Finally! You’ve been accepted into nursing school!
You’ll be taking your first step towards becoming a nurse. You’re excited about what’s ahead—nervous even.
You don’t know what to expect and wonder if you’re prepared to take on the challenge.
To help you fight the fear of the unknown, we spoke with State Registered Nurse Thilaga Manoharan to get her insight on what aspiring nurses can expect when they attend nursing school.
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1. Show Initiative in Your Learning Process
As a nursing student, you're not expected to know everything, so don’t be scared to ask for help.
In fact, students are expected to show initiative in their learning process.
“Nurse instructors want their students to show interest in the subject and actively ask questions,” Thilaga said.
Nursing instructors were once inexperienced students as well. It’s likely that they will do what they can to guide and prepare students to face the workforce.
What about learning medical terminology and remembering them? Often times new nursing students struggle to memorise them all.
Thilaga suggested: “My friends and I always keep a small nurses dictionary in our pocket as reference when we need it.”
If you want to succeed as a great nurse, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to develop your skills and knowledge.
2. Be Prepared to Attend Lots of Hands-On and Practical Classes
Nursing is a profession that requires a lot of hands-on experience.
You will have to jump at opportunities to do things and gain the relevant clinical experience that you need.
For each semester, students will have to undergo theoretical studies before they can attend their practical classes.
During practical lessons, they will be taught to perform clinical procedures on a simulation mannequin such as IV insertion and injections before moving on to real patients for their practical placement.
Students are required to achieve a minimum score for practicals to pass their semester.
“For my college, we need to achieve at least 80% for practicals to proceed to the next semester," said Thilaga.
Be engaged at your clinical postings. Try volunteering for any task, even if it’s just a simple one like drawing blood or changing a wound dressing.
You might gain some practical experience that is more valuable than any lesson a book can teach. Practice makes perfect!
3. Be Prepared to be Challenged During Your Practical Placement
Students will be assigned to hospitals for their practical placement for 2 months in each semester, where they will put their knowledge into practice, learn key skills and gain clinical experience.
They will undergo their practical training under the supervision of a senior nurse, who acts as their mentor for the duration of their placement and will assess the student’s learning outcomes and evaluate their work performance.
Understandably, inexperienced nursing students might not be ready to transition to real patients from mannequins.
“Patients might not want to cooperate with you because you’re only a nursing student,” Thilaga said. “Some patients might even reject your offer for help and insist for a staff nurse instead.”
Facing challenges and overcoming them is all part of the learning process for every nursing student.
4. Be Prepared to Proactively Find Solutions for Patients
Dealing with patients on a daily basis is part of the key responsibilities of a nursing student during a practical placement.
“You might be surprised that some patients actually come in with their own diagnosis or deny that they even need proper treatment.” Thilaga said.
When that happens, students should bear in mind that getting angry at them will not solve the problem.
“Instead, try to calmly assess the situation to come up with the best possible solution," she advised.
She added that students need to be patient and constantly check for their vital signs. In most cases, the vital signs that you’ve taken from patients would usually indicate what’s wrong with them.
Discuss with your senior nurse on the next suitable course of action. Senior nurses are often there to advice you on how you can perform better and provide you with the necessary assistance.
5. Be Prepared to Work Hard and Perform Well in Your Course
During practical placement, it’s important to show that you can perform well in clinical procedures.
“When you send in your resume to potential employers, they’ll be calling the hospitals that you have done your placement to get feedback,” she said.
It is also important to maintain a good relationship with your mentor throughout your practical placements.
Thilaga had to complete an assignment on nursing management for her final-year project, which required students to perform the procedures that they had learned, as well as manage a ward.
They were required to showcase a variety of skillset, ranging from assessing patients and admitting them to the hospital, to daily drug checking and preparing the duty roster for the entire ward.
Senior nurses have likely done the same task before so their experience and advice on how to perform well are valuable to the students.
Your Journey to Becoming a Nurse Starts Here!
Now that you are aware of what to expect as a nursing student, you’ll be more prepared for the challenges ahead. Use Pathway Match to get matched with nursing scholarships and exclusive deals if you're ready to pursue a nursing career.