Nursing school is difficult, there is no doubt about that. Once you get past all of the difficult pre-requisites and make it into the nursing program, a vast majority of your time is spent learning how to take care of others. Taking care of others is obviously a huge responsibility...and to do it for a living? It can require sacrificing a lot of self.
I am approaching my final semester of nursing school (after a long five years, I'll finally be graduating in December of this year!) and I've learned some tips and tricks along the way of how to keep your sanity in the very difficult process that is nursing school so I wanted to share a few of those with you today. A lot of them may seem obvious but they are truly what has helped me survive so far and can help you, too.
- Time management. This is a huge one. As a nursing student, you are balancing clinical and class time with completing assignments, papers, projects. Personally, I have gone to school full-time for the last five years but I have also worked part-time the entire time as well. So between doing everything I have to do for school with working, spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends, and taking care of myself, it is a lot to handle. To better manage my time, I:
- Keep a planner and make to-do lists. I write down all of my deadlines/due dates and my work schedule. The planners I have been purchasing the last couple years also have built-in "to-do" lists each day which has really helped in prioritizing what needs to get done, and gosh does it feel nice to check off that box once I complete something!
- Prioritize. This is something that we discuss in regards to nursing (for example, ABC's, Airway, Breathing, Circulation, in relation to patient care) but we also need to prioritize things in our own lives as well. You will not have much free time to work with while you're in nursing school, so prioritizing is huge. I cannot tell you how to prioritize your time since we all have different values and priorities, but taking care of yourself should be your number one priority, always. In regards to assignments, I do the assignments that are due the soonest, usually starting with the most difficult just to get it out of the way, and then go from there.
- Ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in asking for help and delegating things to others, as appropriate, of course.
- Build a good support system. It would be difficult, but you can get through nursing school alone...but it so much better when you surround yourself with people who are there to support you.
- Nursing school friends. These are the people who you can study with but who will also understand what you are going through because they are going through it with you.
- Significant others. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who has been there for me for over the past three years, before I even started in the program. Maintaining a relationship while in nursing school is definitely difficult, especially in our situation where we live about 30 minutes away from each other and have completely different schedules, but we make time for each other. He may not understand exactly what I am going through with school but is always there to lend an ear when I need to vent, to give me time/space when I need it, and to give me nice foot massages after a long day of clinical!
- Family & friends. Again, they may not understand exactly what you are going through, but they are there to support you. Besides, having people in your life who are NOT in nursing school or the health care field is a nice balance. It can definitely take your mind off of the sometimes sad or heartbreaking things you see in clinical or at work.
- Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep. This is one of the more obvious ones but it is more important than many people realize. I make time to exercise (I work out at home! You can also see if your University has a gym on campus). Getting bored of doing the same old workout? Change it up - try out different classes, work out with a friend, find a new workout routine on Pinterest, or try a different gym, if possible. I also meal prep and find healthy snacks for when I have long days of school/clinical. Meal prepping has helped me significantly in staying healthy and eating cleanly. And lastly, GET ENOUGH SLEEP! I need at least seven hours at night in order to feel alert and ready to learn/work. Figure out what your body and mind need. And do not, I repeat, DO NOT pull all-nighters! Trust me, getting a good night's sleep before a big exam is more important than the few more hours of late-night studying.
- Find healthy ways to relieve stress. No, binge drinking and fast food are not healthy ways to relieve stress 😂 Personally, I do yoga, spend time outside (weather permitting, of course!), watch Youtube videos, and hang out with people I love. This is what helps me relieve stress, on top of taking care of myself with exercising, eating well, and getting adequate sleep. What do you do to relieve stress?
- Talk to a therapist or counselor. There is no shame at all in talking with a professional. I, personally, sought therapy before I started in the program when I was going through relationship and stress issues and it helped me to find myself, set goals, and have more realistic and rational thought processes. Seeing her for an hour once per week or every two weeks really helped me to cope and manage my stress. I anticipate seeing my therapist again towards the end of this year because I know it will be a very stressful time for me.
- Remember why you started in the first place. Reflect on why you wanted to become a nurse. The main reason I and many other people that I've talked to wanted to go into nursing was to help others. Every once in a while there is that experience I have with a patient that at the end of the day/shift I think to myself, "THIS is why I wanted to go into nursing." You will have moments like that, too. As stressful as nursing school and nursing can be, try to take a step back and remember why you started in the first place. Hopefully, this should leave you feeling more refreshed and motivated to continue and to make it through.