The decision to go to nursing school—whether you attend a brick-and-mortar institution, or choose an online nursing school—is seldom made lightly. Indeed, becoming a nurse is a big decision, worthy of careful consideration and adequate preparation.
Every prospective student wonders what they’ll need to know to optimize their experience. Advice from working nurses or recent grads may be both insightful and helpful, but having the basics spelled out in black and white cannot hurt, either. Here, we have attempted to list some action items that may help with your planning, admission process, and academic experience.
The first three suggestions are essential; others may be considered optional.
1) Finish All Prerequisites
Every program has an established, published set of prerequisites for admission and/or acceptance. These vary from institution to institution. Check carefully, well before you plan to attend, so you have time to complete any required courses. Remember, too, that good grades matter.
2) Take Any Standardized Entrance Exams Required
Some nursing programs ask their prospective students to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) in order to get a snapshot view of the student’s level of preparedness in core subjects, such as English, science, and math. Scoring high boosts your chances of acceptance.
3) Check Your Immunization Status
Obviously, an online nursing school is unlikely to require proof that your immunization records are all up-to-date. But students attending brick-and-mortar institutions are often required by state law to show proof of immunization status. It may be inconvenient, but it is for your protection. Under the high-stress and close-quarter conditions encountered in schools, certain communicable illnesses are a potential threat to everyone’s health.
4) Boost Your Chances: Develop Meaningful Professional Relationships
Consider finding a working nurse who will agree to let you follow him or her throughout the day. Of course, you’ll need approval to be present while they interact with patients. Any such experiences you can bring to the table may give you an edge—both during the application process and later—as you work towards becoming a professional nurse. Such experiences can give you a glimpse into the nitty gritty of nursing and an opportunity to network with nursing professionals who may be in a position to lend a hand at some point in your education or subsequent career.
5) Volunteer at a Hospital or Nursing Facility, or Become a Certified Nursing Assistant
These represent opportunities to get a foot in the door, get a feel for the work, develop networking connections, and add something extra to your application. Educators are highly interested in seeing evidence of initiative, dedication, and willingness to work hard. If either of these options are impractical, consider becoming a volunteer or working part-time work hours; preferably working directly with people. Customer service may not entail medical matters, but it definitely involves another crucial nursing skill: the ability to interact professionally, courteously, and efficiently with demanding customers who may not be on their best behavior. Nursing can take thick skin at times. So, too, can working closely with the public. Being able to point to times when you had to remain calm in the face of unpleasantness or pressure could go a long way towards convincing a nursing school or program to offer you a slot.