Nurse educators know a little about getting through nursing school. After all, we’ve been through it. We’ve completed advanced nursing degrees. And we’ve guided our own students to achieve their dreams. Years of teaching experience have taught us a lot, so here are five things we think nursing students should know before starting school:
1. Nursing school requires 20+ hours a week of studying (outside of class). And that’s if everything is moving along smoothly. Falling behind or simply needing extra time for certain content areas can easily double that number. Leisure, social activities, and even work will need to be deprioritized throughout nursing school. You may want to let family members and friends know about this time commitment ahead of time. Remember, nursing school is not forever (although it can feel that way), so buckle down for a few years and it will pay off!
2. Passive reading and rote memorization won’t cut it. Have you ever read an entire chapter of a book, looked up and said, “what did I just read?” That could be the result of passive reading. It happens. But it is incredibly important for nursing students to find ways to actively read the material. The usefulness of memorization in nursing school is limited to things like lab values and medication names. Nursing exams require critical thinking – which goes beyond regurgitating facts from a textbook. Test questions will assess how well you apply the information you know. So don’t just study, practice for your exams!
3. You won’t always like your professor, clinical instructor, clinical site, etc. Teaching styles differ and may not always match your learning style or preferences. That’s where personal accountability and self-motivation come in. If you need extra support, seek it out: at your school, online, or tutoring. Clinical sites may not mirror the setting of your dream job. In fact, some might be far from it. Practicing clinical skills and critical thinking in real-life situations is essential for the nursing student. Make the most of each rotation and value the perspectives of different instructors.
4. Change is inevitable. That’s life, and that’s nursing. When you graduate and work in a clinical capacity, you will find that flexibility is a survival skill. Schedules change, policies change, and workdays are unpredictable. Nursing school is no different. Course dates and clinical schedules may need to be adjusted. Classes get moved down the hall to another room (brick-and-mortar students), and webinar technology might let us down once in a while (online students). Change: get used to it; embrace it; let it fuel you!
5. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Ahh! Sigh of relief. Your hard work and sacrifices will pay off. Remember that… on those days you’d rather be anywhere else but class… and those nights you want to throw in the towel (after you throw your textbook). Write down your reasons for pursuing a nursing degree, and reread them often. Post them in your study area or as your desktop background. Be proud of each milestone – small ones and large ones. And above all, keep going.