How to Survive Nursing School: Avoid These 10 Mistakes

How to Survive Nursing SchoolBy Kathy Marshall, Contributor

You want to become a nurse for a specific reason; perhaps you had a family member who was a nurse, or you have a desire to help others.

Whatever the reason, surviving nursing school will take more than just a desire to help others or to follow in another’s steps. 

Just as the pursuit of any educational endeavor presents challenges, nursing brings its own unique challenges to the table.

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How to Survive Nursing School: 10 Nursing School Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Establishing a Routine

As excited as you may be to start nursing school, one of the worst things you can do is not have a routine. Surviving nursing school will require a lot of time, effort, and attention. 

Setting up a regular routine will help you continue with everyday tasks and avoid getting overwhelmed.

For example, block off time each day for studying or catching up on school-related activities. Likewise, make sure you schedule personal time to ensure balance. 

2. Putting Other Activities Before School

There truly is a time and place for everything. If you want to survive nursing school, keeping your priorities straight is crucial. 

While saying yes to plans with friends is tempting, it’s not always in your best interest.  Remember, carving out adequate time to study is more important than catching a concert. 

Help prioritize school and your social life by sticking to a routine or schedule, as mentioned above. 

3. Not Taking All of the Classes Seriously

You may prefer pharmacology over psychiatry, but both are equally important and must be given the same effort. Even if you do not see the value in a particular course, you must realize that it is being taught for a reason. 

Once you become a nurse, you will be faced with tasks that you may not care for or even see the importance of, so it is better to start the practice now of taking all aspects of nursing seriously.

4. Failing to Respect Your Teachers

Surviving nursing school is going to take more than just a passing grade. Having a know-it-all attitude can cause long-term damage. 

Many nursing teachers also practice in medical settings and you may run into them again later.

Realize that your teachers bring a lot of experience to the learning environment, not just classroom knowledge. So, if you have a teacher who likes to tell “war stories,” suppress the urge to roll your eyes. 

Instead, listen up: you may just learn a few tricks of the trade that cannot be found in a textbook.

[Related: 5 Emergency Nursing Skills You Can Only Learn on the Job]

5. Not Attending Class

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people skip class and wonder why they don’t survive nursing school. 

Even if you are a fast learner with a good grade, failing to regularly attend class cheats you out of the full experience.

Many professors have additional info, quizzes, and guest speakers. If you miss class, you may find yourself short of the necessary points for a final passing grade.

6. Not Getting Enough Shut-Eye

Nursing school can be grueling. Hard classes, long labs, and working on top of school can make you wonder if it is all worth it in the end. 

But to survive nursing school, you must get the most sleep your schedule will allow.

If you find yourself short on valuable sleep time, look at your schedule and routine and see if anything can be cut or rearranged.

7. Avoid Classroom Drama

Even though all nursing school students are required to be of adult age, classroom drama still occurs. If you want to survive nursing school, don’t get caught up in any classroom feud.

Nursing involves more than just knowledge and skills; the profession of nursing also requires someone with quality character. 

If your professor sees you engaging in behavior more appropriate for a middle-school lunchroom, you may lose points. Many nursing programs count behavior and quality of character into the overall grade.

8. Not Asking Questions

If you expect to survive nursing school simply by turning in homework and passing tests, you are in for a rude awakening. The best thing you could do for your future career is to begin asking questions.

Critical thinking goes beyond the obvious; ask why you are to perform a task or how a certain disease process makes someone more susceptible to additional illnesses. Take an active part in your learning.

9. Make the Most of Your Experience

Remember the phrase, “the early bird catches the worm”? It applies to surviving nursing school, too. 

Be on time to class. Sit where you can hear, see, and be a part of the lesson. Extra spot open in the lab? Jump on it and become an expert.

Doing the bare minimum may get you a passing grade but not much more.

[Related: 10 Hardest Nurse Interview Questions Answered!] 

10. Don’t Go It Alone

You aren’t the only one wanting to survive nursing school. Look at your classmates and evaluate who else is taking this journey seriously. 

Team up and form a study group. Quiz each other and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Surviving nursing school can seem like an insurmountable task. With a good game plan, hard work, and a determined attitude, you can not only survive, but thrive.

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