Initially it may seem easy to list the necessary attributes for a nursing student. We want them to be honest, ethical, hard-working, etc. These are certainly essential characteristics for someone who is preparing to take care of others. There are some other important qualities, however, which can make the difference between success and the lack thereof, of a student nurse. We need all the good nurses that we can get as we age as a population in greater numbers than ever before. We hope that those who choose nursing as a career do so for the right reasons, and not just for job security, money, etc. Let’s face it - nursing is hard. Nursing school is also hard. There are five additional attributes that can help individuals survive nursing school to become licensed in our profession.
- Time management. This is especially true at the beginning of the school experience. It doesn’t matter whether the student is attending a traditional nursing school or online learning, hybrid, etc. nursing program, they all impose requirements on time that previously didn’t exist. Something else typically has to get pushed aside and demoted on the priority list. For example, reading the most popular novel or watching a week-long miniseries on TV may have to wait. Hopefully, time with family won’t be neglected to any great degree, but there may be times when the student needs to beg off from an event to study or write a paper. Time management is a skill which can be learned over time, but it must be learned. Students need to master it to be successful without being constantly stressed.
- Good study skills. Many individuals in schools today are non-traditional students who may have been out of school for years. Learning to study is a skill which, like time management, can be acquired. There isn’t a perfect system that everyone can use. Some people study better at night; others study better in the mornings. Some highlight books; others take notes from the text. Whatever works, works.
- Ability to work with faculty. Faculty are not the enemy. They are not friends either, but they can definitely help the student to be successful. If material from a course isn’t clear, writing skills aren’t the best, etc., faculty can be a great resource for help or to refer the student to someone else who can help. The student has to be able to ask questions, clarify what isn’t clear, and in general, see the faculty as an important resource. Granted, some faculty will be more open to this than others, but the student needs to find nursing educators who are there because they love to teach and remember what it was like to be a student.
- Strong support from family and friends. They need to understand that for the time period the student is in school, their lives will also change to some degree. They may need to make sacrifices and pick up some of the slack, such as doing the laundry, grocery shopping, etc. on occasion. The presence of this support, both emotional and practical, can make all the difference in whether a student nurse stays in a program and is successful.
- Ability to manage money and to be sure that funding is adequate to both go to school and survive. Higher nursing education isn’t cheap. There is money available for many students through grants, loans, and scholarships. The student needs to have the ability and the perseverance to find it. If private pay is the only way, budgeting is needed to make sure that after one semester the person isn’t forced to drop out strictly due to financial issues. Nobody can predict when an emergency will occur, which may interfere with education, but financial planning can help.
Nursing school is one of the most challenging times of a nurse’s life. It can also be the best time when the student grows personally and professionally. Anything that the student can do to ensure that this is the case is worth the effort.