9 Back-to-School Tips for Nursing Students

Ann Feeney
Updated August 29, 2023
    Returning to nursing school can be an adjustment. Take advantage of these back-to-school tips for nursing students to start the new school year strong.
    Nursing students taking notes in classCredit: Getty Images
    • Going back to nursing school is a transition.
    • You can use evidence-based practices to succeed as a nursing student.
    • Help your mind, body, and emotions thrive during nursing school with these tips.

    Whether you’re returning to nursing school or entering your final year as a nursing student, going back to school is an adjustment. As you prepare for the new nursing school year, you can set yourself up for success by paying attention to all aspects of your mental, physical, and emotional wellness.

    This guide shares tips on managing the transition back to nursing school and hitting the ground running. Explore more ways to prepare your mind and body to have a great year.

    Advice for Nursing Students

    Your Memory and Mind

    1 | Reflect

    One way you can prepare for going back to school is reflecting on what went well the previous year in nursing school and what did not go as well as you’d hoped. Make a conscious plan to replicate what worked and figure out a new approach to succeed in the areas that didn’t work as well. Consider getting back in touch with any study groups or study partners you had and share ideas and tips. Reflective practice is also an excellent skill to cultivate when you graduate and are working as a nurse.

    2 | Remember

    Any time you return to nursing school after an absence, you have to fight a phenomenon known as the forgetting curve. When you form a memory, your recall declines over time unless you recall it so often that it becomes permanent. One of the most efficient ways of doing this is by reminding yourself of the information regularly but with longer times between each reminder. You can use your old books or notes to identify anything important you’ve forgotten. Set a time to remind yourself tomorrow and then two, three, and four days after. This strategy is like exercising slightly more each time you go to the gym.

    3 | Solidify

    Another way to retain and sharpen your memory is the Feynman technique. To do this, you solidify your understanding of a nursing school topic by explaining it in very simple language to another person. This can be a real person, ideally someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic, or it can be an imaginary person or even a pet. The Feynman technique has a special advantage for nursing students since, as a nurse, you often need to explain things to a patient or family member.

    Many other evidence-based approaches for learning and remembering can help you succeed as you return to nursing school. Some may work better for you than others, so try another approach if one does not work as well for you as you would like.

    Your Mental and Emotional Wellness

    4 | Mindfulness

    Returning to school can be stressful. Mindfulness meditation can help you manage nursing school stress, which will help you stay healthy in all aspects of wellness. Nursing students often experience more stress than other students, so make sure to give yourself time to maintain your mental and emotional health.

    5 | Focus

    These tips for maintaining focus can be helpful, especially when you’re adjusting to the new nursing school year. Some suggestions are also excellent for your physical health, including spending time outside, planning meals ahead of time, and exercising regularly. If you have a condition like ADHD, your school can help you find resources such as learning coaching.

    6 | Stress management

    If clinicals caused you stress during your previous year of nursing school, it can help to remember that every nursing student feels this way. Keep in mind that clinicals are a learning experience rather than a situation where you are expected to have all the answers. If you start feeling more stress than you can handle, contact campus mental health resources, a teacher you trust, peers, or family for support.

    7 | Friendship

    Friendship is important for learning in nursing school, and building a support network can help you get through the harder parts. Connect with peers, faculty, staff, and others to help you feel supported. Keep in mind that nursing schools offer mental health support because it is normal for students to need them at times, so take advantage of them.

    Your Body

    8 | Sleep

    Getting your body ready is as important as preparing your mind to go back to school. If you had an erratic sleep schedule over the summer, start now to get your body used to the schedule you’ll follow in school. Getting enough sleep is vital to your academic success as a nursing student and your health and resilience. Starting and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule will help you in every aspect of nursing school.

    9 | Consumption

    Plan to avoid excessive drinking or peer pressure to drink more than you should. While drinking may appear to temporarily reduce stress as a nursing student, developing a drinking problem will create far more stress over the long term. If you find yourself experiencing peer pressure to drink, make a conscious effort to make friends with students who do not pressure you to drink or model excessive drinking. When your group norm is to avoid excessive alcohol in nursing school or other risky behaviors, it is much easier to succeed.

    Putting It All Together

    Nursing school is stressful, but by preparing yourself mentally and physically, you can overcome these challenges and have a rewarding experience. By cultivating mindfulness, using effective memory and learning tips, taking advantage of mental health resources, and taking good care of your body, you can prepare to crush the new nursing school year.