Things I Have Actually Learned in Nursing School

In just under two years, I have mastered skills such as taking a manual blood pressure, performing a head-to-toe assessment, administering IM injections, and much more. But the things I will really take away from nursing school weren’t even learned in class. Here are just a few, in no particular order:

  1. How to sleep literally anytime, anyplace – broad daylight, the passenger seat, the bench in the hall at school. . .
  2. How to eat a 6″ sub in under 10 minutes
  3. How to sneak into the patient kitchen for saltines and water without being noticed
  4. That most people in nursing school aren’t worth your time
  5. That a select few people in nursing school will sometimes be all that keeps you sane and are more valuable than even the best Littmann stethoscope
  6. How to prioritize a variety of tasks such as clinical paperwork, studying for exams, completing research papers, showing affection to significant others, and sleeping
  7. Group projects were created to handicap the grades of good students
  8. SIM patients can and will vomit on you
  9. If you’re not early, you’re late
  10. People who are not nurses usually have no idea what nurses do, despite the fact they have probably had a nurse take care of them at least once in their lives
  11. There are opportunities for academic experiences that your program and/or school will not tell you about that you can find and take advantage of
  12. Patients appreciate that, as a student, you have time to attend to their less critical needs, like a warm blanket, having a pleasant conversation, or being able to take your time with total-feeds
  13. Attending four-hour lectures will give you the beginnings of disuse syndrome
  14. Coffee is a necessary ingredient for life as we know it
  15. Some patients have the most interesting tattoos in the most interesting of places

Playing the Student Card

Is there a type of nursing you’ve always wanted to learn more about, but haven’t had clinical experience with? Is there a certain advanced nursing specialty you’re considering pursuing? Just looking for a way to keep gaining experience over the summer without working as a nurse’s aide? Make the best of your upcoming summer off and play the student card!

Use your connections!

We all have that friend or family member who is a nurse. Reach out to the nurses in your life and ask if you can shadow them or another nurse they know on the job. I reached out to just one nurse and suddenly had a laundry list of contacts, ER to case management to practitioners and more.

Professors and clinical instructors make great contacts as well. Many of them have hospital jobs as well, especially part-time faculty. Ask if you can shadow them, or if they can put you in touch with a few nurses that you could observe for a day.

Make new connections

Reach out to specialty centers in your area–burn and trauma centers, life flight, home health and hospice care, etc. Often, specialty centers are receptive to having students come in for observation. Simply write a nicely worded email or put in a call to the administrative office explaining that you are a nursing student interested in any observation opportunities that may be available. You will be surprised at how many yeses you can get, and if you are turned down you have lost nothing. You literally have nothing to lose and so much experience to gain!

In summation: Don’t be afraid to reach out to the nurses you know in your personal life, instructors, and specialty nursing centers in your area. You can learn so much though observation and getting the opportunity to talk with nurses employed in many different areas of the profession.