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Paying for nursing school

28 Aug
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From the incredible and hilarious nursing.school Instagram.

A couple of my readers have wanted to know how I pay for nursing school and while I’m no financial adviser, I can offer some words of wisdom on how to make it work and at least share what I’ve done. So let’s get real uncomfortable and talk about our finances!

One of the main reasons I decided to make the transition from veterinary nursing to human nursing is that it’s a more secure profession. Much better pay, better benefits and plenty of opportunity for growth and even better salaries over time. But getting there is by no means cheap.

Probably the biggest piece of advise I can offer is to start saving right now. Like right this minute. Top priority. Top of the list. How are you going to make this work? Most likely the time between when you decide you want to go to nursing school and actually starting will be a while. I decided I wanted to go back to school in January 2016, and I actually started nursing school January 2018. Between that time was a lot of pre-requisites and applying periods. I made a commitment to myself back then that I would scrimp and save. I also agreed to pick up as many extra shifts at work as possible. I took on every pet sitting client that asked me. I also went through my monthly budget and eliminated a lot. No more shopping. Not a lot of traveling. Eating in more. Cancelled Hulu, Spotify, New Yorker magazine subscription, etc. It all felt like little things that would never add up to paying for nursing school, but it has helped make a dent.

I would also highly highly recommend community college for any and all prerequisites that you might need to take. When I first decided I was going back to school, I shopped around for post-baccalaureate programs. I was accepted at the University of Vermont’s program. I was so excited and wide-eyed. It was all starting to happen for me. How fun it would be to live in Burlington! But then they started notifying me of the cost. About 22K per semester for 3-4 semesters, coming to between 66K and 88K for prerequisites. Not to mention the cost of relocating to Vermont, buying a car, etc. I opted for Laguardia community college where I racked up around 10K of debt instead. Not. Bad. Nursing schools DO NOT CARE where you did your pre-requisites. They care what grades you got. So save the money and go to the cheapest community college options available.

I chose NYU because I’m an older student, and it was one of the few programs that had a January start instead of a September start for their accelerated program. For me starting the nine months earlier was worth the heftier price tag. I would become a nurse sooner, and NYU has a great reputation, and I felt I could get a higher-paying job faster. But there are cheaper options, such as Hunter college, if you are looking in New York City.  Many nurses start out with an associates degree, gain experience, and return for their Bachelor’s. It’s a totally viable option if that’s what you can afford.

I have been careful about balancing work and school, and I’m lucky that I work at a place that gives me the flexibility to do that. My first semester I only worked one day a week, and second semester I worked two days a week. And I pet sit a lot. It’s a great side hustle, even though the money isn’t reliable. Some months I’ve racked up a lot of pet sitting money, and other months I barely make anything at all. My savings, my part-time work, and the pet sitting have made it so I only needed to take out loans that would cover tuition. I’ll still owe between 80k-90k in loans when I’m done though. That includes private loans (the majority of the debt), federal loans, and the small loans I took out to pay for my pre-requisites. Even when I think about it though, I feel nauseous. But for me, I decided that I will make it work. I’ll be making good money, doing something I love, and I’ll pay that down eventually. I did meet a lot of students at NYU who continued to work full-time, but I must warn that the majority of them failed out that first semester. So I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk.

So that’s how I did it/am doing it. Everyone’s situation is a little different. A lot of my classmates are living with their parents to save money on rent (not an option for me), and a lot of my classmates have their parents paying for their living situation (also not an option for me), and some of my classmates aren’t working at all and taking out additional loans to cover living expenses (gratefully not what I needed to do). The best piece of advice I can give is really take a long weekend to sit down and work through it. Is this absolutely what you want to do? Do you have debt already hanging over you? Are there things you can do NOW to start making extra money? How can you cut back on your spending, and what are you willing to sacrifice? What nursing school options can you afford? It’s not going to be easy, but if it’s what you really feel called to do, it’ll be worth it.

Some small Nursing School tips to save money!

  • Don’t buy the textbooks! I was an eager beaver who bought the textbooks a week before school only to find out on day 2 of school that there were free pdfs of the textbooks going around which were VERY easy to get. I wasted about $700. So at least wait through the first week of school to make sure you really need to be buying those books.
  • Go to student group events! My friends make fun of me, because I attend so many lectures on different aspects of nursing. But the not-so-secret thing is that it comes with a free dinner. Usually it’s pizza. Sometimes it’s salad, sandwiches, potluck food made by students. Basically they give you free food to lecture you for an hour about a healthcare topic. It’s usually very interesting and also gives you a great way to meet other students in the program and network with professors and alumni. But, yeah, free meals. Do it.
  • Invest in a good coffee maker, travel mug, lunch pails, etc. Don’t waste too much money at school/hospital cafeterias. Pack your own snacks, brew your own coffee. It adds up fast, and professors get weirdly impressed when they see you eating healthy snack options.
  • Sign up for a credit card with cash back rewards. Just a general money-saving tip, but it has especially helped in nursing school. I have a chase card with amazon reward points. Again, these little things add up fast, and it’s helped mitigate some of my smaller expenses.
  • If you don’t already have a job like mine that you can mold to your school schedule, ask your professors if they know of any. A lot of my friends have gotten “Companion” positions at hospitals. I’m quite jealous of them, because they get a decent amount of money, and they get to know a lot of the nursing staff at hospitals and will have in-house references once we graduate.
  • Optimize what your school offers you. NYU allows us free admission to most NYC museums, along with free gym memberships, not to mention a ginormous library. That means I spend a lot less money on going out, working out, and buying books.

I hope this at least helps!

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Second Semester of Nursing School

27 Aug

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Throughout the first semester of nursing school I was told by professors, advisers, nurses that after the first semester, things get a lot easier.

Liars.

Maybe not entirely a lie, but the second semester was definitely just as time consuming and stressful as the first. I will say that I comprehended material faster and everything does start to click. A lot of nursing school is truly about reshifting the way we think, and it was much easier to get into that mindset.

The roughest part was Pharmacology. So many medications. So many administration parameters. So many contraindications and adverse reactions and therapeutic ranges. It was painful and so so so overwhelming. But finally getting through pharmacology made a lot of other things in nursing make sense. Administering medications and treatments, after all, is one of the biggest responsibilities of a nurse. Doctors prescribe, pharmacists make the drugs, computers scan everything. There are checks and balances. But, still, medical errors (which are usually medication related) are the third leading cause of death in the United States. And nurses are the ones standing beside a patient with the drugs in their hands, the last ones to possibly say, “Huh, this might not be a good idea for this particular patient” or “This seems like too much” or more commonly “Was the doctor/pharmacist aware of XYZ about this patient that could cause an adverse reaction.” In summation, you better know your shit.

Despite spending the majority of my summer locked in an overly air conditioned building, I still love it. Especially as I gain more confidence in my skills and the knowledge I have. I had two professors this semester who I found so inspiring. One of which I really bonded with. A feisty ER nurse from Staten Island who is whip-smart and from my first class with her, all I could think was, “That’s the exact kind of nurse I want to be.” I attended all of her extra tutoring sessions and sat front and center. The day of our final, she came up to me after the exam and gave me a big hug, and we chatted a bit about the semester. It meant the world to me.

Then there was my “Acute Psychiatric Care” class. I went into nursing school thinking I wanted to focus on emergency medicine or even critical care medicine. But I loved my psych class so much. I only got to spend three weeks on the psych floor, and I was sad to leave each day. I also think it’s a great disservice to nursing students to only require the psych class for half a semester instead of for a whole semester. Psych patients don’t just exist on the psych floor. If something physically traumatic happens to them (which is very very common) that takes precedent, and they end up on a medical floor. It takes a special finesse and optimal communication skills to work well with these patients. I loved working with the patients on the floor, and they loved us (often). A lot of the time they just wanted someone to listen to them, to have a sounding board, to have encouragement without judgment. I’m seriously considering pursuing psychiatric nursing or even working in a psychiatric emergency room.

So much to tell and explore and write about. Thank you so much to the readers who have reached out with requests and questions. The semester was too busy to sit down and answer those questions, but I’m proactively setting aside time during this break to write. Really write. I’ll finally put down an update on what happened with the poodle nanny situation, how I pay my way through nursing school, some tips about just SURVIVING nursing school, maybe some stories I’ve picked up along the way, and just some general life lessons gained along the way. I’ve missed writing so much. I’ve been told the next two semesters will be easier, but I just don’t know what to believe any more. But I’ll be here to write. I promise!

First Semester of Nursing School

14 May

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I have the month of May off from school. I’ve picked a couple of extra shifts at the vet clinic, but essentially I’m lazing around my apartment. Lots of late morning cuddles with my cat, staying out till one with friends, laying in parks reading, cooking healthy meals and grabbing unhealthy meals with friends I haven’t seen in months. I look back at my first semester of nursing school and wonder lazily to myself, “Did I imagine all that?”

It’s a shock to go from something being an all-consuming force in your life to having almost NO presence in your life. At orientation for my program back in January, multiple professors and deans emphasized that the first semester of nursing school is the hardest, the most intense, the one that some students struggle to survive. In just three months, the school strives to give you an entire medical foundation on which to build a nursing practice and reshape the way you approach patients and people in general.

I can honestly say that I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life. The weekend before finals, my classmate/friend Lauren and I camped out at NYU’s Bobst library and studied from about 10am till about 8pm both Saturday and Sunday. I’ve never studied like that for anything in my life. During my original undergrad, you would never find me studying for more than three maybe four hours on a given day, let alone 20 hours in a two day period.

For the last three months, pretty much everything in my life fell by the wayside. My life was school, clinical, and studying. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. As every week of this grueling semester progressed, I became more and more certain that nursing is what I was born to do, and I am so excited for my career. It’s the perfect profession for me, and NYU was the right school for me to attend. I feel like I have so many stories, experiences, and revelations that I want to share that I’ve had a hard time even starting. It was three intense months that simply cannot be condensed down into five or six paragraphs. Perchance I will find some more time in my following weeks off to talk about some of the big topics that came up in nursing school and some of the major experiences. And if any of my dozen or so readers want to hear about anything in particular or have questions about nursing school, please feel free to let me know!

Until then, all I can say is that nursing school is absolutely fantastic, and I’m hoping if the next couple of semesters are easier, I can return to writing some more about it. But right now, it’s sunny and about 70 degrees outside, so I’m going to grab some books and a blanket and go lounge in Astoria Park and NOT think about diabetes or peripheral vascular diseases, or pressure ulcers.

NYU Meyers

20 Nov

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About a month ago, I found out that I was accepted at NYU Meyers school of nursing. I was at work at the animal hospital when I checked the website. I was so nervous that my brain couldn’t even process the letter I was reading. My eyes floated over the paragraphs looking for that key word. Congratulations.

I’m so happy. I’m so excited. Partially because I worked so so hard for this. I made a lot of sacrifices with my free time, with my money. I had to balance work, school, and moving three times. I was so happy to get that letter, but I also just felt like, “I damn well deserve this.”

One of the first jobs I had in New York was working as an office manager for an endodontist who was a sociopath. He was bizarrely strict and demanding and often belittled me. I wanted to quit, as even getting ready for work in the morning gave me full anxiety attacks. But my boyfriend at the time discouraged me, told me I had to suck it up and find a way to pay my share of the rent. I finally found something to replace it and told the evil endodontist I was leaving. He told me he felt sorry for me, because I was just an unhappy person.

I was so mad and offended. He didn’t know me. At least I wasn’t the egomaniac. But even though he as a jerk, he was right. I was deeply unhappy, and I would remain unhappy for a long time. I went through an dark couple of years. I lost 30 pounds, only holding 95 pounds on my 5 foot 7 frame because I was too depressed to eat. I struggled to make it two, three days without sobbing in bed, unable to get up. I blamed it on bad luck with men. I blamed it on not making a lot of money. I was so frustrated because I didn’t know how to fix it.

Now, I’m happy. I’m so happy. Not just on a “I had a good day” level or even a “life is so much fun” level. It’s a deeper, all-encompassing peace that comes with knowing where my life is going. I’m going to help people. I want to heal people. I want to learn all the secrets of the medical universe. I want to meet other people that are as passionate about science as I have become. I feel so solid in knowing that it’s all coming together, and I wish I had a way to go back and tell that crying 25-year-old how happy she would one day be. How things would settle out and be okay.

I’m beyond excited for my journey to begin in January, and I’d love to write about it. But let’s be honest, I’m not that reliable with my posts! Either way, all I can do is say that I will try. That’s all I’ve been trying to do these last seven years anyway. Trying. That’s all we can ever do.