Five Things to Know About Nursing School

View all tags
Arianna Olivier
A group of eight nursing students standing in 2 rows. They are all wearing blue scrubs.

I am a nursing student at Miami Dade College. After completing my Associate’s degree in nursing, I am on track to earn my Bachelor of Science degree next year. Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before starting nursing school. I hope these will help future nursing students begin this journey with realistic expectations.

Nursing school is not THAT hard.

Nursing school is whatever you make it to be. If you occupy every hour of your day, and do not take time to recover and rest yourself, you will feel that school is hard and that you have no life. If you take the time out of your schedule to do something that you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, watching one episode of your current show, or going to the gym, you will feel so much better and have the mindset to focus on your academics. Learn from now on to take the time to prioritize some personal time out of your day, whether its 1 hour a day to read or 2 hours a day to be at the gym, so that you do not solely live, breathe, and sleep nursing school.

This is a marathon, not a race.

You will notice very quickly that some classmates are going to have a competitive mindset. For some reason (that is unknown to me), you are going to see students comparing grades and study methods with a passive aggressive mechanism in their tone. You may even be one of these students, with an urge to prove that you are smart enough to be in the program. The reality is you are ALL meant to be in the program. You are ALL smart enough. Nursing school is not a race, and it shouldn’t be treated as one.

Find a group of friends and never let them go.

On my first day of orientation, we were told by the speaker that “you do not get through nursing school alone.” I can testify that this is true. Nursing school is an immense adjustment to your academic and social life. It can become overwhelming to figure out your method of studying, balancing out your assignments and tests with the realities that come with being a human being. Contrary to what was in statement #2, you may feel sometimes that you are not smart enough. You will contemplate on leaving the program, or quitting your job and then wondering how you will be able to pay for your classes. Nursing school is a rollercoaster of emotions. Having a study group or a simple group of friends is going to be the anchor between you and nursing school. Find yourself a group of genuine people, with your same goals, and never let them go.

Your life does not have to stop because you are a nursing student.

This goes hand and hand with statement #1, but it is more about the mindset that you carry while you are in school. Your life should not stop because you are a nursing student. During orientation, they may jokingly say things like “say goodbye to your friends and families” or “you are ours for the next 2 or 4 years.” That is not true. Carrying on this type of mindset is going to be detrimental to your mental health. You HAVE to dedicate parts of your days, a whole day or even a weekend to recover so that you can be successful in nursing school. Doing this even gives you something to look forward to so that during the week you can tell yourself to push harder because you will have this one day to do what you want to do.

Of course, it is important for you to spend lots of hours studying and focusing on your classes and preparing for upcoming exams. Nevertheless, it will never hurt for you to spend some time to spend a weekend in Disney, enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, or go ice skating with your friends (even if it means taking your flashcards with you). These moments are essential to reducing the risk of burnout and keeping your battery high for those extra-long study sessions.

Memorization will only go so far.

If there is one thing that’s different from pre-requisite nursing classes to actual nursing classes is that you don’t need to memorize everything. Nursing classes is all about UNDERSTANDING the concept being taught. For example, you can memorize the functions of the white blood cells. However, nursing school questions are going to ask you questions about understanding what the patients will appear like when their white blood cells are not working, and what you as the nurse can do for this patient. Prepare now by asking yourself, “I know what this means, but WHY is this happening?” The human body is a very complex system that works in a connected way, so sometimes the patient may have a fever, but it is actually a problem happening in the brain. So, learn to connect the dots and go deeper than the definition. Learn how one part of the body can affect the other. You don’t save a patient’s life because you memorized the parts of the heart, you save their life because you understand how it affects the rest of the body.

Making time for yourself, building up your self-confidence, finding your support group, balancing school work with your social life, and striving to understand key concepts: keep these five things in mind as you begin nursing school and you’ll be set up for success!

Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!