How to Survive Your First Year of Nursing School

NursingDecember 11, 2018

If you have been accepted into an online nursing school, you are in for a challenging, rewarding time. By now, you are probably tired of hearing about how demanding nursing school will be. Fair enough. You would not have progressed this far already if you were not up to the challenge, so enough about all that. Instead, let us focus on what it is like to be a first year nursing student, and how to maximize your learning experience without burning out.


Many nurses have offered their perspectives on what is important in your first year. Of course, everyone’s experience, expectations, skills, strengths and weaknesses are different. But some tidbits of wisdom tend to ring true, year after year, for virtually all students.


Take A Moment


If you have not already done so, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You made it into nursing school! There is a long road ahead, but many never set foot on this path, and even fewer complete the journey. You have taken the all-important first step. Well done. Think of nursing school as an adventure and try to enjoy the ride!


Embrace the Basics


Most nursing programs require certain prerequisite courses. These may be in subjects that would appear to have little direct bearing on your ability to be an effective nurse. Why study English, for example? Because clear, concise, accurate communication is a crucial skill for nurses to master. There is seldom time to waste, and there is seldom room for error or misinterpretation. Learn to write clearly. It will serve you extremely well as a nurse.


Similarly, math may seem like a distant concern when you are changing bedpans. But what about when it comes time to dispense medications in appropriate doses? Arithmetic is fundamental to the science and precise practice of medicine. Mistakes can be catastrophic. Trust us when we say that nursing proves your high school math teacher right: You are going to need math to get through adult life.


Plan Ahead, Schedule — and Relax


There is little time to waste during your first year in nursing school. Your course load is going to be heavy and your time precious. Spending your time wisely is crucial. Study your curriculum, look ahead, stay current with all material and assignments, and continually plan for the next day, week, and month. In the midst of all that studying and time use optimization, remember to take some time off occasionally. Take a moment now and then to socialize, blow off some steam, or catch up on your sleep.


The latter is not an idle suggestion. Sleep is crucial to your success. Never shortchange your sleep unnecessarily. You will more than pay for it in various deficits, eventually. For instance, sleep deprivation is linked to declines in judgement, reduced cognition and memory, and weight gain or loss. Reaction times slow and the body becomes clumsier. In the extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to memory lapse or complete memory loss — hardly the outcome you seek to achieve.


Take Care of Yourself


Eat well, too. As a nurse, your education in the subject of nutrition will be relatively minimal, but you should certainly be aware of the potential impact of diet on health, energy levels, and stamina. In short, a healthful diet can improve all of these things; a poor diet will inevitably have a negative effect on energy levels and general health.


By now you almost certainly know the basics: Eat whole foods as much as possible. Eat lean protein such as fish (ideally), chicken, or soy. Limit alcohol intake to no more than one unit per day for women, and two per day for men. Choose whole grains and limit added sugars. Recognize that healthful fats are precisely that: good for you. They include extra virgin olive oil, sesame and nut oils, such as walnut, and even avocado oil.