Morgan Quist, R.N., New Grad Nurse Blogger, Shares “7 Things I Would Tell My Nursing Student Self”

1.  Nursing school does not have to be stressful.

College is stressful for everyone; however, when you are a Type A personality surrounded by similar Type A personalities, it’s natural for stress levels to rise fast. I felt as if I was constantly in competition with my peers during my pre-nursing courses, directing all my energy toward academic excellence. I wanted to stand out; I wanted to be acknowledged as an extraordinary student with the qualities of a successful future nurse. Every semester, I signed up for a full-course load (or, for two semesters, beyond what was considered a “full-course load”) to maximize my learning trajectory. As I look back on the amount of classes that I took and the value I put on good grades, I wish I would have realized that I didn’t have to push myself so hard. I gave myself such a small margin for error, when I should have given myself more grace. Constantly striving for perfection slowly wore me out over time, and I didn’t need to put that much emphasis on perfect grades. Because

2Employers rarely look at your transcript.

During the job interviews that I had after school, no one asked me to recite the number of A’s that I received. Yes, I realize that would be a ridiculous interview question, but I’m trying to make the point that good grades in and of themselves are less important than the skills necessary for attaining good grades. Good nurses exercise diligence and integrity as they serve patients and work with other healthcare professionals, which can be cultivated in the classroom but doesn’t always translate 100% to test scores. Employers care much more about healthcare experience and situational instances that have prepared you for working as a nurse in the field. But as you apply and interview for jobs….

3.  Don’t feel pressured to get a job right after the NCLEX. 

First of all, you will be working for the rest of your life, so taking a few weeks to determine what area you would like to commit to first will be worth it (in my opinion). Second, there are so many job openings for nurses across the country. Why not dream a little, explore several different options, and maybe apply for a job that might not exactly fit your experience level but that you are extremely interested in? Nurses can work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and community health areas. Within each of those groups, there are numerous specialties to focus on. Looking for a nursing position can be a little like checking out a buffet line at a restaurant: you have the chance to pick and choose which jobs seem most interesting and fit your personal gifts. And just because I think it’s not emphasized enough in nursing school…

4.  It’s OK to try unconventional opportunities after graduation.

I always wanted to work at a camp during college, but camp salary didn’t pay enough during the summer to fund the education I was receiving as an undergraduate. As a senior in college, I knew I would be studying for the NCLEX during my summer after graduation in order to receive my Registered Nurse license. I thought to myself, “if I want to work at a camp, it’s now or never.” I received an e-mail from a camp in the Colorado mountains,and they were interested in hiring newly graduated nurses for summer camp.  I accepted a position and spent 10 weeks at camp in Colorado, slowly embodying the role of “Nurse Morgan,” responding to first aid events, administering medications, and caring for homesick campers. I had time to study for the NCLEX about 1-2 hours per day, which was good for me since…

5.  You don’t need to study full-time to prepare for the NCLEX. 

I truly do not know how some of my classmates studied full-time in preparation for the NCLEX. I can’t sit down and study for more than two hours at a time (at which point I literally feel like my brains are melting to mush). I also have no idea how anyone could possibly know everything that is asked on that test. I started my NCLEX study journey by reading my review books, chapter by chapter while taking detailed notes. That lasted for all of a few days. After that, I simply took practice questions – hundreds and hundreds. I spent my time learning more what type of questions were being asked rather than trying to memorize every piece of information related to every medical condition, age group, and medication side effect. I used Kaplan and ATI practice questions to prepare for the exam.

My authorization to test (ATT) came during the third week of June, and I immediately signed up for the soonest test date: June 23. I came to the conclusion that more studying wouldn’t help, I had already spent two years in nursing school, and if I wasn’t ready now, then I deserved to not pass. But I did pass, and I was able to enjoy the rest of camp a lot more without the ever-looming cloud of the NCLEX hovering over me. Camp, though, was a 24-hour on-call job, and now that I’m working in an outpatient clinic, I realize…

6.  It’s a blessing to have a job that forces you to “leave it all at work.” 

HIPAA privacy and confidentiality rules can seem like a mess of regulations at times, but it has helped me to keep healthy boundaries in my life. All of my work is locked within a system that I can only access during my work day. I would love to tell my nursing student self there is beauty in having boundaries placed on work life. Nursing can be an emotional job that can take its toll after you punch out at the end of the shift, but it’s unlike many other professions because you are legally bound to retain the privacy of the patients you serve every day. I cherish that I can come home every night without the temptation to check work e-mails because I literally can’t.

The final, most important thing I would tell myself as a nursing student:

7. Nursing is a people-oriented job.

Never lose sight of this. I know, as a student, it can seem like nursing is a lot of paperwork, but when you are actually employed as a nurse, it becomes focused on the people with whom you interact. The connections you make as you loyally serve patients with integrity and honesty are what make going to work worth it.

As a nurse recruiter, myRN Staffing Solutions can help you research job options in many settings.  Reach out to our recruiters today to help determine which setting is right for you.

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