nursing schoolYou really only get one big chance to get through nursing school. While you are suffering through it, you count the minutes for it to end.

However, once you graduate, you often found yourself thinking about how you would have done things differently had you been given the chance. As a clinical instructor, this is what motivates me with my nursing students. And my decisions are often guided by that thought—what would I change if I could go through school again? Here’s a list of 10 things I’d do differently:

  1. Pay attention. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t pay attention all the time. You will often find yourself saying, “When will I ever use this?” Fret not; you will use it again. Most things you learn will build on each other as you move along. And you’re likely to use it during this thing called the NCLEX, so make sure to pay attention.

  2. Treasure every moment in clinicals. Soak every minute up. Each day of clinicals is another day of increasing your confidence.

  3. Study more, learn more. Make sure you are devoting your time to your studies. It is never a waste of time as studying = learning. And adult learners need repetition.  So keep repeating to ensure you learn.

  4. Seek out more skills and opportunities. Again, repetition is key here. However, you can’t practice those skills if you don’t go find them. Ask the staff to allow you to practice and you might be surprised what tasks they can find for you. There is a lot to do; you just have to go find them.

  5. Talk to more nurses and learn their ways.  Each nurse has developed their own ways of caring. But their ways may also be suitable for you. So talk to everyone and see how he or she organizes his or her workflow. You don’t have to copy everything; only take what works for you. Nurses are resourceful, so don’t re-invent the wheel when it comes to processes.

  6. Network and make connections. Nursing is a small community. Use this to your favor and make connections with the staff you work with. You never know where that network will lead you to—hopefully your next job!

  7. Be more active in clubs and associations. This is another way to network in nursing school. Remember, each of you will go your separate ways and those are a lot of connections you don’t want to loose. Also, participating in professional associations is a great way to stay connected to your profession. Not to mention, college is so much better when done together.

  8. Find a job in a hospital or nursing home. If you can find a job as a certified nursing assistant or patient care technician, take that golden opportunity! Not only will you become more comfortable with patient care and contact. You may also find the unit you want to work in after graduation. Even if you cannot find a direct patient care position, any job in the hospital or nursing home is a foot in the door.

  9. Volunteer at a hospital. If you cannot land a job, then volunteer. Hospitals are always looking for volunteers, especially on those weird shifts or weekends. Again, this is a foot in the door for a possible nursing job in the future.

  10. Work with a professor on a research project. If you have any interest in research or academics, this is a great experience. Learn how new research finds its way to the masses. Not only will this teach you respect for the rigors of the academic process. You might also get your name in print to live in nursing history.

These are just a few of the things I would do differently if I were given the chance to go back to nursing school. How about you? What would you change?