Posted by: Ingrid | June 19, 2017

Five things I wish someone had told me about Nursing School

More than a month ago I completed the first year of nursing school. This means one more year and the NCLEX to get my RN and then… I don’t know. My BSN? MSN? Doctorate in nursing so that I can be Dr. Nurse?

The completion of this year is a testament to an encouraging husband, my live-in father for half the year, encouragement from friends and family along the lines of “this really won’t get any easier as your kids get bigger”, my husband’s fantastic and understanding supervisor, excellent day care providers, and a good deal of hard work on my part. No thanks to my children who would prefer that I not be in school and who got sick on SEVEN clinical days in the spring (when there was no back-up plan), causing my husband to miss seven instructional days.

On the whole, particularly when I stumbled back on the many many many many thoughts I’d had about the nursing school process over the past eight years it has taken to get here, I am grateful to have come this far. It is infinitely easier for me to dream big for others while coloring in the lines for myself. Not pursing a degree in medicine and turning down a semester in Oxford both come to mind. So here I am! Pursing my education with four kids and still standing! All that aside there are a few big picture things that it is helpful for anyone to know who is contemplating nursing school, things that I wish I’d known before the beginning of the school year.

  1. You will be stressed most of the time. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. Nursing school is intense and demanding and there are often things that are announced suddenly or rescheduled. There is not enough time to go to class, read the book adequately, prep for clinicals, and study. If you like to do things well (like I do), this will drive you crazy. If you have this personality then you as a student will then drive your stressed out teachers crazy (true story). It is the circle of life in nursing school. Everyone is crazy and everyone is stressed and no one actually gets to take the anti-anxiety meds we talk about all the time.
  2. All the Pinterest memes are true. It is really fun to know the jargon of a particular group and to understand the inside jokes. Go onto Pinterest and search nursing and humor. Then start nursing school and discover that it’s all true. The teacher and textbook will disagree, you really will tell patients that it’s not your first IV start (but will leave out the fact that all the rest were practiced on a giant doll), you will be told repeatedly that “Even though your answer was correct, it was not the best correct answer”, and you will find that normal nursing exams are harder than most finals. This will be both a source of pride (My school is so much harder than your school.) and anxiety (How many cumulative finals can you really take during finals week!?!)
  3. People will be the best and worst part. In my limited experience, most nurses are very J on the Meyer Briggs spectrum. This is awesome when a nurse is assessing a traumatic situation and determining what to do first. This is less awesome when you are stuck in a room full of J’s and instructed by J’s and everyone is stressed out. Things can get ugly pretty fast. And everyone is almost always stressed. Try to keep your head up and stay away from gossip (even though it is way more fun than chatting about lab values). Your classmates, instructors, patients, and nursing staff at the clinical sites will sometimes make you so happy that you chose nursing and other times make you want to quit at that very moment. Remember the nurses at your clinical sites and let both the positive and negative experiences guide how you treat students after you graduate.
  4. Nursing school isn’t supposed to be comfortable. It is rigorous and tiring. You are constantly learning new information and skills that you are then supposed to practice on real people before you feel like you should be allowed to go near anyone with an IV, catheter, or educational material. I have had 20 weeks of clinicals at this point (160 hours) and I have not had a day I didn’t feel awkward, out of place, and on the verge of making huge mistakes. I don’t have any great advice for this, except to get through it and do your best to be professional and competent. Awkward is the new normal, so be awkward with a smile!
  5. The rest of life will get trampled by nursing school. You can do nursing school. I am proof that you can have kids and do nursing school and do it well. But the rest of your life will suffer. You will not have as much time with your kids, family, significant other, or friends. Your diet and exercise (gaining 20 pounds the first year of nursing school is a real thing) and work and anything scheduled will take a back seat to nursing school. It will be hard to keep up with friends. The house won’t get cleaned, you won’t complete projects, and just getting the laundry done will feel monumental. The thing is, you will make it through because you are running on massive amounts of stress. Make sure you buckle up for the winter and summer breaks, however. I was unprepared going into summer break. Instead of relief, I felt massively behind and exhausted. I promptly gained 5 pounds, have had terrible running, and have been tired and dragging for more than a month. I had to give up my marathon because I wasn’t able to get in my long runs during the last three weeks of school and was too tired to care in the end. As an introvert, I feel beyond depleted. Just remember that nursing school will take over your life and that you are paying for it to do so but it’s not forever (unless you die before you graduate, I guess). Do your best to give yourself grace at the end of the semester (something I am trying very hard to do) because you will just be that tired.

Two more months before I head back for round two and it already feels like the summer is slipping through my fingers!


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