Let me be the first to say: Congratulations! Being accepted into nursing school is no small feat & you should be proud of your accomplishment. All of your late nights studying and worrying paid off. You are on the path to the career you have always wanted. This is just the beginning though. Over the next two years, you are in-store for more studying, more worrying, and more challenges.This is not to say that nursing school is not worth the time and effort. When you get your first IV you will feel invincible. When a patient says “Thank-you” for all of your hard-work you will be grinning with pride. When what you are learning in class begins to make sense in clinical all of your studying will feel worth it. With all that being said, I want to offer a few tips on how best to survive nursing school.
Tip 1: You are stronger than you think.
The first semester of anything is the hardest. You are learning all new medical terminology; trying to figure out how best to study (this is a new ball game so studying is different from what you are accustom to); while trying to maintain some sort of sanity. The best way to handle all of this is to take everything one day at a time. Each night make a schedule of your day ahead, so you know what to expect. You are only one person and can only accomplish so much in one day. Also have something to look forward to. This can be a break from school, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even catching up on your favorite shows after a big test. You will survive.
Tip 2: C’s Make Degrees.
This is not to say that you should not strive for A’s but it will not always happen. Most pre-nursing students are determined to have a 4.0 every semester, which is an admirable goal(this too was my goal.) You can usually accomplish this throughout your prerequisite courses but nursing school is a different beast. Classes will be more difficult and professors will expect more from you. You need to do your best and sometimes your best is a B. When you become too caught up in your grades you won’t retain all of the information your professors are trying to teach you.
Tip 3: Take all Opportunities.
Nursing school is a safe environment. Before you enter into a clinical setting you will have been trained by your professors and clinical instructors. You will have had some type of skills lab and, more than likely, you will have been checked off on your skills. Your clinical instructor will be with you when trying a new skill along with your precepting nurse. Be sure to treat clinicals as a job interview: be on-time, dress appropriately, be willing to learn, and show interest.
Sometimes your precepting nurse will forget to let you practice a skill. Remember he/she does this everyday for a living usually without a student nurse. He/she is not trying to be rude so just give them a quick reminder!
Tip 4: Support System.
Do not underestimate the power of a study buddy. You cannot teach yourself everything that your professor covered in class by yourself. Having a study buddy that has the same study habits and work ethic as you makes reviewing the exam material easier. If you can teach it to your partner than you know it for the test. It also helps to have someone to swap notes with in case you missed an important point.
Also, seek to have a good relationship with your professors. These are the people who can help you succeed. They can be there after you fail a test or better explain a topic you did not understand in class. Professors are the people who you are going to be asking for job recommendations so it is wise to create a relationship with them.
Tip 5: Balance.
You have to find a balance between taking care of yourself and nursing school. You cannot study all of the time. Trust me, I tried and after a while you stop retaining information. Making time for friends and the gym is important. There is nothing worse than after your first semester realizing you gained the “Nursing 15.” Your health is just as important as your grades are so make time for the gym. You also have to make time for fun otherwise you will not be able to keep your sanity. In the grand scheme of things, you will remember the Friday nights you were with your friends more than the ones you spent studying.