How to Survive Nursing School: 10 Tips for Staying Well

Strategies for how to survive in nursing school include forming study groups, eating healthy, exercising, talking with your supporters, and attending important events. You can also stay well by going outside daily, connecting with faculty, seeking professional help if needed, taking time for hobbies, and going home for the holidays.

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Nursing school is no walk in the park. Especially in an accelerated program, students manage busy schedules and rigorous academics. How do you stay well during the stress that comes with a demanding nursing program? We’ll discuss all the best strategies for how to survive nursing school.

At Northeastern University, we place high value on our students’ wellness amid the rigors of earning their BSN. Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is a challenge, but we are here to support and guide our students every step of the way. Northeastern’s 16-month hybrid ABSN program is designed for students with a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree who want to pursue a nursing career.

Accelerated BSN programs allow students to earn their nursing degree faster than in a traditional program. However, with the faster pace and increased demands, taking care of your mental health becomes even more important.

As you enter a nursing program, remember these 10 strategies for how to survive in nursing school.

A group of Northeastern Boston ABSN students

1. Connect with Peers

You are not in nursing school alone. You are walking this journey with many others. Not only do you take the same exams, but you also may experience similar emotions. Connecting with peers and befriending others in your nursing school cohort can be a great way to minimize stress and improve comradery. Groups can also be an effective way to increase accountability while making studying more enjoyable.

Consider investing in peer relationships with your classmates by:

  • Studying with each other.
  • Taking group walks during study breaks.
  • Going to a celebratory meal with them after a big exam.
  • Showing up to labs a few minutes early so you can connect with peers about how the week is going.
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Wondering how a hybrid online nursing program works? Learn how online learning can help you earn your BSN degree and what else goes into a comprehensive nursing education.

2. Eat Healthy

It can be tempting to put healthy eating off to the side during nursing school. It’s often easier to order the fast food or reach for the ramen. However, the foods you eat are fuel to your body and mind. Nourish yourself well with healthy meals.

Here are a few tips for choosing healthy foods during nursing school:

  • Eat balanced meals that contain healthy carb, fat, and protein sources.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Have easy access to healthy snacks, such as baby carrots, apples, nut butters, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Make simple meals at home most days rather than ordering take-out.

3. Exercise

One of the best ways to improve your mood and relieve stress during nursing school is to have exercise in your routine. When you’re making your study plan, add workouts into the schedule three or four days each week. Choose a type of exercise that you enjoy, whether that’s running, biking, yoga, lifting, basketball, swimming, cardio, or something else.

Some students enjoy exercising first thing in the morning, while others enjoy going to the gym as a break between studying. Choose a time that works best for you. Not only is exercise a great habit for healthy living, but it also releases stress and anxiety. Furthermore, nursing is an active career, so it’s beneficial to keep yourself in good physical shape.

4. Talk with Your Support System Regularly

One of the key strategies for how to survive nursing school is to talk with your support system. Whether you confide in your mom, brother, spouse, or friend, make time regularly to check in about how you’re doing. Call them when you’re making dinner or driving to class.

Your support system outside of school is vital for keeping you encouraged and motivated in the challenging times. These people know you well. They can tell when you’re doing well and when you’re overwhelmed. They know what to say and how to best lift you up.

Two ABSN students studying online together

Your support system can relate to you in a way your nursing school peers cannot, and they offer a new perspective as well as a patient listening ear. Amid the busy schedule of a nursing school curriculum, fitting in a call to a close confidant is a great way to stay well and receive positive encouragement.

5. Make Time for Important Social Activities

Being in nursing school means prioritizing studying over socializing, but it doesn’t mean completely disengaging from reality. There are certain activities that are meaningful to you, and it’s important to make time for them. For example, if you value hosting a monthly dinner with friends, going to your kids’ recitals, or attending a wedding, find a way to add it to your schedule.

The key is to be smart about how you balance these activities with school. Be selective, and only choose the activities that truly improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. Plan your week ahead of time so you can plan how you’ll fit your studying in the schedule.

When students create a space for the important non-nursing aspects of their lives, they feel more balanced. For your mental wellbeing, you need a social outlet where you can unwind and decompress from the stress of nursing school.

6. Go Outside Every Day

The life of a nursing student takes place largely indoors. Whether you’re studying for online courses, attending simulation or skills labs, or participating in clinical rotations, you’re inside. Going outside in the sun can help your mood while also providing you with vitamin D, which has been shown to improve mental health.

A few practical ways to get outside every day include:

  • Take a walk as a study break. Walk your dog if you have one.
  • Study or eat a meal outside on your patio or deck when the weather allows.
  • Complete your workout outside if possible.
  • Walk to labs or clinical rotations if you live close.

7.Connect with Nursing School Faculty

Another valuable connection point at nursing school is nursing faculty. Reaching out to faculty through discussion posts, office hours, email, and labs is a great way to feel supported throughout your academic journey. The nursing faculty and instructors at Northeastern are fully committed to your success. Reach out early and often when you have questions.

At Northeastern, you can also reach out to ABSN faculty for guidance with study techniques as well as other aspects of nursing school life, including mental health. Northeastern is here to support you, and we’ll help you find other professional resources if you ever need them.

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8. Seek Professional Help

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious, don’t be afraid to seek professional help through a licensed counselor or doctor. We are here for our students, and we value your mental health. It’s important for you to take care of your personal mental and emotional needs first. Northeastern offers free counseling services to our students 24 hours a day where students can talk with licensed mental health providers.

If at any point, you feel you would benefit from the listening ear of a professional, reach out. Even students who are mentally well may still benefit from regularly talking with a mental health professional. Take the steps you need to stay well, and be proactive with your mental health.

9. Devote Time Each Day to Doing Something You Enjoy

A great strategy for how to survive nursing school and not burn out through a challenging mix of coursework, labs, and clinicals is to make time for something you value each day. Make a list of the top personal priorities in your life, whether it’s spending time with your kids, reading, painting, cooking, or working out. Then plan out a little time each day for one of those activities.

This is a great way to foster balance in your life. An example of how you could incorporate this strategy if you have children would be:

  • Finish studying at 6 p.m.
  • Have dinner, make cookies with your children, and tuck them into bed.
  • Study more after 7 p.m.

10. Go Home for the Holidays

During accelerated nursing school, you may be tempted to stay at school and study during holiday breaks. However, it’s important to pack your bags and go enjoy your time off. Bring your nursing school computer and notes home with you, and go to your family holiday. It will do wonders for your mental health.

The holidays are not a good time to feel isolated, and your studying can pause for important cultural traditions. Just wake up an hour early in the morning or take a break from the action to get some studying in each day.

Nursing school is a challenge, and having time with loved ones can help sustain you and remind you that the stress of nursing school is only for a short time. Because an accelerated nursing program like ours at Northeastern is 16 months long, it won’t be long before you’ll finish school and start a career you love.

Earn your BSN quickly - Northeastern ABSN student studying

Interested in the fastest way to earn your BSN? Learn more about how an accelerated nursing program works and how it helps you graduate sooner than traditional programs.

Ready to Begin Your Future in Nursing?

Though nursing school is challenging, all the hard work becomes worth it when you get to begin a career of changing lives every day. If you’re interested in a career as a nurse, and you have a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree, an accelerated nursing program like the ABSN program at Northeastern University may be the perfect fit.

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Is nursing school worth the investment of time, effort, and finances? Learn about the value of a BSN and what makes nursing school worthwhile.

Northeastern offers three start dates a year for the 16-month hybrid ABSN program  in January, May, and September. That means you can spend less time in school and get into your career sooner.

Reach out to the admissions counselors at Northeastern to learn more about how the ABSN program can prepare you for a nursing career.

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