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Survive Nursing School

Survive Nursing School

Beth Anderson, RN

You’ve gotten through your prerequisites and you’ve gotten accepted to the nursing school of your choice. Congratulations! Now comes the hard part. Remember how challenging your Anatomy and Physiology course was? Now you have to deal with Pathophysiology and Pharmacology (Known as “Path” and “Pharm” to the seasoned nursing student). And on top of your courses you will be attending clinicals. Clinicals are your on the job training to expose you to what it is that nurses actually do. Here is some advice to get you through:


The way you approach studying will determine how successful in nursing school you will be. You will need to define your style of studying. Find out what works for you. Are you better off in groups or better off working independently? If you do well in groups you will find no shortage of students to join up with. Many nursing students use flash cards. These work well with when you need to memorize long lists of drug names and diseases. You can make them yourself or purchase them in the NursingLink store.

Are you a visual learner? Try drawing lots of charts and diagrams to help learn complex concepts. Many students tape their professors and review the lessons at a later time. Make sure you get a professor’s permission before you do this.

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You will also need to sharply hone your test-taking skills. Many nursing school tests are in the multiple choice format so it’s wise to learn all that you can about how to successfully answer these types of questions.


Nursing clinicals are what really get you ready for working in the healthcare setting. During clinicals, you will spend time working side by side with actual nurses, so you can get a feel for what it is they actually do. Many students find clinicals to be stressful at first. You worry about whether you will make a mistake that could actually harm a patient. Nursing students joke about this (“I made it through clinicals toady with out killing anyone!”) but the truth of the matter is that you can find yourself in some very stressful situations. Your best approach is to use your common sense. Don’t do anything that doesn’t appear to be safe. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you feel like you are at the bottom of the totem pole and people are looking down on you, don’t. Every single person in the hospital from the Director of Medicine to an X-ray technician started out as a student at one point in their career.

Many nursing students worry about whether or not they are getting enough clinical skills. These days, many nursing schools are using clinical simulation labs to teach nursing skills. In the lab students can practice their skills on mannequins that have been specially designed to simulate actual medical conditions.

If you are still feeling stressed out about clinicals, just accept this stress for what it is and move on. Make sure you get enough sleep and you eat a good breakfast. You don’t want to be the student that passes out on the floor on your first day because you haven’t slept and your blood sugar has bottomed out. I’ve seen this happen more than once, with nursing students and with med students.

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