You’ve had your mind set on becoming a nurse and attending nursing school for quite a while, and now that the time is almost here, you’re raring to go.
The lead-up to starting nursing school is undoubtedly an exciting time. You have a host of new people to meet, skills to master and a lot of the relatively unknown occupying your mind. Now’s a great time to tap into that excitement and get as prepared as possible for the start of your nursing school experience.
That doesn’t mean you’ll need to immediately go out and buy fresh scrubs in every color or start flipping through NCLEX® practice questions, but there are several helpful things you can do to make the transition to nursing school a smooth one. Keep reading for some practical tips on preparing for nursing school.
7 helpful things you can do before starting nursing school
1. Build a support system
You’re about to enter a whole new stage of life. Being a full-time student can be taxing on your self-confidence and mental health. Having people in your corner to check in with you and remind you how hard you’re working and how far you’ve come can give you a big boost. Whether that’s a partner, friend, parent, mentor or therapist, keep them close.
Keep an open mind about meeting new friends in nursing school too. Your cohort will be along for the ride with you, facing many of the same challenges. They can encourage you and keep you accountable to your studies. You might even want to organize a study group to quiz each other.
You may also need to level set some expectations with friends and family. You might have to cut back on social commitments or change how you hang out. Study breaks with loved ones may look more like walks and a good meal than a whole beach day or staying out late. Let them know you may need some time to figure out what your new rhythm looks like. Not everyone may be supportive, but don’t forget to thank the ones that are.
2. Focus on your health
Get set for a strenuous stretch by building up healthy habits now. Whether you’ve been meaning to recommit to an exercise routine, learn some nutritious recipes, start taking vitamins or nail down a better bedtime routine, now is a great time to make it happen. Building consistent healthy habits now will only benefit you as you transition into the routine of nursing school.
As you likely know, making sure you’re caught up on immunizations is a must for entrance into nursing school. While you’re visiting the doctor, it may be a good idea to take care of an annual physical, too. It might not be the most exciting thing, but getting yourself set up with health insurance and in the habit of tending to your own health is a good habit to start as soon as possible.
3. Get your financial house in order
Needing to manage your money is a fact of life and one that doesn’t necessarily get easier once you’re in school. Take the time to get a better handle on your financial circumstances. If you haven’t already, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), as it is the key to receiving any government-based financial aid you may be eligible for. But that’s not all you can do to ease potential financial stress while you’re in school.
It will take some additional effort, but be sure to seek out and apply for additional scholarships. Take some time to figure out how you’ll budget for living expenses and what changes are needed to make it work. If you’re a military service member or veteran, you have additional options to help you afford college.
Beyond awards, grants and student loans, you can also help your budget the old-fashioned way—with a job. Working as a patient care technician, certified nursing assistant or phlebotomist can help you get your foot in the door at a healthcare provider before even starting nursing school.
If you aren’t looking to get additional certifications before school but you still want to work in a healthcare setting, try seeking out direct patient care positions that typically don’t require any medical experience, like a transporter or dietary aide.
Working in healthcare before nursing school can help you save up some cash while getting a primer on medical terminology. The experience can also further solidify your desire to become a nurse.
4. Stock up on essentials
While telling you to go shopping might seem contradictory to our last point, there are some commonly useful items that can help as you prepare for nursing school. Whether you’re an in-person or online shopper, here’s a list to consider:
- Your favorite frozen foods or ingredients for simple meals
- Compression socks for long days on your feet
- A watch with a second hand for counting respirations and pulses
- Notetaking device (notebook, tablet, etc.)
- Basic school supplies
- Textbooks (if not provided)
It’s a small step, but knowing that you have all of the assorted supplies you’ll need to hit the ground running can be a confidence booster.
5. Start studying
You’re going to have a lot of information to process soon, so why not get a head start on some of the basics? If you are so inclined to do some prep studying, there are a few topics that might give you the most benefit:
- Brushing up on medical terminology/anatomy and physiology
- Practicing basic unit conversions to prep for pharmacology
- Memorizing basic lab values (BMP, CBC, ABG)
- Practicing fundamental nursing skills: head-to-toe assessments, manual blood pressures, taking pulses, counting respirations, etc.
Keep in mind, some nursing students have strong opinions on whether “prep study” time for nursing school is necessary. While it can help you get into the right headspace and help establish a study routine, understand that it won’t be a cure-all that makes every academic subject a breeze.
6. Find a go-to planner
You can just about guarantee nursing school will feel a little overwhelming at first. The best way to counteract that feeling is by breaking everything thing down into steps and getting organized.
Finding a planner or a calendar system you love can help with that. Visualizing your schedule and adding in your tasks can help you clearly see what needs to get done and when.
If you don’t have one that works for you, try out some planners or calendars to see how they fit your life. Whether you’re a digital or analog kind of student, there are a ton of options out there.
7. Indulge in some you time
With a flurry of work, study and more coming up soon, try to carve out some time prior to enrolling to tackle something that’s strictly for you. Whether it’s a fun road trip, a hobby or a goal you’ve long wanted to accomplish, the time before nursing school is as good as any to focus on yourself and your happiness.
Take in some relaxation time and charge yourself up for what’s to come. While you’re doing this, take note of what keeps you happy and going strong. These are the things you’ll need to lean on during the tough days you’ll likely have.