Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Estelle's Guide to Nursing School: Part 5 - Sh*t I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Everybody lies. Yeah. Just go ahead and admit it now.
Your best friend DOES look fat in those jeans. Your mother-in-law’s casserole the other night WAS NOT the best you have ever eaten. You really ARE embarrassed to be seen with your boyfriend when he is wearing that super-fashionable “Big Dick’s Taxidermy. I mount anything” t-shirt [anyone? No? Is this just the winners I’ve dated?].

Anyway, some people lie by omission. They don’t give you all the information you need to be fully prepared for what you might experience. I, my dear readers, would never lie to you. (Well, actually, I would…but for argument’s sake, let’s just say I wouldn’t.) I want you to have all the information you need so you can be successful in your nursing school career.

Now before I start, let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Knowing what I know now…knowing how difficult it would be and how hard I would have to fight to get to where I am…knowing how much time and energy it would take…would I choose nursing school again?
Yes. But I am also a bit of a masochist.
Also, something else we should get clear. The advice I offer on this blog comes from my own personal experience from nursing school and I have no way of knowing what your program or experience will be like. So take everything I say with a grain of salt, okay? And maybe a shot of tequila.
So here we are darlings. These are the 50 things I wish I had known before starting nursing school.

1. Getting into the program really was the easy part.
2. You will spend a small fortune on textbooks, coffee, and gas driving back and forth to clinical sites.
3. Before you even start your program, friends and family will be asking you to make medical diagnoses of their problems. Be prepared for a 5am phone call where in someone describes their rash to you [true story].
4. You are going to talk about poop. A lot. Yeah. It’s gross but get used to it now.
5. You’ll ask complete strangers about their poop. And have them describe it to you. In detail.
6. You are going to see a lot of naked people. Most of them you would never want to see naked. The naked human body quickly loses its appeal.
7. You will meet some of the most amazing people you have ever met. You will also meet some complete assholes.
8. You’ll study more than you ever have in your life and it still won’t feel like enough.
9. Several people from your class will sleep with each other. If you are of the male persuasion and attending nursing school, your chances of getting laid go up by about 1000%.
10. It is a fucking HORRIBLE idea to hook up with one of your classmates.
11. It is next to impossible to concentrate during a lecture when you know what the person sitting next to you sounds like when they have an orgasm. [unfortunately, another true story]
12. Rumor in nursing school (about you, your classmates, your professors) spread faster than an STD at the Jersey Shore.
13. Do not wear scrubs to a lecture. I don’t care if you just came from surgery on the Pope. It makes you look like a tool.
14. Pick your coping method very carefully. Excessive alcohol and sex with people you barely know doesn’t work to relieve stress.
15. Look around your Fundamentals of Nursing class. Two-thirds of these people will not finish with you. Whether they finish a semester or two behind you or wash out completely, remains to be seen.
16. Everyone in your program will start out with a plan to go on and become a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist. By the end of the second semester, those same people will just be glad to finish the program.
17. You will fail an exam. I don’t care if you have a 4.0 going into the program. It is going to happen. When it does, cry about it and then move on. Don’t be like me and have to be put on “suicide watch” by your study group when you fail to show up for the next two weeks of lecture because you are convinced you just flunked out of nursing school.
18. All the guys will want to do surgery or ER. All the girls will want to do L&D or pediatric nursing.
19. Hospitals smell bad. Even after you leave for the day, it feels like that smell is clinging to you. Keep some awesome body spray in your car to keep the yucky away.
20. A lot of your time during clinical rotation will be wasted. Thrown away. Down the drain. Mostly because the instructor is busy checking and rechecking everyone so that you don’t kill anyone.
21. More than likely, you won’t kill anyone.
22. Patients can be grumpy. They earn that right because they are in the hospital. It does not give them the right to abuse their nurse or student nurse, though.
23. Don’t ask a professor “Is this going to be on the test?” It wasn’t, until you asked. Now everything is going to be on the test…no multiple choice….all essay questions that have to be answered in either Greek or Latin.
24. Haggling over points on an exam rarely works. As a matter of fact, it usually just pisses the instructor off.
25. Don’t EVER tell and instructor, “Well that is just a bad exam question” because nine times out of ten, they came up with the exam question themselves.
26. If you piss off your instructor, he or she can make your life hell.
27. You will learn the joys of being questioned according to the Socratic method. It is like the nursing school version of “pimping” that medical students go through.
28. Be able to talk about something other than nursing school because “normal people” don’t always want to hear about it.
29. You’ll work with at least one nurse who hates you just because you are a student.
30. You’ll work with at least one nurse who you wouldn’t trust to watch your goldfish.
31. You’ll work with at least one nurse who reminds you of the kind of nurse you want to be when you graduate. Tell him or her that. Because people need to hear it.
32. At some point during nursing school, a stranger’s bodily fluids will most likely come into contact with your exposed skin.
33. Some nursing instructors are bullies.
34. Some nursing instructors who seem like bullies aren’t. They just want you to be the best nurse you possibly can be…because you could be taking care of one of their family members one day.
35. There will be days when you wake up and ask yourself is this really what you want out of life.
36. There will be days when you wake up and want nothing more than to quit school and get a job working at a coffee shop.
37. Always offer to help a fellow student with a difficult patient. What goes around comes around and people *do* notice.
38. As per pain scale protocol, you’ll start measuring everything on a scale from 1-10. Eventually, you will find yourself asking a friend, “On a scale from 1-10, how drunk are you right now?” [Bonus points if they answer “eleventeen.”] [another true story]
39. You’ll probably change your desired specialty at least 4 times, depending on your current rotation.
40. Get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can. Don’t feel bad about 4 hour naps on Tuesday afternoons when you don’t have class.
41. Giving injections really isn’t that scary. For that matter, neither are Foley catheters or IV starts. But NG tubes suck. :::shudder:::
42. Psych patients aren’t the ones you have to worry about. Generally, they are medicated and usually stable. It is the family members of the patient on the med-surg floor that need restrains and a heavy dose of Valium.
43. You are going to cry. Probably more than once. Probably over something simple like a highlighter running out. It isn’t that the highlighter was that special…it is that you are just so tired and exhausted from holding it all in.
44. If you are in it for the money, you are not going to be happy…ever. Trust me, there are things that you could be doing that are way easier and pay a lot better.
45. Learn anatomy & physiology the first time around because it sucks to have to relearn it.
46. There will be one person in your class who’s most laid back guy or chick you’ve ever met. They will sit in the back row of the class, listen to their ipod during lecture, never seem to study and then get a 99.99% on the cumulative exam at the end of the semester. You would hate this person except for they are the coolest person you have ever met.
47. At the beginning of the first semester, everyone is going to talk about how cool it’s going to be to help patients. At the end of the last semester, everybody will talk about how cool it’s going to be to actually be making money.
48. Nurses are notoriously hard partiers. Keep that in mind at the “End of Semester” bash. And if someone suggests calling the evil med-surg instructor that made everyone miserable all semester to tell her what ya’ll really think of her while you are all drunk, for the love of God, don’t do it. [also, don’t take a group photo of you all flipping off the camera and text it to her]
49. Ladies: Guys are unbelievably turned-on by the phrase “I’m a nursing student.” Be prepared for offers to help you brush up on your A&P, practice your physical assessment skills….blah, blah, blah.
50. Male nurses are amazing. :-)


Zazzy Episodes said...

I totally relate to #23 about questioning if what just happened is going to be on the exam. I will not be the idiot asking that question.
Also #32 seems totally gross and scary, what do you do if projectile vomit comes flying into your mouth?
Lastly what is this Socratic Method you speak of in #27, sounds intimidating?
Thanks again for your "stuff to know" so much to take in, but I'm grateful.

Elizabeth said...

I relate to almost every single item on your list except for 10 and 11, thankfully... The only thing I would add is "51: At the end of senior year, you hate 90% of your class because you've had drama with them, they have caused drama with your friends, or you've been stuck with them in group projects and they slacked."

Jessica said...

NG tubes ARE scary. I work for a company that makes infusion and enteral feeding pumps.
I would kill to have you as one of our clinicians here. Ours are knowledgable but rude as hell.
I like talking about poop. My friend brought home the Bristol Stool Scale from her pharmacy classes. I loved it!

CaLLie.ANN said...

Loved it. Laughed my ass off. Again and again.

The Liquor Guy said...

Good thing I'm going into medicine! wait a sec...

Nadisha said...

Bring it on! Two weeks into the program I already can relate to over half of what you listed.

l love your posts. Keep 'em coming!

Kendra said...

More good stuff! I'm real close friends with one of my guy classmates -- he was the only guy last semester, but we now have 4 more this semester -- and I will have to give him that statistic about his chances of getting laid. He will probably like that! :D

Pollyanna said...

LOL@ sitting next to someone whose orgasm sounds you know! Being already as old as I am and married, that's one that won't be on my list (I hope ... unless I have a freaky-deeky classmate that can j.z. in the pants over things like lectures, in which case we'll ALL know what it sounds like ... yikes!).

Cartoon Characters said...

i laughed at the "shot of tequila". Not sure if i blogged about it at one point, but in my pre nursing prereq Microbiology course I wasn't doing so well...and while i studied, i was drinking eggnog with rum. In my psychology course it was suggested, to remember what u studied, you should recreate your exam environment to as near as to what u studied in. So, I poured a mickey of rum into a litre of eggnog and downed the whole thing one hour prior to the final exam - and aced it. Ended up with an overall B on it which was pretty darn good considering I was thinking i was going to quit ( i thot i was doing so badly)
I must have smelled horrible (my gf looked at me in horror on my way in and asked what the heck i just drank). Needless to say, I have been nursing for 33 yrs and counting.....

Punk1119 said...

I totally can relate to #27. Socratic method is pretty much you're golden or you're totally screwed.

Absentbabinski said...

"31. You’ll work with at least one nurse who reminds you of the kind of nurse you want to be when you graduate. Tell him or her that. Because people need to hear it."

Definitely. They were the ones that kept me giving a crap when I thought I was all out of empathy.

Good luck!

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Emilee Morgan said...

I really wish there were more recent nursing student blogs like your out there. I want to be your friend just after reading a couple of your entries. I need to be strong like you were in nursing school ( I'm on the verge of a psychotic break) . Wish I had time to read everything you blogged.

Nicole Whitworth said...

So many truths! I'm a fan of #43…because I tutor nursing students through my website ( and see first-hand what a difference it makes between the students who take the time to understand A&P and those that don't think it's worth it. Trust me…it's worth it!

Tanya Walker said...

All so true!!!!!!

Marynetta Hairston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marynetta Hairston said...

I believe I will observe and laugh my butt offafter reading this. Can't wait.

Joanna said...

Love this! First year nursing student!! :)

Estelle said...

Oh wow. I had no idea people are still reading this. Some of the comments on the Pinterest links are hilarious. I have HATERS, y'all. I must be doing something right. Have fun making it through nursing school if you can't take a joke. *blows kiss and sassy walks away*
As for the rest of y'all, *huge hugs*
Best of luck and you'll do great!!!

Ronnie said...

Third semester in ADN program and I wish I'd read this before! So glad I found it now ans will be sharing with friends starting the program this fall.

katleen eeckhaut said...

Looks like these guide can go international. I am a Belgian nurse and I was like: oh yeah, jep, totally ;-).

Anonymous said...

I know this is an older blog but you have a great list here!

I was just accepted into The University of Tennessee's accelerated BSN program and will certainly be keeping all of your advice in mind.

If you see this, I would love to pick your brain on how your nursing experience has been since 2011.

Thank you again for sharing!

Hannah Christensen MHA, NHCEc
USMC Veteran OIF/OEF '07

Estelle said...

Hey Hannah. You can email me at I'm also on Twitter @EstelleMarieRN.
Look forward to hearing from you!

Jack Morgan said...

Your blog is extremely brilliant especially the quality content is really appreciable.CNA

Riognach said...

As a nursing professor, I laughed, nodded in agreement and enjoyed the memories of my own voyage through school through your eyes. While I and my students did not and have not experienced everything you list here, so much is true and valid. I love my students, respect their choice to do this wonderful, challenging, difficult work, and try very had to support them, teach them what they need and be there for them, even after they have left my classes and clinicals. I am so proud of them as humans and as nurses. You have the wonderful sense of humor that is so essential to success in our profession. Never lose it! Keep up the great work and God bless you!

Christa Davis said...

Hahaa....this is so true!!! I have 6 months left of my BSN studies, and it's been hard from time to time with two little girls and a husband who works shifts, but so worth it. Thanks for a great blog :) PS. What book is that in your picture???