Advice for Myself for When I Was a Nursing Student

  1. 18

    If only I knew then what I knew now. Like many nurses, I received a lot of good and bad advice over the years. At the time, I didn’t know the difference. If I could go back to my nursing student self and offer some advice, perhaps I could save myself unnecessary worries—and I might’ve taken a few different paths on my career journey.

    Advice for Myself for When I Was a Nursing Student

    I've been a nurse for a long time. Long enough to look back, reflect over my career, and consider the choices I made and the paths I followed. If I could go back in the day and talk to myself when I was a nursing student I might share a little advice.

    In general I might say:

    Doctors are just people. They don't know everything and they aren't scary-well, usually not.

    No, midnight shift never gets easier

    Yes, psychiatric nursing is a real, valuable nursing skill. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.

    Yes-that nursing cap does look stupid, but you'll cherish it later. You still won't want to wear it, but you will proudly show it off.

    Take Your Time

    Don't rush through nursing school. Taking as many credits as possible while working part-time, and taking summer classes may allow you to finish school much quicker, but you'll miss out on much more. That heavy schedule prohibits you from allowing yourself to be a college student. Slow down, and enjoy the journey more. Stop only focusing on the destination because you have years to work. Take those extra classes that you might enjoy just for the benefit of learning. Make the most of this time.

    Speak Up

    You may not have access to online nursing networks that are available today like allnurses, but don't treat advice like facts, instead realize they are just one person's opinion. Speak up, ask questions. Maybe you really don't know what you're doing yet. You're not supposed to. You're a student, but you already know more than you realize. This is the time to embrace your curiosity and learn as much as you can. Most seasoned nurses love to share their expertise with an eager, interested student.

    Stop Worrying

    You know all those hours, days and who knows how much time you spend worrying? It doesn't change the outcome. Worry does nothing but cause extra stress. Use that time you spend worrying about tomorrow to enjoy today. Ignore the, "What if..." and tell yourself, "I don't care", or "It doesn't matter." Even if you do care, and it does matter, because all you can do is do your best and things will turn out fine. You won't even remember most of the things you wasted time worrying about, because they weren't worth the space in your memories.

    Consider the Big Picture

    Don't make all your decisions based on how they fit in your current schedule. You're going to be a nurse for a long time. What might not look like a useful class, skill, or a viable option now, might serve as a building block for expanding your future career options. (P.S. Don't back out of starting your doctorate once you do all the preparation. Put your needs in front of everyone else's occasionally.) You won't just have one job. Each will provide skills and experiences to take with you to make you into the nurse you are in 2018.

    There Are Options

    You may have starting nursing school when there was a nursing shortage, and it seemed like the next logical career step. When you finish school the nursing shortage will be over, and jobs will be few and far in between. Believe that older nurse who tells you that the nursing shortage repeats in cycles. Don't cling to whatever job you can get like it's your last.

    Don't Stop Looking and Learning

    Even after you're at a job for a long time, there are still options and ways to get out of "doing things the way you always have." Once you do you'll realize you can use your nursing degree for much more than you realized. There are endless options. If you delve more into researching nursing articles, and making connections, then more opportunities might present themselves sooner. It doesn't have to be an either, or, choice. You take your nursing knowledge with you in whatever you do.

    Make Your Own Path

    Over the years, you'll come to believe that a nursing degree is more versatile than others and provides more opportunities. Those nurses you're going to school with will go on to use their degree in different capacities. Some will come full-circle once they find what they enjoy. Others will keep spreading their wings.

    Who knows If you'll listen to what I say- they say we often don't heed our own advice. Although perhaps I can start listening a little more to my heart and my head today, that way I can continue to carve my best career path for tomorrow.


    If You Could Return to Back in the Day, What Advice Would You Give Your Nursing Student Self?
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jun 14
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit Maureen Bonatch MSN profile page

    About Maureen Bonatch MSN, BSN, RN

    Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN is a fiction author and freelance healthcare writer specializing in leadership, careers and mental health and wellness. She is the owner of CharmedType.com and MaureenBonatch.com

    Joined: Mar '05; Posts: 43; Likes: 162
    from PA , US
    Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in Leadership|Psychiatric Nursing|Education

    Read My Articles

    17 Comments

  3. by   aquakenn
    Thank you for your suggestions. I am 52 and I am just starting my nursing education. (AM I too old for a nursing degree?). Your insights will be a great value to me.
  4. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    You're never too old to start a new career, or follow your dreams. Good luck with nursing school-and don't forget to enjoy the journey.
  5. by   Nurse_Tina
    I graduated at 47, age is merely a number on paper. If you love it then do it!
  6. by   Nurse_Tina
    "Yes, psychiatric nursing is a real, valuable nursing skill. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise."

    I'm loving this!! One of my favourite practical placements was in Mental Health here in Australia. I am currently working in community mental health but just for six months as part of my Graduate Programme. I'm only a year out of nursing school.
    It's an area I would love to continue in and explore further but I am afraid of losing nursing skills if I do.
    I am also wanting to work in the US and wondered what the need for psychiatric nurses are over there?
  7. by   aquakenn
    Thank you. It means a lot.
  8. by   aquakenn
    Thank you very much!!
  9. by   aquakenn
    Thank you. I've seen those commercials where there is an elderly man being a lifeguard and an elderly woman firefighter. The commercials are meant for younger people so they invest early in life. I view the commercial as, as long as we're living well, we can do the job we love forever.
  10. by   retiredmednurse
    I recently retired after 36 years in nursing. This post brought a lot of wonderful memories of my student nursing days, especially the cap. I was good wearing it on the med-surg floor, but when I went to orthopedics floor, in those days there was a LOT of traction being used and my cap kept getting knocked around with the traction ropes. I thought nothing of leaving it off. It was a shock to me when I tried to buy a new cap, and that my nursing school no longer even sold them. Nurses were no longer going through capping ceremonies. How sad! That was a special day in the student's career-almost as important as pinning. And yes, aquakenn, age truly is only a number. We had a mother with high school-age sons in our class. She never said how old she was, but commented one day that she "had less days ahead of her than were behind (her)." I commented to her that as an older nurse, the public and doctors would see her as more experienced than myself and the young generic BSN students. They could see that I would be inexperienced when I got out of school, just because I looked/was so young. And do enjoy the journey. For the last semester, in my school by the time you got to this point, one knew one would pass. It was a semester on leadership. All my class except 2 decided to take the summer session, while the other 2 decided to take the summer break and finish with the fall semester. I asked one why to take the fall semester instead of doing it in the summer and getting it over with. Her comment was that during nursing school our nose was always to the grinding wheel. She wanted to enjoy that last semester and go to plays, concerts, and other college activities that just were not possible until reaching that last semester.
  11. by   aquakenn
    Thank you for your encouragement!!
  12. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    Quote from Nurse_Tina
    "Yes, psychiatric nursing is a real, valuable nursing skill. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise."

    I'm loving this!! One of my favourite practical placements was in Mental Health here in Australia. I am currently working in community mental health but just for six months as part of my Graduate Programme. I'm only a year out of nursing school.
    It's an area I would love to continue in and explore further but I am afraid of losing nursing skills if I do.
    I am also wanting to work in the US and wondered what the need for psychiatric nurses are over there?
    So glad that mental health is one of your nursing loves! There is definitely a need for psychiatric nurses in a variety of settings. If you are concerned about not practicing other skills, it depends on the setting you are working in mental health for many will require you to continue to utilize med-surg skills, etc. Since there is a significant need for nurses, you could also consider working varied roles part-time, or casual to sharpen a variety of skills. Good luck!
  13. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and congratulations on your retirement!
  14. by   Nurse_Tina
    It never occurred to me to work more than one role! Thank you

close