Surviving Nursing School

Surviving Nursing School

Nursing School. An experience like none other. Eye-opening, grueling, exciting, trying, adventurous, informative — it’s all these things and more.

But the challenges of nursing school are not to be feared, because it is these very challenges that prepare you for your calling as a practicing clinician. Yes, there will be tough days and long nights. Sure, there will be times when you wonder if it’s all worth it. But the friendships you make, the knowledge you gain, and the shifts you endure, make it all worthwhile.

The education you are receiving now is preparing you for the experiences to come.

Whether you are just beginning your nursing education or you are currently in the eye of the storm, here are a few things to consider to help you do more than survive nursing school, but to thrive in the process.

Budget Everything

When we think of budgeting, we think of money. But to make it successfully through nursing school, you need to put everything on a budget. Your study time, your energy, your emotions, your money, your sleep, and your downtime.

Go into each semester eyes wide open, understanding there will be things that will tax your time, strength, wallet, and emotions. Plan accordingly.

  • I can’t afford to study all night long because I’ll be exhausted tomorrow. I’m going to budget 3 hours for study and 6 hours for sleep.
  • I can’t afford to freak out today because I’ll be emotionally spent tonight. I’m going to stay calm and be aware of my emotional needs.
  • I can’t afford to go to the movies this evening because I have a test to prepare for. I’m going to budget prep time tonight and allow myself movie time this weekend.

It’s all about understanding how much you have in your account so you don’t overextend and overspend. A well-balanced student is a prepared student.

Avoid Cynicism

A common trap for a nursing student is the pitfall of cynicism. It’s only natural. You’ll have great teachers, but you’ll have some difficult teachers too. On more than one occasion, you’ll hear “that’s not the most correct answer.” Even access to patients can lead to you feeling desensitized to human trauma.

Resist the temptation to become cynical. Cynicism saps motivation and interrupts growth.

Instead, remember that your choice is more than a career path, it’s a calling. You are destined to help and heal. When challenged by a tough teacher, choose to meet the challenge. When frustrated by tests that seem unfair, study harder. When dealing with aggravating patients, choose to understand their pain.

If you’ll hold onto the optimism and idealism that started you on this journey, you are more likely to find success without losing yourself in the process.

Choose Determination

If nursing school were easy, we’d have a lot more nurses than we do. It’s a tough process, and it’s tough for a reason. The care of a patient is a sacred trust, and, in order to be ready for that trust, you will have to learn all that you can to be ready for the crucial moments.

Don’t give up when things become difficult. There will be assignments that test your capacity, expectations that test your limits, and patients who break your heart. What will you do in these moments? Will you give up or will you be determined to use each experience to learn and grow?

Leonardo da Vinci famously said . . .

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Don’t let nursing school happen to you. Go out and happen to it.

Carve Away the Distractions

When I was a child, I had an uncle who had an odd job. He was a sculptor who designed display pieces for department stores.

One day, I was with him in his workshop as he began the task of sculpting a swan from a large block of styrofoam. I was fascinated as he began carving, and I asked him about his process. “How do you carve a swan out of styrofoam?” I questioned.

As he worked, he gave me an answer that I’ll never forget. He said, “It’s easy. I just carve away everything that isn’t a swan.”

As you go through nursing school, you’re going to face distractions and disappointments that will attempt to knock you off course. But remember why you started this journey in the first place. You may not be a nurse yet, but you already see yourself as one.

Nursing school isn’t hard. It’s just the process of sculpting you into the person you already know you are. Just cut away everything that isn’t “nurse” and soon enough you’ll find yourself fulfilling your calling.

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