Career Pathways & Education

25 Things They Didn't Tell You in Nursing School (But We Will)

The Trusted Team
January 8, 2020
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Nursing school may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. This time, take it from nurses that know (way too well).

Now, please enjoy (and take to heart) some nursing education from us, slightly more experienced, nurses.

25 Things You Will Learn After Nursing School

  1. No matter how much you mentally or physically prepare for an emergency situation, it will never go as planned.
  2. It can take up to a year to truly feel like you know what you're doing as a new grad (and that’s ok)!
  3. Switching specialties is not as easy as it sounds, especially depending on your current experience.
  4. That said, you don’t have to know what you want to do from the outset (it is possible to change gears). And sometimes getting something different than you anticipated is the best thing that can happen for you.
  5. The transition to practice as a New Grad is really, really hard. 
  6. You will question your decision to become a nurse, often. Build a support system that helps you get through the lows and elevates the highs.
  7. However, each time you question it, you’ll have twice as many impactful experiences that strengthen the belief in your decision.
  8. You will have really bad, horrible days. (But also some pretty spectacular and beautiful ones.)
  9. And a patient’s appreciation can make every one of those aforementioned days entirely worth it.
  10. Most of what you learned in nursing school you will have forgotten and must learn all over again in practice.
  11. Your judgement and knowledge of your patient comes second to none. You are the eyes, ears, and sense of what is going on with your patient. Don’t let your concerns or ideas be dismissed. Be assertive, and be confident (but don’t be afraid to ask more experienced nurses for help.)
  12. Enteral medications are rarely ever flushed in between.
  13. If you think you don’t know or aren’t sure, then you don’t know and definitely aren’t sure. Get a second, third, or fourth opinion.
  14. Three or four shifts in a row are pretty awful. (Here’s what you should know when choosing nursing shifts.)
  15. You will endure many, many shifts short-staffed. In many hospitals, this is the norm, but it shouldn’t be the standard, and hopefully, it won’t have to be.
  16. Your nursing dreams -- or nightmares -- will eventually fade, and you won’t always be nervous before a shift.
  17. No matter how hard you try, you cannot become nocturnal. No, an IV full of caffeine doesn’t count.
  18. Working through death with families and friends of patients is one of the most difficult things you will have to learn how to do.
  19. You will need to find ways to manage the stress and trauma of your first job. And compartmentalizing that aspect of your life isn’t sustainable.
  20. Your non-clinical family and friends won't ever truly understand what you actually do. It's sometimes difficult, but that's what your clinical peeps are for! (As a nurse, the people you're closest to won’t ever fully understand what you do and what it means for you to go to work on any given day; that can feel isolating and lonely.)
  21. Career growth and progression is up to you. Interested in doing research, getting involved with evidence-based practice or process improvement? Want to go part-time and go back to school? There are many, many (undefined) growth opportunities as a nurse that will be up to you to pursue!
  22. Hydrogen peroxide gets blood out of scrubs.
  23. Sometimes your patient will literally hate you for doing what is best for them.
  24. Your bond with your coworkers will be like nothing you have experienced before; you will share laughs, tears, and poop-filled moments you will never forget.
  25. And finally, literally everything… you learn nearly all of the useful stuff by practicing full-time after school. So what are you waiting for? Get to the good stuff! 

Some items on this list may shock or scare you, but don’t let them. There’s just as much, if not more, that you’ll experience that will make all the trouble and stress worth it. Now get out there and experience it!

If you just graduated nursing school and are looking for some resources, we’ve got your back. Click here to learn more about credentialing, finding residency programs, preparing for interviews, and more!

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