It seemed as if the moment I decided I would major in nursing, all I heard was how difficult nursing school would be. Nursing school is hard for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it will be unlike anything you have experienced before.
Each semester in nursing school will be different than the preceding one. Each time you begin a new semester you will likely have to re-evaluate your study methods, get into a new routine, and use what you’ve learned in the past to conquer the difficult information of the present.
These are just some of the aspects of nursing school that pose a challenge.
You will quickly learn an abundance of new skills
In nursing school, especially in Fundamentals, a new skill will be presented to you and then in a matter of two weeks or so, you will be graded on how well you can perform the skill. You won't be expected to learn every nursing skill in just one semester (your check-offs/validations will be spread throughout each semester) but you will have to learn multiple skills each semester. And learning skills takes time for some.
Learning how to perform skills well was my biggest challenge during nursing school. If you are not a fast learner with hands-on skills, spend an adequate amount of time in the skills lab. Practice with other students. Identify who the fast-learners are and seek their assistance. Nursing is a team effort, so don't be shy to ask for help :)
Your weeks will be jam packed
Each nursing school is different, but it is typical for students to attend classes for 2-3 days per week, and have clinical rotations once or twice per week. In addition to classes and clinical, you will also have to schedule time for studying, attending the lab to work on skill performance, any extracurricular activities and work obligations. Time management skills and prioritization are critical to your success in nursing school.
The reading assignments will be unbearable
It may seem that each instructor is ignoring the fact that you have other classes that are demanding just as much, if not more reading. Your instructors may say that it is necessary for you to read before class in order to succeed. Unless you are blessed with instructors that outline the relevant pages that you need to read for class, it will be extremely difficult to read all of the material that they assign.
It is important to skim the textbooks to the best of your ability. Read the headings throughout the chapter and then read the summary to gain an overview. Pay close attention to any charts/boxes, italicized or colored text, and the NCLEX style questions at the end of the chapter. It may be difficult for you to skim in the beginning out of fear for "missing" important content. Remember that you are not trying to teach yourself everything. You are trying to gain a basic understanding before attending the lecture and will be able to focus on the important information after the lecture. The best thing you can do while reading the textbook is to ask yourself "What do I need to know as a nurse?". You don't need to have an extensive understanding of the anatomy & physiology that you already learned in your prerequisites. Identify the nursing assessment, interventions, and education that is needed and move on.
The tests are challenging
Tests in nursing school will rarely require that you regurgitate facts. Memorization alone will not serve you well as a study method. In nursing school you will be required to apply the information that you have learned. The tests will challenge you to think critically in order to correctly identify the answer among convincing distractors.
A simple way to get better at taking nursing school tests is to answer more questions. Take advantage of the questions in your textbooks. Invest in an NCLEX book at the beginning of your nursing school career to gain more practice with answering questions.
Nursing school can take a toll on your body
Because of the time constraints in nursing school, it is not uncommon to trade time for exercise, cooking healthy foods, and sleep for more time to study. Don't fall into the cycle of fast food, lack of sleep, and energy drinks in order to have time to study. Remember to take care of yourself! As a nurse you should strive to be as healthy as you can so that you are in an optimal position to care for others.
Your grades will be calculated differently
In nursing school at some institutions, a completely different grading scale is in place. (Be sure to check your handbook/pay attention at orientation to see if this is the case for you) At some schools, you cannot earn less than a C in your courses to continue to be on track in the nursing program. Again, it is very important that you are aware of what the grading requirements are for your program.
For perhaps the first time in your academic career, whether you pass or fail is not entirely dependent upon tests, attendance, and homework. Your success also depends heavily on your professionalism in the clinical setting, peer evaluations, and your ability to perform a skill under watchful eyes.
Only your classmates truly understand what you're going through
Throughout your nursing school career, only your classmates will know exactly how you feel because you all are in the same boat. Sometimes when you are struggling, you may feel like you are going through it alone, but remember to reach out to your classmates. Nursing school is truly unlike anything else, and having the support of those who are going through the same thing is invaluable.
With all that being said, nursing school is certainly difficult, but it is not impossible. You can be a successful student without sacrificing fun and rest! It is all about managing your time and developing a routine that works for you.
What tips do you have for making nursing school more bearable? We would love to hear from you! :)