The Scribbling Nurse

How to study externally (and survive!)

Aiight. Here it is, finally. I’ve been asked oodles of times from other nursing students about tips to study externally and without forking out thousands on unnecessary stuff just because ‘you might need it’. I also swear. I like swearing and swearing likes me so if you take offence easily, pretend the cusses are just latin. Moving on.

First and foremost, I am not an expert in studying, nursing, student psychology, budgeting or even how to study externally! These are my personal techniques which have done me well however this advice should not be taken as gospel. You are unique and will have unique ways of learning so see how you go and always make sure you use resources the way you need to.

Okay, got that crap out of the way. Let’s get cracking. Rewind back to when I started studying externally through Charles Darwin University. After the initial excitement of “OMG I got into uni! I’m a uni student!’ came the ‘OMG where the f*** do I start!?’

Start with Blackboard, the online learning base which will have all your learning resources, assignment details, uploading and ‘safe assign’ bits and a CALENDAR.

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Assignments: I didn’t know there was a calendar but there is and I would HIGHLY recommend using it. Go through all your units and write down when each assignment/essay is due with the unit number eg. ‘NUR244 Essay due by midnight’. Go and whack them all into the calendar so you have a visual reminder of what assignments to be working on now and what assignments can wait. You can even colour code them which is cool.

It will give you peace of mind that you are working on the essay/assignment that is due the soonest. Sounds simple yeah? But it is so easy to get worried about the ‘biiiiig assignment’ which is due in like, 6 weeks, and overlook the 500 word post that is due next Friday but contributes to 30% of your overall mark.

In the Learning Resources section there will be all the learning materials for the topics each unit is teaching. Read through these, they are easy to read and contains a lot of the information they require you to know for both assignments and exams.

Text Books: Now here’s the controversial part that some may completely disagree with: Don’t buy text books. You don’t need them. They are insanely expensive, even if you do get them second hand; and getting them second hand often means you aren’t getting the most up-to-date version which the university wants. Pffttt; I think it’s a crock of shit that you have to have the most updated version because they are 99% the same as the previous version and 99% over-priced.

The only textbook I used a lot is the Clinical Psychomotor Skills by Joanne Tollefson. And even then I had the version of about 3 years ago. I only used it to find clinical skills I could use for my Objectives and Reflections.

When you are researching for essays, use the university’s online library. They have thousands of peer-reviewed research articles which are up-to-date and *cue angels singing* FUH-REEEEEEE!!! Make sure the articles are less than 5 years old and are Australian or address issues pertinent to Australian culture. There is a filter down the left side which you can choose ‘peer-reviewed articles’ ‘Australian’ ‘published between 19xx and 20xx’.

And you know what? Use Wikipedia! Use that amazing resource but NEVER and I mean, hand on my heart, NEVAHHH reference Wikipedia or any website that cannot be verified, I’m talking about anything ending in dot com. Because you’re right, you can’t verify things even on Wikipedia. I used it simply to understand the topic and content. The good thing about Wikipedia is that it is written in layman’s terms, meaning you can understand it. But back that info up my friend. When you have a grasp of what the heck you are trying to write an essay about, go to the online peer-reviewed research articles and learn more from them. THEY will have verified information and you can reference them. The main main main thing about studying is you need to understand what you are studying. Of course you could read and memorise then spurt it out like a parrot but in many industries, if you don’t understand why, what, where, when and how then you’re not going to be very good at whatever profession you are aiming to work in, unless it’s politics. But let’s not go there.

Referencing: Okay baby, this is my gift to you. www.citethisforme.com Please and You’re Welcome. Getting referencing wrong can get you butt-whipped in terms of grading. I once lost about 10% of my overall mark for an essay because I added the first initial in in-text referencing. BECAUSE TAFE TAUGHT ME THAT WAY – Thanks TAFE. Ensure you change the referencing to the style your university requires. I had to use APA but many use Harvard and others.

And here’s another awesome tip. Many online peer-reviewed research articles have a DOI (Digital object identifier) number. Copy and paste that into ‘Journal’ when you are adding a reference and it finds the exact article for you. Sweet as.

Exams: Freak out! ARGH! Nah, calm your farm. You’ll be fine. You know why? Because everything you need to know in your exam is on Blackboard under the Learning Materials. Go into the Unit of the exam, go to the Left side and see Learning Materials and read each and every one of the power points and do each and every one of the short quizzes at the end. Those quizzes are awesome and you’ll find those questions will be in your exam. The uni isn’t going to test you on shit they haven’t taught you cos that would be like, SO UNFAIR!

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I mean like SO UNFAIR!

There is also www.quizlet.com which is really helpful to swot up on bit and bobs. Type in the Unit code and it will show quizzes and games you can play to learn. Keep in mind that these quizzes are created by other students so some might be a bit higgledy piggledy.

I also made a page of notes to look at while waiting outside the exam room before entering. It just kept my brain refreshed.

During the exam: Do all the questions you know the answer to. Bang those ones out then go back through the questions that you kind of know the answer to but need to think a bit more. Then finally, go back over the questions you have absolutely no freaking idea even if you were paid a million bucks. Those questions are moot and you might as well close your eyes and point to an answer. It is futile to sit and stress over a question you simply don’t know the answer all the while confusing yourself when you could be using the precious time answering the questions you do know and know 100% is right (or maybe 95% hehe). Often your memory will get jolted by some questions which will help with previous questions that stumped you. So keep forging ahead. And when you have finished the exam, don’t think any more about it because why? There is nothing else you can do. You can’t ring them up and say “I just remembered the answer to question 63! Can you change it for me!” so go for a walk along the beach or meet a friend for coffee and talk about anything but the exam. Promise me? Good.

Safe Assign: It’s a program to compare essays/assignments against ones they have on file to ensure students aren’t plagiarising their submissions. It will give you a percentage of how much is similar it is to other essays it has on its data base. Unless you have copied paragraphs and know full well you’ve cheated, the similarities will mostly be the referencing and the questions or lay-out from the uni; don’t stress if it says it’s 25% comparable to others on it’s data base, it will just be that.

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How many units should I study each semester?: This is completely up to you. If you have a family or full-time work or prefer to not over-burden yourself with a full-time study load (4 units a semester) then knock it back to 2-3 units. If you are really strapped for time or the quintuplets you just gave birth to are a bit high maintenance, then whack it right back to 1 unit a semester. Keep in mind that the fewer units you do each semester will prolong the course duration so see if you can do at least 2 a semester.

I also left all my clinical placement units to the end (where possible) so I saved up my annual leave to be able to attend. This also meant I didn’t have any exams or assignments due when I was on placement because I had done all the theory units.

Online lectures/classrooms: I’m not saying this to sound like a rebel but I didn’t listen to one single recorded lecture nor did I attend one online classroom because I found they were as boring as batshit and I could do the study myself. HOWEVER, you may find them beneficial and if you prefer being in a classroom to study, then attending the online classes and listening to the lectures may help you get into the swing of learning. I know people who really liked them so give it a go. As I said, your study is all about how you learn best.

Extra activities: My friend. Listen to me now. Don’t waste your precious time on doing any extra activities that are not graded. They are a waste of time and you get no thanks for them. Unless you live in utopia where all your meals are cooked, house is cleaned, a Greek god is hand-feeding you peeled grapes and your feet are getting massaged by Ryan Reynolds (or female equivalent…Blake Lively?) and you have ALL the time in the world, don’t bother with them. Just do the quizzes in the learning materials which will help you remember the crap you gotta remember to pass exams. And essays. And any other GRADED stuff.

Family, Friends and Social Life: You are at uni. You are studying to get a qualification so you can earn decent money, have job satisfaction and pave a future for you and your family. You will have to step back occasionally to study or go to prac or just sit in your car with the radio turned to max and just scream. So when you start studying, explain to everyone that you will need help and support. Don’t feel guilty. It’s not forever and you are doing it for you and your loved ones. Hubby can cook a few meals each week. The girls nights can be missed for a few months. Real friends will support your studying and not make you feel guilty for not drinking chardonnay at Emma’s place when her 6th boyfriend this year dumped her. There will be sacrifices but they are worth it (and Emma needs to find a decent bloke).

'See? You get to have a shower in spite of that old body cast!'

Clinical Placements: Now I’ve only studied Nursing, I’m not sure about other degree’s but it may be similar. You will need to attend onsite clinical placements as part of your degree. Some units it may be 4 weeks, some 6 weeks. But overall you’ll probably do about 5-6 months full time placement. FULL TIME. Not half a day here and half a day there. Not ‘I have to drop off and pick my kids up so I can only do 9-3’ kind of placements. You are required to be at the hospital / nursing clinic / GP clinic at the times they set. Many hospitals have shifts like 7am-3.30pm or 1pm-9.30pm or night shifts of 9pm-7.30am. You need to be sitting in that nurses office at least 5 minutes before the start of each shift and you need to stay until you finish. This is because AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) require a minimum number of placement hours in order to register you as a nurse. If you are sick, make up the day. This is where having kids can be hard but ask for help.

I used to freak out before every. single. placement. My nerves went wild and I would dread going. But once I got there, was introduced to my preceptor and started the shift, I was as happy as a pig in shit. You aren’t expected to know everything when you go to placement, you are there to learn. Be positive, engaged, ask questions and be enthusiastic. Yeah you might know how to take a full set of obs but you aren’t going to say ‘I already know how to do that, what else can I do?’. Do whatever is required to ensure you are providing comprehensive and safe patient care. Always be supervised when you are required to be. If you forget something, tell your preceptor straight away. Always report findings to your preceptor, even if they are within normal range. Communication is extremely important. Know your student scope of practice and be prepared to say ‘I can’t do that but I am keen to watch’. Don’t ever ever ever risk your degree or the patients safety by performing a task outside your scope just because ‘It was busy’ or ‘I didn’t want to say no’. You know what I’m saying.

Conclusion: This is all I can think of to write right now. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. As I said before, these are all from my personal experiences and you may find you study completely differently. I am not an experienced nurse but I am an experienced student.

Gooooood Luck!

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The Scribbling Nurse

And then there was 8

Eight. 8. acht, huit, otto, nane. Eight weeks until Tim and I will be pulling out of our driveway towing the bonky old camper trailer and our sun-glasses clad bonces focussing on our new future.

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But that’s still eight weeks away and we still have a bit to do to get there. Our shower is almost finished and apart from getting the place painted, we don’t really need to do much else (yay!!) We are showering using a gas instant hot water system in a shower tent in the backyard which is actually really nice! Maybe not so much for the neighbours… haha!

It’s been a lovely time since I returned from the NT. I had an amazing opportunity to meet my favourite comedienne Urzila Carlson after seeing her live at the Regal Theatre in Perth. Her humour is ‘out there’ but HILARIOUS and hits the nail right on the head! Have a watch of the clip but beware; lots of curse words!

Urzila and Me

Izzy has a new collar with superhero logos on it. She wanted me to tell you that.
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I had quite a bit of a response about my last blog post on suicide. I feel so honoured that some of you shared your story and I appreciate the encouragement from others for writing a piece that was very difficult yet something my heart wanted to say.

There is a new website called http://www.study101.com which allows visitors to research education providers and determine which course and provider is best for them. You can review the uni you are using or read reviews others have written. I was asked to write an article about being a nursing student and am thrilled it is now on the site!  MainLogo

I also want to give a quick thank you to the following blogs/websites who have featured my blog and helped reach out to many more people: Charles Darwin University ‘LaunchPad’, Australian College of Nursing ‘NurseClick’, NurseUncut & feedspot.com

Anyway, better get back to doing stuff, whatever that is! Thanks for reading!

Take care

-Rachel

The Scribbling Nurse

And that was that! (for now)

It’s done. Or in the fine vocabulary of Vicky Pollard “I DUN IIIIIT!”. 326171

I have finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree and now waiting for my registration with AHPRA (the governing body all health clinicians need to be registered with in order to practice [legally]).

It was a bittersweet ending to my time in Hermannsburg. As is usual with student placements, you just get to know the staff better and feel like you’re fitting in just a little bit more then *woosh!* you’re leaving. You say heartfelt goodbyes to staff you came to admire and enjoy being around, but they will soon have another student to fill your place and the merry-go-round starts up again; same moves, same motions, same things to sign-off.

The Hermannsburg Ntaria clinic staff, like the Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Canteen Creek staff, are all a really wonderful group of people who I would love to work with in the future so maybe this student might return one day!

Ntaria Clinic Staff
Most of the Ntaria Health Clinic staff!

There were a couple of people in Hermannsburg who I spent time with who I will miss and look forward to seeing again when Tim and I return to the NT.

Ems is a strong and determined new student, who was a pleasure to sit with and rehash knowledge even I had forgotten. She reignited in me the excitement of new beginnings and a sense of self; ‘Why am I doing this’? Ems knew, she’s known for a long time why she is doing this. And being around her, listening to her story and sharing mine, I remembered why I was doing this as well. Thank you Ems.

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Ems, Fran and moi!

And Lulu. Lulu is a magical dog because for some reason I have this crick in my neck and every time I move it, I hear a voice say “Lulu HAS to be in your blog! I’m not writing it down because I just said it. Lulu HAS to be in your blog!”. I’ve never been afraid of a midwife before but I have heard urban legends so Lulu, a rescued pound dog who has white fur that gets stuck in your clothes and is way older than she looks, has now been mentioned in my blog. And I get to keep my womb and any other bits midwives deal with. Lulu’s Mother is a midwife and she isn’t afraid to travel in her new little car.

This week has been a countdown to the day I finish. I was on-call with two RAN’s (Remote Area Nurse, in case you forgot) on Anzac Day and attended a few call-outs with them. I still love remote area nursing and working/living in Aboriginal communities.

Wednesday night, I went to a BBQ down at Fink River with Fran, Lulu’s Mum. There we joined a group of people and sat under the stars, chatted and enjoyed watching the little kids run around. The serenity was, in my opinion, better than Bonnie Doon (sorry Darryl). Everywhere I go, I make a mental note to come back with Tim and Izzy and spend more time there, get to know more people and learn more about ourselves, even if it is sitting quietly and being in our third space.

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Picnic on the Fink River bed

Thursday, we had a lunch together at the clinic and one of the visiting clinicians had made a lime cheesecake to say goodbye to a RAN called Marcia and a congrats to me for finishing. So lovely and appreciated.

This morning (Friday) was my very very last day as an RN student. I went over to the museum to have a look around at the history of Hermannsburg. I took some happy snappys and had a cool drink at the tearoom. Hermannsburg is beautiful little community with lots of places to visit. I’m keen to go back and see Jesus’ footprint near Fink River and just spend more time enjoying the area without rushing.

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Everything seemed slightly surreal as I wandered around waiting for my ride coming into from Alice Springs to take me back. Unfortunately, the driver of the car who picked me up was the most rude, obnoxious piece of work I’d encountered in a long time. I don’t usually draw attention to negative experiences however I am managing to find the funny side in the situation. I’m very assertive and choose when to enter into swapping words, but because I didn’t feel like being left on the side of a desert road with no phone reception and a warm can of Coke Zero, I ignored her comments!

After 8 weeks, moving 9 times and working in 6 different facilities, I have met and worked with some of the most genuine, hardworking, loving people I have ever met. I feel so blessed to have had this experience in the Northern Territory and can’t wait to call it my home, again, but for longer.

I just went and watched ‘Gurrumul’ at the cinema. It is about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal man from Elcho Island who is a musical and singing prodigy. He has a haunting and powerful voice that can take you to different parts of the universe. I’d highly recommend seeing this documentary.

I had the entire cinema to myself and as it was playing on my mind, I thought I’d quickly check to see if my last two units had been marked. I squinted at my phone and saw I had passed my last two units meaning I now had my degree. I turned my phone off again and sat in the darkness, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks as the rich soulful euphony of Gurrumul’s music swirled around the theatre and caressed my heart. ‘I did it’ I thought proudly, ‘I did it’.

– Rachel

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Photos courtesy of Fran!