, if I drop the ball, will bounce back and I can recover them, and which ones will have serious consequences; they'll drop on the floor and shatter like glass?
So this planner right here is going to help you to figure out what balls are glass and which ones are rubber. And that is so important for nursing school, and it's a learned skill. It's something that you have to incorporate into your day-to-day life to get much better at doing. I don't have to write down my three nonnegotiables anymore. I just sort of am able to do that now. But when I do feel really overwhelmed, I come back to those basics, and I think about that. And what are my three nonnegotiable tasks today? Here's what I've got to get done. Of course, we also gave you space to plan all of your important things like in your monthly view, what tests might be coming up? We give you space in your daily view to write down appointments and other things that you might have. But something else that I think is really special is that we put, in every month, a little pep talk from our team of expert nurses and nurse educators.
So I remember going through nursing school and feeling really isolated and feeling like nobody really understands what I'm going through, and a lot of people didn't understand. My husband saw what I was going through, but he doesn't know what it's like. He's not there for every second of it, and so I felt lonely sometimes. And so at the beginning of every month in our planner on the front page that says January or April, we have a little pep talk that we wrote from our nursing team just to let you know this is hard. We see you. You're doing an amazing job, and you're not alone. And we also included some of our favorite studying and test-taking tips. So all of this together, plus the reference pages at the back, which if you are someone like me and you're constantly looking things up, you don't want to carry around these huge textbooks, right? You want to be able to just have it at your fingertips, and it's right here in the planner. So if you take this everywhere you go, you have that highly-referenced and often-used material at your fingertips.
So will this make you a success? No, it's got to be you, your hard work, and your dedication. But my hope is that by me putting in the lessons I learned and the things that I figured out about time management into this planner, I hope that it will make your journey of time management in nursing school a little bit easier, and that you will know you are not alone and somebody always has your back. I can't wait to hear what you think about this planner. Please let me know your feedback. I'm really excited for these to get in your hands. I hope you have a great day. Thanks so much and happy studying.
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Design Your Day, Manage Your Month - Owning Your Nursing School Journey
by Meris Shuwarger BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN January 24, 2022 5 min read
Looking for ideas on how to use the monthly, weekly, and daily spreads in our new Nursing School Planner? Check out this video, where Meris shares with you how she would set hers up.
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December 29, 2021
I had a planner and I still failed, how will your planner help me?