A BCIT nursing student’s guide to surviving illness

Life as a BCIT nursing student can be stressful.

We study for long hours and so consequently, all of the stress and work can degrade the immune system. (Like, literally, look up the relationship between stress, cortisol, and the immune system: long term stress can decrease your ability to fight infection.) Anyways, because of all this, it is inevitable that eventually some kind of viral or bacterial infection is contracted. This is especially true for us nursing students who not only are exposed to everyday bugs, but also those in the hospitals as well.

As a busy student it can be incredibly inconvenient and difficult to take the necessary time to heal. In fact, the stress of missing class can sometimes make the whole situation worst thereby causing further immune suppressing and a delayed recovery.

You may be wondering why, so early in the semester, I am already concerned with illness. Well, please keep in mind that nursing students are already heading into week 4 of our semester. We are basically a month into the program already. Unfortunately at this point I have already taken my first sick day (thank you very much pizza from 5 days ago). I always struggle with staying home because as a child it was basically a “you’re going to school unless you’re dying” type scenario. It’s hard to realize that the situation will only get worst unless you take care of it. It is for this reason that I have designed a list of things to do when you’re sick to help you not only get better, but also not get behind.

1. Ask yourself, am I feeling well enough to adequately learn at school today?

Is there any point in going into class if you are unable to absorb new information, and are just going to make yourself more sick? For me I say no. It’s a personal decision but I don’t see a benefit in going into class if I’m just going to get worst and won’t be able to benefit from it.

2. If attendance is tracked – email your instructor!

Most instructors are very understanding if you are legitimately sick. There is no reason to lose marks for not being there when all it takes is a short and respectful explanation to the professor. That being said, be sure to check with your program’s policy as sometimes doctor’s notes are needed. If it is an exam you are missing, you will most likely need to have a doctor’s note but for everyday classes most professors don’t require it so it doesn’t hurt to check.

3. Get a friend to record the lecture and ask a friend you trust for their notes.

Most people own cell phones, and most cell phones have audio recording capabilities. It’s easy to make sure that you don’t miss anything by having a friend record the lecture. Just make sure you get them to ask the professor for permission first. Asking for notes is another good option. The only issue is that you are relying on that other person to have recorded all important information so make sure you pick someone you trust.

4. Take actual time to rest and sleep.

It can be hard to put all your tasks aside while you try to recover but sometimes, you can recover faster if you just give yourself an extra couple of hours to sleep. It all depends on your body but I know I won’t get better until I give myself at least 12 hours of just relaxation and sleep.

5. If you have a lot to get done, try to work on more monotonous tasks.

For example, you can make flash cards and practice them. Copying out information and memorizing uses a bit less brain power than something more involved such as writing an essay. Now, I’m not saying you should ever just memorize anything since that’s not a good way to learn, but even just familiarizing yourself with the details can help put yourself ahead without too much strain while your recovering.

Last but not least, as a nursing student, we have to consider if we go in to clinical if our patient is at risk. If you are so sick that you cannot make adequate decisions, or you might pass your illness along to your patient, then it might be a good idea to talk to your clinical instructor about whether or not you should stay home.

On a final note, to help prevent illness as we enter the flu season be sure to wash your hands regularly! Happy studying everyone and best wishes for the upcoming semester!

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