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Why you should look forward to the bad days in nursing school (really!)

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

Nursing school is a tough cookie. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, someone or something throws you that curve ball.

I always find it interesting to hear the “war stories” from current and previous students. The quality of the story stems from the description of how they were treated by the instructor and preceptor, or the staff nurses, or the physicians, or maybe even their fellow nursing students. The story is given a thumbs up or a thumbs down as a conglomeration of how the experience panned out for them.

If the preceptor was mean, then it was a bad day. If the physician was friendly and a good mentor, then it was a good day. So on and so forth.

Here’s the rub. A good day does not always equal a good learning experience. And a bad day does not always mean a failed learning experience. Remember, you are not there to have “fun;” you are there to learn.

Just because your preceptor was a jaded, burned out staff nurse doesn’t mean they didn’t pass on some important pearls of wisdom for you to take with you when you move through your career. And just because the physician was friendly and made attempts to educate or teach you doesn’t mean it will translate into important information at the bedside.

For me personally, the worst days I’d had as a student have taught me the most. I learned invaluable information from bad experiences, bad people and bad situations. I learned a great deal about myself, the type of nurse I want to be and the subset of skills I strive to possess.

Don’t hope for the “easy street” every day when you’re in class or at clinicals. You need to be challenged, you need to be stressed and you need to navigate through the badness. The badness is something that never goes away once you become a nurse. It will test your mettle when you least expect it.

If you get to experience the badness while you are a student, you will be that much more prepared to take it head-on when it shows up later in your career.

Some of the worst experiences will teach us the most. Any experience, whether good or bad, will teach you something. Be sure to pay attention.

“Don’t ask for a lighter load, ask for a stronger back” (adapted from Phillips Brooks).

Do you agree? Have your worst days at school or on the job taught you the most?

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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One Response to Why you should look forward to the bad days in nursing school (really!)

  1. Nurse little

    I am a second year nursing student on placement. These posts are the only thing keeping me sane! Lol