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Tips for the First Year Nursing Student

If you’ve just started nursing school, congratulations on taking the first step toward a rewarding career! It's an exciting time in your life, but the first year nursing student experience can be intimidating. What should you expect as a first year nursing student, and how can you succeed in nursing school? We’re answering these first year nursing student questions and more with our nursing school tips.

What to expect as a first year nursing student

There’s a lot to balance as a first year nursing student. While you’ve been in school before, nursing school introduces new responsibilities and time commitments into the mix. 

Most of your classes will be science-focused during your first year. Your first year nursing student subjects -- or nursing prerequisites -- may differ slightly depending on your school.

First year nursing student classes may include: 

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fundamentals of nursing 
  • Psychology 
  • Pharmacology
  • Health 
  • Pathophysiology

In addition to lectures, you’ll also be attending clinicals. Nursing clinicals put your lab classes into action, allowing you to perform actual tasks you’ll experience in the field. These real-life duties may include: 

  • Patient full-body assessments 
  • Giving shots
  • Catheter insertion 
  • Wound dressings 
  • Patient bathing and personal hygiene care 
  • Taking vitals 
  • Medication administration
  • And more 

Learn how to complete your nursing prerequisites online

 

Is the first year of nursing school the hardest?tips for nursing students 

The first year of nursing school is hard because you’re starting a new venture. Not only are you learning new information specific to your industry, but you’ll also be putting that education into action. Learning facts is much different than practicing them, so stretching yourself in this new way can be demanding. 

You will be challenged academically, physically, and emotionally as you begin working with real patients. Developing this new skill set may feel unfamiliar and overwhelming at first, which is why many nursing students report the first year as being the hardest. 

Your own experience will differ depending on how comfortable you are with schoolwork and interacting with others in a caregiver role. While your academics are likely to get more challenging the farther you get into your program, coursework alone does not determine your school burden.

There are many factors that will affect how challenging your first year of nursing school will be, including: 

  • Your nursing program: Choosing to pursue an LPN, RN, or BSN will make a significant difference in level of difficulty. Many LPN programs can be completed in one year, whereas an RN or BSN program averages 2-4 years. 

  • Working while in school: Students who balance education and work simultaneously will face more demands and stress over those who don’t have a job. 

  • Family obligations: Taking care of others while pursuing an education is another matter. Whether you’re looking after your kids, aging parents, or other loved ones, these responsibilities can weigh heavily while trying to focus on school. 

  • Clinical hours: Applying practical knowledge to real-world situations is a skill that takes time to develop. Depending on how many hours your program requires and the teaching style of your professors, this part of nursing school may be the most demanding component during your first year. 

Can a first year nursing student work?

Yes, first year nursing students can work, and in fact many do. 

For example, many nurses start their careers by earning their LPN, allowing them to enter the workforce as soon as possible. After gaining experience, many LPNs will then go back to school to earn their RN, continuing to work while completing their degree. 

First year nursing students who have no previous healthcare experience can work, though they won’t be able to take on any direct nursing roles. There are alternative options that can start developing skills applicable to nursing. 

What jobs can a first year nursing student get? Available healthcare jobs that require little to no experience include: 

  • Orderly: Orderlies support a variety of functions throughout a hospital or care facility. These basic tasks may include sanitizing rooms or equipment, answering calls, or escorting patients. 

  • Technician: Technicians are trained to operate a specific piece of medical equipment. Training is necessary to understand the ins and outs of the machine’s functionality. 

  • Dietary aide: An aide helps prepare patient meals based on doctor-recommended dietary restrictions. 

  • Personal care aide: This role provides companionship to patients, as well as helping them with basic tasks such as paying bills or running errands. 

  • Transporter: This role helps patients move throughout a hospital, transporting via a wheelchair, stretcher, or hospital bed.

  • Phlebotomist: Phlebotomists handle needles and draw blood from patients. While some facilities may require certification, others provide on-the-job training. 


How do you succeed in the first year of nursing school? 

Starting nursing school is a big change, but you will get through it!

What should a first year nursing student know? Here are some of our favorite words of advice for nursing students.

  • Don’t stress over grades. Many students find that they can’t get the same scores they did in high school or elsewhere. It is far more important to focus on comprehension and developing critical thinking skills.
  • Exams are different. Nursing multiple-choice exams are different from most – every answer is correct. There are many ways to take care of a patient, and nursing school exams are designed to make you think critically to choose the best method. One way to prepare is to get an NCLEX strategy guide to help you learn the type of questions asked in school.
  • Find a study group. Study groups can be a life-saver. They help you retain information better, motivate you to study, and provide a sounding board for any issues and questions you might have. Collaboration can help you get different ideas and perspectives, and can help you learn better.
  • Have a study schedule. Make sure you keep up with assignments and reading – or better yet, stay ahead. It’s far easier and less stressful to do a little every day instead of letting it pile up. If you don’t have time to read everything, be sure to study what was covered in class. Don’t procrastinate. Study after study shows that cramming just doesn’t work.
  • Ask for help. You need to make sure you are learning and retaining the material. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors questions, either in class or during their office hours. Ask your fellow students for help with filling in missing information when you don’t understand something.
  • Take care of yourself. You are going to school to learn how to take care of others, but it is difficult to do that if you don’t take care of yourself. You will find that eating smart, getting plenty of rest, and exercising will keep you fresh and reduce nursing school stress.
  • Take time for yourself. Part of taking care of yourself is taking time away from nursing school. It is difficult to balance home, family, friends, and school, but it is not productive to spend all your time stressing about school work.
  • Stay positive. Nursing school is rigorous, but don’t let the fact that it is hard stop you. You were admitted to nursing school, which proves you belong. When it gets too tough, lean on your support group – you are all in this together.

First year nursing students find support with Achieve

Earning your nursing degree is hard work, but you don’t have to do it alone. Achieve Test Prep offers college prep services that help healthcare professionals pass college courses with less stress. We help you utilize time-saving solutions such as credit by exam as well as prep courses to get you ready for your licensure exams. No matter where you are in your education journey, we can help. 

Contact us to learn more. 

Learn more

Topics: RN programs, Nursing Information

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