10 Things to Know Before Nursing School


nursing books image

Photo credit: Walt Stoneburner

1. It is really hard.

I am not going to lie.  Nursing school is the hardest thing I have done in my life.  It tests you in ways that you can not prepare for.  I began nursing school after already earning a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biomedical Science.  I had been out of school for several years.  I was not working in my chosen field, however.  I worked in retail.  I decided I needed to make a huge change and that nursing school was the way to do it.  Nothing prepared me for what happened after that.

I have never written so many papers and read so much material in my life.  The homework assignments and studying for exams was a non-stop job.  The college I attended recommended spending 10 hours of study/preparation time per 3 credit hours of classes you were taking.  At 12 credit hours, that was a whopping 40 hours per week just in study/prep time!  That did not include time spent in class.  Somehow you have to squeeze that in to sleep time, eat time, and some work time (if you have to). 

2. Do your homework.

Before applying to nursing schools, do your research.  Do you want an Associate program? Or a Bachelor program? Do you want a small college (like I chose) or a large university environment?  Is the program accredited?  Are there grants and scholarships available?  What are the faculty members like?  Are they optimistic and helpful or are they worn down and tired?  If you have an opportunity, talk to current and past students.  Would they recommend the program to you?  Would they go there again?  All of these things should play a role in your decision. Chose your school well!

3. Help each other.

Your fellow nursing students are going to be your greatest resource.  Your classmates are going to be the only people in your life who really know what you are going through because they are right there with you! Be there for each other.  Form study groups.  Plan time to hang out with them and relax.  Learn from them.  Although I had a previous degree in the health field, I had never worked in healthcare before.  Many of my classmates were already working in hospitals as nursing aides and various other positions.  They were a wealth of information!

4. Take care of yourself.

Nursing school requires a lot of your time.  You are under constant stress.  You are tired. You are pushing yourself to and beyond all limits.  In order to power through you must take care of yourself!  Schedule time for fun.  Schedule time for sleep.  Nap time is your best friend!  Eat well. Exercise is a great stress buster. Get those endorphins going!

5. There are many different kinds of nurses.

While doing your clinical rotations you will have the opportunity to get hands on instruction for many different fields in nursing.  If you don’t click with one type of nursing, don’t sweat it!  Just give it your all and learn as much as you can.  Each experience is going to make you a better nurse.  When you graduate you will have the whole nursing field at your fingertips and will have to make a decision where you want to work.  This is where your time spent in rotations will be helpful.  You already know what to expect and where you enjoyed the most.

6. You will not be an expert.

Even after all of this hard work you put forth, you will have much to learn after graduation.  Your clinical instructors will make a great effort to get you as much clinical experience as possible, but sometimes you may miss a skill.  And even if you have performed a skill, doing it on your own in the real world is an entirely different story.  This is why choosing your work place is going to be so important.

When interviewing for your future nursing position, ask a lot of questions.  What will your orientation be like?  What is the professional environment like in that unit?  Having a great preceptor during your orientation and being in a supportive environment can help a new graduate nurse sink or swim.  Choose wisely!  Don’t accept the first position you are offered just because you are desperate for a job.

7. You will not be rich.

The rewards you will gain in the nursing profession are measured in good feelings rather than dollars.  The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics predicts that nursing careers will grow faster than other careers until 2018.  This is attributed to increase in aging population, aging RN workforce, and a rapid increase in technological advances that require skilled workers.

Although nursing is a growing field, the median salary in 2014 was $66,640 or approximately $32/hour. Depending on your specialty and location you can make much more.  You can also make much less.  Don’t forget about paying back your school loans!

You can find more facts about career outlook, click here .

8. It’s not glamorous.

We have all seen the movies where the nurse is in a stark white uniform, every hair perfectly in place, wearing bright red lipstick as she calmly administers medication to her patient.  If that is how you picture yourself after graduation, you are in for a surprise!

You will be dealing in bodily fluids.  You will be getting dirty, sweaty and your hair will not always be perfect.  But I promise you will go home knowing you have worked hard for your paycheck every day!

9. Be prepared every day.

Nothing will be more detrimental to your education than not being prepared every day.  Before starting school make a commitment to yourself.  You need a planner to organize all of your assignments and tasks.  I had my phone alarms set 30 minutes before I had to be anywhere, 2 days before every assignment was due and my bedtime every night.  I also had a paper planner with plenty of room to write details about my tasks daily.  You can find a great one here.

You have to be that person who is always on time, always organized and have your assignments completed on time. This is a MUST if you are going to succeed!  If you can’t do that, maybe it is not the right time for you.

10. It is so worth it.

After reading all of that, you may be thinking “What am I getting myself into??”

I promise, you will not regret it for a second.  Being a nurse is the most amazing job in the world.  What other job do you get to work with smart, caring people every day?  What other job can you help people every day?  What other job can you change lives? Save lives?


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Registered Nurses,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm (visited March 07, 2016).

U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (2010.). Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/your-nursing-career/facts on March 7, 2016.



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