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7 Tips to Prepare for Nursing School

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated June 8, 2023
    Nursing students must prepare to meet the challenges of nursing school. Develop these seven habits to raise your chances for success.
    Nursing students studying notes togetherCredit: Getty Images
    • Nursing school requires proper preparation to meet the challenges of the program.
    • Nurses can work in a variety of environments, enjoy a flexible schedule, and earn competitive pay.
    • Students who form good study habits, balance their priorities, don’t procrastinate, and attend all classes can raise their potential for success.

    Nursing school is challenging. But with proper preparation and good study habits, you can enjoy a mentally stimulating, emotionally rewarding, and financially profitable career. Before choosing a nursing program, be sure to research its graduation rate. High graduation rates can indicate that programs adequately support students through graduation.

    Some top reasons students do not finish nursing programs include a lack of faculty support and tutoring, good study habits and time management skills, and identifying failing students early.

    Review the benefits of choosing a nursing career and seven tips that can help you to prepare for nursing school.

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    The Benefits of Pursuing a Career in Nursing

    The nursing shortage remains a primary strain on the healthcare sector before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. An aging population and workforce are two main obstacles healthcare institutions face in the coming decade that also will impact a rising shortage of healthcare workers.

    While the nursing profession has undeniable challenges, there are multiple rewards and benefits, like excellent job security and benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% growth rate in registered nursing jobs from 2021-31 and an average annual salary of $89,010.

    Nurses can choose from a variety of workplace environments, including hospitals, physician offices, prisons, community centers, and home health. Many of these positions offer scheduling flexibility and varying levels of autonomy and control.

    Nurses can also pursue many opportunities for career and education advancement, including the ability to change their specialty without going back to school. Finally, travel nurse positions offer nurses the chance to get paid to travel and see the country.

    Although nursing is a rewarding career for many, nursing students must overcome some obstacles to reach their goals. Taking the time to prepare for nursing school can increase your potential for success.

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    How to Prepare for Nursing School

    As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Preparation is not always fun or exciting, but it can boost your confidence and raise your chances for success. Carefully consider the following seven tips to help you prepare for nursing school and achieve your goals.

    1 | Form Good Study Habits

    In the words of Robert Collier, American author: “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.”

    You may find the thought of studying for hours to complete your degree completely overwhelming. Yet, study habits are small efforts you make each day that add up to big rewards.

    Instead of thinking about the big picture, commit to creating doable and productive study habits that support your goals. For example, don’t cram a week’s worth of studying into a weekend. Study for several hours each day, and you’ll have time to relax a little on the weekends.

    Figure out how you learn best and lean into that style. For example, kinesthetic learners remember best after rewriting their class notes. Consider using a recorder during class, and remember to take appropriate breaks during your study time to improve your cognitive function and memory.

    2 | Focus on One Week at a Time

    The first few months of nursing school are demanding, and you may feel that you will not meet expectations. This is a common experience for new nursing students. The best way to address these overwhelming feelings is to focus on the present.

    In the first weeks, this may mean focusing on finishing your tasks for the day. As a month or two passes, you’ll be able to focus on the tasks one week at a time.

    3 | Find Balance to Manage Stress

    Gather a support network of family and friends to help you during times when you can’t handle the stress of classwork, challenging clinicals, or waning self-confidence. These are the people who can help you find and maintain school/work/life balance.

    Seek out time management strategies that can help manage the challenges you’ll face. For instance, create a menu on Saturday and do meal prep for the week on Sunday. You’ll be better able to face stress when you’re eating nutritious food that doesn’t take all evening to prepare.

    Recognize it’s ok to say “no.” For a short time, you’ll need to prioritize school and studying. After you’ve graduated, you’ll have many opportunities to help others, join causes, and have fun.

    Remember to exercise daily, even if it’s only a walk. Exercise is a good stress reducer and helps you attain your best health.

    4 | Join a Study Group

    You may have studied independently in high school, but nursing school is a different matter. Students who study with their peers remember more of what they learn. Peers also offer encouragement and support if the content is harder than you anticipated. Groups of three are most effective to learn new study tips and improve school performance.

    5 | Attend Every Class

    First-year college students often get heady with newfound autonomy and independence. You might be tempted to skip class, but don’t. There is a lot of science content to cover in a short amount of time. Nursing school is designed to challenge students and progress at a rigorous pace. Missing even one class can set you back.

    6 | Be Prepared to Read and Comprehend

    Nursing school requires students to read a lot of material and comprehend it. In high school, you may have regurgitated dates, names, and places for exams. But, in nursing school, you are required to know the information and integrate it.

    Nursing students read a lot of material. Don’t get left behind. The amount of reading may feel overwhelming, but consuming it in bite-sized pieces allows you to learn the information. Avoid binge reading. Instead, read a little, think about it, articulate it out loud to yourself or another nursing student, and then move on.

    7 | Use Breaks Judiciously

    Take 10-minute breaks every 45 minutes to an hour instead of spending all your time studying. Breaks help maintain your motivation and enthusiasm, and a short change of scenery can help improve retention.

    Getting a few minutes of fresh air, a hot shower, or coffee with friends can be an incentive to get you through the tough times.

    Nursing school is a challenging commitment, but one you can complete with a plan. To stay motivated, remember why you want to become a nurse and how your new career can change your life and the lives of others. It’s time to pursue your passion and put your plans into action.