Ten things to keep in mind during your first year as a nursing student

October 28, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Medical work experience students in Tanzania If you have decided to be a nurse, you have picked an exciting field with a lot of opportunities.

Nurses work in various settings including hospitals, public health agencies, insurance companies, crime labs and universities. But before you can start your nursing career, you need to get through nursing school. Getting through school may be easier if you know what to expect. Below are some things to keep in mind during your first year as a nursing student.

Being a nurse is not like you see on TV

Saving people’s lives at any given moment, fascinating cases and hospital love affairs make nursing seem like a glamorous and exciting career choice. But television is rarely like reality. Although nursing can be an exciting career, it’s not like you see on TV. Not all patients are sweet and grateful. Sometimes nursing is messy. Going into the field with realistic expectations may prevent disappointment.

It is OK to admit you don’t know

You will learn a lot during your first year of nursing school. For some people, it is the first time they will be working with patients in the hospital. It can be hard to remember everything. It is OK to admit you don’t know an answer or how to perform a procedure. Trying to fake your way through a nursing procedure is not beneficial to the patient or to you. Nursing school is a time to learn. Ask questions when you don’t know something.

Charting is very important

Even as a student, your charting is important. Charting documents what you did and did not do. It also provides information to other members of the healthcare team. If your charting is inaccurate or not thorough, you can run into problems. If you did not chart something, it is hard to prove you did it. As a student, getting in the habit of accurate charting will help you throughout your career.

Not every nurse wants to take a student

When you start clinical rotations, each shift you will be assigned to a nurse who will act as your preceptor for that day. The fact is, some nurses enjoy teaching students and some do not. Some nurses may feel students slow them down, or they just don’t like to teach. If you encounter a nurse who is less than thrilled to have you tagging along, don’t take it personally. Make the best of the situation. Be helpful when you can and try to learn as much from the experience as possible. If you continually get assigned to nurses who are not good preceptors, speak to your clinical instructor.

There is always more to learn

When you consider the various organ systems, diseases, treatments and medications, you can see why it can be difficult to learn everything. Keep in mind, you will never know everything there is to know about nursing. Being a nurse means continually learning. Take advantage of school and your clinical experiences to gain as much knowledge as possible. But be aware you still have more to discover on the job. In medicine, it is a dangerous attitude to think you know everything.

Enjoy your days off

You will have a lot to juggle in nursing school. Science classes, such as anatomy and physiology, can be challenging. During your clinical rotations, you may also have long shifts working at the hospital. It is safe to say, nursing school can be time-consuming. The moral of the story is, enjoy your time away from the classroom. When you have a day off from classroom work or clinical rotations, take advantage of the time. Although you have to find time to study, it is also important to allow yourself some downtime to relax and have fun.

You may not get straight A’s

If you were a straight A student in high school, you might have the same expectations in nursing school. If you reach your goal of a 4.0 grade point average, that’s great, but if you fall a little short don’t beat yourself up. Do your best and stay organized. Avoid falling behind in your studies and if you do, consider getting a tutor. But remember, you do not have to be perfect and get straight A’s to be a great nurse in the future.

Study groups help keep you sane

Becoming part of a study group can be very helpful in nursing school. Studying in a group may help you learn different perspectives and understand information more efficiently. It can also prevent procrastination and improve your study skills. But a study group is about more than academics. It is an opportunity to make friends, get support and develop comradery with your classmates.

Humor will get you through tough times

Once you start working in the medical field, you may find many healthcare workers see the humor in things, which others would not. Psychologists have long stated; humor may be a way of dealing with stress and maybe that is the case with nurses and healthcare workers. Finding humor in a certain situation does not mean you are laughing at patients or their condition. But it is OK to find humor in places you did not think you would. Laughter reduces tension, releases endorphins and promotes a sense of wellbeing. So go ahead and laugh. A little levity can go a long way.

Nursing school won’t last forever

You will have bad days. You may study all night for a test and still not do well. A clinical instructor may seem unfair and difficult to please. Some patient situations will break your heart. Nursing school can be tough, but the good news is it does not last forever. When times get tough, try to keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself of why you want to be a nurse. Before you know it, you will graduate and all the hours of studying, labs, homework and term papers will have been worth it.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.