Transforming Self-Care into Success: Nursing School Guide

It’s no secret that the nursing profession has wrestled with self-care, and the aftermath of COVID-19 has only made things worse. Many nurses have retired early, citing burnout. Others have chosen to leave the bedside and seek out less traditional nursing roles where they can feel valued.

Either way, our current nursing crisis proves the importance of self-care for nurses! I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that nurses are notoriously bad at practicing self-care. And in my 15-years experience as a professional nursing tutor, I can tel you for certain that these bad habits start in nursing school.

Self-care Barriers in Nursing School

Obviously, nursing school has some systemic problems that make self-care extremely difficult for students. Let’s get that point out of the way up front, because the LAST thing I want is to make you feel guilty for things outside of your control (more on that later…)

First of all, the idea the nursing school is (and should be…) torture is almost an accepted norm. So much so, that there are countless memes, comedy videos, and even well-intentioned advice that results in normalizing the experience of crying everyday after class.

Spoiler Alert: IT’S NOT NORMAL!!!

From super strict clinical attendance policy that won’t take sickness or family emergencies into account (and sometimes will even expose you to Covid patients, only to force you to repeat the semester when you miss a clinical day because you tested positive for Covid…yes, this has happened to nursing students I tutor!!), to excessive chapter assignments with the expectation that you’re responsible for knowing EVERYTHING (fyi: that’s an extreme exaggeration!), it’s hard to feel like you can relax in nursing school.

But self-care is essential, even in nursing school. And it doesn’t mean you need to find time in you’re already too-busy schedule to take a candle-lit bubble bath, either. Let me give you some better tips for what to do to have a better nursing school experience…

Set Realistic Expectations

First thing’s first…you need to reset your expectations. The fastest path to burnout is trying to control things that are not yours to control. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the quality of your lectures, the timeliness with which you get your updated clinical schedule, and even the adjustments to your grading scale.

That’s why I don’t try to get my tutoring students “straight A’s” in nursing school…sometimes the factors required for straight A’s is outside of your control! Instead, we can reset expectations so that you can get solidly passing grades. So long as you’re learning the most important nursing info and developing your clinical judgement (both of which you can do by using the Silver Bullet Study System), then solidly passing grades is enough to make you a nurse without the extra stress.

Remember, “C’s get degrees” and “C=RN” is still true. Even if you want to progress to higher education later in your nursing career, your grades in nursing school won’t be the ‘all or nothing’ that they feel like right now. Like becoming a master of the next practical self-care skill, for example…

Become an Independent Self-Learner

Since some things in nursing school are outside of your control, you ned to learn to focus on the things that are in your control.

One of the most common frustrations that nursing students come to me for tutoring help with is the complaint that, “My instructor isn’t really teaching me. She just reads the powerpoint slides, and tells us we need to know everything in the textbook.”

When you’ve spent your whole school life being expected to regurgitate exactly what your instructor has taught you (which is what most classes in our Western education system expect, unfortunately) then of course this would be frustrating. However…Nursing school is different.

Now that you’re in nursing school, you need to learn to become an independent self-learner. This is a lifelong skill that you will need throughout your entire nursing career, so the sooner you learn it (nursing school is ideal!) the better.

And once you change your mindset and focus on becoming an independent self-learner, it no longer matters if you get a “good” or a “bad” nursing instructor each semester: you know you’re going to do just fine, because you can always teach yourself.

When you know how to be an independent self-learner, then having a “bad” teacher doesn’t matter…because you weren’t counting on them anyway. You’ll be just fine teaching yourself.

And if you get a “good” teacher? It’s just icing on the cake! And it can make your self-learning journey that much easier.

(Psst…my group tutoring membership can help make things a lot easier, too!)

Go with the Flow, and Pay it Forward!

At the end of the day…sometimes you end up feeling like the only sane person in crazy house! At least, that’s how I felt some days back in nursing school.

Which is why sometimes the best thing to do is to simply let go (and let God, in my opinion!). It’s best for your sanity, and for the people around you, too.

Trust me, it can be hard to watch systems of authority seem to “get away” with unfair actions. But believe it or not, when it comes to nursing school, it can be in your best interest to keep your blinders on. Because let’s be honest…you’re not going to be able to change it overnight. It’s a systemic problem, remember? Not an individual person’s problem.

Which is why you need to help solve it systemically. And the best way I’ve found to do that so far is to “pay it forward.”

Make a commitment RIGHT NOW that one day, when you’re a nurse, you’re going to do your part to make it better. You’re going to be encouraging and patient to the nursing students coming behind you. You’re going to remember what it felt like to be the one asking all the “dumb” questions, the one willing to do all the hard work (but feeling frustrated because it doesn’t seem to matter how hard you work, you’re still borderline failing).

You’re not going to be the nurse who “eats their young.”

Instead, you’re going to be the nurse that shares encouragement instead of horror stories. You’re going to be the nurse who tells them that they can do it, it’s hard for everyone, but it can be overcome.

You’re going to be the nurse who tells them that it’s not a “them” problem…it’s a systemic problem. And that they’re going to be an amazing nurse someday.

That is how we begin to fix the nursing school crisis of self-care. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

What can you do right now?

It can be overwhelming to feel like you have to do something “extra” when you already don’t have enough time. But the things you can do right now to improve your nursing school self care can be as easy as surrounding yourself with a positive, supportive community of other nursing students (even other adult learner nursing students, if that’s your personal situation!).

That’s why cultivating a positive and supportive community is a core component of my Group Tutoring Membership. Not only do we celebrate each others successes and talk each other through difficult experiences, we also offer a weekly Nursing Student Support group that is led by real nurses and nursing students who know exactly what you’re going through and are there to support you through it. If you need more positivity in your nursing school life, get more information about joining our Group Tutoring Membership here.

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