If you are one of the thousands of new students starting nursing school this fall, I have one word…Congratulations! I also have a few bits of advice, so if you’re looking for encouragement or a reality check…this post is for you!
My first piece of advice is to take a few deep breaths. Ok, more than a few. If you have been vying for a spot in a competitive program, then you have undoubtedly busted your hump to get excellent grades and rock that pre-admissions assessment. Now you can take a deep breath and just relax for a bit. If you’ve been biting your nails waiting to see if you’re one of the lucky ones to be admitted in a lottery system, then kick your feet up and give your poor fingers a rest. The unknown part is over, and while I won’t say it gets any easier, the pressure shifts from “will I get in” to something else entirely. For now, just enjoy the moment of knowing you’re definitively on the path of realizing your dream. Do it with me…deep breath in….full exhale out. Ok, feel better?
The next thing I want to stress is that NOW is the time to start getting ready for next semester. The first thing you need to do is recharge those batteries. Sleep in if you can, take a vacation, spend time with family and friends, get outside as much as possible, watch trash TV, read for pleasure, go to the gym, be creative…do all those things that bring you joy. For the next couple of months, this will be your first order of business. Got it?
Since you can’t play ALL the time (I know it’s just not in you to goof off 24/7), some attention should be given to organizing your home and life as much as possible. You will have precious little time for feathering your nest while in school, so take care of those projects now. Go through closets, organize your desk area, get rid of that old can of baking soda that expired three years ago. Declutter and streamline your home, and you’ll find your stress levels drop drastically.
As the end of the summer draws near, start prepping for school by getting all your pre-semester stuff done ahead of time. Your school will likely be sending you all sorts of communication about vaccines, titers, background checks, equipment, uniforms, etc.. Take care of these things early so you don’t have to stress about them when the semester starts. In addition, take some extra time to make and freeze some delicious dinners…I always loved coming home at the end of a long day and having something good to eat with very little effort.
I talk in much more detail about how to get organized for school in my book Nursing School Thrive Guide, so if you’re into that sort of thing I urge you to check it out! The rest of your readiness will involve getting prepared mentally and emotionally. Nursing school is demanding on both your time and your sulci. And while this blog is titled “Straight A Nursing Student” the focus isn’t on just earning great grades…it’s about the attitude with which you approach your studies and always doing your absolute best for the sake of your future patients. Anyone who tells you to “relax” in nursing school because you “already got in” or “C’s get degrees” is doing you a disservice. Whether you get an A or a C is immaterial if you studied your tail off, understand the material, and are knowledgable enough to take excellent care of your patients. THAT’S what’s important. While I am the first to admit I was overwhelmingly obsessed with grades while in nursing school, I was obsessed for the right reasons…I used my grades as a yardstick against which to measure my mastery of the material. I knew that if I had studied enough to earn an A, then I knew the material…if I applied it well in clinical, then I had a slam-dunk. Everyone is different, so I don’t want you to get caught up in the grade you receive, but HOW YOU GET THERE. Some people don’t test well, plain and simple. My point is…do your absolute best and forget the rest.
The next thing I want you to do is to let go of your competitive attitude. Many students striving to get into a merit-based program have a hard time with this. Let it go. You’re in. Now you can turn your attention and zeal for hard work into helping your classmates or collaborating together to figure out tough problems.
With that said, do not be too proud to ask for help. The nurse who never asks for help and never asks questions for fear of looking unknowledgeable is the most dangerous nurse in the room. If you don’t understand something…ask! If you need help with something, approach a classmate who can provide an explanation or figure it out with you. Reach out, explore, assist and collaborate…you’ll save yourself a ton of grief and probably make some lifelong friends in the process.
If you’re shy, you need to work on getting over this as soon as possible. Good nurses are not shy. They are personable, communicative and assertive. If you have a hard time when meeting new people or being in new situations, spend some time this summer practicing being more outgoing and confident. How on earth do you do this? One great way is to get a job that forces you to interact with the general public. I was incredibly shy until I started working as a waitress…that job forced me out of my shell and gave me tons more confidence than I had before. If you can get a summer job at a restaurant, retail shop, grocery store or coffee shop…go for it! You’ll get used to interacting with strangers and your people skills will go through the roof. If a job isn’t in the cards for you, then consider doing group activities (and no, hanging out at bars doesn’t count). One great resource is meetup.com…it’s a website that connects people for activities such as trivia nights, hiking, frisbee, wine tasting, dining, cycling, poetry writing…pretty much anything under the sun has a meetup group to go with it.
Another great thing to do is volunteer at a hospital. Not only will you gain some experience interacting with patients (even if it’s just “can I bring you a warm blanket?”), but you’ll get an introduction to what working in a hospital is like. If you’re lucky, you’ll volunteer on a unit that embraces your presence and offers up opportunities for you to observe procedures and whatnot.
You got this far for a reason…you are smart, capable and driven. You WILL succeed in nursing school as long as you are kind to yourself and care immensely about your patients. You will have moments of doubt, you will have moments where you just want to curl up into a little ball in a dark room and cry. Just know that these moments are temporary. They will pass, I promise. When you have a moment like that, the absolute worst thing you can do is push yourself even harder…pay attention to what your body and spirit are craving and take care of yourself. If you ever feel you’re on the verge of a breakdown I invite you to take a step back, close the books, and get away for a little bit. Take a walk, call a friend, go out with your partner. And if you ever doubt yourself, even for one little second, you can always email me and I’ll tell you how fabulous and wonderful you are.
Enjoy your summer, and be safe out there!