If you’ve made the decision to become a nurse – congratulations! Healthcare is in desperate need of qualified and dedicated providers. Your first step is to start nursing school, which can be a daunting task, believe us. Ask any nurse and they’ll tell you that nursing school was some of the most challenging times of their lives. But instead of telling you how hard and time-consuming it can be, we’ve rounded up a few great tips to get you off on the right foot. Ready? Here we go!
Sit Up Front
One of the best things you can do in nursing school is getting in the right mindset from the very beginning. It is time to break free of those old high school habits of trying to stay invisible or sitting in the back of the room. Instead, on your very first day of classes, head to the front of the class and find a seat. Don’t be afraid – you aren’t as much the center of attention as you might feel up there. Instead, you’re preparing yourself to pay attention and not get distracted. It’s even a good idea to show up a couple minutes early. You’ll break the ice for other students to join you in the front as well, which could turn into a well-rounded study group (more on that later)!
As soon as you know what classes you will be taking and what books and materials you’ll need, it’s time to get an organizational system in place. A favorite of mine is color-coding. Assign each course a specific color. Then, buy all your notebooks, folders, and binders for each class in that specific color. If you can’t find the colors you want, use tape, markers, or paper to cover them. If you can easily access your materials, that’s half the battle of studying!
Another good organizational tool is using a planner or calendar. You can use a paper one or a digital version on your phone or computer, but whatever you decide to use, make sure to use it consistently. Update it each day with assignments, readings, projects, and exams. Fill out the information for each day so you know the night before what your day will look like. Don’t forget to schedule time for recreation and relaxing – those are important!
Don’t Wait to Address Problems
If you find yourself struggling with a certain concept, don’t wait until test time to get it figured out. Instead, you should reach out to classmates or your professor for assistance. This is especially important as time goes on because in nursing school classes generally work on the previous term’s information. That means if you don’t understand a major concept in a course, whether you pass it or not, you should get help before moving on to the next course or you’ll find yourself falling further and further behind.
Get a Study Group Immediately
Nursing is a very collaborative field and it’s a good idea to get a jumpstart on teamwork by setting up a study group as early as possible. Remember in the first tip, where we suggest you sit up front? Take a look at those students sitting near you. Like you, they are serious about their success and want to eliminate distractions. They might be good options for joining your study group. Reach out to them and find out if they’re interested. The earlier you can get going on this, the more time you will have to benefit from working and studying as a group.
Live and Learn
Nursing school is a challenge and its quite possible that you may not do as well as you hope all the time. This can be very disappointing, especially if you performed well in high school. But remember: everyone makes mistakes, but we have to learn from them and move on. Try not to take things personally and remember that your grades are not a reflection of who you are as a person. They only indicate your knowledge on the subject. If you don’t do well, it only means that you need to study and practice a bit more. Once you recognize that you don’t have to dwell on mistakes, you’ll be ready to proceed towards success.
Take Care of Yourself
Because nursing school is so demanding it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. Your priorities might change to favor studying, tests, and grades. That’s fine, but don’t forget that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to succeed.
Your physical health is of utmost importance, so make sure you’re treating your body right. It’s difficult to make time for yourself, and you might feel like these things are unnecessary, but they will help you in the long run. Make sure you are eating healthy meals each day and that you’re getting enough nutrients. Stay hydrated with water and try to avoid energy drinks and soda, even on your most tired days. If you need a caffeine boost, opt for green tea or black coffee, but leave out the sugar. You should also be getting 30 minutes of real exercise each day. Squeeze that in, even if it means just taking a brisk walk.
Don’t neglect your mental health during this time, either. If you’re starting to feel stressed or burned out, you need to reassess your priorities and maybe take a break. Make sure you have a good support system in family and friends and don’t hesitate to talk with a therapist if you need to. There’s no shame in keeping yourself healthy.