MEET THE EXPERT
- 5 Key Tips for Every Nursing Student
- What to Do If You Want to Quit
- Do’s and Don’ts for First-Year Students
- Managing Nursing School Stress
- Tips for Nontraditional Nursing Students
- How to Dominate Your Nursing Coursework
- Surviving Your Nursing Clinicals
- How to Survive Financially in Nursing School
- (Interview) Advice from a Nursing Grad
- Essential Equipment for Nursing Students
- Nursing Student Communities and Resources
Each and every day, nurses across the world provide care and compassion to millions of patients. Being a nurse offers continual opportunities to engage in rewarding work, but getting through nursing school can feel overwhelming (and downright impossible at times) for even the most determined students. As the need for new nurses continues to rise, it’s imperative we do everything possible to help current and future students gain the confidence and skills they need to make it to graduation and get their dream nursing career.
To do our part, EduMed has created this comprehensive guide, featuring practical, easy-to-follow tips, advice and resources to help nursing students at every stage of school. Whether you read it top-to-bottom or jump straight to the sections that are most relevant to your situation, you’ll come out the other side feeling more positive and motivated about the journey ahead.
The 5 Most Important Tips for Every Nursing Student
Knowing what to expect going into a nursing degree program is often half the battle. Follow the tips below to center yourself from the start and ensure you stay in good mental, emotional and physical shape throughout.
What to Do If You’re Thinking About Quitting
Between long days and hard tests, nursing school can stress out even the best students. You’d be hard pressed to find a nursing student who hasn’t at one point considered dropping out. While nursing school isn’t for everyone, you should carefully consider the decision to quit before going through with it. Check out some of these common reasons for leaving school and see why you may want to reconsider.
I want to quit because…
I feel like I’m all alone in this.
When it feels like you’re drowning in assignments, studying, and clinical rotations, it’s easy to think you’re completely alone. But try to remember that everyone in your program – and in nursing programs around the globe – are likely experiencing the same emotions as you. In addition to leaning into your local community, check out the online community resources highlighted at the end of this guide.
I’m super stressed out.
Stress can make any learner question whether it’s worth it to stay the course and gain his or her degree. Another, more positive, way of looking at stressful deadlines is to see them as preparation for the rigors of the nursing profession. If you’re feeling paralyzed by stress, be sure to review the section in this guide on lessening stress.
I’ve lost all motivation.
When it feels like the work will never end and you can’t see straight from staring at a textbook for hours, it’s hard to keep pushing to the finish line. If you find yourself feeling this way, try to remember what made you want to become a nurse in the first place. Think about things like the care you’ll be able to provide patients, the professional opportunities that will come your way, or the financial security it could afford you or your family.
This is getting way too expensive and isn’t worth it.
It’s no secret that degrees in this country aren’t cheap. As student loans stack up, you might start questioning if it’s worth it to go into so much debt for a degree. The good news is that registered nurses tend to earn salaries substantially higher than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 2018 median pay sat at $71,730, nearly 86 percent higher than the median annual wage for all occupations combined.
I don’t have time for anything but school.
After a few years of running from class to work to clinicals to labs, it’s no wonder why many nursing students can feel like they’ve lost touch with their lives. Nursing programs require much of degree seekers, but there are a couple things you can do to build in personal time. If possible, consider taking one semester off to center yourself. If that’s not doable, try moving to a part-time schedule until you feel more connected and have a better school-life balance.
Do’s and Don’ts for First-Year Nursing Students
The first year of nursing school can be one of the most challenging as students get adjusted to their new program and course load. This is a critical time for getting settled and feeling confident. Here are a few key do’s and don’ts to make the first year one of your best.
Managing Nursing School Stress
Stress is a normal part of any college student’s life, but between the demands of clinicals and coursework, nursing school can be particularly stressful. Follow the steps below to lower your stress levels and breathe a little easier.
Tips for Nontraditional Nursing Students
Nursing school can present unique challenges for nursing students who don’t fit the standard profile. Get specific tips and advice for your situation below.
How to Survive Nursing School with a Family
As a single parent
When solely responsible for your children, routine is key. Work with advisors to create manageable class schedules that fit around daycare, family time, and any other personal commitments. Don’t forget to apply for financial aid, ask for help from loved ones, and explain to your children why you’re in school. You may also want to consider the added flexibility and convenience of an online degree.
With a baby
Juggling a newborn or infant alongside clinical rotations and group projects can be challenging – to put it mildly. In addition to creating schedules that work with your life, check to see if your school offers on-site childcare. If you need to meet with your team, consider inviting them to your house as to not disturb your child’s sleep schedule.
The most important consideration when attending nursing school while pregnant is to ensure you stay healthy and unstressed, as stress can create complications. Things to consider include timing (e.g. how do semesters fit with your due date?), cost (e.g. can you afford both?), and rest (e.g. can you complete clinical rotations in an advanced state of pregnancy?).
- Full-Time Workers
Getting Through Nursing School with a Full-Time Job
The reality is that many learners can’t afford to attend school without holding down a full-time job. It may seem impossible given nursing students’ hectic schedules, but it can be done with careful planning and a little understanding from professors and employers. Make sure to keep everyone in the loop on scheduling, consider stacking classes in the morning or evening, and think about whether online learning might best suit your needs.
- Online Students
Advice for Surviving Online Nursing School
Online nursing school appeals to many learners due to its flexible and cost-effective nature. But, done poorly, it can also feel isolating and discouraging. Surviving in an online program requires dedication, focus and planning. Make sure you have a designated desk/office for watching lectures and engage regularly with your peers and professors so you feel involved.
- Male Nursing Students
Male Nursing Students: How to Overcome the Stigma
It’s no surprise that women represent the vast majority of nurses. While stigmas continue to fade in this industry, some male nurses may still feel out of place. When this happens, remember that you want to be a nurse to help others. Seek out other male students and look at joining a membership group such as The American Association for Men in Nursing.
How to Dominate Your Nursing Coursework
In addition to receiving good grades, nursing students must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to practice as a nurse. Learners who keep their priorities straight and remain vigilant yet calm about their workload are more likely to find success.
General Study Tips
NCLEX Exam Prep
Given that nurses can’t practice without passing this exam, it’s normal to feel anxiety about doing well. But with some preparation, you need not worry about failing.
How to Get Back on Track if You’re Failing School
After working so hard to become a nurse, getting the news that you’re failing a course can immediately strangle all resolve. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get back on track.
Step 1 – Ask for help.
If you find yourself falling behind, reach out for help immediately. Your professors can provide clarification, set you up with a tutor, or meet with you after class.
Step 2 – Don’t lose hope.
Failing a class can feel completely demoralizing, but these feelings can actually make it worse. Try to remain positive and find a mantra that builds confidence and resolve.
Step 3 – Ask for extra credit assignments.
You can’t go back and change your test or paper score, but you can look for ways to improve your grades through extra work.
Step 4 – Reprioritize.
If you’re doing great in one class but suffering another, try to devote more time to the latter until you can right the ship again.
Surviving Your Nursing Clinicals the Smart Way
Nursing clinicals can be the most demanding part of nursing school, but students who plan ahead and keep the right mindset can use this time to cement their knowledge and gain skills that impress hiring managers. Tips to keep in mind include:
How to survive night shifts
Working night shifts can make the world feel upside down at first. Here are three quick tips to help you stay feeling strong and rested.
- Get enough sleep.
Try keeping the same bedtime, investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask, and eliminating noises.
- Be smart about caffeine.
Like any other shift, caffeine can help keep you awake and alert, but make sure you stop drinking it long before your shift ends as to not interfere with sleep.
- Find ways of staying busy.
Night shifts tend to be less chaotic than others, so nurses must find ways of staying focused. Consider completing paperwork, organizing closets, or reading a book.
How to Survive Financially in Nursing School
Surviving nursing school is about more than passing your classes and making it through clinicals. Students also need to make sure their finances stay in good shape before enrolling, during school, and after graduation.
Real-World Advice from a Nursing Grad
Essential Equipment: The Gear You Need to Succeed
The right equipment can make or break your time in nursing school, so it’s worth it to buy the proper items. Necessary purchases include:
Helpful Student Nursing Communities and Resources
From Reddit and Facebook communities to informative YouTube videos and podcasts, there’s a ton of free resources available to help nursing students make it through school.
Nursing Students: This active page maintains more than 88,000 followers and counting.
National Student Nurses’ Association: Students can find support and insights from this page, which has more than 500,000 followers.
Surviving Nursing School with Nurse Angie: This page encourages the sharing of resources and tips, and offers free tutoring for nursing students.
Reddit for Nurses: This page exists for practicing nurses looking for support and camaraderie.
Reddit for Nursing Students: Created for students, by students, this is a helpful community for asking questions and sharing experiences.
Reddit for Pre-Nursing: A great community to check out if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse but want more details.
How I passed the NCLEX First Try with 75 Questions: RegisteredNurseRN shares her insider tips on acing the exam the first time.
How To Survive Nursing School: Registered nurse Ashley Adkins shares her best resources for getting through nursing school relatively unscathed.
Nurse Liz: Nurse Liz hosts an active YouTube channel with tons of videos and several new ones posted each week.
How to Prepare for Nursing School: Wondering how to get ready for all the demands of nursing school? Nurse Liz can help.
Pre-Nursing and Nursing School Tips: This video highlights Nurse Bianca’s experience getting accepted to nursing school and staying sane while enrolled.
FreshRN: This popular podcast talks about the first year of nursing in weekly episodes.
Good Nurse, Bad Nurse: This lighthearted podcast is hosted by an RN and includes lots of special guests.
Johns Hopkins Medicine Podcasts: JHM offers two podcasts for staying up-to-date on medical news.
Medscape Nurses Podcast: This podcast tackles common topics in nursing and provides insightful interviews.
Nursecasts: This is a podcast for nurses, by nurses.