30 things I’ve learned in nursing school

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Looking for a comprehensive guide that will get you through nursing school without a hitch? Well, we’re here to tell you that there is no such thing.

Nursing school is a whirlwind—it’s the nature of the beast! However, this list by nursing student Lelisa Beth Gross is full of indispensable wisdom, encouragement and expert “back to school” tips you’ll be grateful to have in your back pocket—#13 or #28 could be any nursing student’s personal mantra!

30 things I’ve learned in nursing school

1. Time is precious. Make every second count (this is so cliché, but trust me). Laundry will always be there, that test you have on Monday will not.

2. Do not procrastinate. Do you have a project due in four weeks? Get started as soon as you are handed the assignment. Being finished with something long before it’s due is a huge relief. You will have enough stress; don’t add fuel to the fire.

3. Save everything to a flash drive. Put this flash drive on your keychain that is with you daily. You never know when a paper will be misplaced, forgotten, etc. A flash drive will become your best friend, and you’ll treat it as if it were made of gold. (It is THAT precious!)

4. Don’t burn bridges. So what if the teacher was wrong? So what if you feel slighted? Don’t make a big deal of things. It will help you in the long run.

5. Don’t complain. Just don’t. You never know who’s listening. Save your rant for a night out or phone conversation with nursing friends.

6. Care plans. Learn to love them. Sorry!

7. Don’t suck up to the instructors. They’ll just talk about you behind your back. Yes, they really will. No one likes a suck-up. Be nice and courteous, but don’t go overboard with it.

8. Treat your patients/clients as your own family. Be nice to them, listen to their stories and DON’T act like they’re taking up your time. You are there for them. Many times patients will brag about you to your instructor. This goes a long way! If you don’t have an outgoing personality, try to press through that. Patients know when you are anxious, scared or just don’t want to be there. Don’t make them feel bad for needing care.

9. Don’t bring your cell phone into the classroom or clinical area. Learn to part with that precious gadget. If you must have it with you, place it on silent the minute you walk through the doors. And for the love of Pete, don’t text during class.

10. Group study is your friend.


30 things I’ve learned in nursing school cont’d!

11. You will gain weight.

12. Learn to live with a messy house or learn to accept help. It’s nearly impossible to deal with everything on your own.

13. You are not superman/superwoman.

14. When test time comes around, don’t panic. Make sure to eat beforehand. Going in with a full belly and clear mind does wonders.

15. Learn to delegate time. Which is more important: going out bowling with family/friends or studying? If you chose the first option, perhaps you aren’t ready for nursing school.

16. Pay attention to medication commercials. Oddly enough, you’ll recall the side effects, etc., better than memorizing from a card.

17. Just go ahead and deal with the fact that the next two to four years of your social life will be gone. You may think this is an exaggeration, but it isn’t. You will miss birthday parties, dinners, get-togethers and other events. Don’t feel bad; it’s a necessary evil.

18. Try to squeeze in a weekend getaway after each semester, even if it’s to a local national park. A few days away from technology are good for the soul. Leave everything behind, take a friend, spouse or your family and relax! After all, you deserve it.

19. Become friends with those in the class ahead of you and below you. Those ahead can guide you through upcoming semesters with wisdom. Those below you will need your guidance. Remember, nursing school is one big happy dysfunctional family.

20. Celebrate classmates’ achievements. Don’t envy or become jealous. You are family, and family encourages in both good times and bad. You’ll have your day, so support those around you in theirs.


30 things I’ve learned in nursing school cont’d!

21. Be responsible. Don’t rely on others for assignments. Know what’s going on! Keep a calendar with you, so you can write in test dates and assignment due dates.

22. Get a tutor. Does your program offer tutoring? Are you just not getting something? Sign up for tutoring. There is no shame in needing help. At some point in the program, we all face something we just don’t quite grasp. Tutoring will save you in the long run.

23. U’s are bad, mmmkay?

24. Make good use of your commuting time. Do you have a long ride to class? Record your notes or drug cards to a recording device and play it on the way to school.

25. Use every resource you have. Those CDs in the back of the book have practice tests on them. Use them. Also, check out the websites that accompany your books. Some test bank questions can be found in the resources I just mentioned. The questions may not be word for word, but they’ll point you in the right direction.

26. Enjoy your between-semester breaks. Spend time with family, rest or do whatever you enjoy. Those days are very precious.

27. Don’t be a bigmouth and mention clinical to friends or family…or worse, social networking sites. What happens in clinical stays in clinical. Period.

28. You will have bad days. This too shall pass.

29. Clinical instructors: They’ll consume your soul, spit it out and return the remains. You will face opposition at some point in the program. You will get broken, but you’ll pull yourself back together. One thing I’ve noticed: Everyone comes out of nursing school changed. Don’t understand that? Well, you will.

30. Your nursing school friends are friends for life. Go to them with any problems you may experience. Confide in your closest friend about personal issues. Having someone to vent to who actually understands the nursing school mentality will save your sanity.

Written by Lelia Beth Gross, student nurse (senior year)

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5 Responses to 30 things I’ve learned in nursing school

  1. nrs.jodi RN

    The ‘you will gain weight’ comment is baloney! You can choose to gain weight or to stay in shape. Its not that hard to choose to eat right and get some exercise in, make yourself a priority. I’m an RN in a BSN program while working full time…weight gain? I don’t think so! I’m in the best shape of my life, that is a choice.

  2. JennRN RN

    Your article is right on. I didnt find study groups very helpful though. We were always off track and talking about non-relevant things. We did more talking than studying. I prefered to study on my own, making note cards with answers on the back that I could quiz myself with.
    And finally, I did make some of my best friends now in nursing school.
    Lastly, take the NCLEX ASAP. Dont put it off a month thinking you will study more for it. You wont. Take it as early as you can. If you dont know the info then, you probably wont later.

  3. wopwop03 Liked Commenter

    Can someone please explain # 23 (U’s are bad, mmmkay?) for me?

    • Abby Student

      U stands for Unsatisfactory. You can’t pass with U s. it is very annoying to need to retake a class because of a U in clinical

  4. Abby Student

    #14. Also, make sure to sleep. The one test that I had that I did not sleep well before, I scored a whole letter grade lower than my usual. I try to finish studying two days before the exam. The day before is for brief review, relaxation, last minute memorization of charts, and early zzzs. Caffeine the night before a test is a no-no. Besides for keeping you awake, also you’ll need to go to the bathroom the whole night