Nursing school is HARD! Somedays I honestly wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits. I found myself multiple times during the year saying this is not for me, I can’t do this, have you ever found yourself saying that? Have you ever found yourself on the edge of sanity with tears in your eyes thinking I simply can’t get through this?? I understand completely, and I am here to try to help you get through it. Nursing is one of the most diverse and rewarding careers ever. If you are in nursing school now or are thinking about doing it, I hope these tips find you, they were my saving grace!
1. Get organized
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to now know what you’re doing or when you’re doing it. I found that having my calendar kept me on the straight and narrow. It may not seem like it at first but you will have so much to keep track of. Get out your syllabus and start writing the following in your planner.
- Skills labs
- Important appointments (think doctor, school, etc)
- Study group (If you have one)
- self-care (I’ll talk about this below)
If you want to get extra, I also wrote out a reading plan. If I had three chapters to read that week, I would assign one chapter every two days. I know this seems like a lot, but honestly, it kept me on track with my reading and kept me from feeling terribly overwhelmed.
2. Learn time management
This kind of goes along with getting organized, but you can have all the organization in the world and still not manage your time well. We all love social media and reruns of Gray’s Anatomy, but if you have to study to, then go get on it! You can do lots of things, but you cannot do EVERYTHING! Make a list for the day and prioritize your list. What is most important for you to get done? I assure you those dishes can sit in the sink until tomorrow so you can study tonight! Here are just a few basic things I did to help.
- I woke up an hour before my son got up for school to have quiet study time.
- I would study on my lunch break, sometimes this was hard because I would have much rather socialized with my friends and coworkers but my schooling was more important. Or make it a point to study for the first 30 minutes then socialize after!
- I would review things in the evening after my son went to sleep to help everything sink in for the day!
- When you are studying, make sure you can turn your devices to silent, set your alarm so you do not have to look at your phone constantly.
3. Create a study group
I am a total introvert, but this was GOLD for me! In LPN school, I had a small group that I would get together and study with multiple times a week. We held each other together during the rough times, we became much more like a family. Someone else’s strengths may be your weakness and vice versa, so it is awesome to be able to talk certain concepts out together. In RN school, I did not have a group, but one faithful study buddy. She was my rock and I was hers! We kept each other in the books, we would quiz each other, laugh together, and cried together.
4. YouTube is your friend
So to be honest, I am more of a hands-on and visual learner so reading a book sometimes did not cut it for me, I just could not picture what they were trying to say. YouTube has so many videos of nursing stuff! Pathophysiology, concepts, anything and everything you can imagine. If you are visual I highly recommend Nurse Mike on Simple Nursing from Youtube, I absolutely loved his videos, they were super easy to learn from! Check him out here… https://youtu.be/N1Db7re91GM
5. Record when permitted
So make sure you’re allowed to record the lecture FIRST! Some of my classes would not allow this and some did. I loved being able to listen to my lectures while walking the dogs, or driving to work (I had a 45-minute drive). Another option is to record yourself talking about different concepts and listen to it over and over. I know this sounds crazy but I LOVE listening to things, you can even listen to some of the YouTube videos after you have watched them to help those difficult concepts sink in!
6. Get your family on board
When I was in nursing school, my family knew that my blocked study time was important, like GOLD. My husband helped more around the house and my son knew, take out was likely to occur more than normal. My friends knew that I was basically out of commission for any weekend trips or day-long events and the good ones were okay with that. Did I lose a friend or two along the way, unfortunately, I did, but those were not real friends! (I’ll save that for another time!)
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
I would try to read ahead so if I had questions I could ask. Normally I would ask after class because the thought of raising my hand to ask a question in class sent me into heart palpitations, what if I looked stupid? But I can assure you if you have a question about it, so does someone else, they’re just not asking in front of you if they are asking at all! This piece of advice will be true for clinical and when you start your career as a nurse. I can’t say it enough, ASK QUESTIONS!!
8. Take your clinical serious
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I remember just wanting to be done. Most of my clinical was spent doing mindless things I had done a million times before, like passing meds. Occasionally I got to do some IV meds, but for the most part, it was assessments and meds. But I do recall the clinical that changed my mind. I had a patient getting IV albumin, then the order read to give Lasix 30 minutes later in big bold letters (obviously important right). So I asked my clinical instructor why it had been ordered this way, he looked at me and told me to look it up and tell me next clinical why. I did, and it was actually cool to learn about, and I went back proudly to the next clinical and taught the class why it was ordered that way. Good clinical instructors will inspire you to learn, use them as a resource and to help push you. Don’t settle for just skidding through it, that will not make you a great nurse.
9. Find an outlet
At first, I was sure I didn’t have time to do anything for me. I had a family, a child, on top of nursing school and a job, there was simply no time for me. But I quickly learned that even the smallest things can be so beneficial to your mental health. Here are a few suggestions, but do what brings you joy at least once a week!
- Go on a date with your spouse, we do a lot of lunch dates because of my husband’s work schedule but it works out.
- have lunch at the park with your family, you have to eat right? Might as well have some yummy food while spending time with your family.
- go have lunch or coffee with a friend
- get a manicure/pedicure
- get a massage (this is a great one, it can help with tension)
- take a walk around your neighborhood
- exercise (even 15 minutes gets the blood going)
10. Give yourself some GRACE
You will hear me say this a lot and it’s because I find we as humans never give ourselves enough of it. Your goal is to pass nursing school and be a good compassionate nurse, not to get the best grades! This whole concept was such a struggle. I am unfortunately a recovering perfectionist. I thought I had to have the best grades and if I didn’t get an A that it was the end of the world, well let me tell you, it isn’t. There is no nursing manager in the world who cares if you ended Pathophysiology with an A+ or a B… NONE!! I can promise you that knowing nurses in history isn’t going to matter when that class is over. Nursing school is the foundation of the rest of your career. You learn real-life nursing at your first job. I’m not saying do not take nursing school seriously, I am saying don’t beat yourself up over the little things.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, I hope this advice finds you when you need it!!
Please let us know any tips you have for surviving nursing school below!