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Spring cleaning for nurses: What NOT to keep from nursing school


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As you well know, retaining nursing knowledge requires studying long hours and practicing techniques over and over again. It’s literally impossible to keep all the information covered in nursing school in our brains! If you’re like me, you felt dependent on the valuable charts, worksheets, cheat sheets, mnemonics and textbooks long after nursing school ended. Storing those items is definitely not an ideal solution to maintaining competence. So, here’s my post-nursing school suggestions for what NOT to keep.

Spring cleaning for nurses: What NOT to keep from nursing school

1. Textbooks more than 5 years old, including drug books, medical dictionaries, or any book heavy on statistics or research

Current research changes procedures and standards of care fairly frequently, and government websites such as the one for TJC are better resources than outdated textbooks. If you must hold on to a textbook, see if a digitized, searchable copy is available for download.

Why toss the medical dictionary? Well, while medical vocabulary remains fairly stable, smartphone apps and search engines may offer broader, more up-to-date definitions than can fit in one dictionary.

I do recommend keeping one good anatomy/physiology textbook or reference. Human anatomy remains fairly consistent (other than expanding waistlines…but we won’t talk about that!).

2. Notes from specialties you’re not working in or interested in

I had no angst about tossing those L&D and oncology notes, but I admit to keeping my cardiology notes for almost 10 years! Even then, I think I only referred to them twice in those years, and eventually found better resources.

3. Information on the basics

You will likely take enough blood pressures, insert enough IVs, and provide enough bed baths in your first few years of nursing to become well-versed in these basic nursing techniques. Even if you feel you need a refresher or more tips and tricks (especially with IVs), many nurses are more than willing to share their expertise. Many internet resources are available for reference, including videos from reliable sources on YouTube.

4. Paper, paper, paper

If you just cannot trash valued notes or charts, scan them into your computer or onto a flash drive or memory card, and ditch the paper. Use the .pdf format and you will be able to use the search function to find what you need in the documents quickly. Back when I graduated from nursing school, digitally archiving paper notes was neither convenient nor cheap. Now, electronic documents are preferable to hard copy and much easier to manage long-term.

Do you still have notes or textbooks from nursing school lying around? How often have you referred to them since graduation? Tell us in the comments!

Jessica Ellis
With experience in multiple specialties such as ER, ICU, CVICU, PACU, NICU and case management, Jessica has also been a key contributor for several of the world’s leading healthcare publishers. Jessica has been certified in CPR, BLS Instructor, PHTLS, ACLS, TNCC, CFRN, NRP, PALS and CPS. She previously functioned as an editor and contributor for, and an author/editor of numerous online nursing CEU courses for Coursepark. Jessica accepts ongoing professional nursing writing contracts for both authoring and editing from major textbook and online education publishers internationally.

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