If you like helping others and have a deep passion for healthcare and the human sciences, then a career in nursing could be a good fit. As a nurse, you will spend your days working with highly skilled healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality care to the patients who need it most.
For those of you choosing this career path, there are also considerable financial benefits. According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for nurses in America was $77,600 per year – and this rises considerably as you become more specialized. Given the global shortage in nurses that the healthcare sector is experiencing, we can only expect this figure to go up as hospitals compete to attract and retain talent
For those of you just getting started on this career path, online accelerated BSN programs are a great option and help make it a much less dauting step. Clinical and practical experience must be balanced with rigorous academic courses of study, which often makes nursing school an intense but rewarding environment.
With this in mind, here are some tips, advice, and guidance to keep in mind as you take the first steps in what will hopefully become a long and rewarding career.
There will be lots of exams
One important thing to keep in mind as you commit to a career in nursing is that there will be lots of exams involved. Regardless of whether you opt to study online or in person, exams will form a core part of how you are assessed.
While many of these exams will be taken as part of your degree program – such as for individual modules – you will also have to pass different types of licensing exams in order to get qualified.
For example, to become a fully licensed nurse, you will have to pass the NCLEX exam, which determines that you have the requisite level of knowledge necessary to practice as a registered nurse. The NCLEX is a demanding exam that covers a wide range of basic nursing knowledge.
You do not start clinical rotations immediately
When you imagined yourself in nursing school, you might have pictured yourself working with patients from the get-go. However, for the majority of nursing students, this will not be the case. Regardless of whether you are an online or in-person nursing student, it will likely be some time before you start working in clinical settings.
In most nursing programs, clinicals will start in at least the second semester. This means that you will usually have a solid semester of classroom-based study before your practice-focused studying starts. It is also important to remember that much of the academic material will make much more sense once you do some clinical work!
You will likely need to relearn how to study
There is simply no getting around the fact that nursing school is academically and intellectually rigorous. Pretty much from the beginning, you will be bombarded with a significant volume of material that must be digested and eventually tested in an exam.
To manage this volume of material, you will more than likely have to rethink how you study. This might mean learning new study techniques or developing new exam strategies.
Regardless of what methods you adopt, however, it is important that you take the opportunity to reflect on how you learn best. Some of the techniques you can use to improve your studying include the following:
- Time blocking: planning your coursework and study sessions into specific time blocks in your calendar.
- Carrying: carrying around notepads or cue cards with you that have study notes on them. Review them throughout the day whenever you get a spare moment.
- Group studying: collaborate with your peers – either online or in person – to cover revision material or work on assignments.
- Spaced repetition: periodically reviewing older material to keep it fresh in your mind.
Maintain your work-life balance
There is no getting around the fact that nursing school will be intense, demanding and incredibly tiring. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you keep on top of your mental and physical strength throughout nursing school.
This becomes particularly important as your workload increases, as the temptation will always be to skip on self-care in favor of doing more work.
To make sure that you are carving out time to look after yourself, time management will be essential. Be strict with your schedule and try to find empty pockets of time during the day to exercise, socialize, cook food and even meditate.
Build these pockets of personal time into your schedule and be strict about sticking to them!
Get work experience as soon as possible
If you really want to improve your career prospects in nursing school and build up clinical experience from as early on as possible, don’t be afraid to get some work experience under your belt before you start the licensing process.
One popular option is to seek work as a certified nursing assistant, which is an ancillary healthcare professional who works with or assists qualified nurses or other medical professionals. Certified nursing assistant work will expose you to the kinds of work you will do once qualified, and will give you practical experience to complement your studies.
You don’t need to worry about specializing just yet
Although a career in nursing can open up many different clinical paths you can pursue, this is not necessarily something that you need to worry about at the start of your nursing career.
You will be exposed to many different opportunities to develop specialized skills over the course of your career. You might even decide to change track one of more times.
However, this is by no means something that you need to have figured out when you are still completing nursing school. Your interests will develop and mature over time, and you will often find that what most interested you when you started will not be what interests you once you qualify.