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How to Survive Nursing School - Real Life Advice from a Student Nurse!
Nursing School: It's Not So Easy
Most of us are very excited when we hear we've been accepted into nursing school. We grab our uniforms, stock up on school supplies, and imagine what it will be like to be in our new career. What most of us need is good, solid advice on how to survive nursing school...as it is much more difficult than it seems and more stressful than what they tell you. Take it from me. I am getting ready to graduate and I wish I had someone give me this advice at the beginning.
So here are my tips and real world advice on how to survive nursing school...without losing your head in the process!
1. Don't Procrastinate!
The number one tip I can give anyone in nursing school is to NEVER PROCRASTINATE. This means don't procrastinate on your studies. Don't procrastinate on updating paperwork with the school. Don't procrastinate with projects and papers. Just DON'T PROCRASTINATE. The reason I tell you this is because if you procrastinate with anything while in nursing school, it will only make your life more stressful.
When it comes to studying for a test, don't wait until the weekend before the test to do your reading. Start reading the content for the test before you're even taught it in class. This ensures that you know the content when you get to class, therefore the teacher's lecture will just build on top of the knowledge that you already have. Then when test-time comes, you will be well-prepared and you won't have to stay up all night beforehand cramming in order to pass the test. Trust me, I know from experience both ways.
If you have to update paperwork with your school, get it done as soon as possible. Don't wait until the last minute, because you might have something more important to do than updating documentation with the school...and again, this will just end in stressing you out more than you need to be!
The same rule goes for projects, presentations, or papers that are due during nursing school. Get it done as soon as you humanly can that way you can spend the rest of your time prepping for your tests or clinicals.
2. Try Different Study Methods
A piece of advice that nobody gave me while in nursing school is to try different study methods. If one way isn't working for you, and you are finding yourself getting barely-passing grades on your tests, try something different!
For example, if you spend all of your time reading the assigned textbook chapters and you barely pass the test, mix it up. Skim over the reading and focus more on your teacher's powerpoints or your notes from class. If this doesn't work, perhaps watch some basic videos on Youtube to get a good visual to be ingrained in your mind. For the auditory learners, ask your teacher if you can record her lecture and then listen to the lecture over and over while focusing on the book/notes.
If studying by yourself doesn't work, try studying in a group. If group study gets you too distracted, minimize it to you and one other person. And if that doesn't work, study solitary!
Sometimes it takes a little time to figure out what studying methods are best for you.
3. Stress Relief: Give Yourself Time Off
While we all know how important it is to make it through nursing school, we many times forget to take care of ourselves in the process. Too much of our time goes to taking care of others in the hospital, reading our books, developing care plans, and taking tests...and unfortunately our stress-relieving activities fall to the wayside. Stress relief is crucial.
Here's the thing. If you are following rule #1 which is to NOT PROCRASTINATE, you will have at least one hour set aside during the week for yourself to decompress. This doesn't mean to sit in front of the TV or computer (your brain and eyes need a break!), this means to get outside and ride your bike. Go for a walk. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Read a fictional novel or favorite religious book. Have a coffee at your favorite coffee shop. Do something that helps you relieve stress, and do something that has nothing to do with your nursing school career. Your mind, body, and spirit will benefit from the stress relief...and your tests will thank you for it.
4. Take It One Day at a Time
A big problem that I had while in nursing school is that I tried to take care of things all at the same time. While it's important not to procrastinate, you also have to remember and figure out how to prioritize. I realized that it's best to take nursing school one day at a time. Otherwise you might end up having a mental or emotional breakdown.
At the beginning of every semester, the teachers will throw a lot of the future assignments at you to warn you about what you'll have to do during the semester. Don't let this overwhelm you. Think to yourself, "okay, but what do I need to get done today and what can I get done today?" Write out your plans on an agenda or a to-do list and go from there. If you clutter your mind with thinking of all the assignments that are due in the next month, you will stress yourself out way too much. So just breathe. Plan. And take it one day at a time.
5. Lean On Others
Making it through such an intense program almost wasn't possible without the help and support of my wonderful husband. If you aren't married, don't fret. Lean on others around you for support when you need it. Friends and family members might be able to help watch your children or pets, they might be able to lend you a particular school supply, or they might just be able to provide you with a friendly smile, a hug, or an open ear.
It is okay to put some of the weight on others, don't let it pile up on your shoulders alone (even though as nurses and future nurses we have a tendency to bear the weight of the world by ourselves, try not to!).
If I can survive nursing school, I know you can! Keep your head up and breathe.
Written and copyright © KittytheDreamer (May Canfield), 2013. All Rights Reserved.