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Strategies for Surviving Nursing School

On Sep 1, 2022
Presentation for nurses

For many new nursing students, enrolling in an RN program can make them feel they’re in over their heads.

There are many stressors that come into play when attending nursing school, and they can affect you each semester, not only during your first semester when you’re just getting your feet wet.

Stressors include rigorous coursework, loads of reading, homework, clinicals, and even outside internships and studying opportunities. It can feel like you’re drowning in statistics and procedures and vital information about the body. Additionally, there’s emotional stress. You may ask yourself questions like: Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Can I really get through this?

And financial stress is not to be forgotten. Getting a BSN can cost on average $9,479 each year at a public university and significantly higher ($35,000 or more) at a private school. If you’re working with loans and paying out of pocket directly, the costs can be enough to worry you endlessly.

Let’s examine some practical ways to survive nursing school so you can make the most of this experience.

Develop a study routine.

This tip is important not only for memory retention in your schoolwork, but also to generally maintain your own sanity. Routines give us order and a sense of accomplishment. Since so much of nursing school in the early years is memorization, why not take so many hours out of your week (even on certain days) to study with flash cards and make it your “flash card time”?

Even better, carve out some exercise time that is for you to work out and let off some steam. If a schoolmate calls you to form a study group at the last minute, you can simply say, “Sorry, it’s my evening to do yoga, I’m unavailable on this day in the future, just FYI.”

Or sometimes we need to just veg out and not move our body or minds at all. There’s a phenomenon called “sit-com therapy” that entails watching several episodes in a row of your favorite show so you can tune out and think about something else. It relaxes the mind, particularly if the program is funny, and you get a break from the heavy workload you face each week.

Routines can help us maintain order, but also remind us to take a break and have fun.

Exercise while studying.

We mentioned exercise in our last piece of advice, but let’s take that a step further. What if you could combine studying with your workout routine?

For example, have you been to the gym and seen folks who read a book while they bike, walk, or do the elliptical? If you’re able to remain somewhat stationary (like a bike or elliptical) you can follow along with your reading material while burning some calories. This can mix up your schedule a little bit and even allow you to digest the knowledge you’re reading in different ways since you’re utilizing your body at the same time.

And take it another step further—if any of your reading material is downloadable to audio, you can run laps while hearing all about how to change a catheter!

Ask for help.

It’s hard to ask for help, isn’t it? Sometimes it can feel we are giving in or giving up if we seek out guidance or assistance in an area we’re having trouble with.

If you’re having issues understanding a particular concept or class, reach out to your professor. Professors of nursing usually have office hours designed to help students understand the material. Reaching out to peer support groups is invaluable, as well, since you’re seeking camaraderie from others who are in the trenches with you.

It feels good to commiserate about your workload with a group of people who understand it, who are going through it, too.

Additionally, there may be school-related study resources such as guides, peers, or tutors that can help you break down material that is confusing. Reach out—it’s not defeat when you do so, it’s empowerment!

Clearly, nursing school comes with myriad challenges and every student must navigate it the best way he or she can. Take some time to figure out your “plan of attack” during your nursing school years. Whether it’s getting clear about your finances or seeking out a counselor to speak to, you have options at your fingertips to help you get through.

After all—there’s an exciting future career as an RN in store for you!

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