So you’ve finally got into a nursing program and are wondering what you will need to do to survive nursing school? Are you intimidated when you hear others talk about how hard nursing school is? No matter what type of program you’re going in, it will be hard. Repeat: it will be hard. That is true. This blog post will outline six things you can do from the get-go to increase your odds for success in nursing school.
#1. Stay motivated!
You know nursing school will be long and hard. Take some time to do some reflection and figure out what your motivation is for completing nursing school. Has your life-long dream been to become a nurse? Have you tended to a family member or friend during a health crisis and realized you enjoyed caring for others? Are you interested in a career where you work hard and stay busy? Enjoy being challenged in your work and learning new things? Do you dream of having a stable, in-demand career to financially support your family? Would you like to become a travel nurse someday and travel the world while earning an excellent income? Whatever your reasons for wanting to be a nurse, use the reason you want to be a nurse as motivation to help you make it through school.
For myself, I had a few different things that motivated me to make it through nursing school. As a child I had quite a few health issues and spent a good amount of time being hospitalized. I really looked up to the nurses who took excellent care of me. In fact, to this day I remember one very compassionate and sweet nurse who comforted me after a surgery when I was 6 years old. All of these experiences really encouraged me to follow my dream of becoming a nurse myself. As a teenager my decision to become a nurse was solidified when my Grandmother developed Alzheimer’s’ disease and needed lots of care. It made me realize what a need there was for nurses who cared and really desired to help others. Even though it wasn’t easy, I am so glad I followed my dream of becoming a nurse and you will be too!
#2. Assess your support system.
Nursing school will consume your life! Now is the time to figure out who can support you and help you to get everything done to make it through. Of course this will be especially true for you if you have children! If you have a spouse, you will need to have an honest talk about expectations while you are going through your nursing program. You will not only be at school and clinicals quite a bit, but need lots of time to study as well. It is not a realistic expectation that you can come home every night and make dinner, clean the house and take care of the kids all by yourself. You will need help. If you’re a single mom, now is the time to talk with whoever can help you get through school. Your parents, siblings, even good friends will hopefully do all they can to help you during this time. There may be times you will need a family member or friend to watch your children so you can study for a test, or care for your kids while you attend an evening clinical (and yes, some schools have clinicals in the evening). Make sure you look for anyone who would be willing to help you out and utilize them to make it through school.
#3. Stay Organized!
Staying organized during nursing school is a must. If you are already an organized person, great. If not, find what works best for you to stay on top of all you need to do everyday. Some people like to use a written planner, while others may prefer the calendar on their phone or an app to keep up with everything. Whatever works for you, use it! In nursing school you will have tons of assignments, not to mention careplans and tests to study for. You must have an easy to access way to keep all of these deadlines or due dates organized.
You have to realize you can’t do it all, especially while going through nursing school. It’s important that you be realistic about how much time classes, clinicals and studying will take. When I went back to school for my ASN I was in an accelerated LPN-to-RN program that was a year long. At the beginning of the program the Dean told us that if we working full-time to give it up and either cut down to part-time or quit our jobs altogether so we would have enough time to make it through the program. Several people started arguing with her and said that couldn’t possibly quit their job and that they were sure they could make it through the program while working full-time. Let me tell you, by the end of that extremely challenging program there was not one person who was still working full-time! There were a few that tried but ended up failing out of the program because their grades were too low. The Dean was right. If you are going to go to nursing school full-time, I urge you to plan to not work full-time because chances are you won’t be able to. I worked 24 hours a week while in nursing school and felt that I couldn’t possibly fit in another hour to work. I spent several hours per day, everyday, studying for exams, preparing for clinicals, completing careplans, and writing papers. That doesn’t even include the actual hours I spent in class and clinicals! Please don’t fool yourself and think you can do it all because you really can’t.
#5. Do your research.
It will benefit you greatly if you take the time and effort to learn everything you can about the particular nursing program you will be attending. If you already know others who have made it through your program, you are one step ahead. Ask them for specifics about each instructor. Every classroom instructor has a different style of teaching and ways they like assignments done. Every clinical instructor has different clinical expectations and ways they like their careplans completed. Learning these things ahead of time can really help you be successful in school. If you are attending a multi-year or multi-quarter/semester program, make an effort to talk to the students that are ahead of you. Ask for any helpful advice they can give you. If you don’t know anyone who has attended your nursing school, find them! One of the best ways is to go on nursing message boards. AllNurses has some great message boards for student nurses that have the message board threads separated by state. This would be a great place to look for people who have been in your shoes and can give valuable advice regarding your program.
You will make it through this! Even though you will be the most time-pressed you have ever been, try your best to take care of yourself. Exercise, even if it’s only for ten or fifteen minutes a day, can be a huge stress reliever. Try to get as much rest as you’re able to and eat balanced meals. It can be easy to let the demands of nursing school take over your life and let self-care go by the wayside. Relying on caffeine to stay awake to study and fast food for meals can make you feel sluggish and run down. If you must rely on a lot of ready-made or prepared meals while in school, try to make the healthiest choices available. Set aside a small amount of time each week for pampering, even if it’s only to go to a foot spa for a cheap massage or go to a coffee shop to read a (non-nursing!) book and relax. While you may not have a lot of time to take care of yourself while in nursing school, do the best you can with the time you do have.
I hope these tips have given you a lot to consider when it comes to being successful in your nursing school program. Make sure to keep things in prospective and think to yourself that being a nursing student is only a temporary challenge. Remember, nursing school does not last forever, but you will be forever grateful you got through it! It is worth it.
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