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Back-to-School Nursing for Students: A Guide to Success

Back-to-School Nursing for Students: A Guide to Success

Photo of Greta

by Greta Kviklyte

Life Saver, AMC
Co-authored by Kim Murray, RN, M.S.

posted on Sep 1, 2017, at 7:40 pm


YOU HAVE ALREADY WON HALF THE BATTLE BECAUSE YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN ACCEPTED TO NURSING SCHOOL, but back-to-school nursing expectations can be difficult to manage. Students have plenty of things to do before nursing school starts in order to prepare and ensure compliance with all necessary school regulations and rules. Additionally, the sensitive nature of nursing and risks involved require students take certain actions to ensure they do not become ill or become otherwise unable to continue in nursing school.

Students should have a reasonable set of expectations for nursing school, complete any necessary medical and health prerequisites, and purchase all necessary school supplies. Students must always consult a guidance counselor or other appropriate individual before making any purchases too, and a few final tips will help make the first week easier to manage. But first, students need to know what to expect from their new journey into health care.

What to Expect From Nursing School

While nursing school will be filled with plenty of challenges, students can overcome the initial obstacles. By understanding what to expect from nursing school and how to prepare, students can increase their chances of successful starting their new collegiate course of study.
nursing students using laptops in the classroom

Clinical Rotations Do Not Start Immediately

Clinicals do not start the first day of class, so students have a little bit of time to prepare for clinicals. The most obvious way to get ready for clinicals is by purchasing any appropriate attire and scrubs necessary. This will help prevent delays when time for clinicals arrives and ensures the successful completion of clinicals within the recommendations and requirements of the respective school program. However, clinical rotations may also require the passage of a background check or other additional information to ensure students do not present a risk to the school or facility.

Start With Learning the Definitions of Two Key Terms in Nursing

It is also important for students to understand a common terms and concepts used in the course of nursing clinicals while beginning nursing school. These most important terms include the following:

  • Protected health information (PHI). PHI refers protected health information.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA governs privacy and need-to-know communication of PHI in the course of clinicals and while providing care.
Know That You Will Feel Overwhelmed at Times

There will be periods of intense studying, testing and education, and it will be easy to fall behind if you forgo studying and preparing for class. However, you must remember something:

Nursing is a rewarding, exciting career where you can give back everyday and save lives!

It is short and simple, and you could be the difference between life and death for those in your care after graduation.

What Medical Criteria Do You Need to Complete?

Nursing school means you will be in contact with the ill and sick, so you will need to take a few steps to prevent yourself from becoming ill as well. This includes getting the right vaccinations, taking appropriate certification courses, such as a certification course on Bloodborne Pathogens and a few other steps that will help you be safe and healthy as you learn more about the field of nursing.

Obtain the Proper Vaccinations

Prior to attending and completing nursing school clinicals, students may be required to obtain certain vaccinations or provide proof of previous exposure and immunity to certain illnesses.

The most common vaccinations required for nursing school include the hepatitis B series, varicella, otherwise known as chickenpox vaccine, and meningitis vaccination. In some states, like Texas, reports the Texas Higher Education Learning Board, obtaining a bacterial meningitis vaccination is a prerequisite for any student applying and enrolling in in-person classes.

The hepatitis B series comprises three different vaccination, and the series takes six months to complete. So, students must be proactive about completing their hepatitis B series in advance. If students have previously received one or two hepatitis B vaccinations, a blood titer may be used to provide proof of immunity. A similar titer may be necessary to provide proof of immunity for varicella if a student had chickenpox as a child, or if no record of varicella vaccination or child-hood infection exists.

Complete a Health Physical, If Required by Your School

Depending on the criteria of your nursing program, you may be required to complete a comprehensive health physical, including a review of your mental state. These physicals are relatively short and are designed to ensure student and patient safety upon admission. If a health physical is necessary, check with your school’s guidance counselor to ensure you complete the physical through an approved clinic or health provider.

What About Back-To-School Nursing Certification Requirements for Students?

empty classroom medical nursing schoolBack-to-school nursing students may also be required to complete certain certifications and coursework before into a program or attending clinicals. This can include Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR),Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications. Since the ACLS course is designed for acute-care settings, initial admission to a nursing program may only require CPR and BLS certification. Again, this is an area where consulting with your admissions counselor is key to ensuring you have completed the appropriate certification requirements for students before classes begin.

Get the Supplies Necessary for Back-to-School Nursing

Like tardiness and absenteeism, not having the appropriate supplies may result in disciplinary action in nursing school. Before stepping into the classroom, make sure you have each of these critical supplies.

A Quality, School-Approved Stethoscope

Your stethoscope is an extension of your ears and key to nursing, providing a way to hear the individual bodily systems of your patients. While you may only use your stethoscope in clinicals, your instructors may begin teaching how to use it within the first days of classwork. So, purchase your stethoscope and bring it to every class.

School-Approved Scrubs

Scrubs may need to be embroidered with your name, school information or additional details as determined by the program. This may also include the school logo, and scrubs will need to be a set color, defined by your school. While some students may consider wearing suit-like scrubs or scrubs with few pockets, remember scrubs are often the only thing a nurse has to carry pens or other equipment on their person, such as gloves. In other words, pockets are essential. Scrubs must always adhere to specific uniform and dress code requirements of your school.

Plenty of Paper, Pens and Pencils

Having plenty of pens and pencils is critical to making nursing school successful. But, students should also be aware of a few things relating to the type of writing instruments they prefer. There may be ethical and legal ramifications for using erasable pens or pencils during documentation, so students should have both pens and pencils available for use, but all charting and documentation completed during clinicals should be in black pen. If a mistake is made, the nursing instructor will advise students on how to correct the error.

For example, students may need to mark out the incorrect charting with a single line, and sign and initial any changes made, citing why changes were made and what was the correct course of action or activity.

While taking notes during in-classroom work, pen or pencil may be acceptable, depending on instructor or student preferences.

Slip-Resistant Shoes

Slip resistant shoes are critical because they ensure that students do not fall or otherwise injure themselves in the course of interacting with other students or providing care or patients during clinicals. Since healthcare is a field where exposure to water or liquids is highly likely, slip-resistant shoes are essential to prevent injury and ensure the safety of students, instructors and patients.

Five Additional Ways to Get Ready for Your First Week of Nursing School

Even the best-laid plans to making and planning for the start of nursing school can and do fail. However, students can boost their chances of being successful within the first week of nursing school by sticking to these additional steps.

1. Get Plenty of Rest

Get plenty of rest before going to your first day of nursing school. First impressions are everything, and your nursing instructors will be looking for students who are not submitted for your class. Make sure you go to bed at least 12 hours prior to starting your first class. Furthermore, sleep deprivation will cause crankiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, poor memory retention and a lower grade point average (GPA), resulting in a negative first impression in front of your instructors, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine. While this may seem redundant, getting enough sleep will help ensure you get up in plenty of time to make it to class and feel well rested.

2. Read the First Chapter of Each Textbook

Another great way to prepare for your first week of nursing school is through reading the chapter within each book of your first classes in nursing school. However, only skim the chapters of intense-learning courses, like anatomy and physiology. The reason for this is simple; nursing instructors may have different viewpoints or additional ways of teaching that detract from or contradict information found within your textbooks. As a result, a rough outline or general set of notes is the best way to approach the pre-work for nursing school.

3. Consider Taking a Multivitamin, and Eat a Healthy Diet

Taking a multivitamin and eating a healthy diet can also boost energy levels during the first week school, and as identified in another recent study, college students tend to have lower levels of vitamin B and D. So, taking a multivitamin can improve focus on your first day. While eating a healthy diet is important, it is not mean nursing students should avoid every drop of sugar or indulgence. However, nursing students should avoid eating heavy or stomach-upsetting foods within the 24 to 48 hours before the first class. Additionally, students should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat to help reduce the risk of being ill on the first day of nursing school.

4. Review Your Financial Aid File

Double-checking your financial aid file is also critical to ensuring that you do not have unexpected delays or problems when arriving at your class. Students should thoroughly review the financial aid file in the weeks and again on the days leading up to the beginning of school. Students should also check their school email for additional information or requests from the financial aid department. Failure to do so may result in the dropping of classes without notification and subsequent dismissal from the nursing program.

5. Locate and Walk Your Class Schedule in Advance

Before starting nursing school, walk your class schedule in advance. This will help prevent students from becoming lost or being unable to find the instructors’ classrooms during the first day. Nothing draw the ire of nursing instructors more than being late or absent on the first day.

Preparation Is Key to Being Successful in Nursing School

The key to being successful in nursing school is simple; students need to prepare in advance. Students who go the extra mile to take these steps and prepare for nursing school before starting will be better-suited to take on the challenges of nursing school directly.

Nursing school is a growing, evolving process, and the information learned today may not necessarily reflect the industry’s best practices tomorrow. As a result, students that wish to be successful must apply all these preparation tips before starting and throughout their entire nursing school journey too.

In the interim, take comfort in knowing that you will soon be among the most revered individuals in all of society, providing health care to those experiencing life’s greatest struggles. If you need additional assistance completing any of the medical requirements for your nursing program, it may be worthwhile looking into online certification programs that can be completed at your convenience, prior to starting to nursing school and without detracting from your existing course load.

About Greta

Greta is a dedicated life saver and a distinguished expert in the field of medical content creation and editing. Her impressive array of certifications in ACLS, CPR, PALS, and BLS underscores her commitment to excellence in the medical field. With over four years of invaluable experience in medical education, Greta plays an indispensable role within the Advanced Medical Certification team, shaping the way healthcare professionals around the world acquire and apply vital knowledge.

Greta's profound expertise serves as the driving force behind the development and distribution of medical content that has significantly enhanced the capabilities of countless healthcare practitioners across the globe.

In addition to her medical qualifications, Greta holds a prestigious academic distinction in Marketing and Global Business from Vilnius University. Her academic journey has been enriched by immersive studies in Slovakia and Portugal during her time as an exchange student, providing her with a global perspective that complements her medical expertise.

Beyond her professional commitments, Greta possesses a genuine passion for global exploration, with a particular focus on immersing herself in diverse cultures and appreciating the intricacies of the natural world. While residing in Vilnius, Lithuania, she continues to make substantial contributions to the field of medical education, leaving an indelible mark on the sector.

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