Angela Zagami Ask a Wag On campus

Navigating Nursing School

A Comprehensive Survival Guide

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.” — Anonymous

It’s true what they say: It takes someone extremely dedicated, strong, and compassionate to become a nurse. And although the field of nursing is undoubtedly rewarding and extremely versatile, the road to your NCLEX and the job of your dreams can at times seem daunting. Take it from me: A senior nursing major, who has experienced (what feels like) every bump in the road, and every small victory to celebrate in between. Now that I am embarking on my final year of Nursing School, I knew it was fitting to reflect on my time in the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing and pass down my tips and tricks to success (with as much of a smile along the way).

Find Out What Study Habits Work Best For You, And Keep Up With Them.

If you’re anything like me, then the first day of Nursing School was probably a massive adjustment for you. I had always been a good student and a hard worker, but I had never studied after class, every day. But I soon found a study plan that worked for me, and in the long run it turned out that looking over my notes on a daily basis after lecture made studying for exams far less overwhelming.

I don't have to cram information, and I find that I retain information longer (which is really important in nursing, because those fluid and electrolyte levels will never go away... Sorry!). What works best for me is rewriting my notes and making outlines, then reading them over out loud to my family and friends. If I can explain the material to my mom and answer any questions she has along the way, then I feel confident in my ability to take an exam on the information and apply what I have learned. It's also really helpful to stay organized! You can read more about that in this earlier HawkTalk post. 

Use Your Resources: Find Your People!

Nursing school is hard. You shouldn’t have to do it alone. Find your core group to lean on! Something I always find solace in during times of stress is knowing that I have my best friends in the program with me, who understand what I am going through and feel my pain. We study together, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and help each other no matter what. I'm grateful for all of the times they let me practice taking blood pressure readings on them, and gave me pep talks when I needed them the most. I also rely heavily on the support of my family, especially as someone who lives on campus and tends to feel homesick during stressful times (i.e. before a big Fundamentals or Med Surg exam).

However, one of the biggest takeaways I can offer is to rely on your professors too. They are so much more than just our teachers. They are our supporters and mentors, and often our biggest ones. Even at times when I doubted myself or my abilities, they never have. I always looked forward to the inspirational nursing quotes Professor Woody shared with us in OB, because they helped keep me grounded. You should communicate any weaknesses you fear you may have with a professor or your academic advisor, and work out a plan early on to avoid any potential hiccups along the road.

Appreciate Every Victory: No Matter How Big or Small

There will be bumps in your journey, and there will be times when you feel stressed. That’s inevitable — especially when there are (what feels like) hundreds of tests in nursing school. But, perhaps Nursing School itself is the biggest test of all. There may be times when you miss an event so that you can study to feel confident before an ATI exam, or don’t get the grade you had hoped for. But when your hard work pays off — and I promise you, it will pay off — and you make an impact on a patient’s quality of care, or you catch that error in a medication order because you remember what was taught to you in class, you will feel a surge of confidence and an overwhelming sense of belonging.

My advice to you: Appreciate every bump in the road, and every victory in between. Because even on your worst day, there is something to be thankful for — and every day, I am thankful I chose to be a nurse.

"I attribute my success to this; I never gave nor took any excuse." — Florence Nightingale