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Reality Check: Surviving nursing school


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I’ve been out of nursing school since 2007, and when I look back at the whole experience, I wonder how I survived. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. Heck, our class lost a lot of people during the whole process. I even had an instructor admit that the school practiced “weeding out.”

So, what was the difference between those of us who got degrees and those who had to find another program, or worse, forget about nursing altogether? How did we make it through school and accomplish our dream?

My husband, who is currently working on his Master’s degree, talks a lot about how he has to constantly regurgitate information in order to get A’s, and I think that is very much the case with nursing school: we told the instructors what they wanted to hear, we did what they wanted us to do, when they said jump, we jumped. And it didn’t matter if we landed flat on our butts–we kept jumping! After grad, we nurses passed the NCLEX by doing the same thing: we answered questions the way the boards wanted us to answer. Students make it through nursing programs by following rules and guidelines. There is no way around it.

Yet some students made it through school by cheating, then failed boards. The reality was that the graduate nurses who later became RNs studied their butts off–often times for B’s and C’s. We learned there were no short cuts to learning the info–most of which was a lot of memorization. (Note cards and mnemonics were our best friends!)

Another way I made it through school was with support from my peers. Honestly, the faculty wasn’t very understanding or empathetic, so we students cried on each other’s shoulders, formed study groups, and went out for drinks and dinner to celebrate milestones. I don’t even keep in “real” touch with those people anymore (except for social network sites). As if we endured some kinda trauma, I get a little PTSD just seeing their faces on Facebook. But I am so thankful for them and will never forget my nursing school peeps.

And when the crap hit the fan, my family stuck it out with me. My husband let me rant and rave about instructors, my kids ate ice cream with me when I was stressed and played quietly when I studied, even my mother in law chipped in so I could accomplish my dream. It takes a village to raise up a nurse, it seems.

The thing is, making it through nursing school is tough. It has to be! Nursing students need that tough exterior for the big, bad world of real nursing. The profession doesn’t need thin-skinned wimps, and maybe schools could go about things a little differently, but the goal is to produce good nurses–and that ain’t easy. Neither is surviving the process.

So, if you are struggling through the semester and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to look around for some support and resources, stick your nose in the books, and tough this out. In the end, only your hard work will pay off–nothing else creates an RN!

Amy Bozeman
Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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