It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to understand why nursing students get stressed during school. Pressure to invest in a quality degree program, achieve high grades and pass industry exams are only the beginning—then there is the looming trepidation of one day working on living, breathing patients! Needless to say, there is a lot weighing on the mind of a typical nursing student.
There is no way to completely eliminate stress from your life—and in some cases it can actually help you. But we’ve compiled tips from experts on nursing school stress and compiled them into seven surefire suggestions on how to get through nursing school without caving into the pressure.
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Taking care of you—eating healthy, exercising and drinking enough water—will help you to be a better nurse, according to Elizabeth Scala, spiritual practice nurse with national recognition for her expertise on nursing self-care. The better your body is working, the easier it will be for your brain to record information, solve problems and succeed as a nursing student.
2. Get a good night’s sleep
This is one tip that will lead you to success in just about any career. Getting a sufficient amount of rest allows your mind to convert daily experiences into long-term memory. Although in the short-term it may seem important to stay up that extra couple of hours to cram for exams, experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults for optimal brain performance.
3. Set realistic, measurable goals
On the first day of your new nursing program it may be difficult to imagine finally passing the NCLEX, the national licensing examination for nurses. To make the picture clearer, set goals for yourself along the way, says Stephanie Yackel, dean of nursing at Rasmussen College’s Eagan campus.
The acronym SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) is a widely-accepted metric to help define a goal that is worth pursuing. Set quarterly or even class-by-class goals to help create a sense of accomplishment along the way. Before you know it, you will be crossing the finish line!
4. Find a study buddy
Finding someone who can relate to what you are going through and help push your toward your goals can help reduce stress, says Allyson Hopperstad, dean of nursing at Rasmussen College’s Moorhead campus . While your friends and family may have had other forms of education, a fellow nursing student can swap suggestions for passing the anatomy test and vent about how much information was covered in your last biology lecture.
5. Get a handle on your emotions
It can be easy to get caught up in the drama that is going on with other people including their perception of you—especially when working in close quarters. You can’t control what another person is thinking, Scala explains, so it’s important to shift your own perspective. Otherwise you will waste time worrying about things that you can’t change, ultimately adding to your stress level.
Scala advises to start improving your reaction by looking to your own emotions of frustration or anger as clues for what is setting you off at the moment and take the opportunity to shift your thoughts. Although this can start off challenging, it is a good skill to take with you in the workplace and will help you manage stress throughout your life. Eventually you will be able to view things objectively as opposed to giving in to your initial feelings about the situation.
6. Prioritize and deal with the most important issue first
The ability to prioritize is a critical skill for a nurse. You will see this come up a lot in your examinations so it will be helpful to become an expert while you are in school. The running joke about passing nursing tests is that finding the most correct answer with the highest priority is based on the day-to-day realities of being a nurse. Make lists of everything you have to do and complete them in order of importance, Hopperstad and Yackel suggest. This will help you successfully prioritize once you get into your career as well.
7. Take time to do something for you
Surprisingly, this is one a lot of nurses forget when they get out in the field. Nursing, by nature, is a career rooted in serving, helping and caring for others. But you can’t care for others properly if you’re not caring for yourself. You will do a better job if you take time to reward yourself, Scala says, even if it is something as little as going outside for five minutes for some fresh air.
“As nurses we don’t want to take a break,” Scala says. “We feel like we constantly need to keep moving.” Those five minutes will ultimately help you be more productive in your studies while in school and later on in your career as a nurse.
You Can Get Through Nursing School
Although stress can be frustrating, it can at times actually be positive because “it can lead us to make changes,” Scala says. Learning the skills to cope with stress will only help you as you move on in your career. When you arrive at the hospital to find you are short-staffed, loaded with difficult patients and things are snowballing out of control, you can tap into these techniques to better handle the situation, she explains.
Whether you are still considering a career in nursing or you are halfway through your program, it’s important to remember not to stress too much about how to get through nursing school! It does not need to be as scary as you may think. Following these seven simple steps will help ensure your success.
To knock one more of your stressors off the list, check out our blog post with tips for passing the NCLEX.
For more information about the nursing programs at Rasmussen College, check out our School of Nursing degree pages.