Making the choice to leave my full-time job to pursue a career in nursing was super challenging and extremely easy all at the same time. Shockingly the easy part was giving my two weeks notice at my former job as an Event Sales Manager. From there on out it was quite the journey; thats not to say that it wasn't worth it because I'm super excited to be on this journey. At some point I'll share what made me decide to go into nursing, but for now I'm going to let you in on a few things I wish someone had told me before I started.
If you have heard that the first semester of nursing school is the easiest semester; you're not wrong. Its true that the first semester of nursing school is the easiest compared to the rest of the program. However, I wouldn't go as far as to say that the material itself is easy to master. In my opinion there are two main reasons for this, the first is the dreaded NCLEX style question. The second would be the extensive amount of material that will be covered on each exam (especially if you're starting an accelerated program like me). Luckily for your this leads me to my two most valuable tips. I'm not even kidding - if someone would have told me this before my first exam I probably wouldn't have flunked!
Tip number one, practice questions! NCLEX questions are all based on critical application of the information you learned reading the textbook and during your lecture. First of all when you first glance at the question and the answer choices they all sort of seem correct. The object is to find the "most correct" answer, and please don't even get me started on select all that apply questions; in the beginning of the semester they actually make me want to scream during tests. The more practice questions you do and the more often you do them you will become more comfortable with this form of questioning. After I started adding practice questions to my study routine I was able to raise my exam grade 16 points from one exam to the next! I would reccomend googling questions and even searching the names of the chapters in your textbook followed by practice questions before you start so you can get the hang of it before you become overwhelmed by homework and other classes. There's also review questions at the end of the chapter that will help you out a lot too!
While we're talking about your textbooks let me give you another tip I wish I would have taken before I started. Start your reading early! The first semester of nursing school will be a lot of reading. Some of our Fundamentals exams covered as many as 11 chapters. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start familiarizing yourself with the material. Think of it like an appetizer before the main entree. Trust me, make friends with your textbook now and you will thank me later.
This next tip is one that was actually shared with me prior to beginning my program. However, I neglected to heed the advice; get yourself into a nighttime and sleep routine. If you already have this one down than I salute you because this is still a work in progress for me. I'm naturally a night owl who prefers to sleep in until 10 and go to bed at 4am (we're going to blame 10 years in hospitality for this one, okay?). Anyone who has been through nursing school will tell you that it is a mental marathon and can be exhausting. Sleep is important and it won't do you any favors to stay up all night and then be frantically chugging coffee the next morning to try and focus in class. With that being said, Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't be able to reset your sleep cycle in one either. Ideally give yourself a month or at least two weeks minimum to work on this.
If you enjoy shopping, especially for organizational tools and office supplies this will be right up your ally. Get yourself a day planner! I'm one of those strange people who could wander around a staples or the stationary section of a Target and get lost for hours. My favorite part of the new year is picking out my new planner. I know that not everyone loves this as much as I do, but trust me having a single place to keep track of all of your quiz, exam and homework due dates will save you so much stress and anxiety in the future. If you get and use your planner you can copy the syllabus due dates into it right away and then you don't need to stress about holding onto a bunch of random papers for an entire semester, or worse rely on your classmates to tell you when important dates are coming up.
Finally, some of your fiends won't understand your new schedule and lifestyle. This one will be a tough pill to swallow for all of my fellow social butterflies, but its important to be aware of the possibility before you start school. The truth is that most people who have never been through a nursing program don't understand how challenging it is. After you graduate your job will be to care for and advocate for people, and those people are putting their lives in your hands. One mistake and someone can die. Therefore the training is harder, and it should be. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "C's get d
egrees" well that isn't the case in nursing school, and your friends might not be aware of the intense grading curve for nursing courses. They might invite you out every weekend and then be upset when you can't make it because when they were in school they were able to go out on the weekends because the only studying required was a quick review of their notes the night before the test. When you find yourself getting bummed out about this just remember that nursing school isn't forever, and your true friends will understand and support you!
I hope that these tips gave you a little inside information on what to expect once you start school again. Try to remember that its everyone else's first day too and you'll all get the hang of it in no time. Your professors and advisor are also a wealth of information and are there to help you succeed. If you have a question specific to a particular class or school policy don't hesitate to send them an email and ask. If you have any questions for me please send them to me through the box at the bottom of the page!