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From Nursing Dreams to Nursing School & Becoming a Registered Nurse: A Conversation with Mackenzie Ostrowski

August 24, 2023

Are you considering becoming a nurse? Maybe you are already in nursing school, and you're feeling overwhelmed. You'll want to listen to this week's interview with the amazing Mackenzie Ostrowski!

Mackenzie recently graduated from Ontario Tech University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with a dual minor in Forensic Psychology and Entrepreneurship. As a newly Registered Nurse, Mackenzie continues to learn and grow in her profession and is excited to pass on her knowledge on how to survive nursing school.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I recently graduated from Ontario Tech University with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a dual minor in entrepreneurship and forensic psychology. I recently wrote and passed my licensing exam, the NCLEX, so I'm happy to announce I'm now a registered nurse with the College of Nurses in Ontario. Otherwise, I still live at home with my parents and my dog. I am passionate about continuing education. I'm also very passionate about caring for others, and in the little free time that I do have, I enjoy reading Colleen Hoover books, baking, and traveling. I've done a lot of travelling already in my 23 years. I've travelled to over 19 different countries now. I hope to keep doing that because the best education is an immersion into those cultures and learning about them from those who live that way.

2. What inspired you to want to become a nurse?

I was first exposed to the medical world when I was a little child. I had emergency surgery for appendicitis, and at the same time, my father was being treated for stage three colorectal cancer. It was a very difficult time for my family, and the nurses were some of the most supportive, educated, and caring individuals I've ever met. I wanted to work in the hospital or health care at that moment because I was just so inspired by them. When I was released from the hospital, I often played a doctor on my stuffed animals or pet bunny. I wanted to be a physician, but after going into life sciences, after my first year of university, I realized that the lab wasn't for me, and I wanted to connect with patients one on one. I switched to nursing, realizing that was more what I was passionate about. I really love that personal connection that nurses get to generate and nourish.

3. What does a regular school day look like for you? (Include details like if you live on campus or close by, the number of classes you usually take daily, hours you dedicate to homework, etc.)

My regular school day was a mixture of online and in-person classes. My first year was more in-person classes that consisted of having labs about two times a week, and that was practicing skills like completing head-to-toe assessments or manual vital signs, catheterizations, N.G. tube placements, oxygen therapies, communication techniques, transferring ambulation hygiene, feeding, complex wound care, treat care, I.V. therapy, all that fun stuff.

Lectures were mainly in-person in my first year, but then it went to a mixture of online and in-person, depending on the professor. COVID put a wrench into things. So, in the second year, it was all online for me because of the COVID-19 lockdown. That's where we did a lot of online simulations, which was different for me because we had our first placement in the first year, and I loved it. It was in a hospital setting, working with older adults who needed complex continuing care. I just loved it, and I wanted to keep doing it. The online simulations were still really good because we learned so much more information that maybe you wouldn't have been exposed to in person. We also did clinical debriefs as well.

In the second year, we did pharmacology which is learning about all the different medication routes like oral subcutaneous IV, suppositories, inhaled creams, ointments, whatever you can think of.

In the third year, we went back into placement. It was two times a week, every week.

Then final year was 600 hours of placement. We had 240 in our consolidation, and all our placements were in hospitals, clinics, or long-term care settings. We got exposed to a ton of different things. I got to learn so much from different areas. I also did my minors where I was doing spring and summer courses and doing extra course load here and there, but they were pretty flexible with my minors, so I was able to complete them with no issues.

Overall, if I were to estimate how many hours a week are dedicated to nursing school work, including studying, completing the actual school work, and tending placement, I would say probably 50 hours a week. Classes took about 12 to 15 hours a week; 24 were for placements, and then the remaining I just did for reading and studying and working on assignments.

I did commute to school. I used to live close to campus, so that made it really easy for me, but even after I moved further away, I did the cost benefits, and I realized that commuting was better for me at that stage.

It was pretty busy, especially being involved with student engagement activities, but I really enjoyed what my day-to-day activities were like on campus.

4. What was your favourite part of nursing school?

I really enjoyed the clinical experiences. Not many university degrees have practical experiences or hands-on learning, and that's what I really love about nursing school. You got to have that aspect right away. My university was amazing for it because they had a significant variety of different clinical placements. Not only were you exposed to different aspects of nursing, but you got to create your own judgment on that clinical area so that when you graduate, you had an idea of what field or department you wanted to pursue.

5. Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you before you went to nursing school?

I wish people told me to enjoy the journey and take part in more university engagement activities and events because the time honestly just flew by. As students, we often get really caught up in and stressed about our studies, and then we don't take that moment to breathe and relax and talk to other students about how we're feeling or even just enjoy being a nursing student.

Another thing is how important self-care is. That's become such a presence in our like day to day live since COVID has occurred. Back when I started, it wasn't a huge aspect of being a student or even a nursing student.

I like to think of it like when you're on an airplane, and they go through the safety training, and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you assist others. How can you expect to care for your patients if you don't care for yourself first? That's important as a student and as a nurse, too.

6. When you graduate, what area of healthcare would you like to work in and why?

I'm hoping to work in the emergency department at my local rural hospital. I had my consolidation placement there, and I fell in love with the fast-paced, dynamic environment. I enjoyed seeing the variety of different patient cases and the clinical nursing skills that I got to use every day. It kept things very interesting, and it made me a better critical thinker and decision-maker because of it because you had to think on your toes.

7. What advice would you give to future nursing students?

I'm so I have quite a few. I think the first is just being able to breathe and enjoy your time being a nursing student because it will be over before you know it. I would also give them advice to stay organized, prioritize and start early because, overall, just succeeding in nursing school is just about time management and dedication. So many of my peers would often procrastinate on assignments, and it would cause so much unnecessary stress. I was always telling my friends, "Hey, if you start early, it's not as stressful," or "Stay organized and put things in a day timer; it really does help." I know it's such a simple thing that gets overlooked or is talked about so much, but it is really important.

A clinical tip is to prepare your lunches, your clothes, all your snacks, and whatever you need for the next day, the night before, because it's already stressful enough sometimes going to placement. That morning is stressful as it is. So just taking as many things as possible out of your morning routine helps because then you can go in with more of a clear mind.

8. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about today?

For individuals who are thinking about nursing school or in nursing school, best of luck and take your time. Another thing that wasn't stressed enough was don't stress over a bad mark because that doesn't define you as a future nurse. It's just one mark, and sometimes you're just a bad test taker.

Ask questions to your prof like: How did I do on this? Can you explain to me why it didn't go this way or what I was thinking? And how can I correct myself to make sure I'm not making these mistakes and the actual clinical settings?

This brings me to the point that don't be afraid to ask your professors, preceptors, or clinical instructors for help or explanations because they're there to help you. It's good to have those support networks, even if it's just your peers or other people you know who are nurses or anyone you feel can help you through your struggles. It's really important to have those people in your life.

Also, focus on things that you can control. Otherwise, don't put so much energy into things that you cannot because we often do that, and we stress ourselves over things that are out of our control. So those are my last pieces of advice.


Mackenzie Ostrowski Bio

MacKenzie Ostrowski is a recent graduate from Ontario Tech University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with a dual minor in Forensic Psychology and Entrepreneurship. She has had multiple clinical experiences during her education through emergency medicine, surgery, mental health, complex continuing care, and online simulations, and aidedin a software launch for charting system Epic.

Prior to obtaining her degrees, she volunteered at her local hospital for over 5 years which provided her with the Ontario Volunteer Service Youth Award issued by the province of Ontario, and multiple scholarships. During her education, MacKenzie demonstrated leadership through her involvement in her university’s nursing club as co-president and was a board member of the Undergraduate Nursing Program Committee as a student advocate.

As a newly Registered Nurse, MacKenzie has already completed her Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certificates and is currently working towards her Coronary Care 1 Certificate to work in the emergency department. MacKenzie is a first-generation post-secondary graduate, who is strongly motivated and passionate about continuing education, individual empowerment, travelling, and caring for others.


About The Author
Cali Wiersma
Social Media & Content Specialist

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