Nursing School - Surviving the First Year!
It is difficult to describe the feelings that occur when we decide to take a leap and enroll in nursing school. This is true whether we are beginning our career in nursing, or returning to school for an advanced degree. It is even more difficult to describe the feelings that occur during that all-important first year, when, whether we “sink or swim”, is likely to be determined.
There is much written about the “keys to success” in school, but the fact is that these keys are different for each individual. There are some general propositions which hold true, however:
■Be sure that going to a nursing school is what you want to do. If you are already a nurse and are returning to school, that may be an easy decision. If you have no prior exposure to nursing or healthcare in general, you may want to do some research with regards to nursing programs that are available and job opportunities for you after graduation. Find a nursing program that meets your needs, whether it is a traditional program near your home or a distance learning program.
■If you are new to nursing and find that it isn’t what you want, get out and find your niche in another area. Not everybody is cut out to be a nurse, and that’s okay.
■Understand that nursing school is a huge commitment, both in terms of time and resources. Make sure that you tell this to your family and friends. It will be important for you to have their support and understanding at various times during your first year, as well as subsequent years.
■Be realistic in terms of financial issues. Take a look at the cost of the program, and also explore for potential sources of financial assistance. There may be scholarship money or federal aid available to you. The financial aid counselor at the school will be able to assist you in locating available resources.
■If it has been a while since you have been in school, you may want to start slowly by taking one pre-requisite course. You may want to brush up on your writing skills, math, or computer skills. Self-confidence can help you through tough times, and if you are successful and feel that you have “learned to study” once again, the idea of nursing school may not seem as intimidating.
■Get to know your advisor. He/she can be a big help to you during the course of the nursing program. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your advisor or faculty.
■Develop time management skills for nurses. Make a written schedule of your daily activities if you need to, but understand that you may need to deviate from time to time. If you are working while attending school (and most of us do), you will be juggling a lot of responsibility, but you can succeed if you are able to prioritize tasks, and not procrastinate on assignments, studying, etc.
■Take care of yourself. It is important not to forget that you have a life outside of work and school, and that you have a body that needs attention. Exercise, eating a healthy diet, and stress management activities can make a big difference. Do whatever works for you.
■Always keep the final outcome in mind. Think of yourself at work in a challenging and rewarding nursing career with the opportunity to change the lives of others while making better than average pay. Understand that there may be days when you wonder what you were thinking when you enrolled, but there will be many more days when you know exactly why you chose to become a nurse.
Nursing school is much more than job training. It provides us with the opportunity to have a respected nursing profession with unlimited options. The first year of school may be challenging at times, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. It really is worth it!