If you’re looking to get into nursing school or already are in nursing school, then congrats, you’re pretty much almost or just as crazy as me!
You may not know exactly what you’ve signed up for, but it’s a commendable but challenging path, and I am so excited for you.
Nursing is a rigorous, demanding, and selfless career path, and will definitely change you as an individual. You’ll create your own stories of sleepless nights and crazy patient care. But before you can get to the top, you have to embark on the journey to nursing school.
Nursing school is full of challenges that vary from academic to personal, but with the right strategies and support, nursing students like you can overcome these obstacles.
In this episode, I share with you the 10 most common challenges that you will face and my solutions to overcome them.
Are you ready to learn more?
Let’s dive in!
Challenge #1: Heavy Course Load
You will see the syllabus and realize just how much work is on your plate. I was expected to study ten chapters per exam. Each chapter was forty to fifty pages, and each exam was 33% of the entire grade. So if I failed just one exam, I was pretty much done.
I was also the president of my dance club, guild leader of World of Warcraft, and working two jobs. My plate was overflowing. Plus, I also had my social life and I was in a relationship.
Every waking moment went towards studying. I prioritized and managed my time effectively. My planner was my best friend, and it should be yours, too.
On the very first day that I received all of the class syllables, I immediately put the exam dates on the schedule. I never partied the night before the exams, or maybe I did, but I was pretty confident on those days.
I also knew what I could and couldn’t handle. I sacrificed sleep, but I really do not recommend doing that. It reduced my study performance, and I definitely could’ve done better on my exams.
Challenge #2: Complex Material
So you’re using your calendar, your planner, and a to-do list, but the material you’re studying is complex and overwhelming. There’s not a single nursing student that says it’s easy. So know that you are absolutely not alone.
But I have an ace up my sleeve, and that’s YouTube! For every challenging nursing subject, I was able to find the topic on YouTube. It’s even better nowadays because there are so many online resources now, such as QD Nurses.
Make sure to also form study groups. For those who prefer to study alone, take the time to do at least one or two study groups, even if it is just one study buddy. It goes a long way, and you’ll learn a thing or two from someone else.
This is also obvious, but nursing students really do not utilize their instructors or the available college tutors enough. I can’t stress it enough: Review the materials before the professor teaches them, and come to the class with questions. Don’t be scared to email your professors with questions as well.
There are also tutors available with whom you can schedule study sessions. You will feel less overwhelmed if you do so. Do not wait until the last exam or the week of the exam to take advantage of your resources.
Challenge #3: Clinical Anxiety
When it’s time to start nursing clinicals, it will feel daunting. First off, it’s crazy to get used to 12-hour clinicals. If your nursing clinicals are fewer hours than that, consider yourself one of the lucky ones, because mine were always twelve painful hours long.
It can be hard to prepare for nursing clinicals in advance, as you can’t practice injections on a live person for fun, unless you have an amazing, willing friend – but I don’t recommend doing that.
What will help you pass clinicals instead is volunteering for procedures you’ve never done before. Don’t be afraid to look stupid or to ask stupid questions. Your professor doesn’t actually expect you to be an expert when you volunteer.
And remember: You won’t be alone, and the only way to gain confidence is to step right up and get it done. The ones that usually fail out of nursing clinicals are the ones that never volunteer.
Challenge #4: Balancing Work and Study
This one can be tough. As a nursing student, I was working multiple jobs. I was all over the place. But when nursing school got harder, and nursing clinical came into the picture, I found a receptionist job where I was allowed to do my homework in between checking clients in and out.
Thanks to that, I was able to focus on school and get paid to do so. So if it’s possible, try to find a low-key job where you’re allowed to study during work hours.
Challenge #5: Financial Stress
Find old nursing books. Find free NCLEX resources at the library and use them as a resource to help you through your classes. Apply for scholarships. I can’t stress this enough: Thousands of scholarships go unclaimed every year. You may feel like you might not get a scholarship, but you won’t know until you apply. Really, what have you got to lose?
Make sure to also manage your finances with a budget, and don’t try to keep up with your classmates. You don’t want to add financial stress on top of your academic stress.
Challenge #6: Time Management
Create to-do lists and tackle each line alone. Ask yourself what you can get done for the day and what you can get done for the week. Forgive yourself if you don’t tackle every single item and move the item to the next day. Reward yourself with positivity or a nice treat when the list is complete.
Challenge #7: Lack of Practical Experience
To solve this problem, volunteer in a healthcare setting, find internships, or even find a part-time job as a CNA. There are even positions as phlebotomists or dialysis technicians. These people were working while going to nursing school with me and they had the upper hand because they were already building patient care experience. They were able to apply their experience to questions, which goes a long way.
If you choose none of these because you want to focus on nursing school, that’s also perfectly fine. Confidence will come in time, and you’ll eventually get there. The important part is always remembering not to be so hard on yourself.
Challenge #8: High Expectations and Pressure
As I mentioned above, you’ll end up being hard on yourself, and you have to remember not to do that.
You’ll have high expectations and pressure on yourself. You will see your classmates accelerating at a faster pace. You’ll see it all clicking for them while you find yourself struggling.
This experience made me feel so dumb, and I was just so upset with myself. I wanted to quit, but I had already invested so much time and money in nursing school, so I decided not to, even though I felt like nursing was not for me.
What I needed to do was remember that it was about my personal growth and not about being the perfect nurse. It wasn’t about getting the highest grade.
So I created realistic goals for myself. I had support from friends and family. I started truly believing in myself even when it was hard to. And most importantly, I didn’t give up.
Remember, your future coworkers are not going to ask about your grades in nursing school. They won’t ask if you had to repeat a class. In fact, your nursing salary won’t be higher than your colleague’s salary just because you pass the NCLEX on the first try. I promise you that your colleagues do not care. They just care about your teamwork and your time management skills. So just breathe and know that it will all come together.
Challenge #9: Communication Skills
Having good communication skills is crucial. It sounds so easy on paper, but actually applying this is a whole different playing field. I’ve met so many nurses who were rude to their patients and to each other. They did not care because they knew they were in the right. I’ve seen them make patients cry. And while they were right, they simply can’t pressure a patient to do things their way. We have to remember that these patients are more than just a number. They are human beings who really need us at their most vulnerable moments.
Engage in role-playing exercises with your study group. Practice active listening and ask open-ended questions. Use the therapeutic communication techniques that you’re learning in class and apply them to your everyday life. Focus more on listening and less on providing advice, especially when people aren’t asking for your advice; you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it all makes.
Challenge #10: Burnout
The best way to prevent burnout is to prepare for exams well in advance. Do not wait until the week or the night before the exam to start preparing.
If you’re learning about a topic for the first time the night before each exam, you’re going to burn yourself out. I know because this is what I did. I was definitely overwhelmed, and I know I did this to myself because I absolutely loved playing World of Warcraft. Did I get through nursing school? Yes. Could I have done it without feeling so burned out? Also yes.
Also, don’t forget to still prioritize self-care. This includes doing the opposite of what I did, such as getting enough sleep and seeking mental health support when you can.
Make sure to also maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means don’t jump to french fries and chicken nuggets because it’s easy. Get that salad and protein shake. Grab the apple instead of the chips. Give your brain the fuel it needs to be able to absorb everything.
I discuss all of this in more depth in the episode above, so make sure to give it a watch when you can!