How to Prepare for Nursing School: 8 Strategic Things You Could Be Doing NOW
Whether you’re considering applying or mere months away from walking through those classroom doors, you’re looking for some tips on how to prepare for nursing school. You’ve picked up snippets of “do this, don’t do that” along the way. But you want to have the whole picture—the need-to-haves and the nice-to-haves for starting nursing school.
To get all the pieces in one place, you need to hear from nurses who have been there and can share advice on how to best prepare for nursing school. Read on as we explain some things you should do in order to walk into class that first day feeling confident and ready for your new adventure.
If you’re planning on attending nursing school, then you’ve probably already been hard at work ensuring you’ve met all the necessary requirements. But just in case, take a peek at the list below to make sure nothing is left unchecked on your to-do list.
1. Complete all the prerequisites
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to be sure you’re meeting all of the requirements, according to Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN, author and healthcare advocate. These will obviously differ based on the program. The Rasmussen College Nursing program, for example, doesn't have the rigid requirements many programs have, providing opportunity for more nursing hopefuls.
Be sure to double check with a program advisor or admissions counselor to ensure you’re on track to meet the requirements to attend your future program. Additionally, don’t forget that grades matter and starting out on the right foot means working hard to achieve the best grades possible.
2. Take the TEAS test
The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is administered by ATI Nursing Education to assess your skills in reading, math, science, English language and usage. Earning a favorable score on this test it is essential for getting into many nursing schools, so be sure you prepare for the TEAS before taking it.
3. Update your immunizations
This may surprise you at first, but you’re going to need to safeguard yourself against the onslaught of germs coming your way. Check with your admissions counselor to see which immunizations are required for your particular program, but to play it safe, you can always be sure to start gathering the basics outlined below:
- Hepatitis B
Now that you know the bare essentials for preparing for nursing school, you may be wondering what else you could be doing to set yourself up for success. Going above and beyond will not only help you thrive as a student, but could also prove valuable when it comes time to enter the workforce.
4. Network, network, network
“Set your sight on a clinic or hospital that you might want to work at, so you have a goal and then start networking,” Katz suggests. But before any of that, you should take time to network with those at your future nursing school. Katz recommends connecting with other nursing students attending your future school to learn more about the program, professors and how to better prepare for the program.
5. Shadow a nurse
“Following a nurse around for the day helps to solidify the reality of the job,” says Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN. He adds that every position, hospital and department is unique, so the more experience you have in this area, the better.
An up-front look at your future career can be extremely beneficial, and there’s no better way to do that than experiencing a “day in the life” by shadowing a current professional. If you’re not sure how to get in touch with a current nurse, contact a representative from the program you’re interested in and see if they can partner you with a recent graduate.
6. Become a certified nursing assistant (CNA)
Depending on the program, becoming a CNA may actually be a requirement of your nursing program, but either way it’s a beneficial step to consider. This will allow you to get your hands dirty by gaining practical experience in a healthcare setting.
“Some programs require applicants to be certified nursing assistants prior to entering school,” according to RN Lisa Braatz. “I found working as a nursing assistant also helped with people finding a RN job quicker,” she adds.
Check with your nursing program to see if they require a CNA certification before or upon entering. Even if it’s not necessary for the program, it may be worth considering in order to gain an edge.
7. Pursue “people” positions
You may not always be able to find an entry-level position in healthcare near your school. But any job that involves working with people can help you prepare for the work of a nurse, according to Angelis.
He explains that having experience in a position like retail, restaurants or hospitality can help sharpen your interpersonal skills. Interacting with professors and classmates in school is important, as is communicating with patients and coworkers on the job.
“I also found it useful to become a tutor so I wouldn't forget the biology and other basic sciences from pre-nursing courses as I continued to learn,” Angelis adds.
8. Round up the essentials
Nursing school is notoriously challenging, but a little practical preparation can help you avoid burnout. Katz recommends investing in a comfortable pair of shoes, finding some healthy snacks you can enjoy on the go and identifying a few exercises you can do almost anywhere.
Her last piece of advice? “Have a friend on speed dial you can call when you’re delirious from lack of sleep, or if you just need a virtual hug!”
Prepare for success
Now that you have some expert advice on how to prepare for nursing school, you should feel more confident as you take the next step in your journey. The road ahead won’t be easy, but it will all be worth it when you earn your scrubs and clock in for your first nursing shift.
Hungry for more insider knowledge about the career you’re embarking on? Check out our article, 7 Career Insights I Wish I Knew Before Starting Nursing School.