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Nursing School:What You Need to Know

Updated on July 26, 2016

Nursing School Acceptance Letter! Yay!

I remember getting my nursing school acceptance letter in the mail. I was thrilled! Then, 2 minutes later, I was nervous, anxious and unsure of what to expect! I'd been in college before. So, I knew what it was like and that there would be a lot of books and studying. I was ready! Let's do this!

Then, the first semester started: culture shock! I was not ready for what I had just gotten myself into! I felt like someone had switched my 'weekend boot camp experience' for basic training in the army! Overwhelmed at the lack of anything at all familiar-books, surrounding, terminology, communication, atmosphere, instructors.....even the basic way of thinking was not the usual college approach in which I was so accustomed!

Going To College

The first mistake most new nursing students make is to immediately begin to compare their class experience and grades in nursing school to classes previous taken. When you do this, you set yourself up for a lot of stress and disappointment!

You cannot compare your performance in this atmosphere to classes you've had in the past in business, art, science, math etc. If you were an A student and hold the same high expectations for yourself without any room for a 'learning curve' you will most likely be in for a major shock!

Comparing a nursing program to any other college program is like comparing apples to....well....botulism! If you're into si-fi or at least understand it's concept the following analogy is the closest I can come to describing the initial mix of emotions and stress of the 1st semester of a nursing program.

"Nursing School Is a Whole Different World!"

Imagine you have signed up for a cruise. Excitedly, you board and begin to explore the ship. Quickly, you see that the cruise ship is actually a space ship and your vacation had turned into an abduction by aliens who take you to their planet. You are on a totally unknown planet surrounded by alien creatures you've never seen before speaking a language you can't discern.

You soon realize that, in order to survive, you must assimilate to this new world but to do that you must relearn everything you thought you knew to be true because the language and way of life you knew on Earth will be of no use to you among the 'aliens'!

In this circumstance, you have no choice but to try, fail (at times), learn from your mistakes and most importantly cut yourself some slack!

Can't wait to start learning? Don't!

Most programs require you to pass a drug dosage calculations test before entering the program even if you've already been accepted. This means, as soon as you receive your letter, get books, study guides and online materials to practice these formulas and equations specific to dosing medications. Giving yourself a few weeks to go over sample problems will give you a great advantage when take this exam.

Next is the NCLEX. Yes, that's right. I said NCLEX. I know you're thinking that is something you don't need to concern yourself with until graduation. The truth is that the more questions you do the better you will do on you board exam. Most don't realize that NCLEX questions are phrased specifically in the form of critical thinking. Critical thinking is a term you will hear from day one and is the core of your nursing career. Doing NCLEX questions teaches you to 'critically think' and will actually help you do better on classroom lecture tests.

I remember when I was in school the instructors of our class had us start NCLEX questions as required assignment in our last semester. When I realized how helpful they were I wished I'd been doing them all along! So now, I advise any of my friends just starting to routinely do these questions starting asap and preferably to use them to study for whatever material that is being covered at the time. This practice can only help improve your test scores with every test, every semester!

What do you think?

What do you fear most about nursing school?

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Common Nursing School Montras

These are a few saying we all continually said to keep ourselves going during school.

  • "Nursing school really is a totally different world!"
  • "Nursing school can't be compared to anything else I've ever done before!"
  • "Keep putting one foot in front of the other."
  • "If I can survive nursing school, I can survive anything."
  • "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
  • The Serenity Prayer
  • "Nurses are definitely a different breed."
  • C=RN

That last one is in no way advocating to have a 'just get by' attitude. Such thinking will surely set you up for a lot of headaches and probable failure. My classmates and I said it often as a way to remind ourselves that we were on an extremely difficult journey and that success may not always mean straight A's!


Tips For Success

  • Remind yourself that you are embarking on something different from anything you've ever done before
  • Know that there is a huge learning curve (so, cut yourself some slack!)
  • Start studying BEFORE day one
  • Take breaks when you need them. The brain can only retain so much at one time.
  • Get enough sleep-every night
  • Take many notes & use recording devices (if allowed) to get what you may miss in lecture
  • Build your support system. Accept that a home cooked dinner and up-to-date laundry probably won't happen often while in school....and that's ok!

Study Materials

Study habits are a necessity for college and learning how to study the right way definitely helps. As you have probably already figured out, studying in nursing school needs a different approach. As I mentioned earlier NCLEX questions are perfect but the books where they are found can be expensive. It is not necessary to have the current year NCLEX prep books for use to study during school. Most often you can find them in used book stores or online at for a fraction of the price of current copies in traditional bookstores. An added benefit to these books is that they usually contain CD-ROM tests in addition to print questions. This helps acclimate you to computerized testing, which is standard for state boards.

When shopping for study materials of any type, be sure that they all include the following aspects:

  • critical thinking questions and case studies
  • answers for each question or study
  • rationale for each answer (helps you learn and understand the material)

Also, bullet point type information helps the brain retain complicated information. Many study aids have bullet points or come in flashcard form for studying on the go!

© 2014 cammyshawn


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