Getting Through Nursing School

Dear Reader,

If you are a nursing student, I am grateful that you will have this letter as a guide and a resource that will provide the pros and cons of my experience, along with resources, and suggestions for how to get you through! If you are not a nursing student, the information contained here may be of interest if you are considering a career change into a health related profession or have someone going through the process.

Resources: Know which “program” your program is! 

Does your school use ATI or HESI? This is a question that you should ask yourself early on, like before you get accepted. The reason is that if you decide to purchase study materials, you will want to know which resources to purchase because they are a different formate with different styles of questions.

ATI is more of a self-progress and monitoring tool that my school recently implemented for the underclassmen here at my nursing program. The way it is being used is to help students measure the success of their studying and to help them know which content areas they are struggling with in order to, ideally, help them manage their study time more effectively.

HESI is an exam based program because there are minimum scores that must be achieved in order to pass the class. The HESI exam is needed in addition to the regular exams. Resources for HESI can be found both in hard copies and online.

I reccomend the Complete HESI Review for the NCLEX-RN EXAM edition five (red cover). This book has short, concise and straight forward explainations of key concepts, and includes review questions and comprehension tips at the end of each section. Dispersed throughout the book are gold boxes that have HESI HINTS that are useful for preparation to take the class based hesi exam at the end of a course.

Tools that are also useful:

Evolve Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing


Maryann Hogan: Preparation Materials (she has every subject)

Pearson Reviews and Rationales

Clinicals: Pre-Training 

Clinicals are only as useful as you make them. If you go and sit at the nurses station, then you will undoubtedly learn nothing! If you take the initiative, in a respectful and curious way, you will learn something. I would rather learn something than nothing. It will be intimidating and uncomfortable at first, to go into a hospital and follow a nurse around, and feel like you are in the way. Once you start clinical courses, your job is to be in the way of learning opportunitites and insist on getting and seeing what you can. Yes, clinicals will not expose you to everything that you will ultimately do when you are licensed and on the floor, but it will expose you to the environment of patient care, it will allow you to ask questions, interact with patients, get over the jitters of being in a room with a patient, and it will allow you to develop some basic skills like medication administration, certain injections, assessment techniques, feeding a patient, bathing a patient, and ambulating a patient.


As a student, documentation is an uphill battle. It will not make sense until you do it over and over again so don’t sweat it! Just ask questions of your clinical instructor and get as much clarification as you need to put the right information in the right place. You will have a more rigorous training on the specific software for your institution once you are hired.

IV Insertion: Practice! Practice! Practice! 

If your school allows you to practice on each other, then do it! There is nothing worse than being in front of a patient, ready to start an IV and not being able to get it the first time! Unfortunately, my school did not let us practice on each other and so we had to figure out how to get practice with this essential skill. Departments that are good for IV practice are One Day Surgery, Oncology, and ER so float there if you want practice with IV insertion.

It will be humiliating and frustrating if you blow a vein or are unsuccessful, but there will be a next time!

Self Care

Sleep: It may not be possible to sleep 8 hours a night, but something is better than nothing.

Move: Fit it in. Trust me. It makes a huge difference.

Eat: Meal prep. Have portable snacks. Smoothies. Use weekends to have meals with people. Do not skip meals!!!!!

Social/Breaks: Studying is really important. It’s why you are in shcool, but rejuvenating the brain is really important and necessary to succeed. Take time to be away from the books. Agree to not talk about school…at all, seriously. Do something fun! or Just take a nap.