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What is Nursing?

Much like medicine, nursing is an occupation aimed at the prevention of illness, promoting health, and caring for the sick, disabled and terminally ill using evidence-based therapies. Nurses also advocate and promote a safe environment for patients, conduct research, help shape health policy, and educate the next generation of nurses. "Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings." There are many different types of nurses:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

    • provide hands-on healthcare to patients in medical settings. Assist with daily activities such as bathing and eating.

  • Patient Care Associate (PCA)

    • Similar to CNAs​, PCAs also provide hands-on healthcare in addition to being able to draw blood and administer EKGs.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

    • work under the direct supervision of nurses and doctors to ​take vital signs, collect samples, administer medication, ensures the patient is comfortable, and report the status of their patients to nurses.

  • Registered Nurse (RN)

    • holds a nursing degree and has passed the NCLEX licensing examination.​

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)

    • Similar to physicians, NPs can see, diagnose, and treat patients, even prescribe medicine.

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)​

    • A nurse who has a masters degree or attended a postgraduate ​institution. They have advanced academic and clinical education, skills, and scope of practice in nursing.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

    • ​focuses on the practice of nursing at the highest level of the nursing license as it applies to patient outcomes​​

Things to Consider When Searching for a Nursing School:

Nursing School Program Search:

  • Diversity:

    • Although numerous Nursing programs will emphasize diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand what that means. During your search, don’t be afraid to ask “what does diversity look like within this program?”, “what efforts has this program made in the last 3 years to show your commitment to a diversified student body and administration?”, “what resources are in place to maintain a diverse academic environment, both inside and outside of the classroom (implicit bias training, workshops/ lectures on diversity-related topics, community outreach, clinical rotations, inter- and intra-disciplinary collaborations, etc.)?”. Students often forget that while programs are assessing if you are a good fit for them, it is equally as important for YOU to assess whether that program is a good fit for you. Nursing School is rigorous, so make sure that you are selecting a program that is committed to your success, supports you, and provides you with the resources and tools you need.

      • Attending a program committed to diversity and inclusion makes the difference in your mental health, self-esteem, and stress throughout nursing school.

  • Cost:

    • Important factors to consider in regards to cost include expected tuition increase based on the yearly budget, scholarship opportunities, as well as living expenses. Furthermore, check out the Scholarships section below.

  • Other Factors:

    • It is also important to explore the structure of the curriculum, board pass rate, and location. In addition to the program overview, the program’s website may also have a student ambassador-run blog or FAQs addressing various topics for prospective students. Questions to consider in evaluating program:

      • Does the curriculum seem innovative and/or progressive? When was the last time there was a change in curriculum? Is there a mandatory research component built into the curriculum?

      • Do you prefer traditional lectures, online learning, problem-based learning, case studies, or another method? Does this curriculum offer a learning style that works for you?

      • When will you have your first patient interactions as a nursing student? How are clinicals structured?

      • What is the pass rate for the NCLEX?

      • Estimate your commute! To and from school, it will give you an idea of the daily travel time and can aid in mapping out your study schedule.

      • In-state vs. out of state

        • Compare and contrast the cost of in-state schools versus out of state schools while also comparing your tuition cost. These figures can help you ballpark what your annual expenses will be, as well as help you decide on which programs you should and should not apply.

Things to Consider

Tips for Prospective and Current Students

  • Being a Strong Applicant: 

    • NCLEX Prep: You will need a nurse pack, to pass the jurisprudence exam and NCLEX license exam upon finishing nursing school. The most recommended and effective prep material for the NCLEX is as follows: CliffsNotes NCLEX-RN Cram Plan by Michael Reid MSN, RN is highly recommended for NCLEX prep. Additional study sources highly recommended, Uworld, Kaplan, and Mark K audios.

    • GPA plays a significant role in admissions into Nursing School, as well as being a well-rounded applicant is an important factor (volunteer experiences—clinical and non-clinical, extracurricular activities, shadow experiences, professional, and life experiences, in addition to academics).

      • Work on your interpersonal skills as this will help with communicating with patients and with your bedside manner.

    • Time Management: In nursing school, you will need to study almost every day. Before class look over the notes, read the assigned reading so that during the lecture you are not he1ttaring it all for the first time. Write out notes in class, study them after class so that you retain the information. A planner will become your best friend! Utilize your planner as much as possible! Make a study schedule, make a list of what you need to do today right here right now, and what assignments and exams are due when. You can also multi-task by making audio flashcards and listen to them while grocery shopping, going for a run, folding laundry, etcetera. You should study for about 3-4 hours outside of class almost every day.  

      • Learn to say NO, turn your phone off or put it on 'do not disturb', and limit time on social media while studying! Facebook has a setting where you can set a date and time for when you can log back in. For instance, while I was studying for the NCLEX I went to my Facebook settings and had it disable my account and said for it not to allow me to log back on until after my test date so that I could focus and not be distracted. 

    • Coping with Stress: The stress that nursing school can cause is extremely high, you need to learn how to cope with the anxiety, the stress, the stress eating, the weight fluctuation, the loss of friends because you can not hang out like you used to, no social life, the burnout, the emotional rollercoasters, etcetera. is hard but when you finish it feels like a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders and you can breathe again and you are so grateful because you made it through and can add those credentials behind your name!

      • Please please allow yourself to have some time strictly for self-care because you do not want to get overwhelmed and burnt out! Study for an hour then take a 15-minute break then study an hour and have another 15-minute break! This can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Sometimes in nursing school, you will find yourself pulling all-nighters trying to prepare for upcoming exams, so the 1 hour on 15 minutes off is a good method to follow during all-nighters! Take breaks because nursing burnout is REAL!

    • Money: Nursing school can be expensive, even if you have a scholarship paying for tuition. You still have to factor in scrubs, comfortable shoes, and compression socks, and a stethoscope. Before matriculation, you will have to get background checks, fingerprinting, drug tests, vaccines, and immunizations. A necessity will be obtaining nursing liability insurance

    • Going to school and working: You go to school during the week so having a part-time job on the weekends seems fitting! Working as a Certified Nursing Assistant/ Patient Care Associate/ Unlicensed Assistive Personnel, (CNA/ PCA/ UAP) will get you much-needed experience. Working as a CNA/PCA/UAP will also get your foot in the door for a hospital or unit you may want to go into when you graduate.

      • Keep your options open! I know everyone usually has their mindset on a specific unit they want to go into like the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Labor and delivery (L&D), oncology, pediatrics but during your clinical rotations throughout nursing school, you may find something you love even more! I thought I wanted to go into pediatrics in the NICU, I got a job as a CNA/ PCA/ UAP in the NICU and all but I ended up loving the emergency department and the medical-surgical unit! Never in a million years did I think I would work with adults but I am currently a registered nurse in the medical-surgical unit and I love it! 

    • Last Tip: NEVER forget the reason why you want to be a nurse! Think about it whenever you are feeling tired, down, stressed, burnt out, etcetera. It will help you go through the rough times. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help! Whether it be from classmates, senior nurses, current registered nurses, preceptor, teachers, etcetera. Do not dwell on the negative! Speak positive affirmations into the atmosphere! You got this and you are going to be an amazing nurse! :)



Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Other nursing resources for nursing students that offer career development support to students, as well as nursing student resource guides, NCLEX resources, and tools for career planning are: ​​

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)

  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

  • American Academy of Nursing (AAN)

  • American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS)

  • Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN)

  • American Nurses Association (ANA)

  • Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)

  • Minority Nurse

  • National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)

    • African American nurses can get networking, professional development, mentoring, and job opportunities.

  • National League for Nursing (NLN)

  • National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) 

Contributions by: Briana Perry, MSN RN

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