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Students in the Nursing Simulation Lab

Your first day: Getting ready to start your nursing program

First, congratulations for taking that next step in your career—be it the first step on your journey to becoming a nurse or a continuation of your education toward advanced practice.

Your journey will be filled with highs, lows, sleepless nights (though hopefully not too many!), and (probably) terrible food choices, but the rewards will outweigh the sacrifices. We hope the following tips will help you achieve a healthy, productive semester.

Get organized before classes begin

Nursing programs come with a heavy workload, so be sure to get everything you need to start out of the way before classes begin.

This means ordering all of your books, purchasing your parking pass, figuring out tuition payments and financial aid, getting your student ID, working out your living situation, etc. The less you have to deal with throughout the semester, the better off you’ll be. Also, be prepared to purchase a drug guide, medical dictionary, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, and scissors on your first day if necessary.

Write out your schedule

Do your best to get a feel for what your semester is going to look like ahead of time. Keeping a planner can help you manage your workload and track your deadlines. If you were given a schedule of what you’ll be doing throughout your program, use it. Whiteboards and calendars can also be useful tools for mapping out your semester.

Take care of yourself

Above all things, take care of yourself. Self-care is critical to thriving throughout the semester and keeping your head above water. And remember: Taking care of yourself is key to being able to take care of others.

  • Get plenty of sleep. How much rest you get sets the stage for the rest of your day. According to the CDC, adults ages 18–60 need seven or more hours of sleep per night.
  • Eat wholesome foods. What you put in your body has the power to help get you through the day. It only takes one questionable frozen burrito to disrupt an entire day’s worth of work.
  • Get plenty of exercise. It’s tricky to find the time and motivation, but once you do, exercise can make a big difference. Even just a quick thirty-minute jog can clear your head or get you in the right mindset to start the day.

Old-school school supplies still apply

As nice as it would be to get by with just a laptop, you’re still going to be receiving hard copies from some instructors. Be ready with folders, notepads, pencils, pens, and highlighters. And be prepared to read—a lot. Set aside time to work on bigger projects that are due down the road.

Find a study group

You can start by trading number with classmates and see where things go from there. Tackle multiple problems at once on your own can narrow your perspective. Having other minds to bounce ideas off can open you up to new ideas while at the same time keeping you motivated to study on a regular basis. And if there is no study group, you can start one!

Don’t expect straight A’s

What’s important is that you’re understanding the material and keeping up with your courses. Not everyone learns the same way, so do what feels right for you. Ask questions during and after class, too. Having a good rapport with your instructors and putting in the face time will improve your chances of success. Find out how your instructors prefer to be contacted, and don’t be afraid to schedule a meeting with them.

Keep things in perspective

You will be busy, sure, but you’re working to better yourself and the lives of others. It’s a noble undertaking to help guide and care for the people around you. You will have good days and bad days. Just work hard, keep up with your studies, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Good luck!

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