Studying to become a nurse, no matter which specialty, takes focus, patience and passion. In college, your academics are number one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join groups or clubs. Laura Plante is a registered nurse (RN) at the Life Care Center of Auburn, MA. While studying for her degree, she was a member of the Gamma Psi chapter of the Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) sorority as well as the National Student Nurses’ Association. In this interview, Laura shares how she balanced school work with these extracurricular activities.
ExploreHealthCareers.org (EHC): What was the most stressful part of nursing school?
Laura Plante (LP): Becoming accustomed to the exam schedules, what was expected of me and the workload. It took me a while. People would always say the semester they just finished up, whether it be sophomore, junior or senior year, is the most difficult. In reality, nursing is always an uphill battle. At a certain point I just got used to the workload and once I did, it was so much easier.
EHC: How much time in an average week did you devote to extracurriculars and to nursing courses?
LP: I spent about 4 to 8 hours a week on extracurricular activities. For school, I spent 8 to 21 hours in class/clinical and 15 to 20 hours a week studying.
To be honest, balancing school and extracurriculars was hard. I held a position in the sorority and went to every event. It wasn’t until I failed a class junior year that I took a step back. The following semester, I went on a professional status [a status that relieves sorority members of the obligation to attend meetings and events] and focused on school. AST, if anything, helped me to create structure, meaning a concrete schedule for myself. I was able to get out my need for social interactions in a scheduled time frame and then schedule studying.
EHC: What advice do you have for those thinking about applying to nursing school?
LP: Think about why you want to become a nurse and what foundation you actually have to becoming one. It’s hard work, physically and mentally. There are times I don’t get to use the bathroom for an 8-hour period because I’ve been so busy! I’ve been attacked by patients, called names, picked on for how I looked, harassed and have been sent to the ER for injuries. I think a lot of young people get into it thinking that it’s going to be fun and they’ll get to dress in scrubs and have a stethoscope. As school goes on, more people started dropping out when they realized how nursing isn’t as glamorous as they imagined.
EHC: Do you have any study tips?
LP: Put your head down, open your book and do it. There aren’t shortcuts to studying because you either know it or you don’t. If you find yourself complaining about how hard it is, then you’re probably doing it wrong or not putting in enough. Once you know the material yourself, meet with a study group a day or two before the exam to keep things fresh in your mind. Teach anyone that will listen to you about what you learned, whether that’s your mom, your cat or your roommate!
EHC: Why do you feel that nursing was the best career choice for you?
LP: I feel nursing is the best career choice for me because I’m flexible, hard working and determined. I don’t have to be stuck at a desk all day, but I could be later on in my career if I wanted to be. I also like helping my patients, it’s satisfying knowing that they’re tucked away in bed happy at night because I helped them. I enjoy being there for them during the tough times. Once you have a good relationship with your patients and coworkers, being a nurse is fun!
College provides opportunities for you to get involved in your community and explore your passions outside of your career. If you’re unsure if you should join an extracurricular activity like Laura did, check out our post about weighing the pros and cons.