Saturday, August 26, 2006

So You're Starting Nursing School...

Tips for student nurses of all ages, drawn from my own limited experience:

1. Put aside inviolable time to study every damn day. Even weekends, even holidays. Don't get into the habit of thinking that you'll do it later, or that you can catch up. Study every day. You'll be glad you did.

2. Put aside inviolable time to think about something other than nursing every damn day. That includes not thinking about nursing blogs, or blogging your own experience. If you don't keep some other interests alive, you'll turn into StudentNurseBot, and you'll go crazy.

3. Yes, you will have no social life. This will not bother you. There's plenty of time for a social life after you've passed the NCLEX; nurses are notoriously hard partiers.

4. Make the effort to look as nicely pressed and crisp and clean and starched as you can during clinicals. Really and truly, it makes a difference. You'll not only feel more confident, but your patients will feel better about having you in the room. And if you have a crappy day, at least you looked good.

5. A word about your patients: on the whole, patients don't mind having student nurses. Some of them love it. Think about it: they get individualized attention from someone who's detail-oriented. They want you to succeed.

6. A word about nurses: on the whole, nurses want you to succeed as well. In four years, I've only seen one group of students that I felt couldn't hack it as even marginal nurses. The other students I've seen I have wanted to help, encourage, and see do well. Yes, there is the occasional wackjob or sadist who hates students. You'll be able to pick that person out of a group in no time and avoid them.

7. Another word about nurses: on the whole, nurses do not eat their young. The ones that do (and I work with one) bite everybody, not just the new nurses. And nobody likes them. Their colleagues avoid them, the doctors try to do end-runs around 'em, and management knows their tricks. Do not let the Nurse From Hell ruin your day.

8. Look around at the class you're in. Two thirds of the people in the introductory courses will probably wash out. Support them, study with them, and lean on them anyway. The relationships you form in nursing school last for about five minutes after pinning, but they're the most important relationships you'll have during school.

9. Some of your professors hate nursing. Some of them will try to discourage you, or will show favoritism to particular students for unfathomable reasons, or will be nasty without cause. Ignore those professors. Cultivate respectful relationships with the instructors who love what they do.

10. Pay attention in A&P. Learn enough skills to pass your skills lab, but don't fret about starting a zillion IVs. Know your drug book backwards, but remember that you'll have a set formulary in your hospital--you won't have to remember everything forever. Care plans suck, but they're useful in figuring out disease processes and really do come in handy sometimes. Never use "Potential For" as a nursing diagnosis more than once in a care plan. Make sure you have good pens. Always carry an extra scrub jacket.

And get out there and kick some ass. Being a nurse is infinitely more pleasant and much, much easier than being a student. Soon you'll be done with school. While you're doing it, remember that those of us who've been there are pulling for you.


Marisapan said...

Thank you for your sage words of advice and encouragement. Nursing school is the hardest thing I've ever tried to do, except for being a mother.

overactive-imagination said...

That was sweet Jo, thanks. I will definitely be taking your advice to heart. You touched on many of my concerns.
We were told yeterday that years prior to this particular class, the students always had no less than 5 care plans but we only have to do ONE in our entire 2 years. I thought that strange but they said the students were stressing too much over them so they cut most of them out.
Anyway...thanks again.

overactive-imagination said...

Oh and one more thing....

I thought this was such a thughtful post being that it's time for new nursing students to be going to class for the first time and most of them (raises hand) feel intimidated.

Who do we learn the most from?? Other nurses! So it would be great if many of the other nursing bloggers would post something similiar so that we could get tips from those of you who know best.

I'm sure many of you had different things that worked for you in school and clinicals or helped you to destress so it would be great to get a collective set of tips to give us many strategies and tips from those who know the best.....real nurses !!.

Thanks again (

Prisca: said...

thanks--i needed that.


shrimplate said...

Here are a couple things that I picked up from nurses and preceptors along my nursing journey:

"Relax and believe in yourself." I learned that from graffiti written on a railway underpass, written by Andy and Andrea, who of course I never met. Probably not even nurses. So I lied. Beat me.

"It's not a doctor's order until you, the nurse, say it's a doctor's order." You will not believe how much of your professional career you will spend "clarifying" things and solving mere communication problems. A freakin' lot.

"You are the doctor's eyes and ears, and yes, sometimes thier brains." They need your help. They do not know what you know. They order MRIs for patients with fresh AICD inserts. Help them. Or die.


Hey, I should be writing this stuff on my own blog!

Oh well. This one's better anyways.

I love students. Welcome to you all.

UnsinkableMB said...

Great post! When I was in nursing (not that long ago), I found wisdom in yours and other nursing blogs. It really helped me get through the rough times. I'll be posting my two cents on my blog. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll admit it...I have NEVER blogged before. Until this NUR 605 class, I didn't have a clue that there was a blog or what it could possibly be. I'm NOT that old!! But having read through these nursing blogs, I think they're wonderful! What I would have given my first, second and third time through school to have had a site to simply UNLOAD! A journal of sorts to release my thoughts, concerns and stress. OK, I'm fulfilling my NUR 605 requirement here...I think blogs are very valuable for the aforementioned reasons, as well as, having a site to get and give advice regarding particular classes, assignments, etc. People will still need to use their God-given brain, however, to discern for themselves fact from fiction. THERE! Now, this posting was wonderful for nursing students. I've been a nurse for 12 years and LOVE nursing students. What sponges!! They take it all in, are eager to learn and appreciate all of your tips. Those nurses who treat you badly are threatened by your zest and optimism for your new calling. Forget'em! Go out there and be the next Nightingale or Watson!! We need the next round of firecrackers to come and light fires under those of us who become stale! Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

This was a very good posting. If you can believe it, I have only heard the word "blog" a few times and had no idea what they were! SO, this is my first blog entry :) I think these are a great idea and very helpful! What I wouldn't have given while in nursing school to have such a place to vent my feelings, anxiety and frustration! For that matter, as a professional nurse this would be great also to have a site to go to and read/learn from others' experiences. One would have to be mindful, however, of the author and his/her intentions. But overall I think blogs are a great source of professional communication, stress relief and simply conveying thoughts and feelings. Thanks for the great post!

The new Third Degree Nurse said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

I wish you were on my floor instead of the *&^*) who was yelling at me "who ever taught you do to do a dressing change like THAT???!@" Kind of embarrassing in front of the patient, you know.

I'll go starch my scrubs right now.

Anonymous said...

im just starting college as a nursing major and even though its early.. thanks for the future advice. in my writing class, i actually have to pick a blog to read each week and write about.. and im picking yours because i want to learn as much about nursing as i can from the perspective of a nurse. thanks for writing! -regann

Anonymous said...

I am a mother of a 6 month old, and I'm starting nursing school on Monday. I'm relieved to hear that nursing school isn't as hard as being a mother, because I don't think I can handle that much more responsibility. I've had all of my prereqs but that was before I had a child...So it will be totally different this time around.

Anonymous said...

You really get it... Great Advice
Thank You !!!!

P.S. Can you write a blog to people in the lives of a nursing student, because they have no clue what we are going through.

BrittanyNicoleRN2B said...

Loved the post. I just recently started a blog about starting nursing school and plan to track my journey through it. I loved the advice!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this! I was getting very discouraged as a nursing student. This is real, to the point and helped ignite a fire in me! I can't thank you enough and will point all my classmates to this site!

Anonymous said...

BECOME A CNA, FIRST. Why? Because hospitals do not want to train newbies unless they get a clinical reference from the nursing instructors. You can have the best grades in the world, but if you are not "smooth" on the floor, they won't recommend you. Remember, the hospital would rather hire a nurse from abroad with experience, than an American new grad. Also, many nursing "students" are actually already trained abroad and will know more on the floor than you do.

Anonymous said...

Become A CNA, FIRST. Why? Because hospitals do not want to train newbies unless they get a recommendation from a clinical instructor. The clinical instructors will not recommend you unless you are smooth on the floor no matter how good your grades. Remember, there are nursing "students" who are actually medical professionals from abroad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have recently decided to go back to school and pursue a nursing degree. I've felt overwhelmed and anxious. This post has encouraged me! Thanks again!

Succeed in nursing school said...

I couldn't agree more with #8. Relationships in nursing school are extremely important both positively and negatively. Your classmates can be the ones make you love it or hate. Nonetheless they are the only ones who really know what you are going through. I would say be open to friendship but get the final goal out of sight.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this! I'm a student and it is always so helpful to hear these kinds of things!