8 Steps to Survive a Nursing Degree Program

There is always a point in a student's education when they are faced with a difficult class or a difficult program. Nursing is one of those programs that, while people can work very hard to get accepted into one, the hard part is really figuring out how to survive once you're in it. The National Student Nurses Association describes nursing as both an art and a science that combines a scientific mind with a compassionate heart, or in other words: it combines two, already difficult disciplines into one, equally hard degree program.

It is important to be prepared to push through those two-years once the program begins and, based on my time in nursing school, here are a few things you might do well to remember when entering a nursing program.

Step One: Calm the Anxiety. While nursing school is intense, the truth is that in order to even get into the program you had to have a good deal of intelligence, study skills, and ability. Take solace in the fact that while the programs are rigorous and the competition is fierce, you have already shown you are more than capable of being successful at it.

Step Two: Lose the social life. The sad fact is nursing school is going to take over your life. Yes, this means going out every other night might not be an option for a while. Just because you got into the program doesn’t mean it is not still important to stay focused on the things that can help you de-stress, such as exercising, seeing friends (when you can), and visiting family. Time will be a commodity for the next two years as most of it will be spent in school, studying or at clinics.

Step Three: Dust off those study skills! Yes, that is right; studying hard is some of the best advice for nursing students. Break out the flashcards, find a coffee shop, form a study group, grab some practice question books, and get to work.. Study with others and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Step Four: Prepare your family and friends. You might hear many of your teachers talk about how your personal relationships will be tested during the program and it’s true. If you have kids, you may need to ask for help from family and your significant other. Face time with friends and family will be a luxury, as your focus remains on your studies. Just be sure to communicate to loved ones what nursing school will require of you as a student so they can be prepared to support you.

Step Five: Get humble. The medical community is filled with know-it-alls. And often times it is part of the job description. Solving problems in health care can take a great deal of confidence, and professionals often need to make sound decisions that may ultimately affect someone’s life or health.  While ego and confidence can play important roles in the development of a health care provider, it also has its time and place. Nursing school is a time for humbled confidence. Leave the ego at the door or it may be a long two years.

Step Six: Find financial stability. Nursing school is academically taxing enough without the added stress of finances Some people are able to hold part-time jobs while going to school, others find it hard to work and study at the same time. Just remember that student loans are available as well as grants, and scholarships; it isn’t the worst thing to accrue some debt while in nursing school if it helps to earn a RN degree.  

Step Seven: Get the right equipment for success. Don’t skimp on the stethoscope! It is amazing what the difference can be between a $40 and $80 stethoscope. Lung sounds can be very difficult to hear correctly and are of paramount importance and having a bad stethoscope can easily cause a misread of heart or lung sounds. Make things easier and pay the extra money, it can pay dividends.

Step Eight: Get Comfortable and enjoy the ride. A nursing degree program can sculpt a person and their way of thinking. Take advantage of this education and training, and soak up the knowledge that is offered for practical use in the future.


Jonathan Koenig is a paramedic and nursing student in California. He loves to write on nursing topics, and is active in the nursing community through his website, CNAThrive.com.

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