How to survive your first semester of nursing school, from 2019 grads

Sydnee Logan
By Sydnee Logan  | 
How to survive your first semester of nursing school, from 2019 grads

This is the first blog of the Academic Success Center series The Nursing School Survival Guide 

You care. You decided to make a career of it. And now it’s time for your first semester of nursing school! Yet the community describes the RN program as “rigorous” and there’s lots of talk about “resilience.” Fear not, your wits and compassion are signs that you’re in the right place. 

Here are a few tips to survive your first semester from August 2019 MSN (Entry Into Nursing) gradsnurses who made it through to the other side. 

Serwah Adarkwa, Right

Serwah Adarkwa

Elizabeth Kenny once said, “Panic plays no part in the training of a nurse.” 

So keep calm and know that everything is going to be A-okay! This is one of the most exciting moments in your life; your dream is becoming a reality and things are about to get real.

When I first got to Hopkins, I met new friends and excellent professors, and most importantly I had the privilege to study nursing at Johns Hopkins. But it was hard. In the beginning my classes (like Patho, Health Assessment, and Common) felt like I was learning another language. 

This program is a unique challenge. Take breaks, cry if you must, but always remember, #WeGotThis! In the end, you’ll laugh even harder as you ask yourself, did I really just do this?

Black Student Nurses Association, Serwah Adarkwa, second from left; Nasrin Akter, second from right

5 Tips from Nasrin Akter:

  1. Accept the reality: it’s a rigorous program. You might not have time to study details as much as you would like, or enough time for your personal life.
  2. Ask for help sooner rather than later.
  3. Know your strengths and where you can improve. Make a list in the beginning of the semester.
  4. Be kind to yourself if you don’t get the grade you expected. But make sure you understand the material and how to apply it in your nursing practice.
  5. Always remember you are taking care of someone’s loved one.
Nasrin Akter, left

Nikki Brisker

“Your problem has an expiration date.”

This entire program is less than two years. It is intense, but it’s not forever. To be honest, I’ve never found it particularly helpful to think about “balance.” I’ve found it far more useful to look at the calendar and plot out the next deadline, the next break, and graduation to remind myself that this too shall pass. And to take advantage of those little breaks when they come.  

When I first decided to go to nursing school, I talked about my fear of the intense schedule with a colleague who had served in the Army. He had done multiple overseas tours, in various unpleasant locations. When I told him how long the program was, he said, “That’s only two years. You can stand on your head for two years.”

So go all in, take advantage of every opportunity to learn that you’re given, and take full advantage of the breaks when they come. And when it gets overwhelming, remember that it’s not forever and your problem has an expiration date.

Nikki Brisker, second from right

See all photos from the August 2019 MSN (Entry Into Nursing) Graduation Party

The Nursing School Survival Guide is a blog series by the Academic Success Center.

Looking for more resources to help you stay ahead? We offer tutoring, academic coaching, workshops, and other services aimed at supporting you through your academic journey. Visit the Academic Success Center or email [email protected] for more information about our staff and services!

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Sydnee Logan is the Social Media and Digital Content Coordinator for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She shares what’s going on here with the world.


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