Things you wish you knew before nursing school

Nurses Career Support



I'm a pre-nursing student on my way to becoming a nurse-midwife (God willing). For all of you who are either currently in nursing school or are now nurses, knowing what you know now, what would you have wished you knew before you started?

I'm in your boat, just working on prerequisites right now with nursing in mind.

From what I can tell, and I'll take an educated guess here...... Time Management is very important :)

There's a lot of time needed to devote to studying, which is obvious. But using that time wisely is better than a cram session.

Laundry doesn't fold itself, but wrinkles don't kill anyone :)

LOL, nor does leaving it in the basket until its washed again!

Sad, I'm better with homework than I am putting clean laundry away. :D

Specializes in Hospice, Palliative Care.

Good day:

I'm just finishing up my prerequisites to start a RN program this coming fall. is a good read before you start; and, should you follow it, will help you with all of your classes. Frixion pens appear to be the best of both worlds between pen and pencil. A digital recorder was among the best things I've purchased for those classes where the professor allows you to record lectures.

Thank you.

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

First go to a nationally NURSING accredited program. Get your BSN. Then look into midwife programs after you get some experience as a nurse under your belt.

Know that you will not have much of a social life, and even less money.

Study and read EVERY DAY, and make sure you have read the chapter before the lecture.

Sit up front, listen, and ask questions.

Simplify everything you can---automatic bill pay on the computer, simple meals (crock pots are great!) wash-and-wear clothes.

Nursing school is a VERY BAD time to get a puppy or a baby.

Do not stay up half the night whenever you have 10 minutes during the day and evening. ( I used to replay recorded lectures during my commute, a friend read on the bus)

Speed up your keyboarding skills.

Buy APA formating software for your computer (worth the $$$)

Get a back-up alarm clock if you sleep through noises....0445 comes early.

Never, EVER turn down a chance to learn something new, see a new unit or procedure, or be nice to someone.

Man, I wish I had seen some of these before I started. My personal advice?

Organize your house, and get accustomed to your system. If you have significant others who don't participate in chores-start training!

Figure out what kind of planner works for you and buy it. Do you like a month spread? A week by week? A day a page? Fill it in as soon as you get your information! Highlight test dates and make sure you have time for a relaxed evening the night before.

If you have enough time, save as much money as you can.

If you are able to get ahold of your book lists, start scouting for used. My program had a Facebook page Supply Swap- I can't even tell you how much money it's saved me. Ask upperclassmen and your teachers if an older edition might work for you. Scout the internet-if you're comfortable with E-Books, a few students found two entire textbooks online-FOR FREE!

Like trishmsn mentioned, auto bill pay is a lifesaver.

As is a loud alarm clock. I bought one called "The Screaming Meanie" off Amazon. That thing is ridiculous.

I wouldn't buy the bare minimum of uniforms. A lot of students told me to save my money, and just buy two. But the occasional week, however, I would have labs requiring me to wear my uniform one day, and clinicals the next three days. Always happened the weeks I did not want to do laundry, and I will not wear a uniform more then once (2nd day hospital germs? No thank you.) I purchased 4.

Use your resources. I found myself making just short of an A over and over. When I made the extra effort and utilized the ATI books they provided, online practice quizzes, and made my own notes off the chapters and supplemented with their outlines, I started getting A's again! If you are comfortable in study group-find one, and don't be afraid to switch/leave it if you feel it isn't a good fit.

Some things that definitely aren't necessary to buy, but I've put on my personal list because I think they come in handy (all three are on amazon/medical supply store):

Your own, personal travel pulse oximeter. Where I rotate, it seems to be the first thing to go missing off the vitals machines.

Travel pill cutter (I've never even seen one of these where I've worked. They used scissors. Gross. )

Portable pill crusher (Everywhere I've been has had one per unit-and I hate making the nurses track us down when they need it back)

SIDE NOTE: CHECK with your clinical instructor (and even facility) before using these in your clinicals. They may require you to have the oximeter checked for accuracy, or they may have a rule regarding outside tools. Don't do anything to risk you, your clinical instructors, or your schools reputation, no matter how minor it seems.


1. As someone else said, make sure the program is accredited!

If it is not, then don't go!

2. Look at the clinical rotations. Are they in actual physical hospitals/ clinics/ etc or are the bulk of your rotations simulations?

3. If you CAN handle work and school it. Be a CNA or unit secretary or technician somewhere (SOMEWHERE THAT WILL ACTUALLY EMPLOY YOU. BEING A CNA IS USELESS IF THEY DO NOT TAKE NEW GRADS AT THAT PLACE). If you can't, it is not the end of the world. I am not a CNA or anything, and I know that I will probably get a decent job somewhere. But I wish I had the capacity to do work and school together because if I could, I would have taken a CNA job at my dream hospital where they guarantee interviews to internal employees. But school comes first, and I don't have any financial needs, and I want to pass and become a BSN RN.

4. Do they make you jump through obscene and unnecessary hoops to get through school? A good nursing school will have no more than a 5-10% of the kids failing each year. If half the class flunks out after the first semester, it is a bad sign that they either over-accept, take money, then filter out who didn't belong or don't have supportive professors who teach well.

5. Read before every lecture. You don't have to read every word closely (that can be tedious), but skim everything and try to just see the major key points before each lecture. Then right after every lecture, go over the notes and fill in any knowledge gaps. Every week, do a major review of every lecture that week. Then during finals/midterms, do a major major review of all the lectures in the period of time.

6. If you get access to Kaplan or ATI practice questions in nursing school, go over NCLEX questions in your free time.

7. Treat clinicals like a job interview. It sort of is. Always be respectful, happy, and eager to learn. Ask a lot of questions, and don't talk too much about silly things. If the nurses on staff gossip just stand to the side and be quiet. But when the nurses are doing things, just volunteer. Say "oh I can do this!" "I want to do that!" "I want to start this IV!" and keep asking them to let you do things. You never know when you'll get another opportunity to do things like start a foley catheter or an IV so do them any chance you get. And always be professional and do your best. If your professor lets you stay all 12 hours, offer to give report at the end of the day (with the nurse watching so that she can give corrections and add things). If your patient goes to the OR or another unit that you have never been to, follow that patient to the unit. I got to see like 3 surgeries. I don't think I'll get that opportunity again in my life.

That's all I can think of lol. Sorry for the wall of text.

Specializes in Critical Care; Recovery.

Try not to talk too much about wanting to become a nurse practitioner or some other advanced practice nurse. This may come back to bite you on future job interviews as people will remember this about you and tell your interviewer.

One of my main motives in seeking to get my BSN is so I could go on to become a CNM, something I've always wanted to do. So you're telling me not to talk too much about this or mention it around my peers or supervisors? I don't understand how something like that could come to hurt me later down the line.

Specializes in medsurg, progressive care.

Telling people that you want to go back to gt your CNM is telling future employers that you don't want to work on that floor. From my expereince, med/surg rotation is going to be much longer than OB (my med/surg was 2 full semesters while OB was 7 weeks). Chances are, as a new grad, you won't be working in OB. The job market is horrible for new grads right now, but because colleges keep spewing garbage about the "nursing shortage" there are an overabundance of new grads. Those who are graduating with their BSN in May 2014 have to compete with all the people I graduated with in May 2013 who still don't have jobs, and those who graduate in May 2015 are going to do the same, etc etc. New grads have the best chance of finding a job on a med/surg floor or in a new grad residency, where spots are difficult to get in certain areas (I have no idea where you live, but in CT, getting a spot in a residency is unheard of). Once you get hired as an RN, they want you to stay. You are filling an open position, it's not like they created one just for you, you know? They don't want to hire someone who is going to leave after a few years because that means they paid to train you as an RN and then they have to train another new nurse just 3 years later to fill that same position. It's very expensive to train new nurses. I completely understand why you think it would be a good thing to tell them (it looks great that you're considering higher education, it shows you're ambitious, etc) but I would recommend keeping those plans to yourself until you secure a job. Plus you never know... my preceptor went into nursing to become a post partum nurse, and has worked in med/surg for 14 years because she fell in love with her first job!

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