How to Prepare for Nursing School: 9 Survival Tips

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Higher education of any kind is a serious commitment, and nursing school is even more so. Classes are difficult, clinicals are long and the environment can be competitive and even cutthroat at times. Being prepared is key to succeeding in nursing school as well as your career as a nurse, so follow these nine tips to put your best foot forward on the first day of school.

Organize your life.

Before nursing school starts, take stock of your life and get everything 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 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. You’ll feel much more centered and collected if everything is organized before the chaos of school begins.

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. Some people 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.

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.

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 and peek behind the scenes of real nursing work. (As podcasts have taken off, audio content has also become another great resource in addition to traditional blogs and forums.) There are many other quality resources out there for the aspiring nurse.

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. And 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.

Find yourself a mentor.

“Nurses eat their young” is a saying for a reason, and this mentality is what makes having a supportive mentor all the more invaluable. 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.

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 aspirational goals into specific concrete steps that you can complete one at a time to attain your goal.

…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.

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. Follow these nine tips to have a successful first year of nursing school and beyond.

This article from  American blog, RealCareGivers, provides 9 ways to prep for nursing school. What are your top tips?

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