During and After RN School

RN Hopefully by this point in the student’s life of school, work, family, and friends, he or she has been able to strike a balance amongst them all. All of these areas of life are important to maintain and all have differing priorities and time requirements. Nursing school classes will require more time than prerequisite classes and, for many students, be more stressful as well. Part of the reason for this is the two parts of nursing school: didactic coursework and clinical hours. Here is what to expect during and after RN school.

Didactic Coursework

“Didactic” is a big fancy word meaning textbook coursework and classroom lectures. Being present and prepared for classes is a vital part of the nursing student’s life. Reading and, more importantly, comprehending textbooks and handouts is the key to passing exams and understanding how to keep patients safe. The main goal of nursing school is to teach a new nurse graduate how to keep patients safe. The nursing student learns early on that the golden rule of nursing is to “do no harm.” Didactic and clinical hours help teach this vital cornerstone of nursing.

Clinical Hours

Unlike prerequisite classes taken prior to nursing school this program requires clinical hours. These are state required hours accrued during the nursing program and must be fulfilled in order to sit for the licensing exam upon graduation called the NCLEX-RN. Often clinical hours are accrued at nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals. They require a lot of energy in attitude, intellect, and physical exertion.

The nursing student is required to maintain a pleasant, accommodating, and helpful attitude with even the worst bedside tasks and tolerate staff nurses who may be rude, demanding, and unwelcoming. Some staff nurses love nursing students, are kind to them, and embrace the opportunity to share knowledge. Sadly, others do not like the hassle of having to teach and choose to use students as free labor instead. Many facilities try to assign nursing students to those staff nurses who enjoy teaching, but sometimes the student has to tolerate a staff nurse who is having a bad day.

While staff nurses may only be assigned a nursing student for a short time the school provides a clinical instructor who supervises the students. This person is usually a great resource, enjoys teach nursing students, and will help protect the students from any negativity from the staff. The student can learn an enormous amount from the clinical instructor. Plus, because they are employed by the school any student complaints are usually addressed promptly.

Clinical hours may be both intellectually draining and stimulating at the same time. Didactic coursework discusses topics in an abstract way, but clinical hours intertwine classroom materials with real life. Learning about a disease process from the safety of a classroom and actually meeting a person and caring for this person who has the disease makes it “real”. The compassionate side and the technical side come together and we learn how to care for the person as a whole, otherwise known as holistic health. Honing this skill is what makes a nursing student into a competent Registered Nurse.

Physically clinicals can be exhausting. Nursing students learn how to turn and move patients in bed, transfer them out of bed, and lift and move in ways one never thought possible . This, alone, can cause physical exertion, not to mention back injuries. The amount of walking, especially in big hospitals with long hallways, is often more exercise than the average human achieves in a day. For fun, wear a pedometer and see just how many steps are accomplished.

When the mentally challenging didactic portion of nursing school combines with the demands of clinical hours, the nursing student can find him or herself a bit overwhelmed, not to mention exhausted. Especially if the demands of work, family, and friends are high which adds to the stress.

Balance, Time Management, and Priorities

Balancing work, family, and friends during nursing school can be especially difficult. Since quitting work isn’t always an option and ditching friends and family is not a good idea, time management and prioritizing are the best methods to use to balance these responsibilities.

Time management during nursing school is accomplished by being prepared and ready to learn in each lecture and for clinical hours. If work and family and friends are time consuming during non-school hours, be sure to find time during the school day to study. During lunch breaks and even during lectures are good times to read textbooks, make index cards for memorization, and prepare for exams. Time management is all about prioritizing important tasks. Work with your schedule to make time.

Prioritizing important tasks and deprioritizing unnecessary tasks from one’s life is a vital part of student life. Determine what is important now and what can be put-off until after that difficult exam is finished. Create a calendar with all the exam dates and assignment due dates and be sure to check it at least a week in advance to prepare. Block out study time and even schedule time for friends and family to help balance the busy schedule. Feeling and being prepared for each class and for each exam will relieve stress and improve GPA.


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