Nurse student taking notes

Your decision to pursue a career as a registered nurse has the potential to be the start of the most rewarding and fulfilling time of your life.

Although it is an essential first step to your dream job, there are crucial aspects to understand before you enroll in nursing school. Therefore, now is the perfect time to research nursing school requirements and demands to clarify doubts and misconceptions. 

Becoming a nurse sometimes gets challenging, so it's logical to feel overwhelmed initially. However, starting preparations earlier is an effective way to ensure a successful career.

Physical and Mental Health

Nursing school is often academically challenging but can also be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.

However, nursing school will be a breeze with a positive attitude, commitment, dedication, and adequate preparation. 

A Good Regime of Exercise

The class schedules in nursing school are highly demanding. You’ll often have early starts and long days occupied by various lectures and lab work.

Some helpful tips to endure the demanding schedules include: 

  • Maintain a consistent workout schedule based on the flexibility of your coursework. 

  • Pursue more hobbies that require some physical activity 

  • Take a brief walk outside in between classes or before lunch

  • Take the stairs whenever possible

  • Chair exercises when inputting patient data will keep you alert

  • Complete some isolation exercises like lunges and squats during breaks

These things sound basic, but they are essential for your physical health. Your role as a nurse requires you to spend much time on your feet. Incorporating physical activities early on will keep you fit enough to start your career right after nursing school.

A Good Balance of Research, Reading, and Socializing

Most college students who study without maintaining a social life experience significant anxiety and stress.

According to research, about 45% of college students in the US experience more than average stress levels. Luckily, there are effective ways to help you balance reading, research, and social life.

Adopt a Manageable Schedule

Once you start nursing school, one essential skill you must master is organizing your schedule. You'll have to allocate time for coursework, reading journals, writing reports, and clinical rotations.

Managing your time between tasks and deadlines will make all the difference to your stress levels. In addition, ensure you create time for socializing and personal needs.

When using a planner, include your social life and self-care besides school work. You can also try strategies to optimize your productivity. 

For instance, the 90:20 approach involves using 90 minutes for school-related duties followed by 20-minute breaks for unrelated tasks such as spending time with friends or family.

You can also allocate a specific time for school work and spend the rest of your day on personal errands and socializing without worrying about resuming the severe stuff.

Whichever strategy you settle on, the essential thing is to create a healthy routine to train your mind to remain productive. 

Time Management is Key

Time management is an essential skill you must learn from the beginning. The first step is determining how much time you have, considering everything else happening outside school work.

Ensure you include appointments, events, gatherings, and anything that requires your attention in your planner. It helps you narrow how much time you have to catch up with friends and family.

Establishing a daily routine is also a healthy habit that ensures you set aside time for a vibrant social life. If you have a family, ensure you create time daily and determine a specific time. For instance, you can decide to have dinner every day or at any other convenient time. 

The time may be short, but the regularity will have a significant impact.

Maintain Communication with friends and family 

Talking to your loved one about your upcoming schedule and anticipated changes help to ensure everyone understands that the new normal will only be temporary.

You can also discuss the same with your friends to let them know you may have limited time to meet. Again, it helps you determine the times that work for both parties to ensure your relationships remain strong. 

Having a support system during nursing school will make the journey less challenging. Whenever you’re away, try your best to keep in touch with your loved ones.

Integrate Activities

Joining nursing school doesn't mean sacrificing your social life altogether. On the contrary, after long hours of school work, decompressing in the company of loved ones, friends, and fellow students is a great way to rejuvenate. 

Integrating social activities into your school work helps to maintain your mental health. It's also an effective way to enhance your interpersonal skills to handle patients compassionately.

Since you'll spend most of your time with your coursemates and clinical group, it would help nurture relationships with them. 

It's also easier to bond with people who understand your challenges. Having similar schedules means it's easier to coordinate meet-ups.

You can also combine routine activities with socializing, such as working out with friends or including a family member when running errands. 

Healthy Nutritional Diet

A busy schedule shouldn't be your excuse to have poor eating habits. However, as a nursing student, ensuring your diet has many minerals and vitamins to keep your brain healthy is vital.

Try to eat more foods that enhance energy and stamina, such as nuts, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. Oatmeal, beans, berries, chicken, and healthy fats like avocado and olives are also essential.

Healthy meal

Fish is rich in Vitamins B2 and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and lean protein. These nutrients benefit your brain, keeping your memory and focus on point through nursing school.

Oilier fish like sardines, tuna, and wild salmon have high levels of DHA. It lowers the risk of heart attack and blood pressure while enhancing memory retention.

Nutrition is more than just the food you eat; it also involves how you eat it. Binge eating and skipping meals can cause fatigue and irritability.

Ensure you do your best to:

  • Minimize alcohol and caffeine

  • Hydrate regularly throughout your day

  • Have a regular eating schedule, grabbing a bite to eat after every four to five hours

  • Avoid snacks from vending machines and carry healthy meals and snacks instead 

  • If you prefer eating in the school or hospital cafeteria, ensure you plan your purchase to prevent impulse buying snacks

  • Create a meal plan and integrate it into your shopping list

Networking and Support Groups

The best part about starting a career in nursing is that you will have an in-built professional network from the beginning. These experts understand the ins and outs of the profession and have likely experienced everything you'll face. 

Nursing associations offer support to their members and are essential when creating professional networks. 

The National Student Nurses Association is the most extensive association for nursing students in the US. You can attend national and regional meetings in your area to interact with some of the 60,000 members.

The American Nurses Association also offers various services to nursing school students. It's an excellent platform to connect with professional nurses to mentor and advise you along your journey.

Join Nursing Groups on Social Media

It’s easy to find online groups where nursing students network and interact. A quick Google search will direct you to various groups around you, such as the Nursing Student Network.

These groups consist of thousands of nursing and healthcare professionals willing to help aspiring students seeking guidance. Join groups in your specialty area, remain active, ask questions, and don't shy away from discussions. 

Speak to Current Students at Nursing School

One common thing among students and graduates of nursing programs is the willingness to assist and uplift other students following the same path.

Ensure you remain updated on your school calendar and attend various events to interact with other students ahead of you. Since they were in your shoes, they understand the common challenges and can share insights on how to overcome them. 

The best way to start growing your professional network is by establishing strong relationships with nursing instructors. Talk to your instructors outside class and share your goals and challenges. 

Such discussions are surprisingly effective since your success reflects well on your instructors. 

Reading Recommendations to Prepare for Nursing School

Nursing is a fulfilling yet challenging profession. As a nurse, it’s essential to master the human aspect and the technical side of healthcare.

These books focus on nursing, written for nurses or by nurses. They feature inspirational and uplifting stories, thought-provoking insights, and advice on handling challenges you may face in nursing school.

The Shift: 1 Nurse, 12 Hours, 4 Patients' Lives by Theresa Brown

The author, Theresa Brown, is a professional nurse and renowned columnist for The New York Times. In the book, she discusses a nurse's responsibilities within only twelve hours. 

The book shares deeper insights into the profession, explaining how major hospitals and healthcare works. In addition, you’ll learn the rewards and challenges of pursuing a nursing career. 

Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses

Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses is an essential resource for nursing professionals and students. The guide includes all you need to understand about drugs, such as the side effects, how they work in the body, indications, and contraindications. 

The guide covers about 2,500 brands and over 1,000 generic drug products. It has monographs with simple features such as: 

  • Key clinical points

  • Boxed warnings

  • Dosing instructions

  • Tips for patients and caregivers regarding medications at home or when traveling

This guide also has a comprehensive introduction to pharmacology to prepare you for nursing school. You'll also learn all about drugs, from anticoagulants to antibiotics, to give you the confidence to start your nursing career.

I Wasn't Strong Like This When I Started: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse by Lee Gutkind.

Lee Gutkind is an outstanding author, writing about medicine, science, and technology for over thirty years. This incredible collection of authentic narratives illustrates how nurses are the invisible glue holding the healthcare system together. 

The book explores the trials and tribulations hard-working nurses face as emotional human beings. 

You’ll understand the demands of professional ethics and personal struggles, such as coping with the sadness when working with patients near the end of their lives. It gives you an idea of how it feels working in an emergency room in a busy hospital and other diverse stories. 

Nursing School Thrive Guide by Maureen Osuna

As an aspiring nursing student, this will be one of the best books you'll come across. The author skillfully discusses healthy study, learning habits, and handling coursework while remaining organized. 

The book also highlights optimizing the value of study groups and clinical rotations.

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing by Amy Y. Young

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing is a compilation of humorous incidents from various nurse submissions, interviews, nursing journals, and books.

Inspired by real-life events nurses experienced, the humor in this book is particular to nurses and people within the profession. The stories include illustrations and cartoons to integrate comedy into challenging situations. 

It’s the book you’ll want to read to help you rewind after a long, exhausting day. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Nursing School Experience?

Nursing school is different, as your study habits will be different. There are numerous materials to learn, so it’s essential to adjust your study habits to optimize your information intake and retention.

There are various ways to get information from sources besides coursework, lectures, and textbooks. For areas where you don't fully understand the reading materials, it’s best to acquire real experience by volunteering for related activities.

The first semester may be challenging, but you'll quickly adapt if you understand what's ahead and prepare adequately for the journey. 

How Are Nursing School Exams? 

Nursing school exams have a different structure than what you came across in hard sciences. Nursing is not straightforward or black and white, making the exams challenging. 

Hacking these exams requires you to develop the ability to understand what the examiner wants from you. The tests don't exist to make you fail but rather to provoke your thinking in specific ways. 

This thinking is necessary to ensure you succeed in your nursing career.

What’s the Structure of Nursing Classes? 

Nursing schools have different curricula, but your first semester generally includes three to four lecture days and two days dedicated to lab simulations.