How to Succeed in Nursing School

I’ve been an RN for almost 14 years, and an NP (nurse practitioner) for close to 5. I have a different take on nursing school. For one thing, I didn’t go to a traditional nursing school with a 4 year bachelor’s program. I already had a degree in molecular biology, so I attended the Combined Degree Program (CDP) at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York. They gave me credit for all the core curriculum and only taught me nursing for a year straight, including the summer. I had to maintain a B or better (not a B average, a B in every course or better), and some of the courses were graduate (500 and above) level. That last part was because if I had stayed for another year, I would have gotten a master’s degree. I needed the job, so I took the BSN and started working. The Masters came 10 years later.

Here is my take on nursing school (and my professors will kill me if they ever read this…) Jump through the hoops, pass the tests, be able to spout back what all the theorists said, and pass your boards. Now forget most of it. The things you learn during your first year on the job will be far more useful and important than the book learnin’ you got in school. You will never make a mitred corner again – hospitals use fitted sheets. Yes, it is important to draw back on the syringe to make sure you haven’t hit a vein when giving an intramuscular injection. So make it part of your automatic routine, but in 14 years, I never have hit one. You will probably never have to write out a care plan again, and you will never ask yourself “O.K. Does Orem’s theory of Self-care apply here, or should I be looking at this from the perspective of Meleis’ Sick Role?” You will do what needs to be done.

That being said, some hints for getting through school. If you are afraid of computers, get over it. Take the classes, read the computers for dummies books, whatever it takes. You will probably be spending the rest of your career charting on a computer. Get a PDA of some sort. It will help you keep track of med times and your appointments, and you can load references on to it. Finally, sit in front of the class, and make sure your professor knows your name by the third class. Unless you are a complete idiot, this will be a surefire way to get a better grade.

Welcome to nursing. It is the most fulfulling career you can possibly pick.