Quick Tips for Study Motivation

I'm going to make a sweeping assumption here. Every student in every field of study has struggled to get motivated to do schoolwork. Burnout is real, and it leaves the motivation piggybank pretty low at all times.  Especially in accelerated programs that cram 2 years of content into 1, it's often hard to force yourself away from the Netflix to get back to studying. Although I was a part of an accelerated nursing program that taught 4 years of content in 2 years, I still managed to stay on top of my studies. Keep reading to find out how I stayed motivated with a few simple techniques for re-booting when focus runs low.

1. Treat yo' self!

As a wise duo of Parks & Rec characters once said, "Treat yo' self!" If you don't have a reward system in place for completing your studies, then you're missing out big time on some huge motivation. A reward can be big or small. It can cost absolutely nothing, or it can include buying yourself some fancy gift you've been eyeing down at the mall. Throughout nursing school, I motivated myself with rewards all the time. For example, I wouldn't let myself check my texts until I finished one section of notes (treat yo' self). In another example, I told myself that if I could finish 3 chapters of flashcards in one day, then I could buy myself a new pair of shoes (treat yo' self). Your reward can be as simple as going outside for some fresh air, or as silly as putting a gummy bear at the end of each paragraph in your textbook while reading (TREAT. YO. SELF). Or, if you don't get any of these lame attempts at jokes, you can reward yourself by binging Parks & Recreation on Netflix.... as long as you've completed your homework for the day. 😉 Whatever your treat may be, make sure you follow through on rewarding yourself with what you had promised!

2. Get up & move

I know the easiest thing to do while tired is to spend some quality bonding time with your bed. Unfortunately, laying around might only make you more tired and less motivated to get to work. If you're feeling the motivation running low, you should try getting up and getting active, even if it's only for a few minutes. Go for a walk, stretch it out with some yoga, or go ramp up the energy with a weight lifting session. Whatever it may be, it's useful for your energy levels to get your blood pumping! So, get off the couch and give it a try.

3. Study in the most enjoyable way possible

This one seems a bit intuitive, but it should not go without mentioning. If your study routine feels like torture, why would you ever want to go through with it? Try to make your study session as enjoyable as possible. Make sure your study space is comfortable. Play your favorite instrumental music playlist on Spotify. Make some yummy tea or coffee to sip while you're hitting the books. Bring your laptop out into the great outdoors and soak up a bit of Vitamin E while you absorb all that knowledge. If you get lonely while studying, grab a friend so that you're not alone! All of these tips will make studying a lot less dreadful. Heck, you might even look forward to studying if you get creative enough!

4. Stop studying

This tip, on the other hand, is quite counter-intuitive. Hear me out, though. If you've been cramming for hours on end, you need to take a rest. There is no possible way you will feel happy and motivated at all if you are constantly running on fumes. You need to let your brain relax so that you don't drive yourself crazy. Scheduling rest breaks, or just taking them when you feel exhausted, are equally as important as your time spent working. How are you going to retain any information if your brain is overstimulated and overtired? I'll answer that for you. You won't. So, kick your feet up for a minute, go back to point number 1, and take a well-deserved rest with a treat of your choice. Happy studying!

Nursing School: How to Prepare for Clinical

I remember my first clinical day of nursing school like it was yesterday. I was so nervous that I was sure I would forget how to simply introduce myself and say hello to my patient. Our clinical instructor was thoughtful enough to pair us up with another student so that we wouldn't feel overwhelmed. It helped a bit, but I still felt anxious and a bit lost. In order to help the up and coming nurses of the world, I've written this blog post on how to prepare for clinical. I even included a link to a few tools you can use at the bottom of the post to help you feel more organized. The tips in this post can be applied to a student at any point in their nursing school journey. This advice is not just for your first clinical rotation ever. There will be useful hints throughout to help any clinical experience go along more smoothly.

1. Get in the right state of mind.

No matter what I tell you, you're going to be nervous. Being a nursing student floating around a unit of experienced nurses and techs is intimidating. It's only natural to be nervous, so embrace that feeling, take the adrenaline, and let it fuel your learning. Your state of mind does not have to be at peace. All you have to do with that excited energy is be open minded and ready to learn, and you'll have a great experience. All the nurses and other staff will know you're a student. They're well aware that you're there to practice and learn. You'll be able to explain to them, "I'm a ____ year nursing student, and this is what I'm comfortable/uncomfortable doing." Nobody expects you to know everything, so don't worry if you have a lot of questions and uncertainties. So, get in that open state of mind and be ready to learn!

2. Know what skills you need to practice.

In order to have a good experience with your nurse-preceptor, you have to know what you're showing up to do. Knowing the skills you need to practice at clinical will make your experience more enriching and goal-directed. You will feel so much more comfortable heading into clinical if you have a list of tasks that you hope to accomplish. Before you go to clinical, you should write down a list of the skills you need to practice that week. You might even have a list provided by your course director. Each clinical week, you can refer to that list by adding skills or marking off skills that you've built competency in. Make sure you bring in a short list of maybe 2 or 3 main skills you'd like to accomplish in the clinical day. That way, you can be focused each day on checking off a few skills from the larger list.

Once you're on the unit, make sure you make your nurse-preceptor aware of the skills you're seeking out. They will be able to ask around the unit to find the learning opportunities you seek. Don't be afraid to do this! If your specific patient doesn't have much going on, this will help to get more hands on experience around the unit with different patients and nurses. You might not be able to practice your more advanced skills until you're working as an RN, so seek out these opportunities to learn while you can. If you want to get way ahead of the game, you can even email your preceptor days before to request patients who may have certain things like drains, wounds, trachs, chest tubes, etc... That way, you can really get the practice you want.

3. Print a report sheet tool.

There are many different report sheets available online to help you organize your patient information. Some examples are included in the links at the bottom of this post. Print a few report sheets and keep them in your clinical folder so that you can write down this information while getting report on your patient(s). This information will help you have a clear picture of what's going on with your patient and what you need to do to care for them. Once you start handing off patients to other nurses later in your nursing school career, you'll find these tools to be especially helpful. If you notice that the nurses on your unit use a different report sheet format, ask them if you can get a few copies so you can give report the way they do it.

4. Prepare the night before.

Prepare everything you need for your clinical days the night before. You don't ever want to be rushed on the way to clinical, so use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Make sure you check Google Maps on a similar day of the week at the time of your commute to see what traffic is like at the time you'll be heading out. Iron or steam your uniform the night before so you don't look like you just rolled out of bed in your scrubs. Set however many alarms you need to make sure you wake up on time. It's only going to stress you out and throw you off for the day if you're running late, so give yourself ample time to get ready. Below, you'll find my checklist along with a few links to report sheets and useful clinical tools!

Pre-Clinical Checklist

  • Clinical instructor phone number in your phone

  • Address/location of clinical

  • Double check start & end time

  • Lunch/Snack

  • Water bottle

  • Report sheet

  • Skills checklist (you can jot a brief checklist down on your report sheet)

  • Stethoscope

  • Pen light

  • Watch with a second hand

  • Pen or pencil

  • Notebook or clipboard w/ paper

  • Ponytail holder (never get caught without one in an ISO room)

  • Sweatshirt or scrub jacket (it's usually freezing in hospitals)

  • Any clinical-specific assignments or instructions you may need

  • Anything else I forgot! But don't go overboard... you don't want to bring a giant backpack full of stuff onto your clinical unit.

Report sheets:

Normal values:

5 Tips for Thriving on Night Shift

Night shift.

It's the taboo phrase on the tongue of every daytime worker. Techs tell tales of darkness that could only have come from the graveyard shift. Nursing students fear it. Sundowners anticipate it like the vagabonds of the West await Burning Man. If you say it out loud, your manager might call you and tell you... "Hi, um, we need you to switch to nights."

Night shift. Is it really that bad? Let me be honest and tell you that I wanted to work during the daytime more than anything. Fast forward a few months from that phone call from my manager, and I am thriving on nights. I'm making more money, I'm bonding with my awesome night crew of coworkers, and I'm appreciating the nighttime workflow. I wanted to share this post with you all to help alleviate the fear of nights by giving you 5 tips for thriving on night shift.

1. Prioritize sleep

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital to thriving on night shift. It goes without saying that if you don't sleep, you won't be happy, and you won't be able to do your job effectively. Not only will it affect your job, but it may affect your personal relationships and social life as well. So, take a minute realign your priorities and put yourself and your rest at the top of the list. Schedule yourself a time to sleep that works for you before/after night shifts. It may take a little trial and error to get into a groove, but you will find a pattern of sleep that works for you! I'm going to share with you the way I sleep and what has been working wonderfully for me. You can find my personal sleep schedule at the bottom of this post. This is not an evidence-based recommendation, but it's what allows me to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep and helps me stay balanced and happy.

2. Create a caffeine cutoff time

This tip goes hand in hand with prioritizing sleep. The amount of caffeine you drink overnight will affect your sleep the next day. Although throwing back as many Monsters as possible might sound like a good way to get through the night shift, it doesn't come without drawbacks. As I've discussed in other posts, caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours. So, if you drink coffee at 5 AM before your shift ends, 3/4 of the caffeine will be in your system at 8 AM, and half of it will still be in your system at 11 AM. This is why I cut myself off from caffeinated beverages around 2 AM. That way, at 8 AM when I get home to go to sleep, I won't be kept awake by the caffeine that's hanging out in my system. If you're super sensitive to caffeine, you may want to make that cutoff time a bit earlier depending on when your shift ends. That being said, if you're struggling to keep your eyes open before morning med pass, it might be necessary to refuel past that cutoff time.

3. Advocate for your schedule

Keep schedule as regular as possible with as many rest days you can get between your bundle of shifts. If you're flipping between having a social life during the day and working at night every other day of the week, it's going to be hard for your circadian rhythm to regulate itself. I try to schedule my shifts in bundles of 3 as close together as possible with a break of 4 days between shifts. That way, my body is happy with me staying awake for 4 days in a row then staying up 3 nights in a row. I've been lucky enough to have a job that allows for self-scheduling, and my manager is really great with working with our requested schedules. If you are not so fortunate, and your manager keeps scheduling you for sporadic shifts, be sure to advocate for yourself by meeting with them to talk about your schedule. Your rest is vital to your health and to the care of your patients, so it needs to be taken seriously.

4. Take small snack breaks

Even though we all know we need good food to fuel our hardworking bodies, it can be weird to eat a meal at 2 AM. I've found that it makes my stomach act up, and by the morning change of shift, I'm doubled over in stomach cramps. Because of this, I've had a hard time eating full meals in the middle of the night. What works for me is to make sure I have a few snack breaks so that I have some fuel in me to get me through the night. I've found that my digestive system is a bit happier when I have these small snacks compared to one big ol' dinner at the witching hour. It's really easy to throw together a healthy snack pack with a few things you can munch on. I like to bring a piece of fruit, a protein bar, trail mix, and maybe even a piece of dark chocolate (hi, caffeine!) to fulfill that sweet tooth.

5. Stay busy

If you're the kind of person who finds your eyelids involuntarily closing once night time rolls around, you may need to keep yourself busy during your night shift. With the crazy nights I've been having lately, I have not had a problem with this. Sometimes, though, there is a lull in the work and the unit can become very - dare I say it? - quiet. On quiet nights, team up with your techs and help them get patients changed and cleaned. If one coworker is drowning while you have down time, offer to help complete some of their tasks. If there is a lack of patient care to be completed, get to cleaning. Everyone could always appreciate a nice saniwipe party at the nurses' station. Staying busy with tasks is the best way to keep yourself alert during the night shift. It also won't hurt that your coworkers will love you if you're willing to help them with their work.

My sleep schedule: 

For a bit of background, I work 7 PM to 7 AM and 3 shifts per week. I'm going to split this section up into a few different scenarios of how my typical week looks. Let's pretend like I've just enjoyed a long weekend of daytime activities, and now I have to flip to being a night owl for my shifts at the beginning of the week. My schedule for the hypothetical week includes a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday shift.

Going back to nights after a weekend. 

If I've just spent a few days off work and I'm going to work the next day (i.e. working Sunday night), I try to stay up late on Saturday night, then I would sleep in as long as possible on Sunday morning. If I accidentally wake up around 9 AM on Sunday or have to get up early for some other reason, I go about my day, and then around 2 PM I get into my room, shut the blackout blinds, and nap for a few hours. I wake up around 5 PM to get ready for work, and I'm on my way into the night shift!

Sleeping after a night shift. 

When I get home from work in the morning, around 8 AM, I go right to sleep, sometimes after eating a small meal. I set my alarm for 4:30 PM so that I can get ready for work, have a meal, and see a bit of the daytime before I go back to work. Although I set my alarm for 4:30, sometimes I only sleep until 3. You'll find that your body sometimes just wakes you up at random hours of the day, and it's best to try to go back to sleep if you can. It doesn't always work though. So, if I physically cannot sleep as long as I had planned, I use that time before work to enjoy some daylight by exercising or running errands. Then, I go to work at night and repeat this pattern until the end of my third shift on Wednesday morning.

Sleeping before flipping back to a daytime schedule

On Wednesday morning when I get back from my third night shift in a row, I go right to sleep and try to wake up around 1 or 2 PM. Yes, this is less sleep than usual, but it's still about 5-6 hours, which isn't bad. I get up a bit earlier like this because I need to sleep at night like a normal human in order to flip back into a weekend full of daytime activities. This might not work for some people, but I've found that I am surprisingly rested by 2, and with a cup of coffee, I'm able to enjoy the day then get back to sleep at night. Then, viola, the next morning I wake up with the rest of the world when the sun comes up! Okay, fine. I usually wake up the next morning at like 11 AM, but the next day after that, it's a bit easier to get up early. After spending a few days with my loved ones, I go back to step one and do it all again!

I hope you've all enjoyed this article and that you've found it useful in some way. Feel free to leave your tips for night shift in the comments, and make sure you follow me on my social media accounts to stay connected!

My Journey to MSN, RN

Lately I've had a lot of hilarious high school photos pop up on my Facebook memories, and when I see them I am shocked at the amount of time that has passed. It's been over 7 years since I finished high school and 3 years since I graduated from college. What kind of madness is that!? Like most young people, throughout those years I changed my mind a lot about what direction my future would take me. Throughout grade school and at the beginning of high school, I was sure that I wanted to be a doctor or a forensic crime scene analyst (don't ask). Once I got really involved in speech team and theater toward the end of my high school career, I thought I wanted to become a news anchor. So, as any young aspiring news anchor does, I went into college as a broadcast journalism major.

When I started college at the University of Miami, I auditioned for a spot on UMTV, the university's local cable channel. I actually secured a position as a reporter, which I was super pumped about at the time. All my dreams were coming true... until I learned that the reporting life isn't all I imagined it to be. Part of my job as a reporter was to learn how to work all the cameras and microphone equipment, lug it around campus in a giant cart to the shooting location, create a video "package," and cut and edit my report. I was confused and unprepared for all of this, seeing as I was a freshman with very little background in broadcasting. Then, my first day on the job I had to help an upperclassman reporter film a package. It was a disaster. I pushed my cart full of heavy camera equipment across campus on a 90 degree day, and I couldn't find the girl I was supposed to meet up with. So, I brought the equipment back to the studio and just kind of quit the whole thing on the spot. In retrospect, it's kind of a hilarious failed attempt, but it goes to show that broadcasting just wasn't my passion. It was way too easy to give up and not look back.

At the time all of this was going on, I was enrolled in Psych 101. It was my favorite class, and it was the only one that felt right to me. I knew that broadcast journalism wasn't going to work out, so I talked to my counselor about switching my major. I knew right away when she asked that I wanted to study psychology. Throughout my college career as a psych major, I loved my courses and my professors. So many of them were super inspiring and intelligent women who I aspired to be like. With the help of their advice and mentorship, I started to get the idea that I wanted to get a Psy.D so that I could become a clinically-based psychologist.

My first step to pursuing that career involved seeking out a position as an undergraduate research assistant. I got a position at UMiami's PASO (the Program on Anxiety, Stress, and OC-Spectrum Disorders). This research program had the coolest faculty director, and all the graduate students were extremely knowledgable. My job involved running studies for the graduate students and collecting  evidence from databases. I was really lucky to get to be involved with such an intelligent group of researchers, but I learned through that position that I didn't want to go to graduate school for psychology. It would have involved a very heavy focus on research, which is great, but I'm the kind of person who has a short attention span and needs to get my hands dirty (so to speak).

Now that I was again unsure of my career path, I turned to the person who every young woman turns to when she needs a little help: my mom! My mom is a registered nurse and a clinical nurse leader, but her first career was as a school teacher. When I was in high school, she went to Rush University for nursing school, where she earned her Master of Science in Nursing and CNL certification. She gave me a lot of guidance regarding nursing and the many directions it can take you in. I considered that even though I would start as a bedside RN, I could have endless opportunities from there on out, even the possibility of becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner. After picking her brain and considering all the possibilities of nursing, I got the sense that this active, fast-paced patient-focused career path was a good fit for me.

Upon graduation from the University of Miami, I applied and was accepted to the Rush University generalist entry level MSN-RN program. This is a 2-year accelerated Masters program that also prepares you to sit for your CNL certification upon graduation. It is specifically designed for people with a bachelor's degree in anything except nursing, as long as you have the proper prerequisites under your belt (ex: A&P, psychology, microbiology, chemistry, etc...). It was an intense 2 years that flew by faster than I could have imagined. My clinical placements took me through all different areas of nursing, and taught me that a career in nursing could take you so many different places. My final immersion placement of nursing school was on a cardiac/telemetry unit that has a special medical/ behavioral designation. That meant that my psych background would tie into my work on the unit. The nurses and the techs on this unit were so welcoming and open to teaching and helping students, new grads, and each other. So, after graduation, I applied for a position there... and the rest is history!

I am currently working on this unit as a new grad RN and will be a part of the RN Residency program once the educational sessions start in August. It's been a great experience so far, and all of my preceptors have been extremely helpful in teaching me but also allowing me to learn and practice independently. I look forward to the near future in which I plan to hone my skills as a bedside RN, and I sometimes think about where the far-off future might take me. I have interest in working as a CNL, but I also sometimes think about going back to school to become an NP or possibly a CRNA. For now, I'm happy where I'm at.

The Role of the CNL

As a Clinical Nurse Leader, I get a lot of questions about what exactly a CNL does and has to offer to a healthcare setting. The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is a nursing leadership role that was first introduced in 2003 (AACN, 2013). The CNL is a valuable leader who can contribute his or her leadership skills at the point of care to benefit patients and health care organizations. CNLs are master’s educated registered nurses (RNs) who work to maximize patient care outcomes at the point of care in any setting where healthcare is delivered (AACN, 2013).
How is a CNL's education different than a  a BSN degree?
CNLs have a master’s level education that prepares them to be experts in leadership and evidence-based practice (Thompson & Lutham, 2007). While BSN programs focus on direct patient assessment and care, a CNL’s education goes beyond that with an additional focus on leadership. Throughout their education, CNLs practice clinical problem solving and focus on maximizing quality of care across the care continuum. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) delineates this education in the CNL competencies, which outline the curriculum foci (AACN, 2013). Some examples include systems leadership, quality improvement, translating scholarship to practice, and advocacy (AACN, 2013).
How is a CNL different from other master’s prepared nurses?
Unlike master’s prepared RNs who may have specialized in nursing administration or clinical nurse education, a CNL’s contribution begins at the bedside. CNLs work with bedside nurses as a partner and source of support. CNLs translate evidence-based practice to action, coordinate with the interdisciplinary team, and ensure safe, individualized plans of patient care, especially during transitions of care (Wienand et al., 2015). In these ways, the CNL is a safety net for patients and an impetus for evidence-based change within a microsystem.
What kind of career opportunities are available for CNLs?
Although it is a fairly new role, the CNL position is increasing in popularity. As the role gains popularity and recognition for its value, more hospitals are creating CNL positions. According to a survey of the current job market, a nurse working as a CNL can expect a median salary of about $82,000 with the potential to earn upwards of $100,000 (Graduate Nursing Edu, 2018). The CNL role is typically fulfilled by a nurse who has at least a year of bedside nursing experience. CNLs may be hired onto different shifts depending on the needs of the hiring organization. According to Graduate Nursing Edu (2018), the day-to-day workflow of the CNL involves the following duties:
- Facilitating collaborative care for patients
- Providing mentoring to nursing staff
- Establishing and overseeing a healthy working environment
- Collecting and evaluating patient risks, outcomes, and care plans
- Coordinating direct care activities among nursing staff
- Providing lateral integration of healthcare services
How does a CNL certification help outside of the direct CNL role?
Even if your local hospitals or community healthcare providers don't currently have positions available for the CNL role, a CNL certification is useful for any bedside nurse. The CNL education empowers nurses with the leadership skills necessary to being a positive force for systemic change. The CNL curriculum does this by providing education on how to identify a system's needs for improvement and successfully implement evidence-based quality improvement projects. Having a CNL certification may also give you a competitive edge when applying to RN positions, as you will be able to articulate your background in clinical leadership. If you're interested in becoming a CNL, follow this link to see what opportunities may be in your area.

AACN. (2013). Competencies and curricular expectations for Clinical Nurse Leader education and practice [PDF]. American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Graduate Nursing Edu. (2018). Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) job description. Retrieved from https://www.graduatenursingedu.org/clinical-nurse-leader/
Thompson, P., & Lutham, K. (2007). Clinical Nurse Leader and Clinical Nurse Specialist role delineation in the acute care setting. Journal of Nursing Administration, 37(10), 429-431.Wienand, D. M., Shah, P. R., Hatcher, B., Jordan, A., Grenier, J. M., Cooper, A. M., . . . Mayer, K. (2015). Implementing the Clinical Nurse Leader role: A care model centered on innovation, efficiency, and excellence. Nurse Leader, 13(4), 78-85. doi:10.1016/j.mnl.2014.11.011

Small Business Feature: Buu Buttons

As a new grad nurse, one of the most exciting parts of starting my job was finally getting my RN badge. No more "NURSING STUDENT" in bright red letters plastered on my badge - I was now official! After receiving my standard badge reel, I was quick to switch it out with the cutest little button style reel from a fellow nurse's small business, Buu Buttons.

My adorable floral reel from Buu Buttons
The creator of Buu Buttons is a full time ER nurse who started making the buttons as a hobby. Her friends loved what she was making, and her hobby quickly became much more than just a craft. She updates her online store frequently with new designs, and you can find sneak peeks of what's next to come on her Instagram account. Buu Buttons has no minimum order number and shipping only costs $0.99. My Buu Button badge has already earned me quite a few compliments, and it works well with no tangling/sticking of the reel.
I mean, come on. How cute is this Chewie button?
Support this small business by checking out her designs and ordering some adorable badges for yourself and your friends! I know you want to!

Buu Buttons Links:

How to Pass the NCLEX in 75 Questions

One thing I learned from studying for the NCLEX is that there is not one "right" way to prepare. You have to follow your own study patterns and create a plan that works for you. With that being said, I've created a list based on what worked for me and helped me pass the NCLEX on the first try in 75 questions. I hope that this can be helpful to others!

First things first, take a deep breath. Relax. It's all going to be okay. Your nursing education prepared you for this exam, and now it's your chance to show off how smart you are. Anyway, don't tell anyone I told you this, but... the NCLEX isn't really that bad. People make it sound so horrible and scary, but the test is designed for success. The algorithm is designed in a way that allows you to show you deserve to pass, which 85% of test-takers do! Speaking of the algorithm, despite the title of this post, you shouldn't worry so much about passing in 75 questions. Yes, it's a relief to feel like you just aced the exam, but a pass is a pass, no matter how you slice it. Now, just because I told you all of this doesn't mean you should ditch your study plans. It just means that you shouldn't work yourself up with anything except positivity and confidence. Keep reading to learn how to best prepare yourself to pass your NCLEX.

The first step in creating a successful study plan is choosing your test date. Register for a date that you feel is going to give you an appropriate amount of time to study. It would be better to overestimate your time needed to study so that you don't end up stressing and cramming. If you end up feeling prepared far before your testing date (look at you go!), you can always change your exam to an earlier session. On the other hand, you don't want to make your test date too far away. The lessons you learned in clinical rotations and the classroom really do help you on the exam, and you don't want to get too rusty before you sit for your NCLEX. Most people would suggest setting your date for one to two months after graduation, and I agree with that advice.

Before you start studying, make a plan for what kind of tools you will use to prepare. When I first started studying, I felt very unorganized and was trying to pull from too many resources - Kaplan review books, random websites, nursing school notes, etc... It was not getting me anywhere. What you need to do is choose a couple ride or die tools to stick with for your NCLEX prep. This toolkit will be your personal choice, but it should include a main source for content and a main source for practice questions. Try to think about what has worked for you in terms of study methods throughout nursing school. During school, I was never one to prepare for exams by reading the textbook. I knew that I needed an interactive way to study that wouldn't bore me to death. So, after some trial and error, I chose two main tools: YouTube for content and NCLEX RN Mastery App for practice questions. You can find the links to these sites at the end of this post.

After graduation, I gave myself the first month to relax with some light studying sprinkled in. The second month, I buckled down a lot more. This was my long term plan: study lightly for one month, study harder for the next, and study the hardest for the week leading up to the exam. I also had a daily study goal during each of these long-term time frames.
Month 1: During the first month of light studying, my goal was to complete 50 practice questions per day and to casually watch YouTube videos on content that I struggled with in my practice questions. Might I add that I also went on a nice vacation to Cabo and enjoyed a few cervezas? Balance, people, balance.
Month 2: Each day during Month 2, I set out to answer 100 practice questions. I also watched a couple YouTube videos each day that corresponded with the content of the practice questions. For example, on a day I was answering respiratory questions, I watched one YouTube video on COPD and one on Asthma.
The Final Week: I dedicated the final week to trying to help myself gain confidence in my areas of weakness. I continued to answer 100 questions per day and focused on areas I performed poorly in. I also watched almost every video from the Registered Nurse RN YouTube channel as a comprehensive content review.  I would not suggest staying up all night studying this week. If you've been preparing and hitting your daily goals, there is no use for skipping out on sleep. You need to keep your mind happy and healthy, and you can't do that without sleep!

The day before your exam, avoid any type of event you might perceive as stressful. Yes, that includes studying. If you really need to review a few things to calm your nerves, do it in the morning. After that, let yourself rest. I found that this day of rest was extremely helpful for my confidence and my attitude. Although I was anxious, I still felt happy and well-prepared.

Main Takeaway
If I could give you one main tip that you take away from this post, it would be to focus on learning HOW to take the test. In my opinion and experience, practice questions are more helpful than reviewing content. Yes, a content review is necessary, but the NCLEX is not a black and white content quiz. It is an exam that heavily focuses on prioritization of actions based on clinical knowledge and skill. Using a practice question database will give you the confidence you need to pass in as few questions as possible. A practice-question focused approach to studying will teach you how to answer those pesky select all that apply questions (and holy cow, did I get a LOT of them on the NCLEX). So, practice up, take a deep breath, and get ready to pass! You're going to do amazing.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. If you've already taken the NCLEX, share your favorite study tips below!

Useful Resources
^ I paid for the premium version, which is quite affordable and worth it in my opinion.