I have just finished my first year in an ADN program, and I remember so well this time last year. I was on these forums almost constantly reading what I could and trying soooo hard to become prepared for the next two years of my life. Let me tell you, these posts are GREAT! Anyone who is about to start nursing school should skim as many posts as possible to get a slight understanding of what your first year might entail.
After I got my acceptance letter, my life was never the same!
My first semester started with enough drama in my class to last the entire two years of the program! After some brave souls in my class cleared the air, all of that was over and we got on with our learning. So tip number 1......
-Stay away from the drama! In a class full of women and a few select men, there's bound to be boat loads of it. You'll do great to stay away from those starting it, now matter how much you would like to call them out on it! Eventually, everyone realizes where it's coming from, and EVERYONE stays away...
-Expect to study more than you've ever had to study before. School has always been easy for me, and as an adult student, I realized my learning styles and honed my studying habits. Or so I thought
Nursing school is a different kind of beast.... you can't memorize information and expect to pass tests. You have to learn how to APPLY the information you've learned. You have to learn how this piece of information correlates with that piece of information. You're thinking WILL be modified without you even noticing that it is.
-Study groups don't always study! I was never one to study well with others because I liked knowing that I found the information myself. But, nevertheless, I gave the study group a try. First two sessions were gossip among most, but definitely entertaining! After that, many of us reduced the groups to those that we felt comfortable would provide us the most appropriate information. Also, it's important that those in your study group study in a similar way to you.
-Organization is key! Save that acceptance letter (as if it weren't already framed on your wall!) as well as every certificaiton, lab slip, and record from your school because you'll need them for your portfolio. Make a quiet study place in your house and fill it with all the things that YOU need to study. Have a book shelf for your car load of books. You'll eventually figure out the routine that works for you... yours is not the same as mine... or anyone else's for that matter.
-Communication doesn't always happen. Networking during nursing school is great... get every piece of information you can from anyone. That girl at the front of the class might know something that you don't, and that lady at the back might be able to share a tip that you'd never thought of. My class even has a facebook group where we share information and important dates (and there are lots of them!) . . . . which reminds me... a calendar is VERY useful! so....
-Keep a detailed calendar! I started my first semester with everything I needed to know in my blackberry (love that thing!) But when it tried to take a bath with my son, I lost it all. When I moved everything to a notebook calendar, I realized it was easier to get the full view anyway... plus I could write many more notes in there! My trouble was remembering to keep it with me... Many days I only brought one book and a pencil to class and forgot my calendar all together.
-All of those $1000 plus of books on your required book list first semester won't be the ONLY books you'll want to have! Throughout this year... and through my friends in class who were kind enough to share their information... I purchased 5 books that weren't on my required list. They have helped me with everything from test taking skills to understand fluid and electrolytes to conquering those HESI exams that we have to take DURING nursing school too!
-Speaking of test taking skills.... you'll need them! Many test questions in nursing school require a knowledge BASE, not necessarily a factual base. Many books that you'll have might have a test taking tutorial in them. Read that time and time again until it sinks in and becomes a habit for you.
-Have fun! Nursing school is challenging... but you need to let your hair down sometimes and relax! Believe me... you'll find time.
There are soooo many things I could tell you, but I think this is a book already. I hope others will come along and add some information for you, as well. Going into my first semester I had NO IDEA what to expect. We had very little guidance from the 2nd year students. Things might have passed a little more smoothly had we been given the heads up on some things... but, then again, that's been much of our journey together this year. Figure it out, learn it, know it! I hope this journey is a great one for you!