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Students/New Nurses

Questions that Student’s Need to Answer: What are You Willing to Give Up to Make Nursing School a Priority?

By October 5, 2017June 8th, 2023No Comments

I recently received an email from an educator at a college who shared the struggles that she and her program are currently facing.

As she listed each challenge one by one, I quickly realized that she was not alone. In fact, each one that she listed are ones that I have personally experienced and have been validated by other educators I have met as I travel across the country.

In this blog and others to follow, I will share the most common struggles that programs are experiencing, as well as practical solutions to address.

In a recent past blog I shared the importance of encouraging as well as exhorting students.

Today we will get practical with needed exhortations that students need to hear to directly address a universal struggle that busy students experience while in school…

What are you willing to give up to make nursing school a priority?

Encouragement and Exhortation for Students

As a nurse educator and healthcare professional, this is what I would want to exhort and communicate to the next generation of nurses:

You have 168 hours in each week. No more, no less. There is no way to purchase additional hours in life if you find yourself short. Something has to give.

To be blunt, if you really want to not only pass your program but deeply understand what is being taught so you can apply it at the bedside of each patient you will care for, you need to reboot your priorities and eliminate activities to more effectively manage your time!

One of the areas directly under your control is placing clear boundaries in your social life and social media. Have you ever counted the minutes and hours you spend on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other avenues of social media?

I would encourage you to keep a log for a few days. Could this time be better spent studying? What about your social life? Do you feel obligated to maintain the friendships you have while in school in the same manner as you did before? This, too, may be an unrealistic expectation.

Short-Term Sacrifices for Long-Term Gains

Are you willing to make needed short-term sacrifices for long-term gain?

This is the mindset that will help you be successful while in nursing school. If you are willing to do what is needed to make nursing school a priority, you will not only make it through the program, but more importantly, you will be the best nurse you can possibly be. Trust me, it will be worth it and your true friends will still be there for you after you graduate!

You may have many competing life priorities. Determine how and where you spend your time and what you can give up. It does not always have to be work. If you are a mom with kids at home, can you assign chores or jobs to the kids for folding laundry, cleaning, cooking, and making lunches? You may need to “lower your standards” for a season. It’s okay if your home is not perfect.

Again, it is a temporary sacrifice for a long-term gain. You are also role modeling how important college education is to your children and family. Minimize any outside distractions. Say a temporary goodbye or cut back the amount of time you commit to volunteer opportunities in the community or at church. You will come back to those later, but for now, do not feel guilty to put them on hold if needed.

How Much Work?

Another important area to consider is how many hours you work each week.

Some students must work in excess of 30 hours a week to support their family or have other obligations. I understand. But if possible, work less than 30 hours a week, while no more than 20 hours a week should be a goal.

This observation is based on students I have taught who realized too late that their decision to work more than 20 hours a week and be a full-time nursing student was too much. They ended up failing or dropping out before the end of the semester.

I can hear some students crying out, “I am the exception, I have been to school before and handled this load.”

That may be true, but there is one small but significant difference. You did not go through nursing school before.

If you are carrying a full-time load, you will need to commit to an additional 20 hours of studying a week in addition to attending class and clinical. You do the math. Something has to give. Do not let it be your nursing education.

ACTION Steps for Nurse Educators

  1. Write down the exhortations that your students could benefit from. This makes it concrete and provides something that you can always refer to.
  2. Add to this with your own observations and wisdom from your experience to strengthen and make this exhortation your own.
  3. Take advantage of any and every opportunity to weave and integrate this exhortation that students need to hear in your class and clinical settings.

ACTION Steps for Nursing Students

  1. List and identify your current life priorities. Use the ED principle of triage and identify your top one or two PRIORITIES.
  2.  Honestly reflect and determine if nursing school is a top priority for you. Do you really desire to be the best? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to make this possible?
  3. Be ruthless to make intentional choices to carve time for what is most important. Eliminate time wasters that are relevant for you (social media, web surfing, etc.) so you can have time for what is really most important!

In Closing

Students experience reality shock making the transition from their life was like BEFORE nursing school, and what they experience CURRENTLY as a nursing student.

Embrace your role as a sage and do not hesitate to provide the guidance, direction, and exhortation that students need from you.

Share your story and what you have learned about the importance of making nursing school a priority in order to be the best nurse that you can be and why it matters!

Do not hesitate to emphasize how important it is make short-term sacrifices for the long-term gain in order to be a nurse of excellence!

Ask your students which nurse they would want caring for their loved ones…the nurse who was unwilling to make school a priority and did enough to just get by, or that nurse who recognized the need to what was needed and made a commitment to excellence and made school a priority.

The answer is obvious. Encourage and exhort your students to desire to be that nurse!


Learn more! The following past blogs provide additional background on today’s topic!

What do you think?
What have you done to communicate the importance of making school a priority to your students?
Comment below and let the conversation begin!

Keith Rischer – Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CEN

As a nurse with over 35 years of experience who remained in practice as an educator, I’ve witnessed the gap between how nursing is taught and how it is practiced, and I decided to do something about it! Read more…

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