How to Face some of the Biggest Challenges of Nursing School

Student on Campus

Congratulations, you did it! You were accepted into the nursing school of your choice. It’s nothing but smooth sailing from here on out… said no nursing student ever. We know the next few years can be tough, so to help you out, we've put together a brief guide to facing some of the biggest challenges of nursing school.

1. Maintain a School-Life Balance

The most notorious of the challenges you will face, maintaining a balance between your studies/classes and your personal life, is not only difficult at times, but of critical importance to your success at both. There’s no denying that neglecting your personal life will impact your classwork and vice-versa. To make sure you keep things in balance, do your best to manage your time.

While a number of factors may be out of your control (class start times and when your child may need to be picked up from school, for example), you are able to control the time before and after daily events. Start by selecting certain hours of each day which you know you have free and then blocking them off for one aspect of your life, no questions asked. If you've got time from 7-8 p.m. on Monday night and you've been dying to catch up on Orange is the New Black, make it happen. If after dinner on Wednesday is when your son always asks to play catch outside, block it off and play some catch!

Bottom Line: If you only focus on school, you will find yourself burned out and missing out on life. Conversely, failure to focus on your studies is a recipe for disaster. Remember, although there are outside factors, how you spend your time is always up to you. You can find a school-life balance if you work on managing your time.

2. Avoid Information Overload

Thirty pages of pre-reading before class, notes taken from class itself, and now you've got how many essays to write? There’s no denying it, nursing school, like so many disciplines, bombards you with information. Moreover, this is information that you not only need to understand, but must be able to apply in a real-world scenario. So how do you make sense of it all?

There’s no silver bullet answer, you’ll have to find the technique which works for you. For example, do you find yourself staring at page after page of your textbook and realizing you just “read” entire paragraphs without actually reading any of it? If so, try reading out loud. Our minds can tend to wander, so to better maintain focus, read aloud to keep your mind on the task at hand.

In that same vein, if you find it difficult to understand a particular concept, try explaining it back to someone. Reach out to fellow classmates or email your professor. Explain the idea back in your own words to see if you've grasped it correctly.

Lastly, before you try to sift back through pages of notes looking for key information for your essay, save time by highlighting notable information as you first take your notes. Just be judicious. If you find yourself highlighting entire pages in your notebook, you’ll need to reassess how you choose what is important. But if you can start to highlight specific sentences and thoughts, you’ll have an easier time knowing what was emphasized during class when you look back.

Bottom Line: There’s a lot of information to absorb in nursing school, but using good study tactics can give you the best chance of taking it all in.

3. The NCLEX

There’s no way we could leave this off the list. The NCLEX can be the biggest challenge any nursing student faces, bar none. So, what tips can we offer which aren't listed in giant NCLEX review books? For starters, if you bought a review book, don’t wait until you are six weeks out from the exam to dive into it. If anything, buy it and crack it open on day one of your first course. Use it as a constant resource and referral tool. Referencing the book as you progress through your education will help frame the importance of certain courses and topics, as well as give you an idea of what will be expected for the NCLEX. Additionally, early access to NCLEX-style questions will help shape your clinical judgment skills and will ultimately have an effect on the level of care you are able to provide upon graduation.

You’ll also want to take advantage of as many practice questions as you can get your hands on. The more familiar you are with the phrasing and style of NCLEX questions, the less of an impact they will have on you during the actual exam. Time spent on practice questions will also continue to keep your knowledge fresh.

Bottom Line:  It's never too early to start prepping for the NCLEX. If you have a review book, use it along with your course materials to better understand what will be important for the exam. Make sure to also take advantage of practice questions.

These insights are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to facing the challenges of nursing school. If you've got your own tips and tricks for tackling the experiences of becoming a nurse, comment below and share them with us!

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