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Top Ten Tips To Be Successful In Nursing School

Class of nursing students with one student raising his hand

I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and an instructor at Nebraska Methodist College for 12 years. Over that time, the students I see and the way I teach have evolved in a number of ways.

Many students today are already working full time. They have to balance personal and professional lives while finding time to study and complete assignments. Gone are the days of pencil and paper in the classroom. The laptop is the portable classroom with class notes, study guides, lesson plans and conversations with instructors just clicks away.

The challenges are many, and we at NMC strive to do all we can to encourage success and provide the tools to achieve. The following top ten tips are bits of advice rooted in experience. These are the tips our instructors emphasize each day, whether in the classroom, online, in clinical settings or on evaluations.

Successful students do more than take these top ten tips to heart – they live them.

1. Keep Plugging Along

Nursing school is difficult no matter where, when or how you take it on. Some require overcoming misconceptions. Others will push you to face personal fears. Nursing school is a series of highs and lows. But once you complete your studies, the rewards are tremendously satisfying.

2. Study, Study and Study Some More

Studying has to be your priority. Each day comes with a list of things you have to accomplish. As a nursing student, studying has to be at the top of that list. Create a work-life balance. Doing so means envisioning your goals as a series of achievable steps rather than one long, formidable journey. You can do anything if you divide time into a manageable period, such as one day, one class, and one semester at a time. Make studying one step in your daily routine. Every marathoner knows it’s easier to keep pace than catch up once you fall behind.

3. Be Accountable

Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. Strive for personal accountability. Work as a team even when others don’t. As a nurse manager, I had a dialysis patient who presented my team with a challenge: a horribly clogged toilet. A care tech came to me and asked what to do.

“Get me three pairs of gloves and a bio-hazard bag,” I replied. And I took care of the problem. He told me later that, because I didn’t push that task onto someone else, he gained a new respect for me.

4. Be a Role Model

Don’t expect someone else to do it for you. If there aren’t any alcohol wipes in the drawer, go and fill it up. A professional is both a leader and a hard worker. If everyone handled their jobs this way, it would be so much easier for all of us. That’s what being part of a team is all about.

5. Embrace Opportunities

You may not think you’re ready for a particular task such as placing a catheter, but being a student is the time to learn, not on your own without guidance. No instructor will leave you to fail. We’re here to see you succeed. Remember that opportunities lead to experience, and experience leads to confidence.

6. Ask Questions

As they say, there are no stupid questions – especially when it comes to a human lives and healthcare. Ask questions. You’ll complete nursing school but never stop learning. Technologies, therapies and treatments will continue to advance, and you have to progress with them. Asking questions is critical for every nursing student. But before you ask, be certain to check your resources – the syllabus, texts, emails, class notes, and fellow students.

7. Be Confident

Knowing what you’re doing and why gives you confidence to do your job. But it isn’t just self-confidence you need to build. That same confidence will help put your patients and their families at ease. Just as they can sense your anxiety, they can also sense your confidence.

8. Trust Your Gut

As you grow in the job and your duties, your inner voice tells you a lot. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right. You can’t go back, so be sure about moving forward. The more you listen to that inner voice, the more what you do will come naturally.

9. Focus on the Patient

You’ll have an ever-growing list of daily tasks to accomplish. Along the way, one patient may take more time than expected. Never rush past the next two patients just to catch up. Always pay attention to the person in front of you. When giving a medication, face them, not your computer. Make them feel like they’re the only patient you have. Personal care begins by caring for each person.

10. Always Be You

Each of my students has a reason they chose nursing. Some cared for a family member growing up. Others had a family member who was a nurse and a role model. For me, my mother was a nurse and an inspiration.

Just as important as those external influences are the reasons you chose nursing. You feel them inside. Dedication, compassion, patience, empathy – every great nurse shares these qualities puts them to work each shift.

They’re also the qualities of every successful nursing student, and they keep them in mind with every class they take.

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Kate Malmberg earned her BSN from Creighton University in 1995 and MSN from Nebraska Methodist College – the Josie Harper Campus in 2010. Her clinical experience includes mental health, long term care RN, and manager of Medicare unit; nephrology RN, unit coordinator and nurse manager. At Nebraska Methodist College, she works with students in NRS 210 in both the classroom and clinical.


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Topics: student life, lists, nursing, bachelor's degree