Nursing school can be an exciting and rewarding experience, and some prospective students might wonder what it is like those first few days of nursing school. Although everyone’s journey is different, Zandria Brown Sherwood offers some advice and insight into what her nursing journey has been like as a student.
I am currently in my last year of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Herzing University-Atlanta. I decided to become a nurse at what I considered a very late stage in my academic career. I was pursuing a medical degree when I started shadowing in the hospital and realized being a doctor was not the right path for me. I was enamored with the nurses I encountered, as they were all very knowledgeable and compassionate. I knew right away that I wanted to become a nurse.
I broke the news to my family and explained my new path to them, and received nothing but support. My first step was gaining a little experience, so I decided to enroll in a CNA program and started working directly with patients. Then I started the process of going back to school. Since I am a mom and a wife, I needed a program that offered flexibility so I was thrilled to be accepted into Herzing.
While no two paths are the same, here is some advice I wish someone would have given me on my first day of nursing school:
1. Be open to learning
Entering nursing school was no easy feat for me. I had to start over with some of the prerequisites because the nursing program required different sciences than the ones I had already completed. I had to humbly start my journey, but I knew that it was worth it even though life and other circumstances made completing these programs a little more challenging.
Starting from square one has been hard, but enlightening. I learned a lot from the courses that I took, and realized it’s important not to worry about whether you “should” be further along in the program than you are. Everything you learn is really important, so enjoy it and learn as much as you can!
2. It’s okay to be anxious
Starting a nursing program is a huge step to take, so it is totally normal to be nervous about it. At first, I couldn’t wait to start, but I got more and more nervous each day. On the first day of my program, I was downright anxious. I wondered how I was going to do it, but I still went to class that day.
It is okay to be nervous as long as you don’t let it undermine your confidence. Nursing school is a completely different experience than other types of education, but you can complete the program. Experience the nerves and power through it. You also won’t be the only one that is nervous, so don’t worry about it!
3. Study, study, study
Nursing school requires you to change a lot of your study habits to truly understand the content. Make sure you know and understand your learning style because it will save a lot of trouble in the end. There are free resources on how to do this on the internet and at the library, but be aware that your study style and habits might change throughout nursing school (or even from class to class). My studying habits have changed. For example, I used to be a “read and remember” student, but I had to quickly change my method. Now I “read, write and re-write.” Don’t worry about trying to figure it out all at once but do take studying seriously.
You are also never alone when it comes to studying. I was surprised to find that the instructors took time out of their personal schedules to assist us with materials we just didn’t understand. I found this to be a trend with both online and in-person courses. I was nervous about the exams because I had heard horror stories about NCLEX style questions, but my professors did a great job teaching us how to read the questions and how to rationalize each answer choice. I know they wanted me and the other students to succeed, and they did a lot to help us achieve that goal.
4. Be positive
Go into nursing school with an open mind and a positive attitude. It is overwhelming at times and the course load can be heavy but know that many others have done it and you will get through it as well. You will meet some great people in your cohort, and you will have some excellent instructors to support you along the way. Even when you feel like giving up, you should know that there are a ton of people who are rooting for you. Never be afraid to ask for help. Nursing school isn’t easy and many people are willing to help.
5. Enjoy it
My last and most important tip is to enjoy the journey because it will be over before you know it! Although nursing school has been intense, the past few years have been some of the fastest and best of my life. When I graduate, I plan to work at one of the local hospitals as a NICU or labor and delivery nurse. I love women and infant health, and I plan to continue my education with a master’s degree after a few years at the bedside. We will see exactly what the future holds for me, but I know that I will enjoy the journey!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.