Posted by Kristen Salisbury on

I know we have all had these nerves/jitters/panic attacks through nursing school. Or maybe you are just feeling these for the first time as a new nursing student in the program. I am going to talk about 3 main items that give nursing students the most anxiety/nerves. 

1. Failing an exam, or worse, failing out of the program completely! 

I am not gonna tell you that nursing school isn't hard or challenging. I am also not going to tell you that you will do amazing on every single exam. Quite frankly, many people do fail at least 1 exam during their nursing school program. (Not saying you will). That is just because nursing school exams are VERY different from any other exam you have ever taken for classes. It's not just a clear cut the answer is "A" type exam. Nursing exams are made with questions that are related to taking the actual NCLEX exam. They make you have to think and use critical thinking skills to get to the correct or "the most" correct answer. Many now, and especially going forward with the new GEN NCLEX exam coming out in April 2023, will have SATA (select all that apply) questions. Many students get caught up on just trying to figure out how to answer these types of questions. I personally have failed 2 exams during my nursing school program. I have always been one that has done well for every single exam i have ever taken, so to fail an exam in nursing school was like a kick in the gut for me and learned very quickly how I should go about studying better to succeed.

What I can tell you is this. If you DO fail an exam, DON'T GIVE UP! Don't be super hard on yourself! Its easy to dive into the fact of thinking you are dumb, or what was I thinking answering that question, and then freak out mode starts to set in like, am I gonna make it?! You can STILL do well on future exams. Review over the exam, see where your problem areas were and how you can learn from them going forward. Take time to go over it with your professor or with a classmate that can explain it to you. All to say, LEARN from that failed exam so you can focus on the next one and passing! In the real world, it can be the fact of learning from a mistake with a patient and knowing what NOT to do going forward with your next patient. 2.

2. Clinicals make me SUPER anxious/nervous! HELP! 

YESS! I have been there! Especially if you are one that has NEVER worked in the healthcare field and have to initially learn how to talk to patients. They can all be super intimidating when you are just beginning and don't want to make a fool out of yourself in front of your patients or the nurse you are working with. THIS IS NORMAL. Everyone goes through this, so don't feel like you are the only one. We all had to start somewhere, and believe it or not, getting these hands on experiences in the real world are THE BEST way of applying what you learn and see how it works with a live patient. Many times, my nerves would be so built up over the previous evening to that morning showing up, and then when the shift was done, most times it ended up not being bad at all. It also makes it easier experience when you do have a great nurse that you are under that allows you to see how she does things, allows you to answer questions, and best of all, apply skills you are able to do at that point in your program yourself with her/his supervision. This is where the excitement begins! :) 

The more time you get to practice skills, the more comfortable you will become. Every semester will be the same roller coaster of anxiety/stress when you start a new clinical rotation and with new nurses, but once you keep at it and do your best, and learn each time you go, it will get better and better. 

Keep in mind with clinicals: you are a STUDENT. The nurse you will be orienting with knows this and knows you are there to shadow her and do what skills you are able to perform at that time and can be checked off. Take it upon yourself to be your own advocate! The only way you will learn and get more hands on experience is by DOING yourself. If vitals need to be done, tell them you want to do them! If they have a patient that needs a foley, tell them you would like to do it! Please take the initiative so you can do and see as much as possible. Even if its a skill you haven't learned yet, ask to see if you can be in the room to observe and watch. This is YOUR time to learn, so do all you can. 

If you are still super anxious/stressed after a few shifts of clinicals, see what brings you the MOST anxiety. Is it the nurse you have been with each time that isn't allowing you to learn? Or personality clash? Then talk with your clinical instructor and see about getting another nurse to be with. Remember, this is YOUR time to get the most out of these learning experiences. 

3. I don't know if I was made to be a nurse. 

I can count MANY times I have had this thought pop into my head. Many of these things was when things were SUPER overwhelming and just thought maybe I wasn't cut out for this kind of work. BUT..let me tell you something, we have ALLLL had these moments where we have thought this and know we definitely were made for this! Nursing is a hard profession, guys. Don't let the Instagram world fool you with everyone all dressed up in their scrubs with their makeup on point and hair all fixed up with the caption "Nurse Life" fool you! Its not glamorous in any way, shape, or form! You will have amazing shifts where everything went in stride and smooth, and you will have shifts where they are super difficult days where it just doesn't seem like anything was going right, from having multiple admits, a patient crashing, that one patient that just can't leave you alone for a second, etc. But then, you have that one shift where a patient tells you just how much of an impact you had on them and how grateful they are to you for helping them and THAT is what makes it all worth while. All the good and all the bad days combined. Its these moments that remind me why I am here, why I AM meant to be a nurse. It is what keeps pushing me day in and day out to be the ABSOLUTE best nurse I can be. Nursing school will push your limits running on little to no sleep, countless coffee/tea runs, stressing over the next exam, etc. 

Hope you guys realize these are all valid reasons to be nervous or scared about in nursing school. If at any point you are still finding yourself having a difficult time trying to keep your stress/anxiety under control, try talking to somoene that gets what you are going through (fellow stuent, a nurse, family member, etc). Get advice on how you can help manage it all and be able to keep moving forward. 

YOU GOT THIS! I have complete faith in every single one of you! And as always, if you have any thoughts/feelings, concerns, or advice even that has helped you, please do share! :)


Kristen BSN, RN 


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