Guess what?! My birthday was earlier this week, and I am celebrating by giving away a brand new copy of Mosby’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX Exam! Are you excited? I wrote about how awesome this book is here.


How to enter:

1. In order for a chance to win, you MUST comment below with one piece of advice on how to study well, how to be a great nurse, or how to include relaxation in your day. This will get you one entry.

2. If you would like to earn more entries, you can do the following:

3. Once you have completed the above steps, you must fill out a very short form at If this form is not filled out, you will not be entered into the contest.

The contest is open until 9 PM on Sunday, March 22, and I will announce the winner on Monday, March 23!

This contest is only open to those who live in the United States or Canada (sorry to my followers around the world).

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What do you think about me doing weekly posts with updates and my plan for the week? I’m thinking about it…mostly because I’m addicted to planning. The accountability helps, too. 😉

Friday tends to be the first day of the week for me, so these posts will likely show up on Fridays. I have class on Thursdays, so I usually spend Thursday afternoon relaxing from all of the preparation it took to get to Thursday. I use Friday as a day to look ahead and plan for the following Thursday’s class.

This week…I need to focus on really getting this content down. The tests have been more difficult this semester, and I need to figure out what I need to change in order to improve. I’m doing fine. I just know I could do better. Please leave your tips or encouragement in the comment section. 🙂

In other news, I received my nursing pin in the mail today. I purchased it on Etsy…you can find it here if you would like to purchase one for yourself!



  1. Take one Kaplan test (I’m trying to be better about answering NCLEX questions daily).
  2. Read pharmacology content for Thursday (we have a case study on infectious diseases).
  3. Clean the house (I had a test yesterday…’nuff said).


  1. Take one Kaplan test.
  2. Read about infection control precautions.
  3. Read about infectious diseases in the Med/Surg book.


  1. Create two tables. One for infectious diseases and one for medications to treat infectious diseases.
  2. Hang out with Mark & Kass!


  1. Complete case study for Thursday.
  2. Take one Kaplan test.


  1. Finish creating tables from Sunday.
  2. Review notes.


  1. Meet up with my study group to go over Thursday’s case study.
  2. Take a long nap. 🙂
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I have received several requests regarding how to learn pharmacology content. You asked, now I’ll answer…to the best of my ability.

Here are the basics to get you off to a great start in your pharmacology course:

1. This course is largely memorization, which could be good news for us nursing students who struggle with choosing the most correct answer out of other correct answers. For the most part, pharmacology is straight-forward, and flashcards work great for this kind of learning. On the flip-side, know that you will never be able to remember every detail about every drug. And that is okay!

2. Know your A & P. A good understanding of A & P is crucial to understanding how the medications work! This makes it much easier to remember how the medication might affect body systems and what adverse reactions or side effects you might see in your patient.

3. Separate into classifications and keep your focus there. Do not memorize individual drugs! Memorize the classes of drugs. And suffixes! Also, a little birdie told me that the proprietary names of drugs will no longer be provided on the NCLEX. This still doesn’t mean that you need to memorize each generic name, but it does increase the importance of memorizing suffixes. By the way, my favorite suffix is “lol” for obvious reasons.


4. This is the best class to use my handy-dandy tables. I know I say this a lot, but you should really add table-making to your study repertoire. I think the table study technique really shines with pharmacology content. Just dream a little with me…each table could be a class of drugs that you could whip out at a moments notice and study for your next exam or for the exam to end all exams (ahem…the NCLEX).


5. Go to YouTube! If you ever need a visual, just enter the class of drug into a YouTube search! Here are a few to get you started. If you find some other good videos, post the links in the comment section!

Principles of PharmacologyDiureticsAntibioticsAntidiabeticsCalcium Channel BlockersAutonomic Drugs.

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The time I’m in class or clinical during the week is pretty minimal this semester. I have class once a week for three hours, and I have clinical on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of February. I’ll be starting my preceptorship later in the semester, but my schedule is pretty light compared to previous semesters.

My instructors have warned us about the dangers we face with this level of freedom in fourth semester. Plus, there is this thing called senioritis (related to studying too much in the previous three semesters as evidenced by exhaustion and an f*** it all mentality). So, I’m trying to fight against senioritis the best way I can…with a (care) plan. I’m all about making plans and checklists.


  1. Finish typing my journal for clinical about patient education.
  2. Read the material for Thursday’s case study lecture.
  3. Type agenda for Monday’s nursing club officers’ meeting.


  1. Complete case study for Thursday.
  2. Attend nursing club officers’ meeting.
  3. Complete service learning hours at Union Gospel Mission.


  1. Study the case study with my study group.
  2. Review the diabetes mellitus content from previous semesters.


  1. Answer 100 NCLEX questions related to Thursday’s content areas (diabetes mellitus and renal).
  2. Write my journal for clinical regarding my service learning experience.


  1. Attend the case study lecture.
  2. Attend the study session with the fourth semester tutor.


  1. Celebrate Friday by having fun with my sister, Megan, and her family!

What’s your plan for the week?

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After ALL the the work it takes to organize my binders each semester by week, and after I told all of you about how awesome that is, I decided to re-do it for my last semester. But don’t worry. If you are using the method I used, you might want to keep doing it that way.

I took all of my content from the first three semesters and put them in alphabetical order instead of by semester and week. Sounds like a lot of work, right? It was. It was kind of terrible, and I’m glad it is behind me now.

The reason I made the change? For the most part, I will only be reviewing content in my class this semester. Our program is designed to dig in deeper during the last semester with the content we learned in the first three semesters. We do this by working through massively long and excruciating painful case studies.

Since we use the content from previous semesters, it was important for me to be able to access that information easily. The old system wasn’t working for me anymore because I couldn’t remember what week or even what semester we went over cardiac. Plus, I am pretty sure that cardiac was covered in more than one class and in more than one semester.

Here are my binders before the mess began.

IMG_3201 (2)

I was too tired and crabby to take a picture of the mess. But just imagine paper…lots of paper…and no way to get around it. I was pretty much stuck finishing this project because I trapped myself in the dining room.

Basically, I took everything out of my binders and made a pile for topics beginning with “A” and another one for “B” and so on. I had separate lectures for heart failure, myocardial infarction, and EKG monitoring, so I put them all under the “Cardiac” tab and had smaller tabs for the individual topics. Same went for endocrine, neuro, GI, etc.

This is how I know where to find the content that I just spent hours organizing…

The front sleeve of each binder has a table of contents with the actual contents of that binder in bold lettering. Pretty handy.


The sleeve on the spine of the binder has the first topic, last topic, and the number of the binder.


Alright, it’s time to get back to care plans and case studies!

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My last semester of nursing school begins in a week, and I am busy creating my calendars, preparing another batch of freezer meals, and soaking up as much family time as possible.

Here’s a look at my winter break in pictures:

Believe it or not, the Twin Cities has not gotten much snow yet. But these two turkeys seem to be hanging around a lot…


I was the idiot who thought she could make a Christmas gift for someone on her list. After a lot of seem ripping and tears, I decided to give up…


This is our niece. Love the look. 🙂


I won several personal training sessions at my gym, so I am getting pretty buff again. Watch out…


Grant and I hosted a New Year’s Day Party, and we got to play Ticket to Ride for the first time! I highly recommend it…

I’ve been spending some time organizing for my last semester. My lecture only covers one topic per week this semester, so instead of writing “Week 1, Week 2, Week 3,…” on my binder tabs, I get to write the name of the topic that will be discussed. I’m kind of excited about that. I think that it will be easier to find what I am looking for when studying for an exam…


Best of luck as y’all start your semesters! I can’t wait to hear about them!

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If you haven’t read about how I use Google calendar in nursing school, check out My Calendars — Part 1.

The other two calendars I use are paper calendars, and I place them in the front and black slots of my binder. The one at the front of my binder is my syllabus calendar, and it is a very detailed version of the calendar I keep on my Google calendar.

The syllabus calendar goes in the front slot of my binder.

The syllabus calendar goes in the front slot of my binder.

Absolutely everything related to nursing school is on this calendar. I use the syllabus my instructors hand out at the beginning of the semester and delete all of the information that does not apply to me, such as the clinical dates for the other clinical groups.

Date, time, lecture topic, clinical information, exam information (I highlight exam dates), service learning, group project meetings, and all of the other stuff they pile on us goes on this calendar. I just rotate the pages as the semester progresses.


The calendar on the back of my binder holds only the important dates, such as assignment due dates and exam dates. I can look at it quickly and know if something important is going on this month.


I cross off the days as I go so that I can quickly see the next major event. The events I include are clinical dates, service learning dates and locations, exam dates, assignment due dates, and I throw holidays in there, too. (I can’t wait for Christmas!)


These three calendars (Google, syllabus, and important dates) keep me from pulling my hair out every single day. My mind can rest from some of the stress of not knowing whether I’ve missed a deadline or a meeting because I always know where I need to be. Give it a shot. And if you have a calendar system that works for you, let me and the other readers know because we need to help each other out!

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I use three methods to keeping my schedule organized. I was planning on sharing all of them with you in this post, but it was getting kind of long, and long posts are boring. So stay tuned to learn about my other two calendars:  the syllabus calendar and the important dates calendar.

There are a lot of organizational options out there for nursing students (planners up the wazoo, desk calendars, white board calendars, phone apps). My favorite combo is a Google calendar, a syllabus calendar, and an important dates calendar. Each one serves it’s own purpose, and I never have that dreaded feeling of missing anything.

The first calendar I will share with you is the Google calendar. If you already have a Google account, you are off to a great start (if not, Google how to create one…lol). Find the calendar button in the top right corner of any Google page (you must be logged in to see it). Click on it! 🙂

Google Calendar (Google Homepage)

Within your Google calendar, you have the opportunity to make multiple calendars that can be displayed at the same time or hidden when you want to focus on just one aspect of your life (e.g., nursing school).

Google Calendar (All calendars)

On the left side of the screen, you can see that I have three calendars that I control (Amy Determan, Nursing School, and Tasks). I also am able to see three calendars under Other Calendars (these are calendars that have been shared with me).

My Amy Determan (blue) calendar is for all of my personal appointments, parties, concerts, etc. My Nursing School (green) calendar is for my classes, clinicals, simulation activities, etc. And I can’t tell you how nice it is to have Grant using Google calendar, too! We don’t run into scheduling conflicts because we can easily pull up each others’ calendars in an instant (using our smart phones).

You can see in the picture below how each of my calendars can be viewed separately if needed. If you click on the calendar names on the left side of the screen, you can hide them or display them. I usually keep all of the calendars up, because how else am I going to know what’s going on outside of my nursing school bubble!?

Google Calendar (Only Nursing)

A view of my nursing school calendar without all of my other calendars.

If you would like step-by-step instructions on how to set up your own Google calendar, Anson Alexander has a great YouTube tutorial series that will get your started! You will be amazed at how many cool features Google calendar has to offer. And it’s FREE.

Question for y’all:  Do you prefer paper calendars or electronic calendars?

Also, is anyone else experiencing something like this today? Not cool, Mother Nature. Not cool.


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One of my instructors gave us a friendly reminder about the fact that there will be lab values on the NCLEX! What?! Don’t worry, this isn’t a surprise to me. Definitely a wake-up call though.

So what did I do about it? I made some flashcards using the lab values provided at the University of Minnesota Medical Student Website.


It took me about 30 minutes to create these cards. I wrote the lab name on the front, and the back has the normal value and the category of the lab (e.g., ABGs, coagulation).

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Daylight savings time ended today, and that means we have an extra hour in our day! I need it!


I spent the last four days in Chicago visiting one of my friends and attending a conference with the hubster. We listened to amazing speakers who shared what makes their stories special like Glennon Melton Doyle and her story of vulnerability and truth-telling, Donald Miller and his passion for showing others how to live a good story, Joshua Becker and his simplicity in possessions and life, and Bob Goff and his radical love-doing. Needless to say, it was inspirational, and it made me want to live out a story of great meaning with purpose.

I did not study much while I was in Chicago, so I will be using my extra hour trying to distinguish between left and right heart failure for my exam tomorrow! I better get back to the books before I use up my hour on my blog. Eeeek!

How will you be using your extra hour today? Tell me all about it in the comment section! 🙂

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