How to Excel as a Nursing Student

Becoming a nurse is as challenging a process as it is rewarding! Before you can search for a job and start actively helping others replenish and nurture their health, you will need to make it through college and obtain your nursing degree. This will involve hard work, late nights, and plenty of persistence. Here are some guidelines to help you excel as a nursing student if you are keen to make the most of every moment and kick-start your career in the right direction.

Set goals from the beginning

You will obviously already know that you want to become a registered nurse (RN), but do you have any idea of what you want to specialize in, or where you see yourself in 10 years’ time? It is true that your passions and strengths are likely to evolve with time, so what you think you will be good at right now might not actually be the case when you start working. However, having a general sense of what you want to achieve throughout the course of your career acts as great motivation on those days when you are feeling worn out or overwhelmed.

So, do some thinking and explore all of the options available to you. Research how to become an FNP (family nurse practitioner), investigate the duties of a nurse anesthetist, find out what it would take for you to study beyond your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). It pays to be passionate and to have some sense of direction as you make your way through your coursework.

Manage your time effectively

Regardless of whether you study online or at a traditional college campus, you will need to spruce up your time management skills in order to ensure that you are able to keep up with your assigned workload. It helps to create both a daily and a weekly schedule that you can update/adjust as you go along. Your daily schedule should include a detailed to-do list, while your weekly schedule should act as a snapshot view of all of your upcoming deadlines and commitments.

Manage your stress levels

There is no escaping a certain amount of stress in your daily life, especially when you are a student. You will have assignments to complete, deadlines to adhere to, lectures to attend, and when you start your clinicals, actual patients to attend to. While it is impossible to eliminate all stress, it is possible to learn how to manage it in healthy ways. Prioritizing self-care is a must, so be sure to set some time aside for yourself every single day. Along with that, you might also want to think about taking up a new hobby, such as meditation, Pilates, walking, or martial arts. Due to the release of endorphins, exercise, in particular, will help you to regulate your mood and relax your mind.

Seek out support

Building up a strong support system is a great idea when you are a nursing student. This could include asking your partner or a family member to lend a helping hand when necessary. You should also build up relationships with your classmates, your lecturers, and other people involved in the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when you need it, especially if you are struggling with your coursework. Sorting out issues or knowledge gaps as you notice them can make it easier to avoid much larger problems further down the line. Luckily, if you choose your college wisely, you should have access to a host of resources and professionals who will be there to advise you at a moment’s notice.

Start investigating what to expect from the NCLEX exam

Every nursing student studying within the United States of America will be required to take the NCLEX exam shortly after graduating with their degree. You will not be able to practice as a nurse until you have managed to successfully pass this exam. The great news is that there are various practice tests that you can take online to help you adequately prepare for it and learn what to expect.

Currently, the exam takes around six hours to complete with two optional breaks, and a short tutorial included. It is recommended that you allow yourself around 60 – 90 seconds to answer each question. If you find yourself battling to answer at any point, rather leave the question and move on, coming back to it at the end if you have extra time available.

If you do not pass the exam the first time, do not stress too much about it. It is possible to re-register 45 days later to sit for it again. A number of students find that their nerves get the better of them the first time around, but usually feel a lot more relaxed the second time that they take it. Ultimately, you can take the exam as many times as necessary in order to obtain that pass!

Connect with other students

Making the effort to form connections with other nursing students is tremendously helpful, especially if you are studying through an online nursing college. It plays a role in ensuring that you don’t feel alone in your undertaking. You could take action to create a study group (you can even do this virtually using Zoom or Microsoft Teams) where students can get together and share their ideas and/or tips on how to make it through the coursework. It is also a wonderful way in which to revise the work covered in lectures or to prepare for an upcoming assignment or examination.

Start networking early

Progressing your career revolves around who you know. It is a fact that is true for all industries – the healthcare field included! As such, the more contacts that you create and nurture now, the more beneficial it will be for your future. Do your best to attend industry-relevant events, talks, and workshops and strive to speak to as many professionals as you can. Networking can seem daunting at first, but the more often you do it, the easier it will get, and the more natural it will feel.

It is also advisable to find someone who has plenty of experience in the field, or perhaps someone who holds a position that you hope to fill yourself some time in your career. Ask them to be your mentor and to guide you in terms of how to improve your skills and how to further your studies. Mentors can be excellent for moral support, too.

Gain hands-on experience

You will have the opportunity to expand on your experience once you start your clinicals – but why wait until then when you can spread your wings as a nurse in training now? There are so many organizations that welcome nursing students as volunteers to uplift and care for individuals within communities, such as the American Red Cross or International Medical Relief.

Along with racking up experience, other benefits of volunteering as a student nurse include the chance to add something impressive to your resume, gaining a better understanding of your coursework, meeting professionals working in your field, and reducing feelings of isolation, particularly if you are pursuing your nursing degree online.

Eat right

The food that you eat is what will fuel you throughout your learning journey, so be sure to make nutritious choices! Avoid the temptation of consuming fast food just because it saves time. Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of protein, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Stick to a healthy diet, and you will almost certainly notice an improvement in your mood, as well as your concentration span. If you can’t manage to prepare healthy meals during the week, make an effort to cook ahead over the weekend and freeze meal-sized portions for easy access as needed.

Embrace positive thinking

Your thoughts are a lot more powerful than you might think. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you live up to your potential, working on thinking more positively can be a great first step. Visualize your success, give yourself a morning pep talk, and constantly remind yourself of your goals, your strengths, and the reasons why you decided to pursue nursing in the first place. Focus on the good things whenever you feel overwhelmed or wonder whether you are cut out for the tasks that you are undertaking and always endeavor to speak to a counselor if, at any time, stress becomes unmanageable. Often, all that it takes is a smile and a deep breath to keep pushing forward!

The bottom line is that nursing school isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it can be a wonderful adventure if you enter into it with the right mindset and a good dose of determination. Keep up with your coursework, know when to ask for help, and never put self-care on the back-burner. Soon enough, you will have your qualification and be closer to living your dream career for the rest of your life if you want.

 

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