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5 Tips to Survive Nursing School

5 Top Tips to survive nursing school

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The road to qualifying as a nurse is not an easy one. You could spend as little as one year at nursing school or as long as eight, depending on the qualification you’re aiming for. Either way, nursing school is not for the faint-hearted, and it can seem like a daily battle.

You’ll likely need to put in more study hours than other students, meaning less time for extracurricular activities or work. Budgeting can be tough for student nurses as they often have many extra costs but less funds. These include buying nursing scrubs, , but also have less time to take up paid work than other students. Nursing school can also be an emotional rollercoaster as you’ll no doubt see some upsetting scenes on your clinical experiences. You’ll have to quickly develop a strong stomach and thick skin while remaining empathetic with your patients.

but also have less time to take up paid work than other students. Nursing school can also be an emotional rollercoaster as you’ll no doubt see some upsetting scenes on your clinical experiences. You’ll have to quickly develop a strong stomach and thick skin while remaining empathetic with your patients.

 Whether you’ve just enrolled or you’re part-way through your course and finding it challenging, we’ve put together our five top tips for surviving nursing school. 

1. 5 Tips to survive Nursing School Get Organized

It can be tempting to ditch the books for an evening with friends, but skipping study will just set you back and cause stress. Student nurses have a lot more to juggle than other students, with a high number of study hours and clinical experiences to complete successfully.

Make study part of your daily routine by creating a timetable for the week and scheduling the same time each day to hit the books. Set a clear purpose for your study and check tasks off as you complete them. This will give you a sense of achievement and will motivate you to keep going. Avoid setting huge targets which will take months to achieve as you’re likely to get demoralized and give up. It’s a good idea to set new goals at the start of each semester. Do you want to improve your grades in a particular class? Are you determined to master a specific skill in your clinical placements? Don’t forget to make your goals SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Keep your notes organized and review them after each class. Whether you use a laptop or a paper and pen, be sure to store your files in a way that makes it easy for you to access the information you need at a later date — your future you will thank the past you at exam prep time! 

2. 5 Tips to survive Nursing School Take Care of Yourself

It can be easy to drown yourself in study, classes, clinical experiences, and research. Nursing school requires a lot of hard work and commitment, but it’s important to make time to care for your health and wellbeing. If you’re functioning on a few hours sleep because you were up late cramming, your performance will be off and ultimately could risk someone’s life. Equally, if you’ve skipped meals, had no exercise and your stress levels are sky high, you’ll be of no use to anyone.

Sign up to the gym or work a daily run into your schedule. Getting out in the fresh air will clear your mind and re-energize you for study. There will be plenty of extracurricular activities to choose from at nursing school, from sports to theatre. Get active — physically, and socially. Taking time away from the books will make you more effective when it is time to study. 

Don’t skip meals. If time and dollars are tight, you might think missing out on lunch is a good way to save on both. Your brain won’t function at its best if your body isn’t well nourished. When you’re on clinical experience in a healthcare setting, you’ll likely be on your feet for long periods, and your brain will be working overtime to take in all the new information. It’s crucial to keep yourself well-nourished if you want to perform at your best.

3. 5 Tips to survive Nursing School Plan Ahead for Clinicals

A core element of your program will be clinical experiences. You will spend time in a healthcare setting and will start to learn the practical skills you’ll need as a nurse in supervised learning sessions. Clinical experience is your opportunity to put what you learn in the classroom into practice and to gain real-world experience of nursing. 

Get the most out of your clinical experiences by planning well ahead. Find out where you will be placed and do some research on the organization. What kind of medicine will you be involved in? Will you be in a Trauma 1 center, or have you been placed on an end-of-life ward? Read around the area of medicine that is most relevant. Talk to other nursing students who have completed their clinical experience at the same setting and gain insight into what to expect. The more prepared you are, the more you will learn. Don’t be afraid to take notes and a list of questions with you. The Medical staff you work with will appreciate the preparation you have put in.

Plan for the practical and logistical aspects of attending your clinical experience too. Where is it? How do you get there? Is there parking? What do they require you to wear? Is it necessary to buy scrubs and must they be a certain color? 

4. 5 Tips to survive Nursing School Stock up on the Essentials

A few simple pieces of equipment will make your life as a student nurse much easier and more enjoyable. You will likely need some pieces of medical uniform, such as nursing scrubs and nurses shoes. Find out from your college what the requirements are. Each clinical setting may have their own rules, so don’t forget to check with them too. A pair of comfortable nursing shoes can be a lifesaver when you’re on your feet all day!  

Invest in a good backpack which can take the weight of your books. Backpacks are better than totes as they tend to be stronger, more comfortable to carry, and they have multiple pockets and compartments which are useful for storing all your essentials. Make sure there’s space for your laptop or notebook, stationery, personal items such as tissues and a hairbrush, snacks and a water bottle.

Treat yourself to a new watch. Many of us rely on our cell phones to tell the time, but it may not be appropriate either in class or in a clinical setting to keep whipping out your phone. If you’re going to be a perfectly organized student, you’ll need to keep an eye on the time, and a watch is the most professional way to do so. 

5. 5 Tips to survive Nursing School Ask Questions!

When are learning something new, it can be daunting to risk looking dumb by asking a “stupid” question. The chances are, if you’re prepared and well-organized, your query will not be seen as stupid by your peers, your professors, or the professionals in a clinical setting. Remember, they all had to learn too, and there’s a good chance many other students have asked the same question before. You’re here to learn. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to do so by being too afraid to ask a question.

It can be helpful to write down questions you want to ask ahead of time — especially if you’ve researched the organization you will be attending for your next clinical experience. Of course, this is not always possible. So, if you have a spontaneous question, take a moment to think it through before you ask it. If you still want to ask the question after a brief moment of reflection, it’s probably worth asking! 

Stick with It — 5 Tips to survive Nursing School You Won’t Regret It.

Nursing school is tough. It can be financially difficult, emotionally draining, labor-intensive, and intellectually challenging. But the goals we find hardest to achieve are also the most rewarding. Imagine yourself walking across the stage at graduation, your head filled with all the knowledge you are now learning. As a qualified nurse, you’ll be helping to save lives and supporting people through some of their most difficult experiences. Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career. If you are ambitious and committed to a career in nursing, stick with it — you won’t regret it.

Nurse Beth

Author “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job..and your next!” 

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Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth  career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question  


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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