Nursing school: Both the best time of my life and the biggest flaming time of utter hell. When I was in high school and everyone told me how hard nursing school would be, I said, “Oh yeah, okay…” High school was a breeze for me. All you had to do was look for the most important topics and there would be your answers for the exam. I think a lot of me achieving such good grades in high school was mainly due to me enjoying reading. If you can read & understand what you’re reading — well, you can master any subject in my opinion. (Well, besides math, but that’s another altogether. Like did I seriously take calculus in high school? Who was I?)
I can sum up nursing school exams in one statement: “All the answers are correct, but which one is the MOST correct?” I’m not kidding you. Ask anyone in nursing school or who has gone through nursing school and that is the shit we deal with. ALL answers could very well fit….. but which one fits the best. There are no throw away answers. No easy eliminations. Or if you can eliminate some, you get down to two answers and, with my luck, I normally chose the wrong one.
Learning how to truly answer NCLEX style questions is the key to succeeding in nursing school. The professor make the exams to mimic NCLEX for a reason — so you’re prepared when you sit for boards. Like no duh, right? I knew this, but still it was hard for me to get it down. I would excel in clinical, the hands-on stuff. But at the end of the day, the grade for clinical came from answering paper exams. Oh and seriously, LEARN YOUR MED MATH. Those were always the easy 5 questions I would throw away because I would panic and blank when it came time to answering them. What saved me in the end honestly was just practicing, practicing, and practicing questions. I utilized a lot of Quizlet on the subjects I was to be tested on and Billings. I don’t know what the actual name of that book is, I think Billings is a contributing author, but it saved my butt. It’s filled with numerous NCLEX style questions on any subject you can think of in the realm of nursing.
The best thing that came out of nursing school was the friendships I gained and the general sense of understanding from any other nursing major on campus. When they tell you that your fellow classmates are going to be the only ones who understand you at times — believe them. No one else is going to get it. I know you can probably say that about pretty much any major but I feel this is especially true for nursing. I think the funniest this about college was going out to the bars with my non-nursing friends. They would always comment how I just always seemed to know everyone at every bar we went to… that’s because they were all nursing majors. We had to go out just to cope sometimes. I remember so many study sessions held with my nursing friends, the long car rides to clinical because we had it in the middle of nowhere. Those car rides were vent sessions, not just about nursing but about everything going on. Those people knew me better than any of my friends. They had seen me break down when I wouldn’t allow anyone else to. Sometimes it was only other nursing majors who would just GET IT.
- Find your support group
These are going to be the people that get you through nursing school. Oftentimes you’re going to find this support in your classmates because like I said, sometimes these are the only people that can truly understand what you’re going through.
- Be organized
Learn what method works for you. I tried them all until I finally was able to get it down pat. What really helped me was an assignment organization idea I found on Pintrest from: Organized Charm. I would sit down at the beginning of the semester and go through all of my syllabi for each class and make two separate spreadsheets. One for assignments and another for the readings. This allowed me to not only stay on top of things, but also even work ahead on assignments. THIS SAVED MY BUTT JUNIOR YEAR! God bless this woman!
- Learn how to study
What works for you may not always work for another person. I tried several different methods until I figured out what was right for me. Even then, I would mix up my routines sometimes. I would study alone, I’d study in groups, I’d use online questions, I’d use book questions, I did flashcards, I seriously DID IT ALL. Different methods worked for different subjects too.
- Know when to give yourself a break
You’re allowed to have fun in college. Sometimes you get lost in trying to study for this exam or this quiz or you feel like everyone else is studying so much more than you. It’s okay. Breathe. Give yourself an opportunity to enjoy the freedom you do have while you’re still in school. You’re never going to get that again.
Nursing school was hard. Harder than I ever imagined it to be. But it tested me. It made me stronger. It gave me confidence. It shaped me into who I am today as not only a nurse, but a person. Would I change anything? No. Would I ever go back? Hell no.
Gretchen S., BSN, RN