You may be thinking about starting a career in nursing. If you’re just starting out your college journey or thinking about a career change, you probably have questions about nursing school. It’s completely normal to feel nervous about going to school.
Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers, but it takes a lot of dedication. Nurses are passionate, hardworking professionals who devote their lives to their patients. The education and training required to become a nurse reflect the level of skill and professionalism that nurses are known for. That dedication begins in nursing school. So, how hard is nursing school, really?
In this article, we’ll look at why nursing school is hard and how you can handle it. Reading and educating yourself on what to expect will help in the long run.
The following will be discussed:
- Time management
- Balancing nursing school and life
- Finding support
A Lot of Studying
This is a big factor and shouldn’t come as a surprise. School in general is a lot of studying, but nursing school is known for a lot of memorization.
Studying can be overwhelming. Taking practice tests, finding online tools, and forming study groups are ways to help. Everyone learns in different ways, so find what works best for you.
You may learn better by yourself, or you may learn better in a group. Also, you may be more of a visual learner, so looking online for videos or pictures to help you learn can be helpful. Try a variety of methods at first so you can find what helps you in the best way.
The key to being successful with the amount of studying involved is time management and preparation. Plan your weeks ahead of time. Schedule in study time for each day of the week so you won’t have to cram or pull all-nighters.
With online schools being more and more prevalent, time management skills are more important than ever. It’s critical for you to manage your time for tests, assignments, quizzes, clinical hours, study groups, and any other number of things that may come up. It’s also important to include time for sleeping.
While nursing students may not get an optimal amount of sleep, it’s important to get an adequate amount of sleep. It’s definitely possible, as long as you schedule and manage your time effectively.
Consistency is another major factor. Don’t spend one week hardly studying while spending another week with double the study hours. Your brain can only comprehend so much at a time, so it’s best to spread the hours evenly over the weeks. Give your brain a break, but not too long of a break. Being exposed to the material consistently over time is the best way to learn and retain the information.
Spreading out the study hours consistently also helps to avoid getting burned out. While burnout isn’t completely avoidable (yes, you’ll experience it occasionally), you’re able to mitigate it if you avoid cramming.
Besides the studying and test-taking you’ll be doing, nursing school is based on a lot of hands-on learning. You’ll get hands-on experience during your clinical rotations. Your clinical rotations typically start in a medical surgical area.
You’ll then have clinical rotations in more specialized areas such as pediatrics, psych, public health, intensive care, and so forth. This gives you an opportunity to be exposed to a number of different areas, in which you may want to practice once you become a nurse.
As you go into different clinical rotations, it is normal to feel uncomfortable until you become accustomed to them. Just keep in mind that you are not alone. You and a group of your classmates will be going through clinicals together, along with an instructor.
This is the opportunity for you to learn many new things and get hands-on experience under the close watch of instructors and mentors. They are there to teach you. You are there to learn.
Typically, during your last semester, you’ll have a practicum in which you’ll work with a preceptor. This is usually at the hospital. It depends on your nursing school, but it’s usually a set number of hours working the shifts with a preceptor nurse. This gives you a lot of hands-on experiences in an area in which you’re interested in working.
It also gives you the chance to see what it’s like to work a complete shift. You’ll be able to experience getting report from the off-going nurse, doing rounds, all patient care, administering medications, drawing labs, starting IVs, preparing for procedures, and any other various tasks. Then you’ll be able to give report to the oncoming shift.
This sounds daunting and intimidating, but it’s a great way to prepare for your new career as a nurse once you graduate with your degree.
Balancing Nursing School and Life
It’s imperative to find a balance between nursing school and life. Yes, studying will consume a good deal of your time, but it’s critical to make time for things outside of nursing school. This is possible with time management and coming up with a plan.
Just like you plan out your study hours for the week, you’ll want to plan out self-care activities. These don’t have to be time-consuming activities. They can be as simple as taking a walk, cooking a healthy meal, watching a movie, or going out to dinner with friends. The amount of time spent doing these things isn’t the important part. The important part is that you do them.
Finding a balance with family and friends is also important. It’s important to spend time with them, as it’ll help relieve stress and be a good way to get away from the nursing books. Setting boundaries is important, though, in that you don’t feel obligated to do things that you don’t want to or have time for in your schedule.
Don’t feel like you have to go to every family barbeque or girls’ night out. While those things are essential, they don’t have to be every weekend. Your family and friends will understand, so don’t be worried about turning the invitations down every once in a while.
The need to give and receive support is fundamental to our existence. Having people in your life who will listen to you and support you during challenging times is important.
Nursing school is challenging, there’s no doubt about that. A solid support network will be important before you begin nursing school. A support team might be made up of friends, family members, nursing school classmates, and even an online forum or community.
Meet with your support network and let them know that their understanding and support are essential to your success as a nursing student. Prepare your spouse, kids, friends, and family for the changes that are ahead, but let them know that you appreciate all their support. Sacrifices will be made. Schedules and routines will change.
It’s rough for people to adjust to changes, so be patient. Continue to remind yourself and your family that you’ll have your nursing degree before you know it.
There’s no question that you’ll be challenged. But you’re probably already aware of this. Going into something new is stepping out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. That alone is scary enough, but nursing students have to face other challenges. They may have emotional or sad cases they experience in clinicals.
That’s to be expected at times, but again, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Talk with your classmates and instructors. That’s also what your support system is for. This is why setting up that foundational support system before you start nursing school is so imperative. This way, it’s in place when you become overwhelmed. Lean on them.
You will feel overwhelmed. It’s not a question of if you’ll feel overwhelmed, but when. You may end up feeling overwhelmed throughout the duration of nursing school. But being aware of this can help you tackle it and prepare for what’s to come.
Don’t be afraid to delegate. Cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry don’t just go away because you’re in nursing school. Find ways to help alleviate these tasks.
If you have kids, have them help with these things. Meal planning and coming up with simple meals can be a lifesaver on those busy study days. Multitasking by listening to lectures or notes while doing chores can also be beneficial.
Remember to be gentle and kind with yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember that you’re dealing with a lot and what you’re feeling is normal.
Overall, nursing school is hard, but completely possible with the right preparation. You’ll be putting in more study time than you probably have before. You’ll be going through clinical rotations in which you feel are challenging. You’ll feel overwhelmed at times. But while it’s hard, it’s extremely rewarding and will definitely be worth it when you start getting called on job interviews.
Remember that nursing school is only a blip in time. You’ll be so busy with studying and clinicals that it’ll fly by. You’ll have that nursing degree before you know it.
Written by Joanne Potter
Joanne Potter, BSN, RN, is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working at the bedside and extensive neonatal knowledge enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients and families want from their communities. Visit her LinkedIn page.
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