This journey has been stressful, for sure, but I’ve actually enjoyed being a student in this profession. This picture was taken almost 2 years ago on my first day of nursing school and it’s quite amazing to see how much I’ve grown since I started.
Nursing school is very hard. I was 17 years old when I started nursing school, fresh out of high school, the youngest in the class. I thought I had it easy because I was used to taking tests and I had all the fresh knowledge of everything I just learned in high school. I was so W R O N G! It is a completely different world. The tests are different, the learning experience is different from what I was used too.
SO, I figured I would provide other students with a few “tips” on what I wish I knew before I started nursing school.
- TUTORING IS NECESSARY AND IT’S OKAY! I have ALWAYS been against tutoring, personally. I never liked it. I have always been an independent learner. If I was confused on anything over the course of high school, I would spend hours in my room teaching it to myself until I understood it. I also always thought that if I needed a tutor, I must be stupid. Or I thought tutoring was for people who were failing. THAT IS NOT TRUE! I was drowning my first semester of nursing school and I still refused to go. Finally, one day my other classmates went with me to the nursing tutor and guess who Aced her next nursing exam?! THIS GIRL. I encourage anyone, in any area of their education to see a tutor. They are there for a reason and it is to help everyone succeed and understand content. Take advantage of the opportunity, don’t be embarrassed, because it will benefit you tremendously!
- Invest in an NCLEX style study book. This book was less than 30$ on Amazon and it has gone with me through every semester so far. It’s definitely a good investment. There is NCLEX style questions on every topic and each question gives you a rationale for the answer. Most nursing programs are going to ask NCLEX style questions to prepare you for when you take your boards so having a book similar to this one will help you start thinking like a nurse and answering questions similar to what will be on your boards. In fact, there are questions in this exact book that I have seen again on my own nursing exams!
- Get organized! If you are not an organized person, now is the time to figure that crap out! Buy a planner, get colored pens, and write down deadlines and dates because you DON’T want to miss any assignments. Missing just 1 assignment or even doing things late could put you at risk of failing. Take it from someone who had to learn this the VERY hard way. Deadlines sneak up on you. Chances are, you will know when everything is due on the first day of the semester so there is no reason to miss anything. They won’t have any remorse for you or let things slide. Get organized and it will make things so much easier for you.
- You get out what you put into clinical. Being completely honest….clinicals can be super boring. A lot of hospitals don’t let nursing students do as much as we would hope because it’s a liability and frankly, because we are students and don’t have the 2 magical letters after our name (RN). BUT, if we invest our time wisely and ask questions, immerse ourselves in all the cool things we get the opportunity to see in the hospital, you will learn a lot more and enjoy it much more, also. Chances are you will be assigned a patient to “take care of” for the day but if there are other opportunities around you that are interesting, go for it! Take every opportunity as a chance to learn. It will make the experience much better.
- The nursing school way is right, the hospital way is wrong. 99% of the time you will see poor technique or non-sterility in the hospital whereas in nursing school, they stress to you the importance of those things. No matter what you see in the hospital, if it is opposite what you learned in nursing school, practice what is taught to you in the classroom and NOT in the hospital. Professors want you to perform the way they teach you in class and NOT how the nurses teach you on the floor! You will see so many things that are against everything you were taught in nursing school! Take it with a grain of salt and just practice what was taught to you in class.
- You do NOT need a study group in order to succeed. It seemed like every person in my first semester of nursing school was part of a study group! So, just like everyone else, I found a study group to be a part of. ME PERSONALLY, did not perform as well studying with a group than I did as an independent studyer (pretty sure I just made up that word). Study groups work for many people…but don’t think that because everyone else studies in group means that you have too also! If you do better studying independently, then do it. Do whatever helps you succeed!
- Try to get a medical job while in nursing school. I started my job in the hospital as a nursing technician after my 1st semester in nursing school. Let me tell you, I love my job, it helped me truly realize how much I love the field of nursing and how excited I am for it to be a reality. Working in the hospital has taught me SO much. It’s the best experience and job as a nursing student because you see a lot and you learn a lot. I truly think by working as a tech before becoming a nurse will help me to be a better nurse. I highly recommend working in some sort of medical job as a student (even if it’s only 1 day per week!) because you will be amazed at how much you learn.
- Make connections with people at the hospitals. The better you perform in clinical, the more memorable you will be as a student and the more likely you will get hired as a nurse. The people you go to nursing school with are all the people who will be looking for jobs at the same exact time that you are…basically they are your competition. Stand out from the rest of them! Make people remember you. It will help you in the long run because if they remember you as a student who performed very well and was proactive during clinical, the more likely you will be hired as a nurse for that unit! Be nice & be professional, it will bring you a long way in life!
- NURSING SCHOOL IS NOT EASY (but it’s worth it). Every single day that you are in nursing school will feel like you are drowning. You will be stressed out, you will spend a lot of nights studying much later than you ever wanted too. You may or may not cry. It’s okay! Everything is fast-paced & there is a lot of information. The next 2 years (or however long your program is) is going to be stressful but it’s so worth it! Enjoy every second of being a student nurse. It can be fun for sure, but I’m not going to lie and say that you won’t be stressed, because you will…just about everyday.
- Be open-minded. I have always been drawn to babies. I love them, I want a lot of them, and I wanted to work in a career that I get to make a difference in a child’s life. Before I even started nursing school people would ask me what my specialty would be and I said NICU. I absolutely loved the idea of working with newborn babies, it made my heart happy just talking about it. My 3rd semester of nursing school came around when it was finally the opportunity to go into the NICU for our clinical rotation. Well, as excited as I was going into that experience, I came out feeling disappointed because it was nothing like I expected it to be. I enjoyed being in the NICU for the 2 days I was there, but I could no longer see myself working on that unit 12 hours a day, let alone for the rest of my nursing career.
With that being said, I want everyone to go into nursing school completely open-minded! Plans may change. One of the best things about nursing is that there are opportunities for everyone! If you don’t like one specialty, I guarantee there is something else in the field you will LOVE. What specialty do I see myself in now? Who knows? Embrace it, be open-minded, learn all that you can about everything and opportunities will arise everywhere. I promise!
Finally, enjoy it!! I have made some of my best friends and best memories in nursing school. We’re all in this together. Embrace and enjoy the journey. Good luck!
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