So I came home one day after 5 1/2 years as a Police Officer and told my wife, Courtney, that I wanted to change careers. One could say it was a “mid-life crisis” of sorts. Thankfully she supported me and after talking about college, we settled on the idea of nursing school. Courtney had been a nurse for 3 years at this point so I had insight and already knew the good and bad things about nursing…or so I thought.
Well, as you may or may not know, I made it through school with a “B” average, a bunch of new friends, a degree, and ended up with my RN License. I currently work as an ER Nurse. I think back to the time I spent in Nursing School and I am reminded of how stressed I was. This stress made me want to create another list for anyone out there that may be starting Nursing School soon or just thinking about it.
Disclaimer: By no means was I an exceptional student. I learned some of these tips before Nursing School and the others I learned the hard way. Take the advice if it works for you. Good luck!
1: Sit in the front of the class: On the very first day of class, you should try to sit as close to the front of the class as possible. Preferably one or two rows from the front so that you aren’t straining your neck to see PowerPoint presentations. Sitting close will help you to stay focused and it will let the instructors recognize you faster. The downside is that you may get called on a lot. I would get around this by raising my hand for the first question to get my name out of the hat. I did this for every semester of Nursing School and I found that I paid better attention when I knew the instructors may be watching me.
2: Introduce yourself: The next thing to do it introduce yourself to your fellow classmates. You will be spending more time with this group of people than your own family and friends, so get use to it. This will help you to realize earlier on who you might be able to study with and who to avoid. Trust me when I say that you want to avoid people I deem “vampires”. They suck the life out of every situation. They will make you question whether you are as depressed as they are. Their life is always one step worse than yours. STAY AWAY from these people!
3: Become part of a study group: This will be one of the most beneficial tips that I can give someone. I spent a semester and a half studying alone or with one other person and it ended up making me miss a lot of the learning. When you have a group to study with, you can bounce ideas off each other and will be better equipped for the test. My study group would meet often and only had at max 5 people in it (and that was pushing the limits). The ideal study group for me was three or four students (Beware that there will always be that one student that didn’t study and wants a full breakdown of the chapters an hour before the test).
4: Find “like-minded” people to study with: Try to find people that have some of the same things in common as you. That way you can have conversations outside of studying. Just don’t let your conversations interrupt the studying at hand. Having these people in your study group will help you tremendously because you will be able to understand them better. Think about having someone you can’t stand trying to teach you about the circulatory system…while the your thinking about shoving your foot in their mouth. It just doesn’t work.
5: Stay organized: I explained this to a lot of the students I went to college with and some took the advice and others would scramble through notes daily trying to keep up with study sessions. I took a large three-ring binder, placed some dividers in it and placed each module or chapter in its place. When I took a test on the material I would transfer it all to the back of the binder in the same order so I could reference it later and it would not interfere with the new material in the front. If your brain is chaotic, let your binder at least be the one organized thing in your life. It will help. Trust me.
6: Forget technology: This will come upon mixed reviews and for good reason. Forget the laptops and iPads. Get out a piece of college rule paper, a pen or pencil, a highlighter, and a textbook…and get to studying. I tried several times to place my study material on my laptop but in the end I would print it off and mark it up with pen again. For me, putting words on paper helped me remember it better than typing it. Do whatever you think helps you but at least try it for one test.
7: Sit in the back of the classroom during tests: Forget everything I said in tip #1. When it comes to test time, sit in the very back, against a wall if you can. You want to get away from as many people as you can because they can be major distractions. Whenever it was test day I would choose a seat as far from my original class seat because I knew that pin clicking, foot tapping, and heavy sighing would cause me to lose my train of thought during testing. It worked for me many times and I never failed a test at the back of the room. My thought behind this is that you get so comfortable in your original seat that it makes you feel more relaxed and being relaxed can cause you to overlook something on the test. But hey…I’m no genius.
8: Be confident: Whether it is in your answer on a test or the first time you speak to a patient, you have to be confident in what you’re doing. Many nursing school students still wear white uniforms so everyone knows who they are. This is also true for the patients. If you walk into a room to do an IV, wearing white scrubs, be prepared to get shot down or asked a million questions about how many times you have done one successfully. No matter if you are scared out of your mind…present yourself as a professional that knows what they are doing. This will help you in everything you do in nursing. Many times I find myself in scary situations and I remind myself that I have the knowledge and experience to handle it. Be confident in yourself and the patients will see it.
9: Look professional and be punctual: If you are the lucky student that gets to wear the white scrubs…wear the hell out of them. Don’t let the color change what it means to wear them. Stand tall and be proud that you are representing the nursing profession. Make sure that they are clean when you show up for clinicals and unwrinkled. Nothing throws a patient off more than seeing a new student coming at them with an IV needle, who has blood on their scrubs from a patient five days ago during a bad IV insertion attempt. Clean and unwrinkled….its not that hard. The next important thing is to show up on time. The first part of your job as a student is to show up. If you can’t show up on time then maybe you shouldn’t be a nurse. Its like if the hamburger maker at McDonald’s first job of the day was to heat up the hamburgers but he didn’t…then he shouldn’t be the hamburger guy. If you can’t do the first thing related to your job then you need a new path in life.
10: STUDY!: My final tip seems like a small one but in reality it is the one that will stop you from becoming a nurse.
- If you choose to party when you have a test Monday…hope you can flip a burger well.
- If you choose to drink on the beach when you have a test Monday…you better learn to say “My Pleasure”.
- If you choose to not stay after class and study when the test is the next day…well hope you parents aren’t paying for your college.
It sounds harsh but its the truth. I watched as people posted on social media that they partied, drank, and did everything but studied before tests and many of them never made it past the first semester. The remainder of them never made it past the second. We did lose a lot of hard studying students that did not fall into these groups and that shows how important studying is. Above all else, you need to know the material if you are ever going to touch a patient.
Like I said before, I was not an exceptional student. I made my way through Nursing School by the skin of my teeth at times. I finished with a low B mainly because I didn’t think killing myself studying would end up paying off in the end. The more stress I placed on myself to study, the worse I did. I studied as much as humanly possible and would be a part of a study group to refine my information. I stayed organized, professional, and surrounded myself with like-minded people. These are the tips that helped me to get through Nursing School. Hopefully they help someone else as well. Enjoy!
(For the record, some of the most chaotic people I know also graduated nursing school…so if that is how you function…I can refer you to them…Enjoy!)
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