A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student

by | Sep 18, 2013 | Nursing School and NCLEX® | 0 comments

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What is nursing school like? Let’s walk through a day in the life of a nursing student.

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A Day in the Life of A Nursing Student

It’s stressful and probably one of the most stressful and exhausting years you’ll experience, but nursing school is worth it in the end. From the terribly hard tests to the stressful clinicals, these years are tough!

In nursing school, you’ll have classroom days and clinical days. I explain what to expect during nursing school clinicals in this blog post. Now, let’s walk through what a normal classroom day in the life of a nursing student looks like!

What Your Semester May Look Like

Let’s say it’s the fall semester of your junior year. This semester, you’re taking:

  • Health Assessment & Promotion
  • Adult & Elder I
  • Professional Nursing
  • Pathophysiology

Some classes will meet on certain days. You may have a few of them on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and others on Tuesday and Thursday. For a class like Adult & Elder I, you may have a clinical requirement that would factor into your daily schedule.

Nursing School Early Morning Wake-Up

Often, nursing school classes start early and last for hours. Rolling out of bed and walking into class often isn’t an option, as there’s a lot to keep track of to stay on top of things. Once you wake up and get ready for the day (and possibly put that Starbuck mobile order in!), you’ll need to make sure you’ve got everything for that particular day of classes.

This means you’ve got the correct PowerPoints downloaded, textbooks in your bag, notebooks, highlighters, and any important print offs. Make sure you’ve also got any completed assignments ready to roll to turn in. Nursing school organization is no joke!

Today, you’ve got three classes to attend: Health Assessment, Professional Nursing, and Patho. Let’s go!

Last Minute Studying

You’ve got a patho exam on the congestive heart failure later today that you stayed up late studying for. In between classes, you go through a few more reps with your flashcards to refresh your brain on the topic.

(Pro-tip: Get something like Picmonic that comes with mini reviews that you can take on your mobile device in a matter of minutes while you’re waiting for the bus or in line for breakfast. And use promo code FRESHRN for 20% off!)

Arrive for Your Health Assessment Class

Today in Health Assessment, the professor is going over the specifics of a neuro assessment. It’s pretty confusing, and you’re trying to keep up with your notes. The professor goes over assessment techniques quickly and outlines what they mean, but it’s tough keeping up on the content. You observe other students seemingly flying through their notes and nodding in agreement. (What!? How the heck does this make sense to them!?)

You feel frustrated, but make note of the specific confusing aspects to remind yourself to look up later.

(And then you review the FreshRN Conscious Neuro Assessments email course at home and suddenly it all makes sense!)

Time for a Pathophysiology Exam

Next up, patho! On the way to class, you look at a few more flashcards and feel as ready as you will be for the exam and chug the rest of your now cold Starbucks white chocolate mocha. Unfortunately, you have to have lecture first. Some professors will begin the class with any tests or exams scheduled for that class period, while others will save that for later in the class period.

This particular professor wants to begin the next unit (kidney failure) before administering your heart failure exam. You try to keep that cardiac knowledge at the forefront of your brain as take notes and listen closely to your professor explain what’s happening in the body with chronic and acute kidney failure. (Tip! I explain kidney failure in this course for med-surg nurses.)

Okay, now your kidney failure is done and it’s time to take your congestive heart failure exam. You’re ready to do the best you can because you’re employing the test-taking strategies I outlined in this blog post.

Lunch Break

You’ve sat in class for hours already today. Your butt is tired of sitting in the chairs and your hand is tired from typing notes. Your brain needs a little break from paying close attention constantly for hours at a time. You head to your college’s cafeteria to get lunch and unplug for a bit.

You decide to scroll through some FreshRN TikToks while you wait for your chicken sandwich and fries.

Sim Lab Time

You’re schedule to go to the sim lab today to get checked off on content reviewed in your assessment class. You run back to your dorm to change into your scrubs and grab your stethoscope, and to drop off all of the stuff you needed for those earlier classes. You head back to sim lab and get a demo of specific neuro assessment techniques that you’ll have to complete on a simulation dummy and your classmates.

You’re glad that this semester your professor in the sim lab is cool and doesn’t expect you to do things perfectly after just one explanation, so your stress level is pretty low for this part of the day.

(If you want to look like an absolute PRO in clinical, check out this resource.)

Professional Nursing Class

Your last class of the day is in another building and starts just 10 minutes after sim lab is over. You rush to the class to get there on time. This class makes the most sense and is the easiest to understand, but after hours of class and sim lab earlier in the day, it’s hard to pay attention.

You take notes and highlight important passages, as the professor explains the paper that’s due later this month that will require APA formatting and at least 4 citations. Your thesis is due next week, so you start to think about what it will be and take notes in the margins of your notebook paper.

Heading Back to Your Dorm

Your classroom time is complete, but that doesn’t mean your day is done! Time to get a workout in, eat some dinner, and get ready to hit the books.

Debrief From Today

Now that dinner is done and you’re fresh and clean after a post-work out shower, it’s time to debrief from the day! You spend time compiling your notes from lecture, ensuring you digital files and handouts are organized. Your notes from the kidney failure explanation need a few bullet points added.

You’ve realized over the last few semesters that if you take just 20-30 minutes to get your thoughts and papers together every day after classes that you remember the information better and it keeps everything organized much better.

Study Time

Now that you’ve situated your notes from class today, it’s time to study for tomorrow’s test in your Adult & Elder 1 class. Your favorite method of studying is the “blurting” technique, so you grab your 1-page summary notes and a few blank sheets of paper and get to work. You review the 1-page of notes, then put it away. You then try to write as much from memory as possible onto the blank sheet of paper and repeat until you’ve got it all.

(I go over 5 high-impact study techniques in this free 26-page ebook if you want to learn a few more options! They’re located on pages 11-13.)

Prepare For Tomorrow

You’ve reached your brain’s max for studying for the day. As the studying comes to a close, you get ready for clinicals in the morning. You have to be at the hospital at 6:50 am and it takes 25 minutes to get there. You set out your nursing school uniform, shoes, and get your clinical bag ready with your stethoscope, pen light, and school badge. You set your alarm for 5:30 am.

Time for bed! But, surprise, you’re too nervous to sleep 🙂

(For tips to be successful in clinical, click here for a blog post, or check out our course below that demos most clinical skills!)

Getting ready for nursing school clinicals, but feeling unprepared?

Skills Refresh 3 1

Nursing Skills Refresh from FreshRN is a self-paced video course for both new and experienced nurses. Whether you’re preparing for your first clinical experience, or need to brush up on your nursing skills, this course is for you. Each lesson walks you through the basic tasks and concepts you will experience in the clinical setting. Once completed, you’ll feel comfortable in a hospital setting, understand the basics of what the bedside experience will feel like, and know insider tips and tricks that will make you feel confident and in control.

Resources for Nursing Students

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Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


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