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Open Letter to Prospective Nursing Students

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What should I know when going to nursing school?

I am not a nurse, but an administrative assistant – a caregiver of another sort – who works for a nursing school. I see a lot of the same struggles and successes in every new batch of students. I’m cheering for you to succeed and sympathetic when you struggle and so would like to share some pointers from my perspective in the hopes that it will help everyone – students, faculty and staff – more easily enjoy your path through nursing school.

Open Letter to Prospective Nursing Students

Because you haven't entered the program yet, it may feel like some or all of this doesn't apply to you, but my hope is that you'll read all that I have shared and that as you go through your chosen program at least some of what I've shared will be helpful.

On Instructors:

It is not a requirement that you like them, only that you treat them with respect and do your best to learn from them. They are not out to get you; their objective is to provide you with the information and tools you need to become a good nurse. Sometimes an instructor may seem difficult to work with, but even that situation should be handled in a respectful and professional manner.

They cannot possibly teach everything to each different learning style. If you do not agree with an instructor's teaching style, speak with them about ways you can adapt in order to succeed.

It is also not their job to spoon-feed you the information. They spend hours creating a lecture, maybe with a PowerPoint presentation, and the syllabus. If they took the time to go over every detail in the reading, this would be a MUCH longer program. Do the reading. Study. That's your job as a nursing student.

On Administrative Support Staff:

We are here to help, but please also treat us with respect. Last-minute requests for help - for example, if you need a copy made - are ok once in a while, but frequent requests show a lack of consideration for our time and shows that you are not prepared, which is unprofessional.

Use correct grammar and spelling when composing an email to the staff or faculty. Using text-speak (ex. "r u" for "are you") or all caps is unprofessional and shows a lack of respect.

Request assistance, do not demand. I am happy to help, but stating flatly what you need and expecting compliance is unprofessional and shows a lack of respect. (Are you seeing a theme here?)

  1. Ex: demand - "I need another copy of the reference letter from Professor Smith. I'll pick it up in an hour."
  2. Ex: request - "I have an interview coming up and wanted to know if you have time to make another copy of the reference letter from Dr. Smith. If so, would it be possible for me to pick it up in a couple of days?"
  3. The request shows an understanding that the staff member has other responsibilities and a respect for their time and effort. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Please check your email and, if applicable, your class' Facebook page before calling or stopping by to ask a question. If we have already taken the time to answer your question in email or on Facebook, it's frustrating to have to repeat ourselves because you didn't take the time to read.

On Some Common And Not-So-Common Sense:

All of your life the importance of getting the best grades you can has been pounded into you and you may even be a straight A student. I'm going to ask you to loosen up your attitude toward grades a little. While grades are important, the ultimate objective is understanding and retaining nursing concepts. When you transition into practice in two years your patient won't care if you earned an 89.4 or a 91 in your class, only that you can provide safe, competent, compassionate care to help them through a difficult time in their life.

Nursing school is not like anything you've done before. Be FLEXIBLE. Your previous methods may need tweaking or even a complete overhaul.

If you are struggling in a class, seek help A.S.A.P. If you wait until mid-terms, it may be too late and you may end up having to retake a class.

Take advantage of the services offered to students at your school, whether it's help with studying skills, guided study sessions, tutoring or paper-writing assistance. Even though you've clearly written papers and been studying for years, you may learn some new methods that work better for you.

You are responsible for how successful you are. No one else. You can view that as burdensome or empowering. It's your choice. (I'd pick empowering.)

When you start the program you are likely to feel frustrated and overwhelmed and you may want to blame faculty or the program for your difficulties. If you are attending a program with a high NCLEX pass rate, think before you blame. After every class graduates, the students who started off complaining the loudest are usually the ones expressing the most gratitude and saying how well we prepared them for nursing.

FINALLY! Or In Closing:

We, staff, faculty and administrators, are all here to help you succeed and are, even if it may not always seem like it, cheering for your success.

1 Article; 677 Profile Views; 3 Posts

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82 Posts; 2,268 Profile Views

This certainly has some good advice in it! I especially like the section dealing with respectful communication, which certainly will carry over into practice.

However, I would say that as a recent grad there is one thing that I disagree with. I don't think a student should start with the attitude that it is okay to get a B in a class right out of the gate. Is it okay to get a B? Of course! But aim high and study hard, especially if you have career goals that could come down to a GPA, or if you are getting your ADN which makes it a lot harder to get jobs. Also, some people can't help but feel upset when they don't get the grade they want, but in my case that has always been a motivating factor, not a setback.

Also, remember that in clinical you are there to learn. Sometimes you will think that your clinical instructor is being mean or unhelpful, but you need to put in the work as well. Bring your drug book to look up medications, even if you aren't giving meds that day. Look up your patient's diagnoses and pathophysiology for each so you can ask questions about care plans during the clinical. I learned early on that by doing this you will not only impress your preceptor but also really increase your nursing knowledge and make any care plan assignments a lot easier on yourself!

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1 Article; 3 Posts; 677 Profile Views

Thank you for your thoughtful reply, WheatGerm. I sincerely appreciate it - especially coming from a nurse who's been through it. Your insight about clinical was especially helpful! I don't see the students in that setting, so I didn't even think about that aspect.

I can see where you're coming from about doing your best and striving for better than a B, but I was mainly addressing those who come in with the expectation that they will easily earn the same grades in nursing school as they did in their prerequisites and then are distraught and crying when they get a B instead of an A. I want them to be proud of doing their best, even if they aren't getting the grade they hoped for, and to strive to do better without punishing themselves. Some students seem to view anything less than an A as a failure which is a shame if they're doing their best. Perhaps that drive is part of what will make them great nurses, but nursing school is stressful enough without being as hard on themselves as some of them can be. Thank you for commenting on it - I appreciate your viewpoint as well as the opportunity to elaborate.

One other thing I would add to my original post - show up on time or, even better, a few minutes early. Late? Not professional. Not only that, your classmates and then your coworkers will get tired of it FAST. Yes, there will be those times when something emergent comes up, but if you typically struggle with being on time, come up with strategies to break that habit before you get to nursing school.

Edited by HelpingIsMyGame
Minor tweaking

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umbdude has 3 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Psych/Mental Health.

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I'll loosen up on grades after I get into grad school. Though I never cry over grades nor lose sleep over them.

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Buyer beware has 40 years experience as a BSN and specializes in GENERAL.

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Just as a matter of interest, which school do you work for?

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1 Article; 3 Posts; 677 Profile Views

I'm choosing to remain anonymous in the interest of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I wish I could share because I'm proud to work where I do, but people do and say some hateful stuff when they think they can't be identified.

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Buyer beware has 40 years experience as a BSN and specializes in GENERAL.

1,137 Posts; 11,410 Profile Views

Op: Education today has devolved into what I believe are business or quasi business enterprises. As such, students today who very often have to take on incredibly burdensome debt to attend nursing school have every right to expect service excellence when dealing with school faculty and administrators. So respect and diligent attention to all aspects of the learning process is a two way street. For the students who don't belong in nursing school in the first place due to not studying, poor attendance, being tardy to class, and not turning in work, as well as a poor or unprofessional attitude, any school would have to evaluate their admission process to avoid the lose-lose situation of admitting obviously unqualified candidates. If as in many for-profit schools admission standards are virtually non-existent, you can not blame the student unless you give remedial lessions in behavior 101 while simultaneouly putting a hold on accessing their loan money. You just can't have it both ways and still complain about student code of conduct deficiencies.

Edited by Buyer beware
wording

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