So you've decided that you want to be a nurse? Great decision! As I study for my final exam of the semester (which is cumulative, so please pray for me), I can't help but wish I would have known a few things from the beginning that would have helped me through this journey called Nursing School. I am currently in my senior year (junior-level) of the four year Bachelor's of Science in Nursing Program at Winston-Salem State University. Whether you are already in a program, or you are considering it as your career path, these tips and advice should resonate, I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to contact me with anymore advice you would like to offer or if you have any questions about Nursing that I could answer.
This is the MOST important survival tip of Nursing School. Imagine this: You have to study for three tests, you have two papers to write, and one shift of work this week, how do you get all of that done? You prioritize with your deadlines and what’s seemingly most important. You have to understand that you can’t do everything because you’re only one person. Sit down and figure out what most important to you, your future, and your grades and go from there.
Refer back to #1 to know that you WILL be busy, and you have no time to forget assignments or obligations. Organizing your life with the help of digital or paper planners will be essential. I currently use the Plum Paper “Weekly Planner” (http://plum-paper.myshopify.com/collections/regular-planners/products/regular-planner-16) to organize myself between work, school, and organizations I am involved in. They give you the option to customize your layout of the week and I find the morning-afternoon-evening approach to organizing very beneficial. No matter what you use to organize yourself, make sure you have something reliable.
3. Study Groups will save your life
I thank God for my study group who have also became some of my closest friends. It's important to have people in the same situation as you who can go through this rough journey by your side. Early own form a few bonds with people who are like-minded and as goal oriented as you. You all may not be the same type of learner, but having multiple people to bounce ideas off of will benefit you, because not everyone will see things the way you do and a different aspect could be what you’re missing. They will be your lifesavers when it comes to class as well as your personal life, because these are the people you will spend more time with than even your family.
4. You may no longer be a straight A student
I started off Nursing School as a straight A student with a 4.0 GPA; that lasted about 0.2 seconds. Yes, I worked extremely hard, No that did not mean I got an A. You have to just focus on passing, you will already be under a tremendous amount of stress, it just isn’t worth it to grade grub about every little assignment. Put 110% of your effort into everything, even if that does not result in an A, as long as you know you have done your best, then that is all that matters. In my Nursing Program, we are on the 7-point grading scale (93-100= A, 85-92=B, 77-84=C) while the rest of the university is on the 10-point grading scale (90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C) AND we do not have pluses and minuses to help us out. Fair? Not to me, but my advisor says we have to be held a little more accountable than some others for the simple fact that lives will be in our hands.
5. It's okay to turn into the "Grandma"/"Grandpa"
You will be exhausted after a while, some friends may not understand it, but Nursing School is a full time job. Sometimes you may just want to kickback with Netflix and grape juice rather than being the life of the party. Your schoolwork must come first, so this is where prioritizing comes in again, you may have to sacrifice your social life, you eventually get used to it and will realize how nice it is to be a “homebody”, how after standing on your feet ALL day that you just want to sit on the couch for the rest of it. Make sure you sneak some fun in there at some point though, even if it's just going out for dinner every once in a while.
6. You may change your mind
I came into school with the plan to be a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, though that is still my goal, a few of my rotations have steered me in other directions. In Nursing School, you will be exposed to various floors and units that you would have never thought would peak your interest, but once you get into it, you realize that this could be something for you. It's not the end of the world if you aren't certain in what you want to do, get all of the med-surg experience you can. I now want to work in the Emergency Department. Did I ever think I would want to see people getting cut into or crazy traumas? Absolutely not. But I have a new found love for it that could take me far.
7. Step outside of your comfort zone
Step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while, I stepped out of my comfort zone and found a new career path. You may not always be placed in units that you like, but every opportunity is an opportunity to learn and grow from. My first clinical rotation was in the Trauma unit, I never thought that I would get through that semester there, but I did and now this summer I was chosen to do my externship on that floor, so you never know where opportunities can take you. Look at everything in Nursing School as the glass being half full, because your experience will not be perfect but being positive through it all will make it worthwhile. Last week, we went to the morgue and saw an autopsy. I saw the pathologist remove a woman’s skull then remove her brains and guts, not particularly my cup of tea for someone who wanted to work with newborn babies, but a learning experience nonetheless.
8. Make nice with your instructors
Most people know that me and my study group spend wayyyy too much time with our instructors. From asking questions, to getting advice, to needing a shoulder to cry on. These are people who have all been in your shoes at one time or another, and though it may not always seem like it, they want the best for you. If you decide to do an externship/internship (which I recommend) then will need these people for references and recommendations. You may also need recommendations to get a job after graduation. Your professors and clinical instructors are blessings in disguise when it comes to successfully completing Nursing School, because they understand and they want to help you.
9. You may not graduate on time
I will end up completing my undergraduate degree in five years, for reasons completely out of my control. I originally started at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, another four year university. There they offered one section of a class that almost every health/science major needed, so you do the math. I did not get into the class and because you have to have that class done before you can apply to get into the upper-division program, I was put an entire year behind before I could apply. I ended up transferring to Winston-Salem State University for their Nursing Program and I will be completing my BSN in May 2017. My friends and I are in the exact same predicament, not one of us will be graduating in four years with Nursing. At first it felt like my whole world was over, but now I am learning to accept it and realizing that it all happened for a reason. You have to sit your family down and explain the situation that you’re not behind because you’re not working hard, but because Nursing is an entirely different major, so you go through things others may not.
10. It will all be worth it in the end
Breakdowns, being broke, and sleepless nights are just a few things you may endure during Nursing School. But everything you are going through is preparing you to be a super hero! You will be able to save people’s lives, what better gift could you give? I feel like these have been the most trying four years of my life, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The trials and tribulations you go through will all prepare you to be the best Nurse and overall person you can be. The life lessons I have learned along the way are unforgettable. If you choose to go down the path of Nursing, just know it won’t be easy, and it’s not for the weak, but if it’s truly in your heart then you won’t be swayed.
Good Luck, You Can Do It!