Don’t let the hot, lazy August days lull you into a false sense of security. Come September, it’s back to school, and if you are a first-year nursing student, you’ll have to kick it into high gear very quickly. Nursing school, as any former freshman will tell you, is hard work. However, there are some things you can do to make it easier to transition to top a nursing student. Here’s how:

1. Talk/Socialize with nurses and other nursing students

No man, woman or nurse is an island. You’ll need friends in nursing school because you’ll need all the support you can get to weather tough patients, overnight clinical hours, and a demanding class schedule. Just ask Kim Kaur, who reported on NursingTimes.net; she had no intention of making any friends when she enrolled in nursing school after her husband died, leaving her with three children to support. “I’d sit on my own, I wouldn’t go to events. Then towards the end of the first year I started doing group work and had to interact with other students,” she writes. “That’s when I realized how important it was to socialize.”  Kaur’s buddies in her second year became a valued asset in her life. “We weren’t going out very often – that wasn’t the point. It was about talking to each other about issues we were dealing with and encouraging each other.” For those taking online courses, or who don’t find many likable classmates, the internet offers some excellent chat sites for nurses and nursing students – an excellent example is allnurses.com.

2. Join a Study Group

Nursing school – like the nursing profession – is a constant challenge with much pressure. As one nursing student put it, “your mistakes won’t take the form of typos. They’ll take the form of injuries and death.” That’s why it’s important to build good study habits – and a study group helps form them.  “During my first semester I studied by myself or with one other person. I crammed for tests the night or two nights before. I never read or retained anything from lecture. There are many, many more things I did wrong my first semester that I wish I knew better,” writes Christi B., on evolve.excelsier.com.

3. Get a Planner

Juggling homework, clinical demands, regular study time, papers and exams – a good organizational planner is essential for any student, but particularly for a nursing student. Preferably, you should write major items down on a calendar that you post to the wall, so you can see clearly and prioritize the larger scale projects and build in time every day to work towards finishing them.

4. Ask many questions

A good nurse is not afraid to ask many questions; understanding your patients, the doctors, and your colleagues is a key part of becoming a great nurse. So build up the practice of asking in class or on clinical rounds when you don’t understand something or need clarification.

5. Buy a Book (and start studying) for the NCLEX

Heather Keys blog, I Am A Nursing Student, discusses the importance of getting a head start on studying for this national licensing exam. Every potential nurse must pass this and the questions are designed to help you think more analytically –  that’s how teachers will train you to think. “[Your instructors] won’t ask ‘What is this disease?’ as much as they will ask ‘What is the priority thing you need to watch when a person has this disease?’ They won’t ask ‘What does this medicine treat?’ so much as they will ask ‘What lab value do you need to monitor when these two medicines are combined?’ This principle should hold true for any course, so when you study you should try to think on a higher level than simple fact regurgitation.”

6. Take care of your own health

Take time out in the day to exercise and get enough sleep. Don’t drink too much and – another good point from Heather – if you are addicted to caffeine and cigarettes, try to kick the habit. “You are going to be a nurse,” she explains. “Set a good example. The immediate gratification will cost more in the long run.”

Nursing school can be tough, but we know you are tougher. Rise to the challenge, and the experience will make you a better person, ready for anything life can throw you – not just nursing.

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