Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed in Nursing School

February 10, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Gap Medics student during her hospital experience programme in Thailand Even if you are excited about the idea of becoming a nurse, nursing school can be a challenge. Classes, such as chemistry, pharmacology and anatomy can be tough. In addition, you will be completing clinical nursing assignments at medical centers affiliated with your school. Rotations allow you the opportunity to get direct patient care experience and apply what you learned in the classroom.

Although it can be an exciting time, it is easy to become overwhelmed in nursing school. The amount of work and the level and responsibility can be daunting at times. In addition, for many people, it is the first time they are around sick patients, which may be difficult to get used to. But there are things you can do throughout your program to avoid stressing out.

Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself and become a high achiever. But if you set goals, which are almost unattainable, it can lead to feelings of failure and frustration. For instance, if you set a goal of maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, you may be adding more stress to your life. Instead, set realistic goals, which you can measure. Being able to measure your success may help build your confidence and motivate you to set more goals. For example, instead of making it a goal to get 100 percent on every exam, set a goal to get an A on your first exam, and go from there.    

Gap Medics midwifery student listening to babies heartbeat. There is a lot to do in nursing school. In addition to juggling several classes, you may have research papers do, laboratory assignments to get done and tests to study for. At the start of each semester, organize all your work. Break large projects and assignments into smaller segments that you can complete a little at a time. Consider getting through tests and assignments, which are a large part of your grade first.



If you work part-time during nursing school, try cutting back on your hours if possible. Although it may be impossible to stop working altogether during school, consider ways to reduce spending and limit work hours. Before school starts, make a budget and figure out where you can cut corners. Consider applying for student loans and grants. Getting a roommate and working during summer breaks may be other alternatives. 

The healthier you are, the better you may be able to deal with stress. Think about the last time you were sleep deprived. Were you quick to lose your cool or feel overwhelmed? Maintaining good health involves eating well-balanced meals, such as fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein and healthy grains. Limit alcohol consumption and get enough sleep each night. Exercising on a regular basis can also be a great stress reducer during nursing school. 

It is easy to get caught up in the drama of those around you. In nursing school, that may include your classmates, teachers and clinical preceptors. Try to stay out of the issues that develop and remember not everyone will be your best friend.

Additionally, as a student nurse, you may also be witnessing tragic situations that are difficult emotionally. It is understandable to feel compassion for someone suffering, but you cannot let the situation prevent you from doing your job. It is normal to occasionally become frustrated, sad or angry, but shifting your perspective may help. 

Gap Medics students form a pyramid at Gangilonga Rock in Tanzania! A strong support network can get you through the hard times during nursing school. Your support system will celebrate your successes and help pick you up when you need it. Regardless of how busy you get, make an effort to stay connected to those you care about throughout your program.

It is also helpful to get to know your classmates. Consider starting or joining a study group. You will be together throughout the program and can benefit from having good comradery.




Self-talk can be a powerful thing. Everyone does it. That little voice inside your head, which tells you what you can or cannot accomplish. Too often people limit their goals because they listen to negative self-talk.

Get in the habit of stopping negative thoughts. Instead, use positive affirmations. At first, it may seem unnatural to look in the mirror and tell yourself you can pass a certain test or handle doing a procedure you are worried about. But over time, positive affirmations will build your confidence.

It is common to look at a situation and think about all the negatives that can occur. For example, you may worry you will fail a test. That leads to worrying about failing the class and maybe even being kicked out of nursing school. Do you ever catch yourself making a situation into a catastrophe way before it becomes one?

Instead of imaging the “what if’s,” deal with what you have in front of you. Not every situation is irreversible. For example, if you fail a big test in nursing school, you may be able to score higher on other projects to bring up your grade.

Although a little stress during nursing school is inevitable, too much can affect your ability to do the work. It is important to recognize signs of stress, such as depression, anxiety and a lack of interest in activities. Physical symptoms of stress may include trouble sleeping and frequent headaches. Admitting you are having a problem handling stress, is the first step in getting help.

The Forest House, Morogoro, Tanzania Taking nursing school seriously is important in order to do well. But if you do not allow yourself some downtime, you can become overwhelmed quickly. Schedule some time for fun and relaxation. Take advantage of summers off or semester breaks. Everyone needs time to unwind. Participate in hobbies, talk with friends or just do nothing. A little downtime will help you recharge and get back to your studies.