There’s only two reasons you’re reading this article:

  1. You’re thinking about going into nursing, looking at the difficult sounding course load that includes subjects like Anatomy & Physiology, Pharmacology and Pathophysiology and thinking “Holy CRAP!!”
  2. You’ve just started your first year and are taking the previously mentioned classes and thinking “Holy CRAP!!” + “Am I going to be able to do this?”

I wish I could tell you it’s going to be all unicorn kisses, coffee runs and hanging out with new friends. Well, there’s lots of coffee and long nights with new friends but there’s no unicorns.

Only lots of books, study guides and studying, studying and some more studying.

The classes are hard and include a lot of medical science (obviously). Your study guides are thick and study sessions long. It’s a lot of work that may have you second-guessing your decision to become a nurse.

Don’t worry – all nursing students go through this.

Yes, nursing school is tough. But there are some tricks that loads of nursing students have used to help them survive their first year of nursing school.

These survival tips are easy to do and if you use them properly, they’ll help you make it through your first year. They’ll also save you from sheer panic.

Don’t Panic

Take a deep breath, hold, then slowly exhale. Breathe. It’s going to be OK.

You’re not the first, nor the last, person to ask “What have I got myself into?” after looking through their Pathophysiology textbook for the first time.

Yes, you’ve got to learn, memorize and apply some very difficult information and concepts. You may think you’re out of your depth, but you’re not.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a second to remind yourself why you went into nursing. Commit yourself to your goal of becoming a nurse. And if you still need more motivation, talk to your fellow nursing students, a senior student or a teacher.

Don’t Panic – you can do it.

Hone Your Time Management Skills

Time management is absolutely critical to staying on top of your study schedule, tests, quizzes, labs and clinicals.

If you don’t manage your time, simply put, you’re going to run out of time – quickly. Here’s some ways to better manage your time:

  • Keep a schedule
  • Stay organized
  • Get a daily/weekly planner
  • Prioritize your 3 most important tasks daily, weekly and monthly
  • Find out ways you’re wasting time
  • Cut back on your social media use

See a more in-depth look at time management here.

Find A Group Of Friends

Everyone needs a group of friends, after all, we are social creatures. But in nursing school, having a group of friends is essential if you’re going to survive.

Group study sessions and sharing notes are crucial. Even more than your grades, just having a group of friends to talk to so you can get out all your anxiety and stress is a must.

Also many of the friends you make in nursing school are going to be your friends for life – and most importantly, they can be valuable job leads and career contacts in the future.

Don’t Cram

Seriously, don’t even think for one second you can just cram the day or two before an exam and pass it. There’s too much to know, and unless you’ve got a photographic memory and are a certified genius, your chances of cramming and passing tests is slim to none.

Make a study schedule and study regularly (especially NCLEX questions).

Bonus Tip: Knowing how you learn is the key to studying better. Take this quiz and find out what kind of learner you are.

Take Care Of Your Health

If you let yourself get stressed out, run down and sick it’s tough making up that lost time. You’ve got to remember to take care of your health – both physical and mental.

  • Eat healthy and regularly (meal prep is a great way to do it)
  • Exercise regularly (you only need 15 – 30 minutes 3 – 5 times a week)
  • Stick to a sleep schedule
  • Make time for self-care and de-stressing

Find a mentor

It can’t be stressed enough how valuable having a mentor is.

Find yourself a senior nursing student to mentor you. They can show you everything they did to pass their courses – like which books you’ll actually need, what material to study, test-taking strategies and tutoring help.

Use your school’s resources

Almost every nursing school has writing labs, guided study sessions, tutoring and counseling.

Use these services. Seriously – use them. They don’t cost you anything and they’re worth every minute you spend in them.


Your first year of nursing school is full of “oh, crap” moments and can feel overwhelming.

Remember: If you have a passion for nursing and are willing to work hard, sure it may get rough, but you’ll make it.

Use the tips above from other nurses and survive just like they did.


Have some first-year survival tips or stories of your own? Join us at The Buzz, our online community and connect with fellow nurses who are just as passionate as you. Or you can email us at

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