With undergraduate students beginning their nursing studies this week, we asked WSU College of Nursing alumni and the larger nursing community what they wish they’d known then. Here’s what they said:
It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”
As a student and as a newly minted nurse, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that you need to know everything right now. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer and to ask questions. Eventually, your patients will trust and respect you more for saying, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will find out for you.”
Take care of yourself while you’re in school.
Though you’ll definitely think you don’t have the time, it’s important to exercise, eat right, rest, and make time to do the things you enjoy. Which brings us to…
Managing your time is essential.
Time management will be one of the most important skills you’ll learn in nursing school. Whether you use an old-fashioned planner or an app, block out times for focused study, self-care, work or family time. Mark down important due dates as soon as you get your syllabus.
Protect your body.
Nursing is a physically demanding job – lifting or moving patients, awkward positions and constant standing. Nurses as a group experience as much back, shoulder and neck injury as construction workers. So start off right – learn good body mechanics. Buy and wear compression socks to save your legs and veins. And invest in very good shoes.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
You got into the WSU College of Nursing, so you’re smart and driven. Check. But it’s a safe bet that you’re going to fall down at some point. You’ll get a B (or a C). You’ll feel lost/unsure/incompetent in clinicals. Here’s the important thing: don’t let it derail you. Talk to your instructor. Practice positive self-talk. Nursing school is tough – but so are you.
Create a study group.
It’ll help you process and prioritize the loads of information coming at you. Just as importantly, you’ll be with a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through.
Start using your stethoscope as soon as you have it. Listen to lung sounds on anyone who will stand still long enough, because the sooner you know what normal sounds like, the easier it will be to identify abnormal. Take full advantage of your clinical time to see and do all that you can.
Build your critical thinking skills.
Nursing school is going to be different than many of your previous college classes. You can’t just memorize a fact and dredge it up on a test. You need to fully understand why that’s the case and be able to explain it to someone else.
Effective communication is a vital part of patient safety, so start practicing those habits in nursing school. It can be scary to speak out, yes. Tips to help: don’t accuse, explain. Back up your case with facts and data. And assume that others share your desire to improve patient care.
Recognize that even when you finish school, you’ll still have a lot to learn. Be open to advice from more experienced people.