So, what’s nursing school like?


I probably get asked this question at least a few times a week by family members, friends, folks reaching out who are considering nursing and/or midwifery. I’ve tried to write this post a million times, but the totally clichéd truth is that the experience of being a nursing student defies neat labels. When I’m completely honest with myself, there are some days that I love being a nursing student, some days when I hate it, and some when I’m just so tired I almost forget why I’m here in the first place.

But that doesn’t answer your question, does it? You’ve probably heard some variation of this already: it’s hard, intense, it will push your limits, it will make you uncomfortable. And yes, it does all these things. Especially in an accelerated program.

Part of why I haven’t written this post is because it seems so overwhelming to try to capture this experience in one post…so I’m going to approach it the way I approach most writing projects in my life: by making a list. Probably just the first of several lists. 

Anyway, here’s a start:

1) Nursing school is lots of work. Lots and lots of work, probably only some of which you will find interesting at any given moment.

2) The first task is setting aside what you are passionate and interested in and learning how to be surprised by the things you’d never thought you’d be interested in: Renal pathophysiology. Beta-blockers! Diuretics?! Alzheimer’s…

3) Nursing school requires that you figure out how you learn. If you don’t know this about yourself now, you should figure out in a hot second, or you will not survive. As a nurse, you have to be good at letting your ego go and just asking the Stupid Question (P.S. We’re all thinking it and hoping someone else will ask). It’s not really about you anymore–it’s about the safety of your patient.

4) Nursing school is all about learning how to work in teams. It sounds corny, but this is crucial. If you envision yourself as the Lone Crusader saving patients by sheer willpower and some slick CPR skills alone, this ain’t the place for you, darlin’. Know your strengths and weaknesses in team work. Capitalize on the strengths. Build up the weaknesses. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, and when you simply don’t know, which will be All. The. Time.

Nursing school truly is a daily ritual of “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Get comfy there. It’s going to be a while.

5) Nursing school will frustrate you to no end. You’ll have instructors that drive you crazy. You’ll wonder what you’re paying for. You’ll doubt whether this is the right place for you. You’ll feel like an imposter. You’ll delude yourself into thinking you’re the only one that failed that pathophys exam.

Yeah, you heard me, failed. I’ll say it one more time: Big. Fat. F.

(FYI, nope, you won’t be the only one. Also, the pathophys prof is amazing and she will spend all the time in the world with you to help you understand, but you have to ask for her help. It’s not the end of world. You’ll still become a nurse. I promise. And I haven’t even taken the NCLEX yet, but I have good sources that tell me it’s true.)

6) Nursing school is initiation into a new culture, new language, new history. It’s all-consuming. Some days it feels swell, almost graceful, exciting. I can catch glimmers of myself in the future, practicing as a nurse-midwife. Some days it’s kind of a bore. That’s ok. It is what it is. Learning a new language takes time, it doesn’t all come at once. And I’ve never been one of those people who found grammar super sexy, so sometimes, I just have to take a deep breath and show up.

7) What is my day to day reality? Really, truly, it’s different every day. It’s writing papers, evaluating evidence, reading journal articles. It’s practicing vital signs, shadowing nurses, learning about wound care. It’s considering leadership and studying epidemiology and learning the signs of ischemia. It’s a lot of stuff. So, so, much stuff.

But really, it’s learning how to think. And this is why it’s so exhausting. Mentally, I feel like I’m two again, learning new words for everything. It’s great. I’m able to communicate more and more effectively with other health professionals. Also, I want to nap, All. The. Time.

And with that, I conclude my first list. What else do you want to know? Send me a note, I’ll try to answer your questions!

2 thoughts on “So, what’s nursing school like?

  1. Pingback: So, what’s nursing school like? {addendum} | Notes From a Student Midwife

  2. As a second semester student in an ADN program with hopes of enrolling in Frontier one day, this is EXACTLY what nursing school is like!

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