Tips & Advice

Helpful Tips for First Time Nursing Students

Tips & AdviceJuly 21, 2016

Experienced nurses can be a good source of helpful advice for first-time nursing students. They’ve been there and done that; they know more than a little about some of the challenges you’re facing. Whether you’ll be attending a bricks-and-mortar nursing school, or obtaining your degree through participation in an online nursing program, we’ve gathered some handy tips to facilitate your journey. Hopefully, you’ll glean some valuable insights to help smooth the way as you pursue your new career.

1) Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously

Learning to be a nurse is not all about textbooks and tests. To be sure, technical proficiency is a big part of the science of nursing. But nursing is also an art. To a large extent, it’s about working well in a team environment. Here’s a handy first lesson: You will be required to clean up more than a few disagreeable messes. You are not above cleaning up poop, for example. Yes it’s unpleasant. But you’re not above it. None of us are. We are nurses. We all have to pitch in and do any and every task required of us. More experienced nurses have no time—or patience—for divas. Don’t be one. 

2) Speak Up

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “There are no dumb questions.” Nursing is no exception. In fact, no one can ever claim to know everything there is to know about our chosen profession. We’re all learning, all the time. We have to. Technology, medical science, procedures, best practices—all evolve constantly. To become a nurse is to commit to a lifetime of dedication to continuing education. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even the old pros need to stay current and ask questions occasionally.

3) Don’t Be a Know-It-All

Recent nursing school graduates may be tempted to think they know all they need to know on day one. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like any professional, you should expect to learn more in your first few months and years of real-world employment than you learned in two or more years of formal schooling. Keep your mind open, and remain inquisitive. Your willingness to learn new facts, techniques, and procedures will serve you well, both in school and in the workplace.

4) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help 

If you’re ever uncertain how to proceed, swallow your pride and ask a more senior nurse for help or advice. Of course you don’t want to be branded as a pest, with no initiative or self-confidence. But the stakes are often high in nursing, so it’s best to err on the side of caution if in doubt. 

5) Stay Organized 

Many first-time nursing students find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the demands of school. Focus on staying organized to avoid becoming overwhelmed by your assignments. Keep track of your schedule, study demands, assignment deadlines, etc. Write down important dates and keep copious notes. Keep an up-to-date calendar, share it with family members if appropriate, and refer to it often.

6) Stay On Top of Assignments 

This is a corollary to No. 5. Don’t leave assignments to the last minute. They’re likely to come fast and furious. Avoid getting overwhelmed or bogged down, by completing assignments as promptly as possible. Procrastination is not your friend in nursing school.  

7) Trust Your Inner Voice 

If something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your intuition; that little voice that tells you something is not quite right. Your subconscious mind often knows more than your logical, reasoning mind does. As already noted, nursing is both an art and a science. Medicine is arguably strictly, objectively science/fact-based. But that would only be completely accurate if people were not part of the equation. They are. Hence the “art” aspect of providing medical care.

8) Remember Why You’re Doing This

If you become discouraged or overwhelmed by the demands of nursing school, try to harken back to that feeling you had when you first learned of your acceptance into your nursing program. You were proud and excited. Hold onto that feeling. It just might get you through some of the harder days.