Nursing School: Things To Know Before You Start!

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 certification, 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.

Your required book list won't be the ONLY books you'll want to have!

Throughout the 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!

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Specializes in NICU.

This is great! Thank you for the inspiration and advice!

I would absolutely LOVE to know what those 5 additional books you purchased were... I've been checking the boards and getting a few ideas of books to purchase, but would love to know which ones you actually used and were helpful to you. Thanks again for the great post! I look forward to doing one of these myself next fall! =)


34 Posts

Thanks for the tips! I'd love to know the types of subjects the first semester covers


140 Posts

I would absolutely LOVE to know what those 5 additional books you purchased were... I've been checking the boards and getting a few ideas of books to purchase, but would love to know which ones you actually used and were helpful to you. Thanks again for the great post! I look forward to doing one of these myself next fall! =)

Me too... I would love to know what other books I should have. I already purchased Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and Fundamentals Success: A Course Review Applying Critical Thinking to Test Taking. Because we are not required to take a separate pharmacology class, I also bought Pharmacology for Nursing Care textbook to read this summer before starting the ADN program this fall.


35 Posts

Thank you so much for this great post! First hand information is always the best and tips are always appreciated.


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The books that I found helpful in my first year that weren't on my required book list were

1. Hesi Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination book - yes, I know we're not taking our boards just yet, but this book is EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to those Hesi tests we have to take throughout the year... and you can NEVER practice too many NCLEX questions. I scored 1066 or above on all sections of my Hesi because of the help of this book.

2. STUDY GUIDES! Our book list never listed study guides for our texts. We, as a class, didn't even realize that study guides were available for our texts until later in the year. So if the study guides aren't listed on your book list, look for them on Amazon or another site!

3. Prentice Hall's Reviews & Rationales: Comprehensive NCLEX-RN Review - again with the NCLEX, but just like the Hesi book, this book is divided into sections that you're covering now. It helps with test taking skills as well, but the best part is that this book is by the people who write the NCLEX-RN test... I've got it on good authority that this book alone will help tremendously when your date to take your boards comes around! And again... you can NEVER do too many NCLEX questions!

4. Nurse's Fast Facts: The Only Book You'll Need For Clinicals - this book is a pocket-sized (almost) reference to many things your instructors will ask you during clinicals. My instructors like these... but of course they weren't on our list... we found out about them second hand.

5. There is a line of book called "... Made Incredibly Easy!" There is everything from Fluid and Electrolytes Made Incredibly Easy! to Cardiovascular... IV Therapy.... Patient Teaching... on and on and on. I only purchased F&E because I struggled with it for a time. Many students had several books in the series. These books just simplify what you're taught in class and maybe present the information in a way that is more understandable to some.

The Saunder's NCLEX-RN book was on our required book list, and I've used it greatly as well.


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Thanks for the tips! I'd love to know the types of subjects the first semester covers

Every nursing program is different, but your first semester will be Fundamentals of Nursing. It's all the basic stuff you'll need to form the foundation of your nursing practice. Boring?.... yes. Important?.... Very. So grasp all that you can. First semester is also when you have skills lab to learn all of the skills that you'll need in the clinical setting. I'm not sure how your school is structured, but we learned EVERYTHING this first semester. Before our first clinical we were checked off on everything from making a bed and transferring a patient to nasogastric tubes, suctioning, and IV's. Trust me when I tell you that the first semester is HECTIC... but stick with it!

Specializes in Certified Nursing Assistant.

That was really inspirational, even though u guys are way out my league because I'm just a pre-nursing student for the LPN, but hopefully could get on u guys level some day! But GREAT info!! Love this website!


13 Posts

Specializes in Ortho, Neuro, Internal Med.

Wow! Well written and very helpful! I myself am just starting my prereqs to get into the nursing program. I am nervous to say the least but optimistic. Unsure of what's to come and all that comes with it. All of the tips, advice and so much more has helped me a great deal so far. I will be following this post from now on. Thank you!


91 Posts

our program director suggested as summer reading to buy "Nursing Student Success Made Incredibly Easy!" I bought a copy on amazon for about $10.00


22 Posts

Thanks for posting this! I love hearing about nursing school, especially the first year. I am about to start in the fall, my orientation is August 31, and I am nervous but also SO excited to begin! You had some great tips, thanks especially for the book list!