Those nursing school years can be rough. We asked several nurses for some advice on how they made it through their time in school. Here’s what they had to say:
“What helped me the most was finding a group of students that I could study with. I was really against the entire idea of study groups because, for some reason, any time I had to do any sort of group project in high school, I was always lumped in with the students who didn't want to do anything. But one of my classes had mandatory study groups and it was a huge help. It's just nice to have other people around who can help you with certain topics. Sometimes it's amazing how an explanation from a peer can be so much more effective than an explanation from a professor.”
-Rebecca Doran, Chicago
“I started to use a lot of silly devices to memorize a lot of the specific details. I would do things like make up some little songs or rhymes or associate certain body parts with people's names. It's kind of what you would do in grade school when you're learning to remember the capitals of the 50 states or the names of the battlefields in the Civil War. I just found that it simplified things for me and brought things down to a level that I could understand. There’s so much memorization in nursing school. It's just helpful to have any sort of strategy and, for me, those strategies were goofy little songs and rhymes. My roommate used to call me the Barney of nursing school.”
-Tina Sanchez, Los Angeles
“You don't really think of nursing school as a place where you would exert a lot of physical activity but I found that if I would take a spin class in the middle of the day or do pilates in the morning, it would help keep me sharp. You just spend so much time focusing on minutia that your brain shuts down unless your body remains active. Yoga helped a lot, too.”
-Geraldine Plank, Schaumburg, Ill.
“If I could give anyone advice, it would be to pay close attention to your charting. It's such a humongous part of your job when you are actually working and I always felt like it was under-emphasized when I went to school. But really, charting is everything. The docs won't know what's going on and the other nurses will have a hard time deciphering what is happening with your patient if you don't chart effectively.”
-Ben Mullen, Fort Myers, Fla.
“I would tell people not to be so offended by how they're treated by other nurses when they start doing their clinicals. Sometimes nurses are really busy and they just don't have the time to sit there and explain everything to you. You can still learn a lot by observing. And there are some nurses who would rather not have a student follow them around all day so you have to learn to work with them to make sure you're getting something out of those days, too. Some nurses are great. They stop and explain everything that they're doing and will tell you exactly what is going on throughout the process but not every nurse is like that. You just have to be ready for those who aren't willing to stop their day to show you how something works.”
-Vicki Reitzman, Buffalo, N.Y.
“You have to have a sense of humor. It's been six years since I was in nursing school but I can assure you that some of the things we laugh about today are the same things we laughed about when we were students. Your first Code Brown is going to be a horrific experience but you'll find that you're sitting around later with the other nurses joking about it and cracking yourself up. If you can have a sense of humor, you're going to do well, so learn to laugh at yourself and try not to take the ridiculous mishaps so seriously.”
-Angela Thomas, Chicago
“You can’t expect to cram the night before a test and get a decent grade. It's something every teacher tells you from the time you are in first grade. You have to take a little bit in every night. And make sure that you don't over-study. I would have classmates who would go through every single section of a chapter and make themselves crazy by studying all these things that we never had to know. I would pretty much go by the book. If it was on the study guide, I knew it. If it wasn't, I figured that it was something I didn't need to know.”
-Janet Bradley, Peoria, Ill.