Starting nursing school can be pretty intimidating. You don’t know your classmates or the level of experience they bring to the table. You just assume everyone else knows more than you and they all know exactly what they’re doing. (Or, at least I did!)
Well, I’ve got a secret for you. Lean in a little closer because I need to whisper this – a lot of people don’t want me to let this one slip…
((None of us know what we’re doing. Some of us are just better at pretending than others.))
This post is going to provide you with some study tips, life tips, things I liked to use as a nursing student and practicing nurse, as well as explain some of our well-known resources and communities.
So let’s dive into how to survive nursing school!
Table of Contents
Survive Nursing School: Studying Strategies
Nursing isn’t one of those majors you can just read up on the information the night before the exam and expect to do okay. It takes a lot of strategies to manage your time appropriately. Each exam is over so much information that you must have a plan of attack!
After your first day, get all of the syllabi together and write out every single due date on a calendar that you actually will look at daily; ideally, one that you carry with you (whether this is on your phone or an actual print calendar/planner).
After all of those dates are written out, then plan out when you will study for these exams in reasonable blocks of time. This means 2-3 hours here and there, not 6-8 hour chunks of time. No one can pay attention and absorb information in those long periods of time. It’s an inefficient and ineffective use of your time.
After you plan these study times, then plan when you will write your papers. Schedule short-term goals (Find 2 sources on this date, write my intro this date, edit on this date, etc.) so you’re not sitting down to write an entire paper the night before its due. Schedule yourself to finish this paper 1-2 weeks before the due date, so if you run into any roadblocks (not understanding something, changing a section, clarifying with the professor) you’ve got some wiggle room.
Then, once everything is scheduled, trust your schedule. This allows you to relax and enjoy the rest of your life more, rather than going from stress-cram session to stress-cram session.
Get a folder and/or a notebook for each class. Keep notes together and organize them so they’re easy to find.
Have a folder on your computer desktop for nursing school, with subfolders for each class, then subfolders for each section. I realize this sounds a little organization-crazy but bear with me. If you have to spend 10 minutes looking for a document on your computer, or 15 minutes looking for a hard copy of something around your dorm room, and you do this a few times a week, you’re losing 30 minutes – 2 hours roughly just searching for things. That’s an absurd amount of time completely wasted. Think about how much quality studying you could give yourself in 2 hours. Or what if you used that time to nap? Naps are amazing. I would much rather nap than waste my time searching.
Remember: YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE. Look to maximize it at every turn. Try to look for and eliminate inefficiencies or wasted time. Examples of this include searching for books, notes or documents because your desk is a mess, taking forever to get your paper formatted because you haven’t taken time to learn how to write in APA, forgetting about a deadline and scrambling to meet it.
There are some amazing downloads that you can print off to organize your study life. Below are a few options; the first two are made specifically by nurses for nursing students.
- Nursing School Study Planner Workbook – FREE Download from Nurse Sam
- Nursing School Planner – PAID printed and bound planner from Nurse Mo over at Straight A Nursing
- The Ultimate Free College Content Library of Printables – FREE Download
- Free Weekly Planner Printables from Eliza Ellis – FREE Download
Don’t just study hard, study smart. Before you sit down to study and attempt to focus, pre-game a little (no, not that kind of pre-gaming!). What I mean by this is begin to transition your brain to study time. It’s hard for our brains to go all-in on one thing to all-in on another. And we really want to be highly focused for our study time, so these small actions can move the needle for you. So, I want you to outsmart your own brain. It’s not going to want to study, but you’re going to need to … sort of … coax it into doing so, almost like you would coax your toddler into a nap.
So, we want to make it as easy as possible for our brains to just fall into productivity. And there are a few different strategic steps you can take to make this happen
The power of aesthetics
We want to make our study space inviting and not overwhelming. Studying is overwhelming enough! Interestingly, a small study from Harvard showed that learners with tidy workspaces stuck with tasks on average 7.5 minutes longer than those working in a disorganized and unkept environment. Interesting!
So, when you know you’re going to study, make sure the first few minutes are simply preparing to study. This may mean getting trash or excess papers off of your area, tidying up whatever else is on your desk, and getting out all of your materials.
(It also helps to spend a little time at the beginning of the semester to get an overall desk set-up together that isn’t clutter and invites feelings of calm, enjoyment, and peace.)
Since you’re awesome and decided ahead of time what topic you will be focusing on, you’ll know exactly which books and materials you need to get out.
Get a delicious drink and snack (soon, your brain may look FORWARD to studying!) and have that nearby so you don’t have to get up if you get hungry or thirsty. Finally, grab your headphones and plug in some white noise or a concentration playlist on Spotify. These are very helpful in maintaining attention so that you don’t react to every benign noise in your home or dorm.
Hit the timing
Now that you’ve pre-gamed, let’s start the clock. Set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes from now. Take off your AppleWatch, turn your phone on silent and put it in your drawer, close all tabs except what you’re studying, and start the timer.
Begin studying! That could look like:
- Typing out your handwritten notes from lecture
- Printing and highlighting your typed notes as you go through the text book
- Reviewing your Picmonic lesson that coincides with your lecture (make sure you use code FRESHRN for 20% off)
- Watching a video and taking notes
- Reading text while taking notes by typing or by hand and highlighting
- Listening to the audio of your lecture while messing with a fidget spinner, randomly pausing to jot down notes
When you notice yourself getting distracted (because you will, we’re humans and our attention span is only so long) simply notice it and pull your attention back to the topic.
Nurse-specific study pointers
Leverage spaced repetition. Essentially, don’t just cram everything into one study session, establish a baseline of understanding in your longer study session and then create flashcards (or use ready-made ones in an app like Picmonic or Nursing.com) to repeatedly review in short bursts throughout the days after and leading up to the exam (while waiting in line for coffee, during your walk to class, on the bus, etc). This is a superior way to retain information and process information.
Don’t try to memorize sentences or power-through long reading assignments; rather, attempt to understand the concept they’re describing as a whole. Then, try to explain the concept to someone else (or your dog). So, don’t memorize sentences about heart failure. Try to understand what the heck is happening (and you may need to watch a some videos about it or read it a few times to truly understand it) and then explain it.
If reading a textbook, don’t forget the captions of photos – for some reason some of the most important information is tucked away in there!
Learn your professor’s teaching style
Let’s be real here; just like people learn differently, people teach differently as well. Some professors are more relaxed and care more about understanding the big picture, while others want every little thing in an incredibly specific way, and many are somewhere in between.
Now, learning each professor’s style will take some time. If I had one professor that was a stickler for details, I made sure to pay really close attention to that their assignments. But if I had another that was more big-picture, I wouldn’t stress over small things I knew they didn’t really care about anyway.
You really won’t learn this until you get back some of your first assignments. You may miss some points here and there, or wasted your time worrying about things you thought they’d care about when they actually don’t. It’s okay. There’s a learning curve at the beginning. Put in what you think each class requires, see how some of those first assignments come back, and adjust your time and efforts accordingly.
Nursing school pro-tip: Do not get into that common overachiever nursing school thought spiral where you feel like you need to fight to the death for every point. This is exhausting for you and your educators. I know that panicky feeling where you feel like you MUST get every point possible just in case, but if it’s causing stress and not genuinely moving the needle for your grade, please let it go and move forward.
Learn your learning style
I really didn’t figure out my learning/studying style until nursing school. Until then, I didn’t have to be as regimented about it because the workload wasn’t as intense and the courses weren’t as complex. Then nursing school came along and smacked me in the face.
Some people are auditory, some visual, some need videos, or a combination. I figured out that I learned best if I took handwritten notes in class, then typed them and added supplemental info from the books, then went back over them and highlighted. For the complex topics, I needed to review videos and take notes. Some classmates recorded their lectures and listened in the car or while working out. Figure out what works for you and stick to it.
(And don’t feel inadequate if what works for you doesn’t work for the smartest person in the class.)
Optimize your resources
Nursing school textbooks that you references frequently: Flag those pages with small post-it notes so you don’t have to try to find the right page each time
For papers: Use an APA citation generator. You need to double check them, but they are a tremendous help. Two of my faves (both free):
Tidy up and organize your bookmarks: Make a bookmark folder for school and correctly label the sites you go to all the time (library, databases, courses, etc)
Buy a nursing school support system: Back in my day, YouTube was just getting off the ground. There was nothing else to help you outside of your textbooks. Now, there are multiple options of programs you can buy that can help you become a better test-taker and learn this complex information with much less stress and confusion. I know it’s another expense, but please trust me – they are WORTH IT. My favorites:
- Straight A Nursing Student – From Nurse Mo, who I know personally. She has a massively popular nursing school podcast, various courses, and a blog.
- Nursing.com – From Jon Haws, who I’ve personally known since 2015, and has a passion for making nursing education more practical. He has a subscription plan with many different courses included. His program will also prepare you for the NCLEX so you wouldn’t need to purchase an additional (expensive) review course.
- Picmonic – This is one I love because everything is in bite-sized lectures. They use short video with stories to help concepts become much easier to comprehend and recall. You can can customize the resources to your needs. So, if cardiac is crystal clear to you, but the mental health concepts are like a foreign language, you can essentially make your materials more targeted to your knowledge deficits. This helps make your studying much more efficient. Plus they have an outstanding app, so you can get micro study sessions in on the go. You have the option to add their NCLEX prep system (TrueLearn) as you get closer to graduation and want to start actively reviewing. And you can use promo code FRESHRN for 20% off if you decide to sign-up!
Survive Nursing School: Clinical Survival Tips
Now that we’ve covered studying, let’s discuss tips to not only survive, but thrive in the clinical environment.
Know where you’re going. If you’re nervous, do a test-drive there the night before. Walk up to the unit, if possible. Hospitals are notoriously large and difficult to navigate
Wear scrubs you feel safe and secure in (we’ll chat specifics soon). If they’re white scrubs, make sure you have the appropriate underwear. White scrubs are basically see-through, so if you wear bright orange underwear, it will be very clear to everyone. I recommend wearing underwear in a color that is consistent with your skin tone. At clinical, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, bending, pushing, and stretching, so you want to ensure you feel secure in what you’re wearing. If possible, have a backup set in your car in case you get puked/peed/pooped on.
Bring food. I would recommend packing your lunch because you never know if you’ll get time to go buy it, and often cafeteria lines are very long. I also recommend having a few quick snacks on hand. A few granola bars, fruit snacks, beef jerky, trail mix, or something similar. When you’re very nervous, you’re not hungry. And then you’re so busy and distracted, you can suddenly feel very woozy. I’ve seen many nursing students pass out, so please try to have something quick to eat and that can bring up your blood sugar quickly if needed.
If you got your patient assignment the night before, look up the disease processes and chief complaint to quickly brush-up on it. You don’t need to do anything crazy in-depth, but just refresh yourself.
Don’t just arrive on time, be early. If you’re showing up right on time, you’re late.
Clinicals are intimidating, but don’t be so worried about getting all of the answers correct that you’re not mentally present. Engage with your clinical instructors, nurses on the unit, patients, loved ones, nursing assistants, doctors, nurse managers. This doesn’t mean you have to be the perfect conversationalist, but just can carry on small talk with people.
The way nursing school textbooks refers to patients can make them feel very intimidating when you’re suddenly face-to-face with them, but just remember they are just people.
Ask questions. Watch procedures. See how you can help. Don’t be that student that stands in the hall, leaning against the wall, waiting to be told to do something. Make sure you’re also allowing your other classmates to get in on opportunities as well. Find the balance of being helpful and engaged but not so much that you’re taking up all of the instructor’s time and the other students don’t have a chance to try or see anything.
Also, have social awareness of situations. Notice if your patient is having a tough time and gauge your demeanor appropriately. For example, if your patient just found out they have to go back to the OR and they now need an NG tube and are getting tearful about it, don’t hop into the room all bright and perky and ask them how they’re doing. This vibe comes off as insensitive and tone-deaf. You don’t have to say the perfect thing, but be cognizant of the emotional temperament of the room.
Listen during the report. Wait to ask any questions until they’re done giving the report, as they may end up answering your question later. It’s a nurse pet-peeve when you’re trying to give a report and the person receiving the report (or the student) is continually interrupting with questions.
They may speak really quickly. If you don’t know an abbreviation or diagnosis, write it down quickly and ask the nurse or your instructor after. Get a report sheet that you like. Give it a few shifts before switching to a new one.
You can download my favorite med-surg report sheet below.
Things to write down when getting a report
(Note: This is incredibly general and will vary if you’re on a specialized unit)
- Name / Attending Physician or Team / Code status / allergies
- Precautions (fall, seizure, infection prevention, bleeding, etc.)
- Chief complain / why they’re in the hospital and important things that have happened during the admission
- Pertinent history (it’ll take time to figure out what pertinent and not, don’t get hung up on this one. You’ll also figure out, with time, shorthand/abbreviations for history)
- Abnormal assessment findings from body systems
- If they’re on oxygen and how much via which delivery method (nasal cannula, face mask, non-rebreather, etc.)
- Any tubes (feeding tubes, foley catheter, rectal tube, etc.)
- Intravenous access (IV, central line, port, etc.)
- IV fluids / drips / anything continuously infusing
- Activity level / how they go to the bathroom
- Pertinent / abnormal labs
- Questions to ask MD / questions for any other member of the health care team
- Any psychosocial / family + support system concerns
- Important meds (you can look up this stuff in the chart, but they may mention some meds)
- Any tests, procedures, transfers, etc. that need to occur during this shift
- General discharge plan / what are our goals this shift? (get out of bed 3 times, eat, pass swallow evaluation, transfer out of ICU, etc.)
I actually recorded a podcast about giving a solid nursing report!
Nobody’s perfect. You’re not going to know everything. No one expects you to know the answer to every question or handle every situation perfectly. You’re there to learn how to do things, not show everyone how much you already know. So take a breath, and relax.
It’s okay if you don’t know something. If you don’t know something, just say you don’t know it. If a patient asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say:
“You know… I don’t know the answer to that but I will find out and come back to you.”
I understand that desire to avoid admitting you don’t know something because you don’t want to be ostracized or look dumb in front of your classmates. Most instructors will be glad when you say you don’t know something because it lets them know what they still need to explain.
It’s a red flag when someone “already knows everything” and acts like they don’t have any knowledge deficits. This is school and a learning environment, everyone should be in the mode to learn, not to perform. The last thing we want is for someone to say they know something, but not really know how to do it, and then goes an improvises – yes, this happens!
The sooner you get used to being tactfully honest about what you don’t know, the better. It feels uncomfortable at first, but once you sit in the discomfort and allow it to pass, then that’s where the authentic learning really sets in.
If you messed something up, own up to it. We can usually tell if you’ve messed something up and are trying to make it seem like you didn’t.
Story time: Once I saw a student go to hang an IV antibiotic on a secondary line. Normal saline was the primary line. She had forgotten to clamp the secondary tubing, and the antibiotic (which was green) backed up into the bag of normal saline. The instructor came in and saw it and asked what happened. She said that the saline bag came like that. Um. No. If normal saline came to you green, that’s a problem and it shouldn’t have been hung in the first place. However, she held firm to it coming from the pharmacy like that. We were all pretty sure she was lying, but no one had physically seen it so we couldn’t refuse her. So, there had to be an incident report, call to the pharmacy, etc. etc. Basically, we had to do a lot of things that we really shouldn’t have had to if she had just owned up the mistake. And honestly, the mistake wasn’t a big deal. We could have easily taken time to educate about what should have happened, grabbed a new bag of saline and antibiotics and that would have been that.
Time Management and Delegation
Not only are you learning about disease processes and how to care for people, but you’re also learning time management. Observe the time management styles of various nurses. Once you get to your first real nursing job, you’ll have to figure out how to manage your time and it will be helpful to see how various nurses do things.
Time management is one of those that I assumed had one right way about it, but everyone manages their time differently. It was quite surprising to see how different people worked through their tasks, and showed me how important a good routine is!
You can learn how you would like to do things and also how you would not like to do things. I’ve observed how people have done things and learned ways to avoid managing my time because I noted they were always behind or flustered. There’s no perfect, textbook way to do this. You’ll develop your own style.
Next, pay attention to not only the tasks they choose to delegate but how they delegate them. How do they work with nursing assistants? The NCLEX® will teach you which tasks to delegate, but that’s the easy part! The hard part is delegating tasks to nursing assistants that have worked on the unit for decades.
Developing rapport with your team is another piece of learning how to be a nurse puzzle and you can learn a lot from watching how everyone interacts. Every does this a little differently, so if you hear verbiage or talking points that you like (“Hey I really like how she asked that CNA to take that patient to the bathroom.. I don’t want to forget that”) write it in a small notebook that you keep in your scrub pocket. Or talking points/responses to nurses dealing with tough situations.
Once I heard a nurse firmly respond with:
“I know you’re frustrated but I am your nurse and you will not curse at me”– Amazing Assertive Nurse (2009)
I quickly ran to the nursing station to scribble it down on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget it. (Side note: That patient immediately apologized and connected with her about what was really bothering him and requested her for subsequent shifts.)
It’s really important to treat everyone you encounter with respect. From the housekeeper to the physician to the case manager to the physical therapist to the nursing assistant. Even if you never want to work in that particular unit, you need to treat the people that have chosen to work there with respect. So, if you know you want to be a NICU nurse but you’re starting your med-aurg clinicals, make sure you treat all of those nurses, nursing assistants, etc. with respect even though you know you’ll most likely not need to know that information for your potential job.
Just because it’s not important to you at this particular point in your life, does not mean it’s not important.
Nothing frustrates clinical instructors, nurses, and nursing assistants is that “I never need to know this so it’s not important” attitude. I’m actually getting hypertensive thinking about it. Even though it’s not information that will be practically important to you in the long run, it is still important to someone. Even if you already have a job and know where you want to work and the people on this med-surg unit have nothing to offer you – they are still people whose full time job is to work on that unit. Treat them and the job they have chosen to do and the patients they have chosen to care for, with respect.
Getting ready for nursing school clinicals, but feeling unprepared?
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.
Student Nurse-Life Tips
Being a nursing student and nurse is not just a major and a profession, it’s a lifestyle. There are certain things you can do to prevent burn-out, minimize stress and maximize your personal and professional life satisfaction. Let’s discuss this.
Take control of your environment
Like I mentioned before, ensuring a a tidy and calm study space is a game changer. Things to consider:
- A diffuser with essential oils – eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemon are great for focus.
- Good chair support – here’s what I use (I have the back and chair ones)
- Noise-cancelling headphones – these can help block out extra noises, but you could also just use ear plugs!
- Monitor stand – this is the one I use
- Good lighting is also wise – you something that’s not too painfully bright, but also not so dim you’re struggling to see
- Blue light glasses are helpful if you’re studying in the evening but don’t want the light to impact your sleep. I use Zenni to get affordable prescription ones, but you can get ones without a script for $10 at Walmart, Target, etc.
Communicate with your loved ones
Nursing school takes up a ton of time. Unless you’re in it, it’s hard to understand the magnitude of things to do and learn. Therefore, be proactive about communicating your needs to your loved ones. Doing things last minute or the night before an exam won’t be the best thing for you during your nursing school journey.
You may have to say no to some things you really want to take part in. The, “Hey, I want you to know that nursing school is my priority right now and I’ll probably not be able to do as much but it’s not a permanent thing” conversation is better to be had before school starts, not mid-heated argument about why you can’t go to another night out, dinner with friends, family event, etc.
Also, make sure to communicate about your needs while studying. If you need to be interruption-free, focused and alone, communicate that. “Ok so if I can be interruption-free for the next 2 hours to really focus, I’ll be able to go to dinner… or hang out with the kids.. or go to that work out class”.
There will be some miscommunications and hiccups. Even the best communicators don’t do this perfectly. So, don’t be hard on yourself with the missteps occur. Repair, reconnect, and move forward.
Prioritize your sleep
Being tired is not a badge of honor. I felt like whenever I would get to work or class that it was a competition about who got the least amount of sleep. I started to feel like it was another way of saying, “I’m really tired so expect less of me today.” But if we’re chronically exhausted, when can those around us actually have normal expectations of us and not have being tired as an excuse?
We must prioritize our sleep – even if that means going to bed embarrassingly early because you know you think better early in the morning. Do what you can to get the best sleep possible.
I have a great pillow, comfortable mattress, black-out curtains, ear plugs, and eye mask. In the evening, I switch to wearing my blue-blocker glasses and dim most of the lights in the house, but especially my bedroom. I have a routine I go through to calm down and transition to sleep that includes skincare, brushing my teeth, pajamas I love, etc. Figure out what works for you and make this your top priority. I recently heard a physician talk about how if she has to choose between working out or sleep, she always picks sleep because it’s THAT important to the body.
See below for my pro-tips with ear plugs!
@freshrn Night shift nurse tips for better sleep #nurse #nursing #nightshiftnurse #nightshift #nurselife ♬ original sound – FreshRN
Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Class. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. You can start to feel like a zombie.
Make sure you’re making time to exercise. You’ll sleep better. You’ll feel better. You’ll be healthier. But, please do this out of motivation to care for your body, not to punish it for eating. Work out because you want to honor your body and give it the movement it unconsciously craves. Engage in activities you enjoy. That could be running, rollerblading (my personal fave), ice skating, the eliptical, workout classes, etc.
At the least, look up some YouTube yoga videos do some good stretches. This is my favorite YouTube yogi bear. This really helps so much, especially when you spend so much time sitting at a desk/computer. You can do it in the privacy of your home in as little as 10-20 minutes. Straighten out your neck and back, do some back hyperextension, work your core, do some deep breathing and meditation.
It’s also nice to have something to completely focus on that is not related to nursing. Get your favorite work out music and just escape.
Survive Nursing school: Nurse Gear Recommendations
A lot of people ask me what kind of scrubs, stethoscopes, badge reels, etc. I use. Here is a master list!
I also reviewed Butter Soft Scrubs from Uniform Advantage, Greys Anatomy, and Infinity by Cherokee in this blog post.
Overall, Figs are my favorite but they can be expensive. Sign-up for their email list and watch for sales! Also, if you’re not sure what size to get, please know that returns are super easy. I had to get different sizes and it was fast and doable.
There are a ton of brands out there, but I have not tried them all. Other faves in the nursing community include:
My go-to used to be the Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope. But, it’s very expensive and not necessarily what I’d recommend for nursing school. I recommend a middle of the line scope for school because you don’t know yet if you’ll work in a specialty unit like peds or NICU. A more affordable Littmann option is here.
The MDF scopes are a solid second. MDF is definitely more affordable, yet still high quality. They’re just heavier, but I think for the price difference and quality, it’s not that big of a deal. When I was in nursing school, I purchased a $20 cheap scope and it was not worth it. I ended up getting a more expensive one after a semester because I just could barely hear anything.
But, that was then. Now, my absolute FAV scope is the digital stethoscope from Littmann. However, it is VERY expensive. I’m not sure I’d recommend getting one that’s over $300 for nursing school, but if you can afford it, it will be the best scope you ever purchase. The digital audio is exponentially clearer and better than standard analog. I wrote a review about them here.
Nurse tip! Get your name engraved on your scope, so if you lose it you can get it back!
Over the years, I’ve tried many shoes. I have found that my shins would really ache after 4-5 hours in normal tennis shoes, so I really had to get true nurse shoes. I wore Danskos for a while, but they are expensive and take time to get used to. Once I did, my feet and legs felt much better after a shift. But, they’re not exactly cute.
My newer faves are Bala. They are pretty expensive however. Make sure you get on their email list and get a discount code if you’re thinking about getting these! They fit more like a true tennis shoe but are much more supportive over a long shift, and you can easily wipe them clean.
Compression socks come in different grades of pressure. So, it depends on what you want. Here some with different grades:
I also know some nurses who just wear high soccer socks, which provide some compression but not anything as intense as the Bombas.
My favorite pens are the Pilot G-2 pens with the clicky top. Never steal my clicky pen. Never.
Nursing.com used to have some great clipboards and nursing school packs available on Amazon that were awesome. Now Tribe RN has some of the same types of clipboards with great cheat sheets in them. I haven’t tried these personally but they look a lot like the old Nursing.com clipboards.
Some of these are nurse-related, some are life-related, some are medicine-related.. basically, this is a list of books that I believe are helpful in the practical and emotional work it takes to become a successful nurse.
I actually have written a few books just for nursing students and new grads. My original book is called Becoming Nursey: From Code Blues to Code Browns, How to Care For Your Patients and Yourself and it was published in 2014. The book became very popular, and the American Nurses Association decided to publish my second edition, which is called Anatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey It’s twice as long as the original!
Sign-up below to download the first chapter for free!
Please note, prices may have changed
- Test Success: Test-Taking Techniques for Beginning Nursing Students by Patricia Nugent $45
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown $17
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande $26 (*It was also recommended to just read all of his books because they are glorious)
- Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande $10
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kanalithi $15
- I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse by Lee Gutkind $16
- The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patient’s Lives by Theresa Brown, RN $15
- Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Life, Death and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown $15
- First Year Nurse by Beth Hawkes $17
And Finally – Welcome!
I want to conclude by saying welcome to the team. Getting into nursing school is no easy task, so congratulations! Nursing school is going to challenge you mentally, physically, and emotionally but in the end, it will be worth it.
Something I want you to remember is that while in school you’re learning about disease processes, care plans, procedures, delegation, prioritization… but at the end of the day, you’re taking care of people. When you are so focused on learning that other stuff it can be easy to get distracted and forget that those are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles all sitting in those hospital beds. They’re sad, scared, nervous, in pain, nauseated, frustrated, fed up, exhausted, and ready to go home yesterday.
Another important aspect of learning how to be a nurse is learning how to feel with patients, but with boundaries. You want to connect with them during their tough moment, but also make sure to care for yourself as well.
At the end of the day, they may forget your name. They may never know you caught that med that should never have been ordered or that lab value that was out of range. They won’t know you skipped lunch to help them get their bed bath done. They may forget that you brought their pain pill right on time. But they will remember that you made them feel safe. Their loved ones will remember that out of all of the other nurses, they trusted you. They felt so comfortable with you that they finally went home to do a load of laundry and take a shower.
Years later, when recalling the day their dad died.. they won’t be able to picture your face, but they’ll remember how comforted they felt when you gently lifted up his head and turned over his pillow so he’d feel the cool side – even though you knew he was brain dead. They’ll remember how they felt when you grabbed them some of the good tissues from the nurse’s station, stood next to them overlooking their now-deceased father and gave them a slow, reassuring “I’m really sorry and I’m here with you” pat on their back.
Because that’s what being a nurse is. Throughout school, you’ll learn about ventilators, arterial lines, contractility, renal failure, and deep venous thrombosis prevention. But that’s only half of it. The other half is learning how to talk to someone who just found out their mom is going to die… how to motivate a patient who has all but given up after fighting breast cancer for 10 years who just found out she has a brain tumor… how to educate a patient with heart failure that doesn’t know how to read.. … how to empower a patient to communicate with his family that he doesn’t want another surgery, he just wants to die… Because we do both.
In nursing school, don’t forget to also learn about the people behind the diseases because they will teach you more than you ever thought you could learn.
Even more resources
- 10 Mistakes Nursing Students Make (And How to Avoid Them) – a free 26-page ebook that outlines all of the mistakes I made in nursing school, and the ones I’ve seen so many other students make since – plus practical ways to prevent making them yourself
- The FreshRN course catalog – all of my courses are designed to help the new grad transition to practice, so check them out!
- The FreshRN Podcast – 90+ episodes specifically crafted with nursing students and new grads in mind to answer all of those questions and concerns you might be too intimidated to ask
- Straight A Nursing Podcast – tons of episodes from my favorite, Nurse Mo!
- The FreshRN VIP Community – join our non-Facebook online community that includes an exclusive 40% discount off of any FreshRN course
- Mission Accomplished – a free 4-lesson email course from FreshRN to walk you through NCLEX prep, resume writing, getting your license, and more.