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"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."
Alexander Graham Bell
The 10 Step Nursing School Preparation Guide
By Melanie Rzyski, Graduate Nurse

Whether you have already applied for a nursing program, or you’ve only just begun to consider it, there are a few things that you can do before you begin that will help your transition through the application process, school, or both, to run a little more smoothly.

STEP 1: Get organized!
This is probably the most important thing you can do. Develop a system for keeping track of application information, important dates, assignments, and anything else that your nursing program may require you to keep up with. You can use any combination of folders dividers, color-coded tabs, or other various tools to accomplish this; but, find a system that works well for you and vow to stick to it for the duration of your program.

STEP 2: Prerequisite Classes
Many nursing programs have prerequisite course requirements. This refers to classes that must be completed prior to application for the nursing program. If you are considering nursing school, you should determine what the prerequisites are for your chosen program and start taking these classes now! If you have already completed these classes, you should consider taking as many general/generic courses required for your degree as you can prior to nursing school entry in order to lighten your load.

STEP 3: Save your money!
This is a valuable thing to know before starting school. If you are considering nursing school, you should start saving back as much money as you can spare right now. While you may be eligible for grants or student loans to help cover the cost of tuition and textbooks, there is often not enough left over after paying these school costs to supplement your income or cover unexpected expenses while in school. Nursing school is very demanding and may require you to cut back hours at work or stop working altogether in order to survive school. If these things happen, you will be grateful for any money you were able to put back prior to beginning school.

STEP 4: Immunizations
It may be a good idea to look at the immunizations that the program you are considering requires you to have for admission. Some common immunizations required by nursing schools are given as a series and take time to complete. For example, the Hepatitis B vaccine is a common one required by nursing schools. It comes as a three-dose series in which the second dose must be given one month after the first dose, and the third dose must be given six months after the first dose. Since many programs will require that this series be complete before you may be in the clinical setting, it is a good idea to begin this series well before application in order for it not to affect acceptance.

STEP 5: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
Almost all nursing programs will require that you have CPR certification prior to entry. Many will specify that you have the American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR/BLS course. Generally the program will require that you obtain certification prior to entry and that it be valid for the duration of the program (for Associate Degree Program) or that renewal not be required until after a certain date (for Bachelor Degree Programs). CPR certification is usually valid for a two-year period, and, though you may not actually want to take the course until the month of or before your program’s start date, the classes may be hard to find or may fill up quickly, so you should look into and schedule your class well in advance.

STEP 6: Textbooks
It would be a huge help to you if you could get a copy of the required textbooks list as early as possible. This way, you can begin purchasing them as early as possible. The advantage to this is time. You will have more time to track down the required books at lower prices than you may find in the college bookstore by checking book exchanges, used book stores, and online retailers.

STEP 7: Pre-reading
Another helpful idea is to get a jumpstart on studying. This is another advantage to obtaining a list of program-required textbooks prior to beginning nursing classes and purchasing them as soon as possible. You should start reading and familiarizing yourself with the information as early as possible. You need every advantage you can get when it comes to being prepared for nursing school tests. Study early and study hard!

STEP 8: Supplies
When it comes to nursing school, the word “supplies” does not just refer to pencils, paper, ink, and the like. It also refers to stethoscopes, bandage scissors, penlights, uniforms, and a number of other nursing-specific supplies. Since these items can sometimes be expensive, you may find it more affordable to start buying them well in advance. Find out as early as you can which supplies your school requires and get a head start on your school “supply” list!

STEP 9: Study Habits
As I’ve discussed before, studying is a crucial part of passing nursing school. You will study more than you ever have in your entire life. Before school starts, determine what your study habits are – what atmosphere you learn best in – and create a space specifically for you to study in when the time comes. You will need it more than you know.

STEP 10: Scheduling
Once you have a copy of your nursing program’s calendar, make a schedule of your own. I would suggest purchasing a daily planner, penciling in all school and clinical activities, and then blocking out specific time slots each week for studying, family time, and even a little time just for you – to unwind and relax after the stresses of school start to catch up with you. Whatever your schedule includes, it is vital that you have one. Preparing for and beginning nursing school can be a very stressful time. If you use these steps as a guide, you may just be able to lighten your load a bit and have a little more time to relax and just be excited about the journey ahead of you!
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