Let’s state the obvious: Nursing school isn’t easy.

And sometimes there’s an Oh S#!% moment where you have no idea what’s going on, don’t know what to do and think everyone is going to know.

Sometimes that feeling is ongoing and you feel like a phony trying to fake it until you make it while hopefully never being found out.

You get that internal voice saying: “I don’t belong in nursing school”, “There’s no way I can figure this out”, “People are going to find out”, “I can’t do this”.

Look, that first year of nursing school, when you’re taking Anatomy & Physiology, Pathology and especially Pharmacology, it can be brutal. Add to that your first clinicals.

It can be overwhelming making you think that you made a mistake deciding to become a nurse.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Lots of nursing students share the same feeling.

In fact, the feeling of not belonging or being a phony is so common it has its own named syndrome – and nursing students aren’t the only people who suffer from it.

It’s called Imposter Syndrome and we’re going to talk about what it is and how to defeat it.

They’re All Gonna Find Out . . .

Scientific American defines Imposter Syndrome as:

“. . . a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

It means feeling like a fraud, like you just got lucky and that at any moment you’re going to be unmasked as the big phony you are.

Even if someone gives you a complement, you shrug it off – because you know better, don’t you – phony.

Or even if you have evidence of your success.

Often it even shows up after a success, like after a promotion, winning an award or an achievement like . . . getting into nursing school.

The funny thing about Imposter Syndrome is that it mostly affects people who are:

  • Smart
  • High-functioning
  • Successful

It was also found to affect minorities and women more frequently. So before you give up and throw in the towel, realize that you’re probably selling yourself short.

So let’s look at some ways to help you combat Imposter Syndrome when it sneaks up on you.

You Are NOT An Imposter

Here are seven things that’ll help you conquer Imposter Syndrome by understanding the emotions around it, identifying it then overcoming it.

  1. Don’t worry; it’s normal

Remember, Imposter Syndrome affects people of all demographics. You’re not alone in that feeling and it’s completely normal.

  1. Talk to someone

Share your experiences. You may be surprised to find out that more people that you know feel the same way. And besides, sharing your feelings helps you confront and work on them.

  1. Remember your accomplishments

Take a second to pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished. You’ve made it this far. Think about any award, achievement or simple good job done.

  1. Talk to a mentor

Have a professor, seasoned nurse or mentor you can talk to? Tell them about it. They’ve been there and done that and can help you along your way.

  1. Expect to fail

It may sound odd, but have a first expectation of failure. It gives you permission to make mistakes and makes your eventual success even sweeter.

  1. You don’t always have to know what you’re doing

Sometimes, if you don’t know what you’re doing – don’t worry about it. It’s OK. Use it as an indicator of what you need to work on, learn more about and try harder at.

  1. Save a slice

Save yourself a slice of Imposter Syndrome to keep your head level when you start racking up successes. Learn to use it to identify your weak points.


There are going to be those OH S#!& moments in nursing school – lots of them. And some bad news – there’ll be more of these moments when you first start nursing.

Just remember – you’re not an imposter or a phony.

You’ll always belong in nursing school – and on the floor as a nurse – if you’re passionate about what you do.



Ever experienced Imposter Syndrome or have other insights to share? Join us at The Buzz, our online community, and connect with fellow nurses who are just as passionate as you.

You can also check out  NurseHivePrep.com for vital nursing news, education, resources and more.

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