5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Nursing Education
Hollis Forster, RNC-NP
Anyone who has completed nursing school can tell you where they have floundered in their education. These could be big mistakes, the school they chose, or small mistakes, “boy, I didn’t read that instructor very well.” But, here are five possible pit-falls that, in my experience, might be worth side-stepping…
• Gain some first hand knowledge of the field before choosing it as a career path
Having experience with the nursing profession through volunteering, knowing friends or family involved in the field, reading, etc. This will help avoid disappointments about the basics of the career (what, how and when). When I finished nursing school, there was a couple in my class who graduated with wonderful grades, passed the RN exam and within weeks opened a nursery (as in garden) in their community. Well, nursing-nursery, it’s a common mistake. Did they know what they were getting into?
• Make a careful assessment of your career goals, short and long term
Look at your goals, to choose a direction that will most effectively work for you and your family. It’s becoming easier to complete the A.D.N. (Associate Degree in Nursing) and certification programs of nursing, because of the advance of on-line courses and other flexible alternatives to traditional class work. This makes it possible to complete one rung of the educational ladder and then work while traveling to the next, but knowing your goals and tailoring your education to the ultimate goal will save time and probably money in the long run.
• Go straight through to higher degrees if your goal is set there
If floor nursing is not for you, if you have your heart set on administration work, or other avenues of nursing that demand a Master’s degree, then begin a program that will get you there directly. Starting as an LPN and working your way up may only be frustrating. If you must work (and most of us, must) during the time it takes to achieve a Master’s degree, consider arranging an assistant position in the field you really want to pursue instead of working in a local acute care setting or physician’s office. Although, I recognize that experience on the Med-surg floor of a hospital or as a medical assistant in am ambulatory care setting can add value to any career you plan to enter.
• Avoid changing schools and leaving too much time between achieving goals
This “pit-fall” may be very similar to the one above, but I feel it is worth mentioning separately. When, or if, you change schools during an educational path, there will be classes that the new school will not accept, work experience that you might get credit for in one school may not be accepted by another and most schools (even if you are two classes from your degree) will insist that you take a minimum amount of credits from them before you graduate with a degree in their name, so be careful about choosing your school and diligent about completing a degree or certificate before moving on to the next.
• Accept that nursing school will be a MAJOR part of your life
On the first day of nursing school, my instructors said, “Don’t expect to work, or have a relationship while you are in this program.” That was many years ago, and programs have become much more “user friendly.” However, it is safe to say that nursing school is incredibly intense and very time consuming. Between the clinical and didactic hours and the out- of- class studying time, it is, to say the least, demanding. Of course, there are everyone has family obligations, and many people work while going to nursing school, but take care not to expect too much of yourself during this period. Don’t let “burn-out” affect you before you have completed your education.
To pay the bills, look for a flexible job that allows you to give the hours you need to class and study time. If you can get a position in the nursing field, you may get some credits for job experience from your program, but if not that, you can get the experience you will need to go right into a job after you complete your degree.
There are probably many other “mistakes,” or “pit-falls” that are not mentioned here or that you can imagine, write your thoughts on this subject as a response to this article and help others avoid these issues on their way to their nursing niche.