By Hayden Burfitt (UNLV School of Nursing Student Worker - Communications)
The responsibilities that come with nursing school can make it difficult to find time for personal commitments. Between classes, clinicals, and studying, students can struggle to fit extracurricular and recreational activities into their schedule. Two groups of UNLV nursing students, however, are making an effort to create time for themselves through teamwork and camaraderie.
Bump, Set, Relax
UNLV nursing students Sofia Ochoa and Melissa Macato are two members of a budding volleyball team. Ranging across all undergraduate nursing levels, this once small group of friends has grown into a squad of at least a dozen players. Ochoa and Macato’s team regularly play at UNLV’s Student Wellness and Recreation Center. Currently, they play for fun but hope to start participating in intra-murals during the next semester. The volleyball team is also working with UNLV Nursing Student Government and the Student Nurses Association to organize a volleyball tournament sponsored by both organizations.
Macato and Ochoa initially attempted making time for volleyball in their first semester, but thought it was impossible. “I feel it’s a little harder to do in level 1 just because you don’t really know how nursing school is or how to manage your time. You’re just trying to get the skills, and make sure that you’re getting through all of your classes,” Macato explained. “Now that we know the gist of it, this was doable.” Ochoa added, “In level 1, I felt stagnant. Just being in school, that was all my priority was.”
Ochoa and Macato now recognize the importance of taking a break from their studies. “Being in volleyball helped me not only prioritize my grades but also prioritize myself,” Ochoa said. By learning proper time management, the students learned they can still take care of themselves while succeeding in school. “I work on top of playing volleyball and going to school,” Macato explained. “I think having one day out of the week to just focus on yourself is very important.” Ochoa emphasized the significance of setting aside time for herself, saying that putting all her focus into school might hurt her academic performance. “I need to be honest with myself and not use school as an excuse to not take care of myself. If I didn’t prioritize my health, then it would affect my grades eventually.”
Together, the volleyball team promotes recreation alongside education. The team begins with group study sessions, not only preparing for their exams, but advising underclassmen with tips and strategies for test-taking or studying, as well as sharing their own experiences from the first semester of nursing school. Macato argues playing volleyball is not a distraction from studying, but an incentive to do so. “I feel that [playing volleyball] helps my performance because when I’m studying, I could just focus on studying because I know I have time to play later,” Macato explained. “ It definitely is a motivator to get through studying,” By arranging time for both studying and volleyball, the team is improving their mental and physical health. “Having another area where you can relieve your stress and you’re not focused on school, you’re focused on something else [helps], '' Macato said. “It’s nice because you’re also being active. It’s exercising and a reward at the same time.”
The duo want other nursing students to know it’s possible to balance work and play. Macato’s strategy is to treat personal time as a responsibility and to schedule it as such. “When you have a lot going on, it’s hard to keep track. So you have to schedule time for yourself,” Macato said. Ochoa builds off this by recommending students view their time in segments. She breaks her schedule down by week to better manage her days. “If you look at things in advance, you’re going to get overwhelmed,” Ochoa explains. “Breaking it down by week and then seeing the time you have to study builds good habits. I think that’s essential for not going insane during nursing school.”
Second semester UNLV nursing student Jakob Repolio is a member of what his peers refer to as “the Brohort.” An unofficial group comprising most of the male students in their cohort, Repolio explains that the Brohort studies and hangs out together as they support each other through nursing school. “That’s the idea of the Brohort, to stick together,” Repolio said. “We’re not trying to create a male-only organization. We’re just trying to get guys together to share ideas and help each other pass through nursing school.”
Repolio says inclusion into the Brohort has given its members less stress in nursing school. He feels that because there are traditionally more women than men in nursing school (and in the industry), some male students may find it difficult to be themselves. “People don’t take [men] seriously [due to] a lack of a professional take on guys in nursing,” Repolio explained. With the Brohort, Repolio says they want to dispel the stereotypes about men in nursing. “Meeting the guys in the cohort [didn’t] lower the standard, but we can all be ourselves around each other. You can be professional and have fun at the same time, which is a positive take.”
By forming a community outside of class, they hold each other to breaking out of their “school shell” and focusing on their own personal enrichment alongside their studies. “On our orientation day, we realized that this is going to be a long 16 months. My first three years of college I was just head down in a book,” Repolio said. “With the Brohort, all that pressure lifted up and we got to see a different side of college. We’re doing all this [while] still keeping good grades, but also balancing our life outside of nursing."
The Brohort has organized several meet-ups, including go-karting at Speed Vegas, going to the gym, and chatting through popular app Discord. Whether pursuing academic or personal goals, the Brohort wants to provide a space for students to succeed in college without sacrificing their lives outside of university. Repolio said, “We want to show that having a life outside of nursing school is doable. We all have our priorities, but we want to have fun at the same time. Don’t let the stereotypes discourage you from having fun in nursing school.”
Strategies on Improving Time Management:
Yaa Obeng, UNLV School of Nursing Graduate Engagement and Retention Coordinator: “Learn to put yourself first! Very similar to being on a plane, if there is an emergency, they encourage you to put your mask on first before you can do anything else. School is the same way, before you can score well on an exam or retain information you have read, you have to be in the right frame of mind and in good health.”
Elizabeth Gaccione, Student Success Facilitator: "My biggest tip is to take time on Sunday to schedule out your week. I recommend using a weekly calendar where you can enter in your class time, clinicals, study sessions, and of course, big events, like exams or project due dates. Within that calendar, it's important to schedule breaks for self-care. This could be taking a walk everyday at 4pm or going to breakfast with your family on Saturday. Students often don't give themselves breaks, and then they find themselves feeling burnt out. The breaks are a crucial part of the studying process."
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