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Written by Deborah Swanson at allheart.com
What is the best way to prepare for nursing school?
Higher education of any kind is a serious commitment, and nursing school is no exception. Classes are difficult, clinical shifts are long and the environment can be competitive and even cutthroat at times.
So what can you do before nursing school starts to ensure that you get off to a great start?
The truth is that there is so much of nursing school that you will have no control of. But there is one thing that you can control – and that is to prepare yourself in advance the best you can.
Because not only is preparation the key to succeeding in nursing school, but it also determines how you will succeed in your career as a nurse.
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
It feels like ages since I graduated from nursing school. Yet it is as fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday. And it is no exaggeration to say that graduating from nursing school is the most challenging thing I have ever achieved in my life.
In hindsight I realize that was actually a good thing. Because working on the front line of patient care in today’s healthcare environment is more challenging than ever, and the healthcare industry needs amazing nurses.
It is likely that you already know that not everyone who goes to nursing school will make it through. But with the right attitude, grit and relentless preparation you can do it!
Here are 9 helpful and actionable tips to help you prepare for nursing school:
#1. Organize your life
Before nursing school starts, take stock of your life and get things in order.
Inventory your existing school supplies, clear out your closet and deep clean your house—all those chores you always meant to get around to, but never had the time.
You definitely won’t have the time to do these time-consuming tasks during the academic year, and since they don’t need to be done that often, getting them out of the way before you start school is an excellent idea.
As a result you’ll feel much more centered so you can focus your energy where you need it most – on your school work.
#2. Create your schedule for the semester
Once you’ve enrolled in classes and finalized your schedule, input everything into a master calendar: class times, exams, assignment due dates, clinicals, whatever is relevant. Then add in everything from your non-nursing school life, such as doctor’s appointments and family commitments.
Many nursing school students swear by paper planners, but a digital calendar on your phone or computer makes it really easy to update events if the dates change around (no messy crossing out necessary!).
Get into the habit of adding things to your calendar as soon as they come up so you never forget a deadline.
#3. Buy all your nursing school supplies
Your school should provide a list of everything you need for your classes.
Of course, you’ll need school supplies such as textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes and more.
However, you’ll also need a whole host of nursing-specific supplies, including scrubs, nursing shoes, a stethoscope, a watch, a lanyard or badge clip and various clinical supplies.
Take yourself shopping before the first day of school, and if you’re buying online, give yourself plenty of lead time for shipping so the items will arrive before classes start.
#4. Follow nursing forums and blogs
While your mileage may vary depending on the quality of the writers, nursing forums and blogs are a great way to get your questions answered by more experienced nurses. It may also give you a peek behind the scenes of real nursing work. (For example, you are reading information from a nursing blog right now at www.mothernurselove.com!)
As podcasts have taken off, audio content has also become another great resource for nursing students. Here are a few quality podcast resources out there for the aspiring nurse:
- Fresh RN, a podcast for new nurses
The Fresh RN podcast is hosted by experienced nurses from FreshRN.com who discuss the basics of that first year of nursing school. They discuss everything from (but not limited to) orientation, tricks of the trade, personal nursing experiences, time management, delegation, and even dealing with patient deaths.
- Your Next Shift, with Elizabeth Scala, a podcast for nursing career stories and career techniques
The Your Next Shift podcast is great for helping you think outside of the nursing box! There are so many ways that nurses can practice nursing. Elizabeth has interviewed hundreds of nurses creating new career paths for themselves. Her weekly episodes present listeners with “mindset shifts to be themselves and career techniques to do their best.” It is also great inspiration for nursing students!
#5. Connect with fellow classmates
Your nursing school classmates will be in the trenches with you and understand exactly what you’re going through, which is why forging relationships with them is so important.
Most schools will host various social events during orientation, so make an effort to attend as many of them as possible. If you feel a connection with someone, don’t be afraid to make the first friendship move and ask them to get coffee or study together.
As the semester goes on, study groups will become invaluable to both your social life and your homework success, so join one or start it yourself.
#6. Find a mentor
“Nurses eat their young” is a saying for a reason, and this mentality is what makes having a supportive mentor so much more important.
Ideally, you’ll have at least one mentor who is a much more experienced nurse and works in the specialty you want to pursue.
It can also be hugely beneficial to find a second mentor, this one a nursing school student who’s a year or two ahead of you. They can advise you on classes, faculty and all things school-related and give you inside tips on how to succeed.
#7. Aim for the best…
Of course, you want to do well in school, but setting specific goals and documenting them will go a long way towards helping you succeed.
Figure out what doing your best looks like for you. This could be getting an A- or above in all your classes, doing some extra shadowing or taking advantage of every extra credit opportunity.
Then, break down each of your goals into specific concrete steps that you can complete one at a time to attain your goal.
#8. …but prepare for the worst
That being said, life happens, and nursing school is hard.
While you can and should set big goals for yourself, be realistic about what you can achieve and don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall short. Getting a poor grade in a class—or even failing it—isn’t the end of the world or your journey to becoming a nurse.
If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with the support and resources that you need.
#9. Make time for yourself
You’ll get overwhelmed really quickly if your life is all nursing school and no play.
Remember that master calendar you created? Now go back and schedule in some you time throughout the year. Read a book, take a hot bath, get a massage, do something for yourself that’s not work-related.
While many people recharge through being alone, don’t forget to schedule some social time as well, and keep nurturing your relationships outside of nursing school. Your non-nursing school friends might not understand exactly what you’re going through, but they will provide a much-needed reality check when you’re in the trenches.
Nursing school is an exciting but stressful time in any aspiring nurse’s life. Thankfully, being prepared can make everything go more smoothly. We hope that these tips help prepare you for nursing school and move you towards a rewarding career as an RN.
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About The Author
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com – a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy by interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.
Additional recommended reading:
- Nurse Money: How To Pay Off Nursing School Loans Fast
- Different Types Of Nursing And Nursing Specialties
- How Fear Is Inspiring My Nursing Career
- How I Became A Nurse Blogger
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