Life experience, how much has it helped you?

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My last three tests life experience has made a huge difference on my exams. My oldest son is diabetic so I whizzed right through the nutrition test. I've had 5 kids so I used a lot of life experience on my mother/baby tests. I am surprised how many people have not been able to use life experience to enhance their learning. I know it won't help with every test, but there is just so much in life that if you use it and reflect on it and use some common sense you can figure out a lot of the answers on these tests. Just wondering everyone else's feelings on life experience.


nurse2be in ny

332 Posts

My life experiences were what led me to nursing in the first place. I figured that if I could live to tell, I could certainly help others through, too! As far as it giving me help with things like tests, I guess it has. It'll probably help me more when I'm actually in nursing classes, though, and not just doing A&P.


543 Posts

Specializes in home health, LTC, assisted living.

I worked for 10 years as a medical transcriptionist, for clinics, and hospitals, this really helped me with the med terms, and I knew about many of the drugs, procedures, etc. I think it has helped me a lot. ;)

I am a "more mature" nursing student (I like to think vintage!) Unfortunately, life experience has helped me out a lot in Pathophysiology, because either I have had the illness, or a friend has had the illness.

A friend of mine just got diagnosed with Parkinson's. She's only 48. :o

So, yes, life experience is definitely helping (I guess).

Oldie but Goodie


612 Posts

Ditto with the above - my experiences are what really pushed me into that registration office at nursing school. My Dad died of cancer four years ago, and that had a major role in my decision. I also have two teenagers, so all that goes along with raising kids and understanding how families feel, etc. Nothing like good ole' on the job life experience, can't get that from a textbook.


1,907 Posts

Specializes in OB, lactation.

My life experience led me into the field somewhat also.

I think it also helped me to get the highest grade out of 80 people on my last test!! I just knew a lot of it from experience. Our first test was harder though, because I didn't have experience with the systems we were studying. Anyway, overall I would say it helps a lot. I think it also makes me a better studier and test taker than I was when I was younger - I just feel like I am better at extrapolating what I should be focusing on.

Specializes in CCU (Coronary Care); Clinical Research.

I think that life experience would be great...but I want to say that you can be a good nurse and make it without a lot of experience also. I started nursing school right out of highschool, graduated when I was 23. I had never been in a hospital, nor had my parents, or brothers. I had only one friend that had ever been in a hospital (though this is one of the reasons I started thinking about nursing) and it was for a serious foot injury. I had/have not really experienced a family or friend death, except my grandpa but we were never very close.

Now I have been a nuse for just over a year. I really enjoy it and wouldn't want another profession...I am still building all that life experience (thankfully none that revolves around illness/injury yet though). I did very well in nursing school despite not have the practical experience that many others in my class did. Just wanted to add my two cents from someone who didn't have that base--it can be done!!

Specializes in Med-Tele, ICU.

I am only a first semester (ADN) nursing student, but I have to say that life experience has helped me as well. I have a 6 year old son and a 14 year old stepdaughter. Over the years I've learned quite a bit with them through different illnesses. My son had pneumonia at 8 mos old and was in the hospital for 4 days. He also had his tonsils out at 3 yrs old. My stepdaughter had scoliosis and had spinal fusion surgery back in December 03. She was in the hospital for 5 days. That is when I decided to go to nursing school. I had been in healthcare (4 years in a nursing home and 2 years in a psych hospital - both working as a secretary/admin asst) and I just decided that I was tired of being someone's secretary. Nursing is definitely a lucrative field and so broad. I just figured I might as well go where the money was. It wasn't just the money - I just knew that nursing was for me. I LOVED the PICU. The one on one care my stepdaughter got was top notch! It just hit me - I wasn't getting any younger. I better go back to school (I've been to college once before but didn't finish) and not even take time to think twice about it or I'd chicken out.

My life experiences, along with being in healthcare for 6 years has helped me SO much. I hardly read the chapters that are assigned and don't do the workbook assignments (which, BTW, are not graded so what's the point?). I cram the night before a test and still have an 88 average to date. I do very well in clinicals and on other miscellaneous assignments we have. I have to agree with TeresaRN2b about reflecting on what you've learned in life and using common sense to figure out the right answers on the test - that approach, in addition to actually studying for the test.

Obviously, this method doesn't work for everyone. I just consider myself lucky. Most of our tests come straight from our lectures, not the textbooks! I do really well just listening, rewriting my notes for repetition, and cramming. Of course, this may not work next semester! Guess I'll see what happens!

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

Life experience is definitely an asset in nursing school, as well as in your career. I've been able to empathize with frightened parents whose baby is fighting for every breath in a mist tent, because I've been through that with my own. It's also easier to teach pts. how to deal with a particular health issue if you've experienced it yourself, or at least seen someone close to you go through it.

That said, we "mature practitioners" (as my NM calls us) also tend to be seen as having more knowledge than we really do, and that can be a problem even in school. I had one instructor who thought I knew way more than I did, because I was the oldest student in my clinical group; every now and again I had to remind her that I was new to all this, just like the youngest members of the group, and I needed guidance as much as they did. The fact that I was capable of critical thinking didn't help much when I was faced with my first catheterization; I had gotten so much K-Y on my gloves that I couldn't hold on to his, uh, equipment while I clumsily attempted to insert the Foley....:imbar

I probably violated every rule of sterile procedure at least once during the ordeal, and my instructor was so mad at me she finally yelled "That's enough!" and told me to leave the room. Once out in the hall, she then proceeded to chew me a new one for "acting like you know more than you do". Excuse me?? I was the one who'd told her NOT to assume I knew it all......but then, part of being a grown-up means taking the occasional a$$bite without protest. Later on, as graduation neared and this instructor had become comfortable with my skills (I later became the first in my group to be allowed to catheterize on my own ;) ), we had a big laugh over the whole thing, and have remained friends ever since.

Yep, life experience really CAN be helpful.:D And like a number of other older nurses who got started relatively late in life, I'm actually glad I waited a while. While I'm acquainted with many younger nurses who are excellent clinicians, I know I personally wouldn't have been very good at this when I was their age. But, that's just me.:)

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