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What They Don’t Tell You Before Nursing School – A Letter as Told by a Graduating Student

What They Don’t Tell You Before Nursing School – A Letter as Told by a Graduating Student
August 26, 2015 No comments

A Graduating Student Gives Tips for First Year Nursing Students

by: Sam Pham

Dear First Year Nursing Student,

First and foremost, congratulations on your acceptance into the nursing program. Thank you for your passion and desire to help others. You have chosen to pursue one of the most trusted professions in the world. In this profession, you have the privilege to directly influence the care of individuals at their most vulnerable states with empathy and compassion. Take this small time to count your blessings and acknowledge what you have accomplished to get here. Nursing school may be the most difficult experience you will ever have to go through and my hope is that this letter helps someone out even just a little bit.

The first piece of advice I will give is the most important in my opinion. And that is to remember the reason why you’re pursuing nursing in the first place. A strong foundation and grasp on that reason will carry you to a successful career. If the purposes for pursuing a career in nursing is due to compensation and convenient hours, then I caution to those individuals that they will have a more difficult time. Nurses are not financially compensated enough for the amount of knowledge, the skills, the energy, and the selfless time that is required to provide culturally competent, total-patient care. Individuals that have the passion to care for others can more easily endure the years of overwhelming school-work, the endless hours of studying, long clinical shifts, and the amount of time spent away from friends and family.

Since the lifestyle of a nursing student is so different to how it was prior to school, it is essential to prepare friends and family of changes that will inevitably come. It will be a culture shock for both parties. Communicate prior to and throughout the program that you will not be spending as much time with the ones you love because the nursing program demands the majority of your time. Allocate a specific set of 2-3 hours on a certain day out of the week that you can spend with your community. During those allotted times, give them your undivided attention- which means no reviewing of flash cards or studying. They may still not fully comprehend how much work and stress you are going through, but their anxieties may be alleviated once you prepare them of what to expect. It will definitely reassure them that you aren’t simply ignoring them – learn from my mistakes.

When the question arises about how you should study in nursing school, the best method that I’ve found is that it truly varies from professor to professor. There is no universal “best” method of studying. By now you may have already developed your own effective study strategies, which I would only note to expect that study sessions may become much longer and more intense to meet the demands for the amount of material you are required to learn. Surround yourself with driven classmates to make the most out of study sessions. Prioritize your studies to make the most use out of your study time, because although you study endlessly, you will find that you don’t have enough free time to study. Purchase some NCLEX test prep books that give plenty of practice questions with rationales for why the answers are correct and why they are not. Finally, when you reach a point of exhaustion and you can’t seem to retain anymore information, take a 15 minute nap, then continue to study; repeat; if you can’t absorb anymore, then sleep. Even though you’re sleep deprived, running on all forms of caffeine and convenient food, which often is fast food, make your health a priority. Tending to your physical needs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will optimize your studies.

The last topic I will address touches some of the dynamics in the clinical setting. Maintaining professionalism is at the upmost importance in the hospital. The way you present yourself by your appearance, your work ethic, and how well you work with others is being observed whether you know it or not. The clinical setting is a time where potential employers may look for distinguished students that are proactive and have critical thinking skills. Even as nursing students, there will always be something for us to do, and always a patient in need of assistance whether you’re assigned to the patient or not. There will be times that you can expect to have a nurse that may not be student-friendly. Instead of being put off by the experience, understand that the nurse may just be irritable due to exhaustion, or maybe even personal problems. I advise you to simply communicate in a receptive way to the nurse that you desire to understand, learn, collaborate, and you should vocalize whether or not you have learned about a certain task or concept.

Furthermore, nursing school will be an amazing experience that will fly by, where you will develop close friendships while crafting your own style on how to provide care for your patients. Hold steadfast in the values that drove you to pursue a career in nursing, make the necessary preparations to excel, while modeling a professional nurse demeanor. Nursing is a distinguished profession that strives to progress and continually advance, and each individual has the responsibility to contribute to that cause while passing on knowledge for the future nurses that may be taking care of us one day.


Sam Pham

Sam Pham is a 26 year-old nursing student in his last semester at Riverside City College of Nursing. He is the Vice-President of the Student Nursing Organization and works per diem at Riverside University Health System Hospital. Sam is driven by his firm belief that he is pursuing what God intended for him to do. His favorite bible verse is Romans 12:12 – Rejoice in Hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. He looks forward to actively competing in jiu jitsu tournaments once he graduates. Sam is a loyal Lakers fan and believes they will make the playoffs this upcoming year. He also loves nigiri sushi and does not believe in all-you-can-eat places or rolls.

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