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More Tips for Nursing Students on How to Make Your Year Work

More Tips for Nursing Students on How to Make Your Year Work

Photo of Greta

by Greta Kviklyte

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

posted on Sep 17, 2017, at 12:07 pm


ACCORDING TO A RECENT, NATIONAL STUDY OF STUDENTS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL FOR NURSING, reports Nursing Times, the weeks at the start of the school year and each semester are a time of extreme self-doubt and higher dropout rates. Unfortunately, poor study habits, lack of understanding of nursing school expectations and other irrational thought processes and decisions contribute to increasing dropout rates among nursing students. However, nursing students can take a few steps to improve their chances of success in nursing school. While these tips require minimal, if any, financial investment, they do require dedication and patience.

Rather than leaving your success up to chance, apply these tips to help make your back-to-school nursing dreams and aspirations successful. In addition, students considering applying to nursing school within the next year, should consider following these tips to help ensure a smooth transition from prerequisite coursework to nursing school. Without further ado, let’s start with preparing for nursing school.

1. Prepare Before School Starts

Get everything necessary for school admission accomplished first. This includes reviewing your health information, such as ensuring you have completed the right number and type of vaccinations, met with course instructors, obtained your books, received your supplies, purchased scrubs and hit every other mark set forth by your admissions department. In Part I, the steps to making preparation for nursing school easier were listed in extensive detail, and they should be completed prior to using these tips. Students should also obtain recommendations from other past instructors or employers to help with clinical placement or final admission, if requested by nursing instructors.

Another step in preparation is ensuring you have a reliable source of transportation and internet access. While books are great, you can find almost anything online, but you need to make sure the sources used are credible. If you do use online research tools, use the following keyword strings to help rule out irrefutable resources:

  • “insert your keyword here”
  • “insert your keyword here”
  • “insert your keyword here”

These search strings followed by your keywords will only list websites with a .edu, a .gov or .org ending. In other words, you will be accessing educational institution website, government-run websites, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or organizations’ websites, like the Mayo Clinic’s topic on overcoming mental stress, a result from this search string, “ overcoming the stigma of student mental health.”

2. Get Organized

Keep all nursing school documents and necessary health documentation within an easy-to-access place or cloud-based drive. Since these documents may hold sensitive information, storage on the cloud is an option, but it may not be recommended or accepted by your school institution.

While in class, consider using a note-taking app, but do not forget the value of physical books. Of course, students may also consider using tablets or other devices to help make note taking easier.

3. Take Care of Yourself

By a second pair of comfortable shoes. It goes without saying that are suspended an extraordinary amount of time on their feet, and while the legwork involved in nursing can be challenging, it is much easier when nurses have additional pairs of shoes to wear that are comfortable. Consider investing in at least one to two extra pairs of shoes for use in nursing school, especially clinicals. This will help prevent sore feet, and students experiencing pain should consider orthotic inserts, which provide additional support without sacrificing stability.

Keep a Journal

A journal is another excellent way of caring for yourself while in nursing school. Right in your journal every day, and it does not have to be a long journal entry. Write one or two sentences about how you feel or questions you may have relating to your current progress in nursing school before bed. This will also help improve your mental health.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise provides a means of relieving stress and tension, built up from the countless hours spent studying and preparing to become a nurse. In addition, exercise triggers the release of endogenous morphine, endorphins, which help improve mental sharpness, clarity, mood and overall health.

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Having the right nutrients your body is key to ensuring your mind is open and capable of learning to the fullest extent possible. If eating a healthy diet is not your strong-suite, consider creating a menu to help plan out what you will eat every week. Furthermore, this can help you save on grocery and eating out expenses too.

4. Connect with Your Peers and Instructors

Your peers, past students, family members in the nursing profession and instructors can help you learn more about nursing than any book. While connecting with peers through social media may be appropriate, it is important to avoid conversations, threads, or other topics that could be construed as a poor choice of character.

For example, avoid discussions involving politics or other charged topics that could result in the dismissal from the program. In addition, it is inappropriate to connect with your instructors on social media unless required by your school.

Find or Create a Study Group

Study groups help you connect with peers and ensure you have a grasp of nursing concept. If study groups do not suit your fancy, or if you are fearful of joining existing groups, consider starting one with the peers in your class. In fact, creating a study group from your cohort and class may be the better option as you will all have a general understanding of what topics to cover at a given time.

5. Know Nursing School Policies and Resources

Nursing is a profession where assertiveness and self-management are key to success. While instructors may review nursing school policies and resources at the beginning of the term, it is up to each student to commit policies and resource availability to memory. In addition, students should also take a few consideration for when and how policies may be applied as follows:

Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario

The worst-case scenarios are those involving multiple withdrawals or other negative consequences relating to nursing school. However, knowing the worst-case outcome and process is key to completing a semester as smoothly as possible when hiccups arise.

There will be circumstances when withdrawal from a particular course may be necessary, but it is not the end of the world. Students can complete the course during the next semester, but continued withdrawals or failures within classes may result in dismissal from the program.

Therefore, most programs ask students to focus on passing, not just grades and rank. Ultimately, a passing grade is all that is essential to graduating and being authorized to sit for your nursing licensure exam.

Consider Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs are another option for students considering employment while attending nursing school. These programs may allow students the freedom to study while working, such as working in the school’s library. However, certain work-study programs may have strict time requirements, so students should not take on a work-study program during the most intense months of nursing school. In other words, avoid working in the final month of each semester, around the time of finals, and students just starting nursing school should take at least one month off from work.

Work in the Health Profession

Working in the health field is another wonderful way for students to gain experience and ensure stability in while attending nursing school. What is more, certain employers may offer financial assistance for students, like tuition reimbursement or expense assistance. Students should thoroughly review any contractual obligations required as part of such programs. Most of these programs contain a contractual obligation for students to continue working for a given facility for set length of time upon graduation.

Students who are just now beginning to consider going to nursing school should also become a Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA). This certificate is an entry-level position to nursing, and some schools may require students to become CNAs prior to applying for admission. Plus, becoming a CNA is an excellent way to get experience in the field, and it can decrease chances of being waitlisted too.

6. Manage Your Time Proactively

Create a study schedule is key to helping students stay on track, and given that nursing school can easily comprise multiple tests and course objectives per week, students should be able to determine when they need to move on to the next course. Rather than focusing a week’s’ worth of studying to a single course, varied study schedules ensure a wide overview of all topics and subjects presented for a given time period. This is proactive study and time management, but a few other tips can help make studying and time management a bit easier.

Use Active Learning Techniques During Studying

Active-learning techniques are those that actively engage the mind while studying. Instead of simply staring at a textbook and reading, students should be engaged with the context to stimulate critical thinking and learning, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Some common active-learning styles include making flashcards, working with models for anatomy and physiology classes, drawing a diagram, annotating your notes and textbooks or otherwise engaging with information. The internet is also an invaluable resource for reviewing videos and educational programs relating to specific nursing courses. Just “Google” it.

Get a Watch

While smartwatches may be the trending right now, it is not a promising idea for nursing school clinicals. Few things are more distracting than receiving incoming mail, notifications or phone calls on your wrist, and this can spell doom if an instructor sees “goofing off” during clinicals. In addition, clinicals can be a harsh environment, and expensive smartwatches may break. Instead, consider purchasing a low-cost, replaceable watch for nursing school clinicals.

Use a Planner

Planners can help students keep track of all their activities, homework assignments and other responsibilities in nursing school. Using a planner can also help students arrive on location and at the right time for nursing clinicals and off-campus classes.

Arrive to Class 15-Minutes Early

Regardless of when your classes start, it is important to arrive at least 15 minutes early. In addition, give yourself at least 30 extra minutes to get to the right part of the campus. Unfortunately, things happen, and nursing instructors are not likely excuse tardiness for any reason. Excessive tardiness may be grounds for dismissal from the nursing school program as well.

7. Set Goals

One of the most important things to remember while going to nursing school is the value in setting goals. You need something to work toward, besides completing nursing school. Set small, achievable goals throughout the year, like studying for X hours per week or learning something fascinating about the body or health care. Students who have previously taken up unhealthy habits, such as using tobacco or alcohol to excess, may also consider setting a goal to become smoke-free and alcohol-free.

8. Reward Yourself

It is easy to get bogged down in the studies and requirements of nursing school, so remember to take breaks. Reward yourself when you have accomplished something.

Spend an evening working on a hobby, or set aside a weekly recreational time to relax and enjoy yourself. In fact, pick a Friday or Saturday evening to be free from school studies, work and other responsibilities.

By setting aside time for yourself, you can help avoid procrastination by knowing you will get to relax on your chosen day. You may also consider taking up a relaxation technique to help deal with the stress. For example, controlled breathing exercises, yoga or meditation can help relieve stress through natural means, asserts the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

9. Practice Good Hygiene and Grooming

The importance of good hygiene and grooming cannot be overstated. Your instructors will look at every aspect of your personal character and grooming throughout nursing school, so it is important to ensure you have kempt appearance. Additionally, avoid wearing baggy, stretched, faded or wrinkled clothing.

Some nursing schools may require students to wear scrubs to all classes, and others may allow casual dress during routine classes. However, students should not show up to any clinical rotations wearing street clothes.

One more thing, avoid wearing jewelry that dangles or has large stones, and do not wear any type of perfume, cologne or other fragrances. Antiperspirant and deodorant are the only acceptable uses of fragrance as some scents could trigger allergic reactions among your peers and patients. Visible body piercings should be removed, and tattoos should be covered.

10. Add Tips That Work for You

The last tip is simple; use what works to help you succeed in nursing school. Create as many tips as you need, and believe in yourself. Any of these tips can be modified to accommodate your needs and learning style. Take sticky notes. Save inspirational quotes. Think about the smiles you will put on families in caring for their loved ones. Your tips and tricks can be anything. You have this power. Use it.

Revisit These Tips when you Feel Overwhelmed from Back-to-School Nursing Stress

While these tips are geared toward students preparing to start or return to nursing school in the upcoming weeks, they can also provide value and a guide for helping prospective students through the application process for nursing school as well. Their use is limited only to the imagination and career aspirations of you, the student seeking a career in health care.

Attach these tips in a place where you will see them every day, and review them when you start to feel overwhelmed. While nursing school is one of the most challenging things in life, remember it is only a stepping stone toward the rewarding career you seek. If you have not yet completed the certification requirements, you can complete your certification training requirements online today. Such certifications may also be necessary if you are seeking employment in health care as a CNA, licensed vocational or practical nurse (LVN or LPN), caregiver or other employee involved in patient care while continuing your education in nursing.

HEALTH CARE EMPLOYERS OR ORGANIZATIONS, PLEASE NOTE: We recommend distributing this document, minus this italicized text, to new and existing volunteers and employees in your facility considering or actively advancing their careers in nursing or other health care fields.

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.

Reach out to Greta at


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