Attending nursing school, or an online nursing program, is an exciting—yet challenging—prospect. By obtaining your nursing degree you’ll be investing in your education, your future, and your ability to help others. You’ll also be taking important steps to ensure that you’ll be eminently employable, thanks to your newly acquired, in-demand skills.
Nursing is among the more recession-resistant careers. When money is tight, people can forego luxuries large and small, but they still need quality nursing care. Factor in the aging baby boom generation, and it’s no stretch to predict that the demand for qualified nurses will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
There’s no arguing that nursing is serious business. Patients’ comfort, safety and even lives may depend on you as a working nurse. Nursing can be stressful at times, to be sure, but few careers are likely to provide similar opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s not to say, though, that nursing can’t be fun. In fact, many former nursing students who’ve shared their experiences, perspective, and advice seem to share a comrades-in-arms approach to the potential stresses and challenges of earning a nursing degree and launching a career in nursing.
Here are eight things working nurses say they wish they’d known before beginning nursing school:
1) Don’t underestimate the challenge ahead. If you’ve already earned an undergraduate degree, for example, don’t make the mistake of thinking that nursing will be a breeze. The demands of obtaining an English degree simply can’t compare to the rigorous demands of a nursing curriculum. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll graduate thinking that nursing school was a breeze.
2) Don’t get discouraged. As noted above, training to be a nurse can be rigorous, stressful and challenging. At times you may feel like giving up. Don’t do it. Get some exercise. Eat some nutritious food. Have some fun and blow off some steam. And definitely get some additional sleep. You’ll undoubtedly feel better afterwards. Once you get your degree, and start making a difference in patients’ lives, you’ll undoubtedly agree that it was all worth it.
3) Consider working as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) before attending nursing school. You’ll gain invaluable experience and build confidence. Nothing beats real-world experience.
4) Corollary to No. 3: The NCLEX world of nursing is an idealized take on the real-world version of nursing. Don’t be shocked when you discover the differences between the two. Remain flexible, inquisitive, and open to new perspectives. Your nursing degree will not signify the end of your quest for education. It will mark the the beginning of an ongoing, lifelong journey.
5) Don’t be surprised when you discover that your fellow nursing students quickly become your new family. You’ll be entering the crucible together. You’ll laugh, cry, and even kvetch together. You may find that only fellow students can truly appreciate what you are going through. Embrace these newfound relationships. Rely on them to support you as you proceed on your journey toward your degree.
6) Stockpile coffee or tea, which can help with attentiveness and focus. Take comfort in the knowledge that research indicates that people who drink coffee and/or green tea may enjoy certain health benefits, including lower risks of certain diseases.
7) College is expensive these days, and nursing school is no different.
8) Figure out the difference between the correct answer and the most correct answer. This is a corollary to Nos. 3 & 4 above.