Organization is a crucial skill that successful nursing students use to maintain a strong work-life balance. Life as a student can be insanely busy when you’re in school, studying, and possibly working part time. When you consider that school, studying, and working all fall into the category of “work,” you need to be organized to have a “life.”
Staying organized can impact a nursing student’s whole life. Nursing students who have work-life balance experience less stress, are more productive, and get more done. Balance can strengthen your relationships, enhance your ability to be present, and improve your mental and physical health.
Organizational skills can be learned. Sometimes the right tool can help you get and stay organized. We talked with two nursing experts about the organizational tools they like using and recommend for nursing students.
9 Products to Help Nursing Students Stay Organized
Look over these nine tools as part of your organization tips for nursing students to help you improve your productivity in school.
A master calendar offers a long-range view of projects and tasks, while a planner helps you get organized to complete them. Elizabeth Hope Hinchman, MSN, RN, works at Sunrise Children’s Hospital and is part-time faculty at University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing. She finds the Bullet Journal is popular with her students. The system is an analog version of a daily planner, to-do list, and diary.
Nursing students may choose from digital to-do list programs too, such as Asana or Trello. Google Calendar, which is part of your Google account, is helpful when you have several deadlines or appointments. Think about using Google Calendar for your master calendar and set it up to notify you of reminders.
2. Note Taking
Jessica Ahearn, MBA, MSN, AMB-BC, is an assistant nurse manager of ambulatory care services at Deborah Heart and Lung Center. She recommends looking for a way to take notes that makes sense to you.
Some students may want a binder or notebook for each class; others may want to use a digital option they can access from their phone. One Note, EverNote, and Google Keep are several low-cost options. Roam Research allows you to link and organize notes, but it is one of the highest-priced apps. It costs $15 per month.
3. Supplies to Keep You Happy and Organized
Ahearn recommends starting the semester with supplies that keep you happy and organized.
“Use things that are your favorite color or pretty pens. A personal favorite is transparent sticky notes that you can use on your textbooks to help take notes and are great if you rent your textbooks,” she says. “Use anything that will get you excited about getting and staying organized.”
Gratification in real life is not always immediate. A student’s long-term reward is successfully completing each semester of school, leading to graduation. One animal study demonstrated that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a part in staying motivated to achieve long-term goals.
The neurotransmitter also plays a part in reinforcing rewards for short-term goals. Those favorite colored pens or textbook covers that give you a momentary feel-good boost may be integral to achieving your long-term goal: graduation.
4. Class Folders
Hinchman creates one folder on her computer for school and a separate folder inside for each class to stay organized. You can organize class papers, schedules, tests, and quizzes separately in each class folder.
If you like going “old school,” get an analog folder for each class where you can store the syllabus, tests, schedules, and papers. Remember to color code them for easy access. You can also change the folder icons on your computer.
5. Best Nursing Backpack
Nursing students need a quality and durable backpack. Some students prefer carrying their books with them, and others just want digital access to the coursework on their laptop. Whichever you prefer, it is essential you carry a quality backpack for nursing students that will protect your computer and distribute the weight evenly to protect your shoulders and lower back.
6. Wearable Tracker
Wearable activity trackers may encourage you to engage in more physical activity throughout the day. This can improve your creativity, productivity, and health. Many trackers also help monitor quality of sleep and stress levels.
Sometimes, nursing students are so busy they don’t recognize the early signals of stress. When stress is addressed early, nursing students may reduce their risk of illness and improve their productivity. It can also indicate the early symptoms of burnout. One of the best ways to treat nurse burnout is to prevent it.
7. Black Out Curtains
Your body begins producing more melatonin in response to a lack of light. Melatonin promotes quality sleep and is a strong antioxidant to help protect your brain.
Try to make your bedroom as dark as possible and block out street lights using blackout curtains. This can improve the quality of your sleep, and therefore your energy level, creativity, and productivity.
8. Scrubs Pocket or Organizer Belt
A scrubs pocket organizer or organizer belt carries all the necessities for a productive hospital shift. You can quickly access the tools you need without digging around in your pockets for a pen, tape, scissors, or an alcohol swab.
9. There’s an App for That
Smartphones have transformed the way nurses practice. Apps can help nursing students with patient management, medication side effects, and personal finance. Each of these is crucial to getting and staying organized. There are even apps for specific patient populations, such as pediatrics. Check out our recommendations for the 25 must-have mobile apps for nurses.
Meet Our Contributors
Jessica Ahearn, MBA, MSN, AMB-BC
Jessica Ahearn, MBA, MSN, AMB-BC, is an assistant nurse manager of ambulatory care services at Deborah Heart and Lung Center. She received her undergraduate degree from Jacksonville University and her master’s at Wilmington University. She is board certified in ambulatory care nursing. She is an active member of the Organization of Nurse Leaders of New Jersey, serving on the Continuum of Care Committee.
Elizabeth Hope Hinchman (Hope), MSN
Elizabeth “Hope” Hinchman has been a part-time instructor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing since 2019. She is a UNLV alumna, having earned her BSN from UNLV in 2015 and an MSN in 2019. Hope received the 2022 Outstanding Teaching by Part-Time Faculty Award and was awarded the Tony and Renee Marlon Nursing Fellowship. She currently serves as the Sigma Theta Tau International VP, acts as a rebel nurse mentor, and was recently nominated for a Daisy Award for her work as a floor nurse.