How to Survive Nursing School

Tyson Schritter / Abound: Nursing »

Nursing school is an extraordinary experience that will test your knowledge, resilience, and dedication. And, of course, it is also a gateway to a deeply rewarding career in the noble field of healthcare. Surviving nursing school requires more than just academic prowess; it demands a combination of mental fortitude, time management skills, and a supportive community.

From navigating rigorous coursework and clinical rotations to mastering the art of patient care and communication, this guide is here to provide you with invaluable insights and practical tips to help you not only survive but thrive during your time in nursing school.

We understand that the road ahead may seem daunting, but fear not—you are not alone on this journey. In this comprehensive article, we’ll give you the knowledge, resources, and encouragement needed to navigate the challenges of nursing school with confidence and grace.

Stay Organized

First and foremost, staying organized is crucial in nursing school. From coursework to clinical rotations, there will be many tasks and responsibilities vying for your attention. Establish effective organizational systems early on to keep track of important dates, deadlines, and study schedules. Utilize a planner or digital calendar to plan your days, allocate time for studying, attending classes, and completing assignments. 

York College of Pennsylvania Nursing student, Mara Smakal ‘23, stresses the importance of using some type of organization tool to keep on top of your day-to-day responsibilities. “My Google Calendar has proven to be an invaluable tool in my daily life, enabling me to meticulously manage my academic commitments, work-related obligations, and social engagements with ease and precision.” By staying organized, you can ensure that you stay on top of your commitments and have a clear overview of your priorities.

Develop Good Time-Management Skills

In the fast-paced world of nursing school, mastering the art of time management is key to navigating the demands of coursework, clinical rotations, and personal commitments successfully. Time management goes beyond simply juggling deadlines and schedules; it’s about prioritizing tasks, setting achievable goals, and creating a structured routine that optimizes your productivity and minimizes stress. 

Learning to say “no” to unnecessary distractions and commitments is another valuable time-management skill. While socializing and extracurricular activities are essential for overall well-being, finding a balance between your academic responsibilities and personal life is crucial. 

Find a Study Routine That Works for You

Prioritize your tasks, break down large assignments into manageable chunks, and create a study plan that suits your learning style. Experiment with different study techniques and find the one that works best for you, whether it’s studying alone in a quiet environment or collaborating with classmates in a study group. Consider techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work in focused bursts of 25 minutes with short breaks in between, to maximize your productivity. 

York College of Pennsylvania Nursing student, Kathryn Eisenhower ‘24, shares her experiences creating effective study routines while in nursing school. “Finding the best way and best place to study will help you succeed during your time in nursing school. I found that the class I’m studying for or the work I am doing will influence the method I choose. When I’m writing a paper, I like to find a corner in the library to sit myself down and just write. When it comes to studying for big exams, I like to write everything out on white boards and organize it in a way I can understand the information and connect it all together. This is also a time where turning towards and leaning on your classmates is huge. I can’t even count the number of times that I depended on my friends to motivate me to study for our exams.”

Seek Support From Classmates and Professors

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Seek support from your classmates and professors whenever you need it. Building connections with your peers allows you to share resources, gain new perspectives, and provide each other with emotional support. Collaborating with others can enhance your learning experience and make the journey more enjoyable. Mara Smakal ‘23 says, “Leverage the collective knowledge of your fellow course participants, as they are navigating the same academic journey alongside you.” Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors or clinical instructors if you have questions or need clarification. They are there to support your growth and development as a nurse.

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of your mental and physical health is paramount during nursing school. It can be easy to get caught up in the demands of your studies, but neglecting self-care can lead to burnout and hinder your academic performance. Prioritize getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in regular exercise. Find activities that help you relax and unwind, such as reading, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness techniques. Remember to take breaks and allow yourself time to recharge.

By prioritizing self-care, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come your way. Kathryn Eisenhower ‘24 says, “Being able to make a simple self-care routine that you can follow every day will do so much for your  mental and physical health. For me, I make time every day to do something I enjoy, whether it’s going to the gym, taking a walk with friends, cooking dinner with my roommates, or watching a movie. By giving yourself even one hour a day, you will be amazed by how energized and clear-headed you feel!”

Practice Time Management During Clinical Rotations

Managing your time is important throughout school, but it is also crucial especially within your clinical rotations. Clinical rotations are an essential part of your nursing education, so arrive prepared and ready to learn. Organize your uniform, equipment, and necessary paperwork in advance. Actively participate in patient care, ask questions, and seek opportunities to apply your classroom knowledge. Clinical experiences provide a valuable opportunity to bridge the gap between theory and practice, so make the most of them.

Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills

Sharpening your critical thinking skills is vital for your success as a nurse. Nursing requires the ability to analyze situations, make clinical judgments, and prioritize care. Take advantage of case studies and simulation labs to practice critical thinking in a controlled environment. Seek feedback from your instructors and use it to improve and grow. Developing strong critical thinking skills will not only benefit you in nursing school but also in your future nursing career.

Stay Focused and Motivated

Susan Kehl, dean of the Carr College of Nursing at Harding University, says, “Since patient safety and well-being is entrusted to nurses, the educational journey requires a disciplined work ethic and the learning of competencies, knowledge, values and skills.”

During this kind of rigorous program, there may be moments when you feel overwhelmed or doubt your abilities. Remember your goals and the reason you chose to pursue nursing! Surround yourself with positive and supportive individuals who believe in you. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and use them as fuel to keep going. You have the resilience and determination to overcome any challenges that come your way.

Use Your Available Resources

Take advantage of the available resources offered by your nursing school. Academic support services, such as tutoring or writing centers, can enhance your learning experience. Explore online platforms, textbooks, and scholarly articles that can supplement your understanding of complex topics. You can also consider joining professional nursing organizations or attending conferences to connect with others in your field and stay updated on industry trends.

Strive for Work-Life Balance

Lastly, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial. While nursing school requires dedication and hard work, it’s important to make time for activities and hobbies outside of your studies. Spend quality time with friends and family, engage in hobbies you enjoy, and allow yourself to recharge. Remember, taking breaks and engaging in activities unrelated to nursing can actually improve your focus and productivity when you return to your studies. Mara Smakal ‘23 says, “Stay focused on your academics, but don’t forget to make sure to have a little bit of fun too. You only go to college once!”


Always remember that you are capable and deserving of success in nursing school. With the right mindset, strategic approach, and the support of your peers and mentors, you can not only survive but excel in your nursing education. Embrace this incredible journey, and stay motivated to keep yourself prepared for anything that comes your way. Your dedication and hard work will pave the way to becoming a compassionate and competent nurse, ready to make a difference in the lives of others.