What are you struggling with in nursing school?
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Caveat: some people (nurses) might not agree AT ALL with what I say here . . . oh well! I want to share how it really is to give confidence to those struggling.
We literally get hundreds of emails a day from nursing students.
Sadly, a good portion of them are from students that feel like they should quit nursing school altogether.
Here are just a couple of recent quotes from students:
Starting to lose motivation to study.
There is sssooooo much information that I don’t know where to begin. I find that often times the instructors are even confused when students ask questions because they are as well versed in the subject matter that they are teaching. Which leaves me to teach myself. Ugh!
I gave up after that and lost my motivation to study.
I keep falling on my face.
My Story . . . (uncensored) When I Quit Nursing School PLUS 7 tips to stay mentally sane during nursing school
I started nursing school with high hopes, but after my fourth semester, I dropped out. I quit nursing school.
I knew nursing school was going to be hard . . . I mean the whole point is to learn how to competently take care of a human being suffering from complex heath issues.
I expected school to be hard.
In fact, I had a meeting with the administration of my program at one point and suggested to them that they had made our program too easy and that we were not learning what we needed to know to be competent nurses on the floor.
I attended an Accelerated BSN program of ABSN designed for working professionals interested in a career change.
Basically, the 4 years of nursing school were condensed into 18 months given that we already had a previous degree (mine in Business Management).
Prior to even starting nursing school I made a promise to myself.
I was going to give 110% and learn everything I could to be the best nurse possible. From day 1 I was spending time in the library every day diving deep into the lecture material. . . .
The result . . .
- 1st Semester: 4.0 GPA (the first time in my life I ever got a 4.0)
- 2nd Semester: 4.0 GPA (one of only two students in my cohort to get a 4.0)
I had one thing on my mind . . . NURSING SCHOOL
At the time my wife had just had our first child . . . Taz.
He was born with a congenital condition that required a two-week stay in the NICU and 3 surgeries with subsequent week long hospital stays during the first year of his life.
I will never forget staying up late into the night studying for exams in his hospital room by the light of the Emergency Room signage below then waking up in the early hours with him or going across the street to school and rushing back to baby Taz.
There were times I would bring him up to the school library during his nap time so I could attend a study group while he slept in his stroller.
Life wasn’t easy, but we were happy.
- We were buried in student debt.
- We were living on food stamps and WIC.
- Our newborn was frequently in the hospital for surgeries.
- We lived deep in the ghetto.
- I was giving my all (what was left) to becoming a nurse.
The Semester I “Hit My Wall”
Life continued on and I began my 3rd semester.
At this point, I was feeling pretty confident that I could take on anything that came at me.
I was wrong.
Things began to build up this semester. Taz had his final surgery with complications. We were given a brand new nursing professor that had no business teaching . . . in any capacity . . . ever. And I really started feeling the pressure.
The professor mentioned above became more and more obtuse with her thinking and was clearly not in the game of educating nursing students but reaping vengeance on some past experience. She had an utter lack of understanding of education, clinical nursing, and general people skills.
I allowed all of this to weigh on me.
It got to a point where I was completely unable to think about or focus on anything other than the anger and frustration I was feeling. I wanted nothing to do with this class or this woman yet the anger I felt began to control my life.
That semester I ended with a C in that class. I lost my motivation. I hated nursing school and all I could think about was quitting nursing school.
I was ready to forget about nursing altogether.
My wife kept trying to get me to see past my frustrations. She kept me going at that point. The next semester I had great professors and experiences, but the drive and motivation were gone.
I was still a good student and loved every minute of clinical but I hated school, my school, so much. I couldn’t get past the frustration.
The point finally came that I couldn’t help but look outside of nursing for employment. A job opportunity arose back in Texas (where we were from) and I wanted to jump at it. My plan was to burn rubber driving out of town and say goodbye to nursing forever.
My wife convinced me to talk with the program and line up a way to “Withdraw” from nursing school rather than quit. By doing this I would keep the door open to return to the program within a year and pick up right where I left off. I had no interest in doing this, but to keep my wife happy I went ahead and did it. In my mind I was going to quit nursing and nursing school for good and just mark the experience up as another life mistake.
Dear Other Guys, Stop Scamming Nursing Students . . . It’s Not Cool
7 Tips to Stay Mentally Sane During Nursing School
So, right before my final semester (yes, just 10 weeks from graduation) I withdrew from nursing school.
You guys know the rest of the story . . . 1 year after quitting nursing school, I returned to complete my degree. Ending with a 3.89 overall GPA, landing a spot in a Trauma I ICU, precepting, charging, and starting NRSNG.com, and now reaching literally millions of nurses and nursing students each week.
With that said . . . I want to offer you 7 tips that will help you stay mentally sane during nursing school.
Full disclosure . . . I DID NOT do these things during my program . . . and I nearly went insane and that is why I temporally quit nursing school.
They say hindsight is 20/20 and I feel that had I done these things during my program I might not have hated it so much and actually come out a better person. I do try to implement these 7 things into my daily life now.
So here is the list:
- Avoid becoming uni-dimensional
- You are more than “just a nurse”. You are a human with varied interests. Don’t drop everything when you start nursing school. Make sure to take time to still be you! NurseBass is a good example of this . . . he runs his YouTube channel for nursing students and he also focuses a lot of time on fitness and working out.
- Realize that after nursing school is when you begin to learn in exponential leaps.
- I was stuck on the idea that I had to know EVERYTHING prior to graduating from nursing school. I have since realized that learning becomes massively accelerated AFTER nursing school as you begin working on a floor and become specialized. I still encourage you to take school seriously and learn all that you can, but give yourself a break . . . you won’t know everything.
- Develop healthy habits (miracle morning, fitness, exercise).
- This is obvious, but can’t be overstated. If you are not taking care of yourself . . . your mind and body will become weak. One thing I have implemented with great success is something called the “Miracle Morning“, essentially, developing an early morning routine that includes some form of journaling, meditation, fitness, and reflection before anyone else wakes up. Sometimes just a short walk in the morning with your phone off is enough . . . please try it!
- You are NOT your grades (dehypnotize yourself, radical acceptance).
- Sadly, many students, including myself tie their self-worth to their GPA or how many questions it takes them to pass the NCLEX . . . this is sad! Your grades DO NOT define you . . . do not allow them to control your happiness or how you view yourself. Two books have really helped me understand this better: Psychocybernetics and Radial Acceptance. If I could force you to read one non-nursing book . . . it would be Radical Acceptance. If you have a few bucks download the audio book and listen while driving around town. The book had me in tears and opened up a new world of accepting myself at a level that I had never achieved previously. I am confident that had I found this book prior to dropping out of nursing school I would have gotten my RN a year earlier.
- Deep work (set aside focused study time).
- Deep Work . . . a concept outlined in great detail by Cal Newport in his book by the same title involves allowing yourself time to dive into deep mental states and accomplish great tasks by learning to get deep into your work. Applying this to nursing school, you can learn how to organize your life to allow sessions of deep work into your studies. One 3 hours deep work session is probably worth more than several unfocused days of meaningless study. To learn more about the concept . . . listen to this podcast here.
- Find a good friend or start keeping a journal.
- You have to be able to decompress and share your frustrations openly. I have been lucky to have my wife through this journey. I haven’t always been very good at listening to her but having a companion, friend, or family member that you can be 100% open and honest with is so key to mental health. A friend that allows you to share your frustrations unfiltered without judging is essential. If you do not have this person . . . buy a $0.79 composition book at Wal-Mart and start writing in it. . . just let your feelings flow.
- Life is a journey.
- Lastly, and most obviously . . . realize that life is a journey. You don’t have to achieve perfection TODAY . . . you have a lifetime to WORK toward it. You don’t have to pass the NCLEX tomorrow, you don’t have to get accepted to nursing school THIS semester . . . you have a lifetime. You are in this for the long haul. Relax.
RELATED ARTICLE: A+ Student to Barely Passing . . . Help!
You Should Dropout of Nursing School
I dropped out of nursing school. And let me be completely honest with you. I don’t really regret it too much. Nope, I don’t regret that I quit nursing school at all.
My mind was in such a bad place. I can’t imagine how tainted, angry, and just plain horrible I would have been at my first job had I started working at that point.
After I withdrew I turned nursing off in my brain. I didn’t think about nursing at all for about 7 months. I had no plan to return to school.
Then something happened in about February. At this point, I was ready to go back. After talking to my school I got everything set up to return and complete my final semester.
This time I was hungry, I was excited, I was in a completely different mental state . . . I was motivated and able to face any challenge to make it happen.
So . . . while I don’t really suggest quitting nursing school . . . I will say that in my case I am glad that I did. It wasn’t the end of the world . . . remember, life is a journey.
Before You Quit Nursing School – Do These Things . . .
I am pretty sure during nursing school I said multiple times,
“This is crazy, I can’t do this anymore.”
I heard it from many of my classmates. I have heard from my fellow co-workers, and from student nurses that I had to follow me. It is not uncommon; you are not alone if you are feeling this way. Check out my other post on how not to feel overwhelmed in nursing school.
So how do you push through these feelings and keep going? Well, there are a few things you can do to help.
Treat Yo’ Self
That’s right, you deserve it. Nursing school is hard and you are working insanely hard to sometimes feel like you are getting nowhere.
Go to your happy place, whatever that looks like, for me? That was Netflix with popcorn and ice cream. For ideas that won’t break the bank check out this list of ideas.
Utilize Professor’s Office Hours
Perhaps you aren’t understanding the material, or maybe you are overwhelmed.
Talk to your professors! They may not be trying to frustrate you. Make sure you have everything you need to be successful in the classroom. Plus, professors tend to respect the students who put in the effort they can actually see. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the frustration with nursing professors I just also understand that not all professors are bad and most of them will help you out if you ask!
Rely on Your School Mates for Support
I had a cohort that I was in for my entire nursing school experience and we all became super close! We studied together, took breaks together, and celebrated together. If you don’t have this support group, get one! It’s the best thing I had to get me through nursing school.
Spend Some Time With Your Family
It is likely you have been neglecting your family while in nursing school. Take time to have dinner with them, go to the movies, or even have a family game night. Pictured below are Sandi and Kai, who I think might be contemplating what in the world she is supposed to do with a pumpkin!
Go to the Gym
I HATE working out. But I do it religiously because of all the benefits it has. Stress relieving factors, endorphins, and a body that is as healthy as we are advocating our patients have! Pictured below is me at my gym doing squats when Calvin, our gym dog, decided I was trying to sit down and maybe needed something to on! I was trying to finish my breathing and not burst into laughter!
Let it go, Let it go, the cold never bothered me anyway!
This is so so hard, but it is actually a key to being a happy person. I have struggled with this personally throughout my life and have found that when I am able to let it go, I am able to use my mental energy on other much more productive things.
I remember studying for a test and spending days poring over the material and getting to class and the teacher was like, “Surprise! I am not going to give you a test!” I was not laughing or cheering. I experienced similar feelings when I was surprised with “pop quizzes.”
So what did I do? I complained, spending numerous hours I will never get back and the results were that I complained without a change in the situation.
Remember why you are doing this in the first place
Take the time to think about the reason you are in nursing school. Why do you want to become a nurse? Whether your reasons be altruistic or egotistic, hold on to them to help you face the storm of nursing school.
Nursing school isn’t really a very good measure of the nursing world. For now, it is a stepping stone in the direction of your goals.
Listen . . . we need more nurses.
Let me rephrase that.
We need more nurses who give a damn!
If you want to quit nursing school, if you hate nursing school (we all do), if you are thinking about dropping out . . . do me a favor:
Start with those 7 things listed above. How many of those are you doing daily? Can you do a better job at some of them?
If you feel that you are in a mentally healthy place and have implemented those 7 tips and you still feel that you need to leave your nursing program please work with your school to withdraw in good standing. This just means that in the crazy chance that you decide to return to school, the door is still open.
Make sure you sit down with your adviser, dean, and whom ever else and clearly understand any stipulations.
For some, the only answer may be to distance themselves for a time. This is a good thing. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean you will be a terrible nurse. Nursing school is NOT real-life nursing.
Just keep that door open. I was inches away from not becoming a nurse myself.
Gratitude: My Nursing School
Sometimes, I can struggle with getting tunnel vision and lose site of
all the good in my life. When it comes to nursing, I have so much to be thankful for and I want to share some of those things with you.
You’re Not the Only One Struggling (2 tips for overcoming doubts in nursing school)
psssst . . . I’ve got a little secret . . .
You’re not the only one struggling through nursing school.
We get hundreds of emails every day from nursing students around the world who are struggling with one thing or another in nursing school. Whether it’s pharm, clinicals, stress, professors, finances, family, medsurg, YOU NAME IT.
Nursing school is a test of your character. While most of us TRY to put on a tough face or avoid admitting we are struggling or have debated quitting . . . most of us HAVE.
You will never meet anyone that tells you nursing school was the best experience of their life. It’s not. It basically sucks. But you can do it. If you see no other option and you are in a poor mental health state . . . take some time . . . take some distance . . . see if you can relight that fire.
What I want you to get from this post is to understand that we all struggle, we all have dark moments. Learning how to handle those darkest moments of our lives is what makes us strong.
For me . . . that portion of life was one of my darkest.
I chose to withdraw from school.
I don’t think this is the best option for EVERYONE . . . but for me . . . I have no doubt that it was.
If you get to this dark of a moment and you feel that quitting nursing is the right option. Please, do it in the right way so that the door is still open.
How Hard Is Nursing School? And, What Can I Do to Survive?
It’s a good question, but ask the wrong people and they probably won’t give you the nicest answer. Want a real answer? And want to learn how you can survive it? Then you have come to the right place.
Talk to people who are in or have finished nursing school and you are likely going to get about a million different answers to the question, “is nursing school hard?” I have heard answers that run the gamut, including:
- It was harder than getting a BA in undergrad.
- It was a breeze. I didn’t study at all.
- I had to put a little effort into it.
- It was definitely tough at times depending on the professor.
- I don’t know why people complain. It was so easy!
The problem is there is no one answer to the question because it all depends on your definition of what is hard and what isn’t.
Some people walk into their classes and struggle from the get-go. Some people don’t have to do much studying to get through school. And it has nothing to do with intelligence. There are just some things easier to grasp for one person and more difficult for another.
The most important thing to remember is this: you can get through nursing school. No matter what one person or another may tell you, you can get through it. So, instead of focusing completely on how hard it may be, let’s turn our attention to things you can do to survive.
Willingness to Study
To begin with, you have to be willing to study. There are just no two ways about it. Either you study or you may have trouble. Nursing school is no different from school in any other situation. You get textbooks. You hear lectures. You will be tested. Be prepared to put some time into studying.
Now, that may mean you have an even tighter schedule at home, but it is worth it. Believe me. When you are done with nursing school, you will be proud of your accomplishment and you will be able to move into a quality career.
Rules to Remember
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard for getting through nursing school is to follow two very important rules. And, honestly, they are actually the key to making nursing school easier on you. If you want to get through without a big headache every day, then remember this:
First rule: you don’t talk about fight club…wait, that’s the wrong set of rules.
- Your instructor is always right.
- Want to get through and pass? See rule number one.
If you make sure you don’t try to buck the system, argue with your instructor, or prove them wrong in any way, then nursing school can actually go smoothly for you.
Make Sure You Have Family Time
When you enter nursing school, you will find that your life gets very busy. You have to juggle school, studying, a job if you are working, and family too. It may seem just too hectic. And, it can stress you out very easily.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, always schedule family time. Do not neglect your spouse and/or children. It may be hard at times to do this, but it is vital for your own sanity that you spend time away from nursing school and studying.
On that same note, you need to schedule time for yourself. Go for a walk, relax in your favorite park, read a book, play a sport, or engage in a hobby. Do something so that you can ensure you are giving yourself time to relax and de-stress.
Know You Will Take Difficult Tests
Many people have indicated that tests are extremely hard in nursing school. And, they won’t be easy. But, there’s a reason for that. Your instructors are giving you difficult tests on purpose. This is the best way to prepare you for the NCLEX®, which is very difficult.
How can you get through these very hard tests?
- Find a Study Partner
- Look for Easy Ways to Remember Things (Mnemonics, Flash Cards, etc.)
The more prepared you are to handle those hard tests, the more you will be ready for the NCLEX®.
So, is nursing school hard? Yes and no. Yes, it can be difficult. No, it doesn’t have to defeat you. Keep that in mind and look for ways that you will be able to weather even the biggest nursing school storms and you should have no problem getting through to the end.
Nursing School Doesn’t Have to be a School of Hard Knocks
When we started NURSING.com a few years ago, there weren’t a lot of helpful nets for nursing students to go to, like safety zones. Instead, what I saw, was every time I would say, nursing school doesn’t have to be so hard. Learning anatomy and physiology, learning MedSearch, that’s difficult, but we’re making it unnecessarily complicated. One of the responses people would give me was, that it was hard for me, so it needs to be hard for them. Or that’s the school of hard knocks. If they can’t hack it, they don’t deserve to be nurses.
Those conversations never ended well …
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