15 things every nursing student needs to know

Creatas | ThinkStock

Creatas | ThinkStock

Nursing school is, as you well know, no joke. The hours are long, the studying never ends and the material is serious business. Not many of your friends will literally have “life or death” jobs. Were you prepared going in?

Brittney at The Nerdy Nurse says that when she went into nursing school, she didn’t know many actual nurses. Having little advice to go on, she set out believing that nursing school doesn’t have to be a terrible experience – and it wasn’t! (For the most part.)

In an effort to pay her experience forward, she recently posted a lengthy article on the finer points of hitting the books and making it out alive. Here are 5 things she thinks every nursing student needs to know:

1. Nursing is nothing like you think it will be.

Even if your life is filled with nurses and you think you know exactly what you will encounter when you hit the floor, you will soon find that you know nothing. I could give you a hundred examples, but you won’t get it until you’ve been there. There are so many facets of nursing that you just can’t understand until you have lived it. Don’t feel bad about it; just see it as an opportunity grow and learn.

2. You don’t need nearly as many books as is on your syllabus.

Although many may not agree with me on this, in my humble opinion, that $1000 in text books per semester is outrageous and unneeded. Most of the information you need will be delivered in class and you might only look at the books for a sentence or two. I suggest finding out who your instructors are and asking them if you really need four books for the 2-credit class you are taking. If you can’t reduce the amount of books you need to buy, then you should partner with a friend and each buy half the books, then share. If you’re working together as study buddies then you won’t miss the books that you didn’t purchase. Also, you should buy your nursing textbooks online from somewhere like Amazon. Most of the time you get free 2-day shipping and it’s usually much cheaper than the college bookstore.

3. You probably won’t keep your 4.0.

If you’re a perfectionist, then you are among your people. Many nurses have Type A personalities and strive for their best. This often includes making good grades. But alas, dear nursling, you might not be able to maintain that immaculate 4.0 you’ve had throughout the rest of your college experience. Nursing school is a different brand of difficult and incredibly smart young men and women find it very difficult to maintain the same grade point average they had going in. You might make a B or two. Heck you might even make a few Cs. That’s ok. As you will find out soon enough, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. And I haven’t met a nurse yet who was asked for his or her transcripts when applying for a job.

4. Study groups will help you keep your sanity.

On the very first day of nursing school our teachers highly recommended that we find people to carpool with and study with. While I didn’t take them up on this suggestion initially, I really wish I had. It wasn’t until my second year in nursing school that I found a group of friends to study with and it really was a huge life saver. I would have done so much better the first year if I had just done this in this first place.

5. Every answer is correct. Your job is to know what is “most” correct.

imageOne of the most difficult things for nursing students to grasp is how to answer NCLEX-style test questions. What nursing school is really all about is teaching you how to critically think. This means that the answers aren’t always on the surface and you really have to know how to think about the bigger picture to know what answer is correct. In nursing there are many ways you can take care of patients and perform the same task, but there are methods that work best. Nursing school is meant to try and teach you this skill. One of the best things you can do for yourself is find yourself an NCLEX strategy guide (I used Saunders Strategies for Test Success: Passing Nursing School and the NCLEX Exam) and study it before you even start nursing school. This will help you retrain your brain to answers the types of questions that will appear on tests in nursing school and the NCLEX and will really give you an edge in school.

Get the last 10 tips and read the entire story at The Nerdy Nurse. Then, in the comments below, tell us your own tips for nursing students!


The Nerdy Nurse

Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at thenerdynurse.com

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2 Responses to 15 things every nursing student needs to know

  1. I hope that everyone finds these tips useful! If I had a time machine I would probably go back and tell myself a few of these for sure!

  2. Abby

    Five aspects of nursing school, and I have five comments.
    1. Just like nursing and nursing school are not what you expect, the two are also not really the same either

    2. Before you listen to any advice on scrubsmag.com or anywhere else, remember to take it all with a grain of salt. The best place to get your information is from current students and RECENT alumni from the school of your choice. If your school has multiple programs or tracks make sure you’re speaking to the right students. I know that not only did I use all the books on the syllabi, I bought at least 8 others. Of course there are ways to cut costs, but make sure not to cut corners. Some schools test only from the book, others rely on just the lectures. Just remember that finals is NOT the time to purchase and read a textbook.

    3. Again, grades also depend on your school/program. Most students in my program had 3.8 and up in pre requisites. Many students who entered with 4.0s now have 2.8. However, there are some places that grade on a curve, give a grade or points for clinical, give extra credit or have some easier classes (professionalism, electives…). Never compare your grades with students at other schools. Also, just because pre requisites are easy at a specific school doesn’t mean the nursing program is easy.

    4. You need to find your best study technique. Don’t do anything because a professor said it works. You need to find what works for YOU. I study best alone. The only way that I will benefit from studying with others is if I am teaching the material. Try to figure out your learning style and take advantage.

    5. Because of this, it will be very hard to say that the professor made a mistake. There is always a rationale for each answer. Nothing will be obviously wrong. The same question may be asked differently depending on what information they want. Get used to NCLEX language. Study it up before you start. NCLEX questions always assume that the patient is a textbook case, you have ideal staffing conditions, supplies availability, and collaborative staff. Do NOT answer based on what you see at clinical or at your job.

    Good luck on everyone’s journey! There is a light at the end of the tunnel!