Entering nursing school can be a frightening experience for new nursing students, and there is no shortage of horror stories and rumors that can add to the anxiety. I can still remember many things I feared as a new nursing student. Thankfully, I made it through and lived to tell about it…
3 Common Nursing Student Fears
Here are three common fears that nursing students have about nursing school.
Fear #1: You’ll Fail Out of Nursing School
Attending nursing school is a pretty big ordeal. You’ve got to apply to a program, get accepted, secure the funding (loans, financial aid, or pay out-of-pocket), get your immunizations, etc. In addition, your friends and family will be talking about you going to nursing school. Needless to say, failing out of nursing school is the last thing you’ll want to do after going through all of that effort.
Unfortunately, this is a very common fear among nursing students. In fact, it was probably my biggest fear.
I can remember that, before I entered nursing school, people would ask me what I planned on doing for my degree in college. When I said that I planned to go to nursing school, people would often say something like, “Wow, I heard that was a hard program. I know that so-and-so flunked out…” That didn’t exactly encourage me.
To make matters worse, I can still remember how excited I was when I got accepted into nursing school and attended my nursing school orientation. The auditorium was packed, and one of the speakers told us to look to our left and to our right. She then said, “Half of you won’t make it to graduation.” There was an audible gasp in the room, and I remember thinking to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?!”
During my time in nursing school, I’d often think back to that moment, especially during difficult times. I’d wonder, “Am I going to be one of those people who don’t make it to graduation?” Make no mistake: this fear is very real, and many nursing students struggle with it.
If you’re struggling with this fear, you can’t let it consume you. If you do, it will become a self-fulling prophecy, and you’ll probably fail out due to the constant worry and feeling like you aren’t smart enough. Having a certain level of concern is good, for it will help you to stay on task. However, having a consuming fear about failing nursing school is bad, and you’ve got to overcome that fear.
Here’s the good news for nursing students: you have more resources available than ever before. In fact, you have far more resources than I had in nursing school. There are tons of nursing videos on YouTube that can help you synthesize information. There are free quizzes, notes, apps, and more. There are great study guides you can buy that can help you condense information.
So don’t be fearful that you’ll fail. Instead, buckle down, use the many resources you have available, and study hard. You’re going to do great!
Fear #2: Looking Dumb in Front of Others
Another fear that many nursing students have is that they will look dumb in front of others, and there are opportunities to look dumb in nursing school. You’ll have to go to clinicals, perform skill check-offs in front of others, and possibly even give a presentation or two.
I can remember one time when we had to do a skill check-off for taking blood pressure. As the teacher was going around the room and checking students, they were all getting it right.
I was trying to practice on my lab partner, but I couldn’t hear anything. I looked at her and said, “Are you still alive? I can’t hear your blood pressure!” She replied, “Oh, yeah, I have low blood pressure. It runs in my family, and people always have an issue hearing it.” I was thinking to myself, “Great! I have a lab partner who doesn’t have a blood pressure that I can hear! I’ll be the only one in the class who can’t perform this basic nursing skill.”
As the instructor came around, I could barely hear it. It was so faint, and I basically had to guess what I thought it was. Thankfully, I got it right!
If you’re struggling with the fear of looking dumb, you have to remind yourself that no one is born knowing how to be a nurse. You’ve got to learn how to take a blood pressure, check vital signs, and other nursing skills. You’re going to make a mistake here and there, and some skills will come easier than others. And that’s okay. We all have to start at zero.
In the past, I’ve trained nursing students, and I could tell that some were struggling with this fear. They wouldn’t volunteer to perform skills. However, you’ve got to throw yourself into these skills, because that’s how you’ll learn. You’ll learn by practicing and by making small mistakes.
Before you know it, you’ll be able to perform these skills blindfolded. It’s just like riding a bike or driving a car. It’s hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll do it without thinking about it.
Fear #3: When You Take NCLEX, You’ll Forget Everything You Learned in Nursing School
Nursing students also fear that they’ll forget everything they learned in nursing school by the time they take the NCLEX exam. I also struggled with this fear. In fact, I can still remember purchasing my first NCLEX review guide. That book was THICK, and I thought to myself, “How can I ever remember all of this information for nursing school, much less the NCLEX? Whoa!”
However, as you go through your nursing school program, your exams will be preparing you for the NCLEX. You’ll learn basic concepts that will help you think critically. You won’t necessarily have to memorize all of those signs and symptoms for every disease. Instead, you’ll likely learn the way diseases work, and then you’ll intuitively know the signs, symptoms, and treatments.
In addition, it’s important to start preparing for NCLEX as soon as possible. In my video on “how I passed NCLEX first try,” I offer several tips that can help nursing students prepare for the exam, as well as reduce anxiety that can come from feeling as if you’ll fail. By starting early, you’ll have greater confidence and know what to expect.
Conclusion: Keep Nursing School Fears in Check
I know that many of you will be starting nursing school for the first time this semester. While it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and fearful about those things, you’ve got to keep your fears in check. Let your concerns motivate you to work hard, but don’t let those fears discourage you or cause unnecessary anxiety. The same is true for the “new nurse struggles” that you might face after graduation.
Florence Nightingale, one of the greatest nurses who ever lived, once said this:
“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”
You can do this, nursing students!