Transitions: On Becoming a Nursing Student

We are no longer dreaming, applying, and simply taking prerequisites. As nursing school acceptance letters and emails begin arriving, thousands of individuals' lives step into a new, transitional stage in their lives: pre-nursing student status. We stand on the threshold between the worlds of "hopeful" and "nursing student." And because of where we are, we have the clear vision of what it has taken for us to get this close to our dream of nursing school and yet somewhat blissfully unaware of truly knowing all that lies ahead. This is an open letter to those who will teach, mentor, and preceptor us.


Life is filled with transitions. In fact, if you look up the word "life" in any dictionary in my home, it will read "see 'transition' " and then give an appropriate page number. If you choose to look up the word "life" via the internet, then there will be a link or a very nice visual depiction of different types of transitions--crossroads, morphing butterflies, you name it. Of course, I jest, but not entirely.

Sitting at my desk and staring at the blank page of my nursing school scholarship essay, I am caught somewhere between the quiet of having been accepted to nursing school (yay!) and the start of nursing school in a few short months. Here I sit without too many pressing things on my to-do list--minus writing this scholarship essay, cleaning out closets, painting a few rooms, tidying up, putting my home on the market, selling it, and then moving to the town of my nursing program.

As I sit between the worlds of now (post-acceptance) and the ever-nearing future start of nursing school, I have the dual vision of knowing how much hard work it has taken to get even this far: there were numerous prerequisite courses and the hours, days, and months of hard work and studying; there were nursing program information sessions to attend in order to find the right fit (it for me); and then there were the varied applications and playing the waiting game (the right fit: me for the program), hoping to hear good news from the dream program at my dream school.

I was lucky to have made the cut and to have been accepted. And I see, too, how much more hard work I am willingly about to take on.

In my program cohort, I will be one of a few dozen new students. If the US Health and Human Services data of NCLEX first-time test-taker numbers serves as a good rough estimate of the number of nursing students in a given year, I will be one in a cohort of about 150,000 US nursing students in 2014 (US HRSA, 2013).

In short, it will be nice to know I am in good company--others transitioning from not being a nurse to becoming one. Presumably, we have each chosen to pursue nursing because we wish to care for people, to help, to do good.

Yet I imagine that others entering the field are as aware as I am to the conversations going on within and around nursing: "Is there a nursing shortage or a surplus?"

"Are hospitals and care facilities hiring new graduates, or is there as much as an 18-month lag after graduating and becoming and RN before being hired?"

We pre-nursing students are aware of the ongoing debates between becoming a diploma nurse, an ADN, a BSN, or a direct-entry BSN or MSN. So we have chosen the program and direction that fit our individual life, needs, and circumstances. Putting aside political flavors, we also understand that nursing--in the context of the shifting healthcare field--is itself currently in transition. Nonetheless, we have chosen to join you current nurses because we want to be where you are, walk the hallways that you walk, and learn from you.

Like you, we want to help people through the transitions of their lives: birth, illness, wellness, and death. Like you, we want to be smart, competent, and caring. We want to avoid getting trampled--intellectually, physically, or emotionally--by those things we do not yet know. And we each want to avoid going home after a clinical and be the marshmallow that melts all over a hot sidewalk (read: tears), even though you would have no way of knowing if we did.

Each day, in the background of my relatively quiet current life, I can hear the ratcheting click that slowly pulls me up the hill of the rollercoaster ride I am about to embark on, as likely do all other pre-nursing students. We realize that from our side, we can mainly see only blue sky.

We also know from what others have said that this will not all be just a fun amusement park ride. When you see us, please remember, we are reading, studying, asking endless questions, and following you as though you were our duck mother (regardless of your gender) because we want you to impart your wisdom on us. As quickly and competently as we can, we are trying to transition--each of us--to being as good and knowledgeable a nurse as you are.

For now, however, I will go back to writing my scholarship essay, readying to sell my home, and amply hugging my children in hopes that I can build a surplus for the months I will be less available. For now, I will continue to transition from my life as I have known it thus far to my life as a nursing student.

See you soon!

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Lev, MSN, RN, NP

8 Articles; 2,803 Posts

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner. Has 10 years experience.

Wishing you much success as you embark on this journey!

Satori77, ADN

516 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg/Ortho. Has 5 years experience.

I'm getting close to that as well. Good luck on your journey!


304 Posts

This was a beautiful essay/letter or whatever is the proper term. First let me say "Congratulations"!! I wish you the best in all your endavors. Peace... :)

secondlifenurse, MSN, RN

1 Article; 54 Posts

Best of luck to you too on your journey! Very exciting times ahead :yes:

Has 1 years experience.

Love this, it's terrifying to start on a completely different path after walking my current one for the past 10 years as an aircraft mechanic. Still waiting to hear if I've been accepted, but it's my end goal & will get there eventually. Thank for writing this, it's a reminder that we're all in the same situation & if we stick together, it can be a fun (and sometimes terrifying) ride. Congrats & good luck on your journey!!


108 Posts

Good Luck! I'll be joining the Nursing Student Journey in April!!

Carpediem1012, BSN, RN

1 Article; 315 Posts

Has 7 years experience.

Wonderful analogy. The roller coaster is perfect! Just wait until it hits the peak- it's a wild ride, although I haven't finished it yet, it's my favourite ride at the park! Good luck.


90 Posts

LOVE this article! Good luck! I am hoping to start in August!


1,026 Posts

It's nice to hear from all of you on becoming a nurse. I wish you all the best.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma. Has 18 years experience.

Great article. Sending positive vibes into your transitions. :)