Ten Tips for Nursing School: Back to School Essentials
Nursing school is a big commitment and higher education can be costly. Here are some tips to help if you’re thinking about starting or going back to nursing school. These life skills not taught in school can help you figure out what nursing school is like, and include advice to college freshmen on how to survive, what types of degrees are available in nursing, and everything else you need to know to pick the right school for you.
#1. Research and Learn About the Question: What Is Nursing Really Like?
To prepare for nursing school, you first need to consider what it will be like to attend. Put yourself in a nursing student’s shoes and think about your personal needs or lifestyle.
In nursing school, you will spend long hours studying, reading, and standing on your feet during clinicals. Working in the field isn’t much different. This career can be emotionally draining as well. Nurses can form attachments to the patients they care for and witnessing their suffering isn’t always easy, so it’s important to make sure you can deal well with hard situations and communicate with patients.
#2. A Solid Preparation is the Best Tactic to Survive Nursing School
Nursing school can be stressful and fast-paced, but the information you learn is going to be vital to your nursing career. Prepare for classes by familiarizing yourself with your textbooks before class and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the material. Review your notes after class to recap new techniques and try different studying methods to keep up with your classes, such as studying with a group or mixing exercise with study sessions.
It’s also very important to make sure you take care of yourself and your body’s needs throughout nursing school. Learning to deal with stress in a healthy way is clutch. Eat nutritious meals, surround yourself with people who support your nursing dream, and don’t forget to find time to relax once in a while.
#3. Prepare for Making It Through Your First Semester of Nursing Clinicals
While all programs are different, most schools don’t begin clinical rotations until your second semester in order to give you some time to acclimate to your classes and build up a knowledge base first. By using your first semester to study up on your medical terminology and other nursing theories, you can be prepared for clinicals before they even start. At some point, it’s almost guaranteed that you will feel overwhelmed by the course load, so you might as well alleviate some pressure by getting a head start.
You will begin practicing your skills in a laboratory on simulated patients and fellow classmates. Once you get your feet wet in sim lab you’ll enter real world clinical settings, where you will be helping both patients and and other nurses during your required clinical hours, usually in a hospital setting, to gain real-world experience.
#4. The Journey is the Destination: Understand the Steps to Your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
To earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, there are many different tracks you can take to complete your education. Many nurses earn an associate degree to begin working in the field, continuing their education later on. But joining a BSN program immediately after high school is the most direct way to begin a nursing career.
A bachelor-level degree typically takes four years to complete at a college or university, but you can get a head start by taking math and science courses in high school, such as human anatomy. Your nursing courses will prepare you for a variety of nursing roles, teach you about bedside manner in working with patients through hands-on clinical rotations, and qualify you to take the NCLEX exam. Once you complete your education you need to pass this exam, which nationally licenses all registered nurses. Some states may have further certification requirements.
#5. Learn More About the Different Degrees in Nursing
There are three main ways you can earn a degree in nursing and become a registered nurse to find work in healthcare. Earn a nursing diploma, an Associtate degree, or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Diplomas are offered from hospitals and vocational schools whereas college degrees can take place at community colleges and in universities. An associate degree can help you begin working in the field as an RN within about two years. Bridge programs can help you continue your nursing education later if you choose. A bachelor’s degree is the most common requirement and many times offers the best job opportunities.
Some programs also exist to help nurses further their education or help those with non-nursing degrees transition into the field without doubling up their education. These accelerated BSN and direct entry MSN programs take on students who already have some college education in another field.
Graduate degrees (MSN or doctorate) take a little longer, but prepare nurses for careers in administration, teaching, or research. These nursing jobs are often less involved with patients but can include more specialized fields, such as advanced clinical training. Doctoral nursing programs offer ways to develop leadership, and graduates often go on to educate future nurses or work in management settings.
#6. Make Sure You Pick the Best School for Nursing for Your Own Needs
Not all nursing schools are created equally, so make sure to pick the best nursing school for your needs. Consider the type of nursing program you want to attend first and find a school based on the program you’re after. The location and size of the school you select will depend on your nursing career interests and whether or not you prefer a large institution or small class sizes, which are helpful during clinical rotations.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose a nursing school that is fully accredited and has a high percentage of students that pass the NCLEX examination needed to get licensed. NCLEX pass rates are a good indicator that a school adequately prepares their students for a nursing career. Lastly, the price of your education will vary drastically based on private or public-school status and state. An affordable education is possible, especially with community college courses and financial aid options.
#7. Implement Time Management Skills to Prioritize Your Time
It’s easy to put things off for later, but you will be happier in nursing school if you reject this impulse and stick to a daily schedule. Sometimes you will have a lot of reading and staying organized, creating to-do lists, and prioritizing your time will help you tackle everything you need to do. Whether your method involves an app or a calendar, find a way to keep it all straight that works for you.
Most importantly, this tip for nursing school will come in extra handy once you get your first nursing job. Time management is essential when you are caring for patients, as you will need to perform assessments, administer medications, document and chart, communicate with patients families and staff, and implement nursing care each time you come on shift as a nurse.
Developing your time management skills while you are still in school can help you immensely once you enter the profession of nursing.
#8. Focus on the Material, Not the Grade
Nursing students are characteristically overachievers who can be used to receiving all A’s in school, but many students find they don’t receive the same scores during the first few semesters of nursing school. Rather than let this bother you, make sure you don’t obsess over the grade and instead make sure you understand the material and develop your critical thinking skills. A perfect score won’t help you on the job later, but the knowledge you gain from your studies will be crucial to providing patient care.
#9. Stay Organized by Scheduling Your Time Using a Student Planner
With so much going on during nursing school, you will need help keeping it all straight. At some point, you will likely fall behind and or at least start to feel overwhelmed.
Staying on a regular reading and studying schedule throughout your courses can help. Use a student planner to write out your schedule and make notes to keep up with important deadlines or exams. Find an organization system that works for you and stick with it to stay ahead, which helps when the unexpected happens. Get yourself a good planner before you start classes, and don’t forget to use it!
#10. Establish a Solid Foundation: Find the Right Shoes!
Okay. This one may seem frivolous when it comes to tips for surviving nursing school, but trust me on this one! Unless you have worked in a restaurant, retail or a health care setting already, you may fail to understand the importance of giving your feet a good foundation. The right shoes can literally make or break you. Nurses are on their feet for up to fifteen hours a day in some cases, and it starts with your first clinical rotation. Get yourself started right with a solid pair (or two) of non-slip shoes with arch support and a cleanable surface. By the end of your first day of clinicals, you’ll know exactly why this tip is so crucial!