How I stay organised in college

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten in the past few weeks is how I organise my notes for college. This is just my own little way of organising things, it’s what has worked for me personally. It might be totally different for you. Trying a few different things will help you figure out what works for you. This system might even change for me in second year, change again in third year..it’s all about adapting to what you need.

 

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So first thing I look at is my main folder. For now, I use one giant ring binder for each semester. Within that folder I have a few dividers to keep my notes for each module separate.

 

 

In each module section I have the module descriptor, so I can keep track of what exactly I should have done and what’s coming next. It’s especially useful for figuring out which topics I need to revise at the end of the semester. I print off almost all of my notes (I swear I do love the planet but I just can’t read off a screen), pop them in each section, and try to make one page summaries of each piece as we finish covering them in class to make revision easier.

 

As well as all these sections for each module, I keep a calendar at the very front. I buy a pack of week-to-week sheets from Flying Tiger (see the picture on the right below). Because our timetable is constantly changing it’s a much easier way for me to keep track of where I need to be. I write in the topics we cover in each class at the end of the day. I keep track of my placement hours, extracurricular activities, and study plans in these weekly charts too. I also have the full year plan at the very front, so I can look ahead to placements, exam weeks, breaks, anything.

I put together all of my assessments in one document which I keep near the front of the ring binder. It reminds me of the assignments every time I open the folder, and lets me keep track of deadlines and learning objectives.

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For my every day notes, I try to keep things as small and light as I can. It saves my back and leaves more room for snacks in my bag too. I bring one plastic envelope folder, which I aim to sort out the night before so that I can enjoy those extra few minutes in bed instead of pulling apart my ring binder looking for the right notes. In writing this post I’ve had the idea that maybe I should keep my weekly planner pages in that folder too – I’ll try it out and see if it makes any difference.

 

We only have one or two written assignments per semester, so I keep those in separate folders. I always end up printing heaps of research for assignments so I prefer to keep them out of my regular class notes. If I need to refer back to them for something it’s a little easier to pull out the right part.

 

And then I have my giant placement folder. I keep copies of my placement evaluations and learning objectives in here, as well as copies of my clinical skills book. I have a record of every day that I attended placement, the hours I worked, and the names of my preceptors, as well as the guidelines for my scope of practice for every placement. If I get any handouts or take any notes I keep them in here as well. The folder is pretty full already after just one year so I might need to take a few bits out and store them somewhere else. Remember, it’s all about adapting to changes during your course!

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So last year before I started my course I wrote an essentials list for midwifery students (which you can read here). After a year of working with what I had and envying some of the things my classmates had, I thought it would be a good idea to update a little! This is the placement list, for when you’re on the wards with women every day.

 

Black pens: this will never change. Buy a hundred. Keep them in your placement bags, your folder, your locker, your pockets. Don’t do what I do and stick them in your hair because 1. bacteria and 2. you’ll hug someone and poke them in the eye with it.

Fob watches: multiple fob watches. Preferably silicone because they’re easier to clean and there are no nooks and crannies for microbes to hide in.

Small notebook: to scribble down notes, medications, disorders, lab values…really anything and everything on placement. I prefer ring bound notebooks because they hold up a little better being pulled out of my pockets and jammed back in with pens and gloves and all the other junk in my pockets.

Hair ties and pins: to keep your hair neat. I also found myself giving women my bobbins a lot, especially on the labour ward. So now I always bring a few extra.

A journal: I love love love my reflective journal. It’s another purchase from the Happy Planner Company but any wee notebook will be perfect. It’s a really good way of working through your day once it’s over and you get a chance to sit down. Always always always keep confidentiality in mind when you’re writing. I came up with a few different ways of coding the identities of people in my care so now when I read back even I’m  not 100% sure who’s who!

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The second week of my first placement really only starts tomorrow – I've two long days and a short day, and I'm ready for it. I have to confess, like lots of other humans probably do, I was having a bit of a wobble. I was overthinking and raising expectations for myself that no one else was. But I sat down with my @thehappyplanner_co reflective journal, wrote about my last shift (Thursday) and everything just felt better. Writing has always been great therapy for me, it's the way I work things out. Don't forget to find the right way to work things out for yourself ✨ . . . . . . . . #studentmidwife #futuremidwife #reflectivemidwife #reflectivepractice #reflectivejournal #midwiferyjournal #midwiferystudent #babycatcher

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Snacks: so many snacks. Different kinds – sweet, savoury, energy boosting, chocolate goodness. Think about what will be filling but not too heavy and what will give you a lasting energy lift for those long shifts.

Water bottle: label it. Label it all over. Hydration is super important and especially so when you’re running around non stop all day.

Spare socks: your feet will get sweaty. Like really sweaty, so sometimes it’s just nice to change them during the day. When I used to work in a nursing home, especially in the summer when it was boiling hot and the heating was on full blast, it was lovely to sit down, throw a bit of talc on my toes, and put on fresh socks. Also you will definitely get some kind of bodily fluid all over and inside your shoes at some stage, so be ready!

Spare uniform: just in case.

Plastic bags: for bringing uniforms in and out. It’s a habit I picked up working in McDonald’s, basically to protect the clothes and protect your belongings from contact contamination.

Reference book: I have my survival guide in my locker all the time on placement. It’s just handy to have it there if I want to check anything on my breaks or go over something like a skill that I know I’ll be doing later in the day.

Deodorant: spray and roll on. Spray deodorant can irritate the respiratory system especially if they have disorders like asthma. I bring face wipes and bits like that as well just so I can freshen up during the day.

 

So that’s my take on the essentials for placement. If you think I’ve missed anything let me know in the comments! Keep an eye out for “what’s in my pocket” posts for the various wards you work on as a student midwife.

Essentials for Midwifery

Well, the majority of offers are out and there are lots of excited future midwives around the country (and around the world). But what do you need as a student midwife? What’s the most important thing to pack in your bag? I’ve put together a list of what I won’t be leaving behind!
  • LOTS of black pens: they’re one of the most valuable things to have on the wards!
  • A5 notebook to go in your pocket on placement: great for taking note of what’s going on during the day, scribbling down words or phrases you don’t quite understand, keeping track of keycodes and staff names
  • Silicone fob watches: don’t buy expensive ones, they’ll get wrecked. Silicone is easy to clean and comes in cheerful colours and patterns
  • Lots of bobbins and hairpins, hair has to be up on shift
  • A diary or planner for keeping track of everything (personally love The Happy Planner Company student midwife diaries, about £25-30)
  • A notebook specifically for reflecting on your experiences while you study and are on placement (reflective practice is really important)
  • A USB
  • A good backpack (shoulder bags and handbags will wreck your back). I’ve been using a black Jansport backpack since 2007 – it’s been through secondary schools, Scout camps from Punchestown to Sweden, and a million other trips
  • Comfortable black shoes for placement that fully cover your feet and ideally are waterproof
  • A good lunchbox (canteen food can be nice but it gets pricey after a while!)
  • The Roar Behind The Silence by Sheena Byrom and Soo Downes: cheap on bookdepository.com and recommended by midwives around the world
  • Flask to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold: Kleen Kanteen has been recommended
  • Hand cream: washing and sanitising your hands multiple times a day will hurt your skin, a thick hand cream will help save them
  • Colouring pencils or markers for notes, especially if you’re a visual learner like me!
  • Folders for college: I’m using slim plastic folders for each module, although I know Anatomy and Physiology will require a much bigger one!
  • Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. It’s considered a bit woo-y by some but it warms my soul every time I read it and it has such important messages about trusting women

 

I hope that’s of some help! I wouldn’t go buying a lot of books before you get settled. Books for university can be very expensive (and heavy). Advice I have seen over and over again is to wait until you’ve been in the college library a few times, gotten a feel for some of the books and figured out which ones you’ll need the most. Talk to lecturers.

 

If there’s anything you think should be added to the list, let me know in the comments here, or on the facebook page.