Surviving Nursing School: The How Too Tips!

by | Laugh at Work Stress, Relax, Unwind

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Surviving Nursing School:

I graduated from nursing school seven years ago, and my girlfriend did so about nine years ago. Although times change and the field evolves, the challenge of nursing school remains constant. It was tough a decade ago and will likely be the same in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has added even more complexity for nursing students. Luckily, we’re here to offer survival tips for nursing school.

It’s important to recognize that the difficulty of nursing school is justified. Nurses today are caring for some of the sickest patients ever seen. Advancements in technology and medicine mean people are living longer, leading to an older and more complex patient population.

surviving nursing school

The medical field is constantly evolving, with new treatment plans, drugs, and evidence-based practice research (EBP) emerging regularly. A common sentiment is that nursing school doesn’t fully prepare you for the realities of nursing. While there’s some truth to that, and the pressure of caring for sick patients as a student can be overwhelming, many principles taught in nursing school are directly applicable in professional nursing.

How can you survive nursing school? What advice can we give you to help in your own journey?

5 Tips For Surviving Nursing School

I. Eat/Exercise/Sleep/Work:

We’ve grouped these four essentials together because they’re fundamental. Adequate sleep and proper nutrition significantly boost work efficiency and proficiency.

Related Article: Benefits of Mindful Eating: Transforming Your Relationship with Food

Both of us worked full-time jobs while attending nursing school, making it crucial to consume foods that maintain energy and focus. Here are some additional tips:

  • Establish a Meal Plan: Implement a structured meal plan with a well-deserved cheat day each week. You’re working hard, so it’s important to treat yourself occasionally.
  • Consult a Nutrition Expert: Consider a one-time consultation with a nutritionist or dietitian to discuss healthy eating options that can enhance mental clarity and energy levels.
  • Maintain a Balanced Exercise Routine: Opt for a regular, moderate exercise regime. Overly intense workouts can be counterproductive. Consistency and realistic exercise goals are key.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Set a fixed bedtime, ensuring all distractions like lights and TV are turned off. While there might be nights where you need to study longer, strive to adhere to this sleep schedule as often as possible.

The University of Michigan offers some good content discussing “healthy eating to decrease stress“. Examples of some tips include; limiting caffeine consumptions (for all you coffee lovers). In fact, caffeine can make stressful situations, even more intense.

How many of you have experienced anxiety, nervousness, or stress, and found that it makes clear thinking more challenging? This is a state you want to avoid, especially in nursing school.

Other tips for healthy eating include limiting alcohol consumption and using mealtime as an opportunity to relax and calm down, rather than just grabbing food on the go.


A note on sleep and it’s importance in everyday life, especially nursing school students daily tasks. Sleep is crucial for helping our brain recharge. Thus, when we don’t get enough sleep it can affect memory, mood and even judgement, according to an article published by the American Psychological Association

Nursing students need proper sleep to make good decisions and help retain information learned, whether in the clinical or classroom setting. There was even a study done showing that specific workers who slept 5 or less hours, had higher odds ratio for high stress awareness, or perceived stress.

Simply said, to adequately manage stress, you need sleep!

We can’t go on without discussing exercise and stress. Another vital piece of the puzzle here for nursing students is getting some degree of exercise on a consistent basis.

Research has shown that “people report feeling calmer after even just a 20-30 minute aerobic bout of exercise“. As we workout and our heart rate increases, so does blood flow to the brain. This means more oxygen and nutrients, as well as inducing proteins in the brain responsible for keeping brain cells healthy. 

Additionally, exercise stimulates the releases of chemicals like dopamine and endorphins, or your “feel good” hormones. So if you’ve had a rough day or rough nursing school week, this becomes imperative to help control your mood and emotions. 

Related Article: How regular exercises improves memory and thinking skills

2. Establish a Group of Like-Minds:

From the beginning of nursing school, seek out peers who share similar goals and exhibit good study habits. Prioritize connecting with those who live nearby to save time.

  • Social Interaction: Engage socially to understand how others balance their work and study habits.
  • Sharing Study Techniques: Exchange effective note-taking strategies and study tools like diagrams or charts, which can aid in learning more efficiently.
  • Regular Review Sessions: Aim to review notes within 24 hours of each lecture. This practice significantly enhances information recall.
  • Weekly Group Meetings: Organize a weekly group discussion to tackle the most challenging material of the week. Collaborative review can be a powerful tool for understanding complex concepts.

We found a really interesting article posted by Oxford Learning, discussing the benefits of studying alone vs. within a group, and when to do each.

Let’s face it, in nursing school, you’ll likely find yourself studying in various settings. However, as emphasized in the aforementioned article, discussing material can make it easier to memorize information.

In nursing school, you’re faced with an immense amount of information, a significant portion of which requires straightforward memorization. It’s important to be aware of this.

Motivation plays a crucial role too. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals can lead to a more effective mutual motivation system, helping everyone stay focused and engaged.

3. Practice Real World Scenarios:

We can’t emphasize this enough: practicing hands-on skills is beneficial in three significant ways. Firstly, it prepares you for in-class graded scenarios that mimic real-life situations. Secondly, it aids in digesting and visualizing the material learned in classroom sessions. Finally, it ensures you are better prepared for clinical rotations. Key examples of these practical skills include:

  • Taking Vitals: Learning the proper techniques for measuring vital signs.
  • Dosage Calculations: Mastering the art of accurately calculating medication dosages.
  • Medication Administration: Understanding the protocols for administering various medications.
  • Basic Nursing Skills: Developing proficiency in fundamental nursing procedures.
  • Intervention Concepts: Gaining a deeper understanding of different interventions and comprehending the ‘why’ behind each action.

Scenario based learning takes the context or subject material that you are or have learned, and applies it to a specific “real world” scenario. Consequently, helps to better understand content and why things are done, the way they are. These also provide an opportunity for written or oral reflection and self-assessment on the process(s). 

4. Don’t just Memorize, Understand:

If there’s one crucial piece of advice for getting through nursing school, it’s this: strive to understand what you’re learning and how it applies to nursing.

  • Beyond Memorization: While memorizing certain concepts, diseases, and interventions is necessary, it’s vital to understand the ‘why’ behind each intervention.
  • Real-World Scenarios: Take the real-world scenarios presented in your studies seriously. Often, students rush through textbook scenarios, but taking time to understand these situations can be incredibly beneficial.
  • Invest in Study Materials: Consider purchasing a study book early in your nursing education. Many of these books complement what you learn in school and can significantly enhance your critical thinking skills.
  • Build Confidence Through Knowledge: Remember, deep knowledge of the material not only improves your understanding but also boosts your confidence, which is essential for your journey through nursing school.

5. Take Advantage of Clinical Time:

Clinical rotations are more than just a requirement – they’re a crucial part of your learning experience. Here are some ways to make the most of this time:

  • Engage Fully: Even though you might prefer some rotations over others, use each opportunity to enhance your skills. This includes practicing patient communication, familiarizing yourself with room setups, and observing the daily workflow of nurses.
  • Observe and Learn: Take note of the challenges nurses face daily. Understanding these issues can provide valuable insights into the nursing profession.
  • Manage Stress: Nurse stress is a reality. Start developing coping mechanisms early. Practices like yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness techniques can be excellent tools for managing stress and anxiety.
  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask your clinical instructors questions. They possess a wealth of knowledge and experience.
  • Be Confident and Learn: Recognize that you’re there to learn, but also be confident in what you already know. Practice skills you’re less comfortable with to gain proficiency. For instance, if a task like giving daily baths feels awkward, seek opportunities to assist others and improve through practice. Over time, challenging tasks can become more routine and manageable.

Final Thoughts: 

We hope some of these tips resonate with you on how to survive nursing school. If you’re looking to go into nursing school, know that you can do it. There are a ton of options within nursing.

Above all, get a few years at the bedside. Whether you choose to do something with administration, management, education, or even informatics, we always recommend to get a few years of bedside. Furthermore, get accustomed to what the art of nursing is, it’s very important.

Thanks, and we hope you have a great day, good luck, hope to see you again soon.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them to purchase items, then we may earn a small commission. Hope you find something that you like!
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