The Complete Guide to Surviving Nursing School

Reviewed by Abbie Jacobs, RN, BSN

Nursing school provides students with the knowledge and skills that are needed to care for sick and injured patients. While nursing school is very rewarding both during and after school, there are unique challenges to balancing school and life as a nursing student.

Prior to entering nursing school, prospective students should evaluate their graduation goals and determine their personal and interpersonal skills. Look deep inside to determine whether or not you physically, mentally and emotionally have what it takes to enter into the healthcare field of study. Furthermore, use this guide to find your strengths and weakness, so that you can calculate which aspect of nursing is right for you.

By utilizing this survival guide, students can pass through nursing school successfully, and then transition to the working world. Preparation, organization and management of all aspects of nursing school life will ensure a successful completion and fulfilling transition to a career as a nurse.

nursing school
Obtaining a degree in nursing will provide the experience needed to enter into a challenging career with multiple benefits. Beyond the benefit of providing services to people who are in need of extra care, you’ll have a stronghold into a career that continues to climb regardless of economic climate. Nursing graduates are in high demand, and it’s estimated that the need for nursing professionals will continue well into the future.
Having a degree in nursing will ensure job security. Additionally, it opens up lifestyle choices. Nurses are in such high demand, that you can choose to move anywhere and have guaranteed employment. This is a luxury that few other careers can offer.
What are the Advantages of Becoming a Nurse?
Benefits of Nursing Careers
Job Security: Nurses Stay in Demand and Need Will Only Rise
Why I Chose to Attend Nursing School
Should You go to Medical School or Nursing School?
Top 15 Reasons to Go Into Nursing?
5 Reasons to Further Your Nursing Education

nursing skills
In order to really be a successful nurse, you’ll need a select set of skills. Communication is vital within the nursing field, including both personal and interpersonal. The ability to observe signs of discomfort and pain, will help to determine changes in a person’s condition. This will lead to a higher level of care.
The overall attitude of nursing professionals also enables the successful care of patients. Having an attitude of commitment, appreciation and value, will ensure a better working environment for you and those around you, including staff and patients. A team spirit is also essential in that it takes an entire team who can offer input to provide care for the sick and injured.
Graduate Level QSEN Competencies Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes
Nursing Skills Required
Skills Required for a Nursing Career
How to Have Good Leadership in Nursing
5 ‘Must Haves’ for a Successful Nursing Career

type of nursing school
The type of nursing school a student chooses is typically based on lifestyle factors, such as the amount of time someone has throughout their day to dedicate to attending classes. Some students have such hectic work schedules and lack of available colleges, that they have no other choice than to attend school online. Others may choose a standard college: technical, community or university.
Technical colleges will offer 2 year nursing degrees without the need of additional general study classes, whereas community colleges offer the same degree with some general classes added as a requirement of graduation. A university is required for higher level degrees. At a university the total time requirement will be higher and the length of internship will be more extensive.
Types of School Accreditation – the Guide
From Distance Learning to Specialization: Nursing School Types
Types of Nursing Degrees
Nursing School Accreditation
Master’s Nursing Programs
Nursing Programs: Should I pursue a BSN, ADN, or Diploma Program?
Professional Development & Choosing Your Education Path

Nursing School Students
While nursing programs can vary from one program to another, something that doesn’t change very much between programs is the amount of time a student can be expected to spend daily while getting a degree. A nursing student’s day typically begins very early, and depending on your specific program, you may be facing long hours of class time mixed with several labs, or you may be fully into your clinicals.
The links below provide glimpses into the lives of several different types of nursing students and a variety of programs.
A Critical Day in the Life of a Student Nurse
A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student – Medical Surgical Nursing Clinical Rotation
A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student (Video)
A Day in the Life-4 Videos from Connell School of Nursing, Boston College
The Life of a Student Nurse: Coffee, Scrubs and Tears (Blog)
Day In the Life of a TCU Nursing Student

Advanced Nursing Degrees
The balance between studying, attending labs and working increases in difficulty when working towards a master’s degree or other advanced nursing degrees. Your days will be made up of long hours with multiple high demands.
It’s during this time that you can begin to concentrate on specializations. You may find that after all of the schooling and working experience that you have gained, you prefer to enter into specialty care such as hospice, ob-gyn or surgery. Additionally, you may choose to enter into goal specific areas such as research, where you’ll be working with patients that have entered into cancer studies, neurological studies or you may even work directly with children facing debilitating diseases.
Rachel Klimmek: Meet a Nursing PhD Student
A Day in the Life of a Marian University Accelerated Nursing Student
RN to MSN in Nursing
Prospective Nursing Student Resource Guide

Managing Your Health
With all the long hours and high demands that are required in nursing school, it’ll be easy to subconsciously overlook your health and wellbeing. Feeling like you never have enough time in the day to achieve everything that must be done can lead to stress and frustration, which can result in both physical and mental exhaustion.
In order to ensure good overall health, you’ll need to initiate active strategies that can help with time management. For example, stay organized by planning out each day—including school, home and extra activities; precook healthy meals that can be reheated when needed; and consider biking to school so that you can fit some exercise into your schedule.
Managing a Busy Schedule for College Students
5 Time Management Tips for Busy Nurses
Stress Basics
Stress Management for Nursing Students
Stay Healthy at College
How to Make Time for Health When You’re Busy

Managing Your Relationships
Along with all the demands that are put on a nursing student, there’s one more that will at some point present itself: the needs of others that are in a relationship with you. Learning how to fit in relationship time can help both you and your partner, friends and family.
When you’re busy, and you have a lot on your table, it’s easy to put relationships on the back burner. But maintaining quality relationships is possible if you simplify time requirements by scheduling time together, grabbing lunch while running errands and communicate often, even if only by texting one another. Quality relationships are essential in combatting the stresses of daily life as a nursing student.
How to Manage Your Relationship with Your Busy Schedule
5 Tips for Nursing Students with Young Children
Keeping Your Relationship Strong While You’re in Nursing School

Managing Your Education
It’s a long journey from starting nursing school, to becoming a working nurse. As a result, it’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of your end goal. By consistently following goal oriented strategies, you’ll have an improved sense of what’s important and be able to take small steps to get what you really want, becoming a nurse.
Planning is everything when in nursing school. Be sure to plan out each aspect of your day, and allow time to study and finish assignments during breaks within your schedule. Don’t forget to have fun, even if it must be scheduled. Support is also vital, so build relationships that can support you in any way that is needed. Most of all, don’t forget why you started down this path, the end goal is to successfully become a nurse. Every sacrifice will bring you closer to that goal.
5 Tips to Balance Family, Work and Nursing School
Nurses and Effective Time Management
Work, Life, School, Balance
Strategies for Nursing Students to Balance School, Career and Family
Nursing School: Balancing Life and Education

Transition to a Career
You did it! You studied hard, worked long hours, and finally made it through nursing school and are set to enter the workforce. Now the real learning begins. The day you start work, regardless of your grades and achievements in nursing school, you have to gain your real-life experience. Learning how and where to best search, and then interview for, a job is imperative. Since there will likely be some pretty stiff competition for any nursing job you’re interested in, you maybe want to consider adding some specialty classes while in school, or even after if need be. Specialties can open extra doors not available to every graduating nurse. The links below can help you as your manage the transition from nursing student to career nurse.

Support for Nursing Students
As a student nurse, and later as a working nurse, you’ll be in a position to experience tragedy and loss. Because this can understandably cause stress, classes have been designed specifically for medical staff to help face the growing number of deaths that they see throughout their average career. By taking advantage of available support groups, you’ll be better prepared for tragedies that can take place in a hospital setting.
Another outlet that can provide a great level of support is taking part in professional nursing organizations. The goal of most organizations is to provide news and information to keep nurses up to date on changes in the field, facilitate networking, announce new legislation and policy, and in some cases help with job searches. Many of these professional organizations also have options for nursing students to benefit from the programs and content available.
Nursing Student Support Group Eases Stress
Male Nursing Students Launch Support Group
Nursing Organization Links
Student Nurse Network
Academic Support for Undergraduate Nursing Students: A Proactive Approach