As you are approaching the final year of nursing school, this educational finish line may seem completely surreal for some students. After dedicating the last few years to studying, clinical work, internships and training, the realization that you are now rounding the last corner can feel exciting yet overwhelming. Graduating with your nursing degree will be an incredibly rewarding experience; however, now is the time to lay some important groundwork that will help ease your transition into fieldwork and set you up for success in your profession.
Here are a few tips for nursing students ready to begin their last year in school
1. Start cultivating relationships with faculty and advisors
In nursing, as with many other professions, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. Creating strong professional relationships with your advisors, faculty, preceptors and staff where you complete your clinicals can be a great asset when applying for open positions. Many health care institutions are happy to hire new graduates, but stellar recommendations from known sources will help you stand out from the crowd. Even if you don’t need their recommendation now, ask for a letter and/or continue to foster the relationships you have after graduation – you can never have too many friends in high places.
2. Update your resume and apply for nursing jobs before graduation
One of the greatest gifts to any soon-to-be-graduating nursing student is the resources at hand within their nursing program. Take the time to update your resume prior to graduating and leverage your advisors and faculty to help hone the skills that will help make you most marketable.
Most healthcare providers, including BAYADA, will accept student applications and make conditional offers to start after a student is licensed and passed their exams. Getting a jump start on your applications will help you stand out from the crowd and will ensure that you don’t have a gap between graduation and when you start working.
3. Start prepping for the NCLEX earlier than you might think
The NCLEX is the most important exam you will have taken to date, and it’s important to commit to the preparation this test deserves. Registering takes several steps and if your program doesn’t already have a timeline prepared for you, reach out to your advisor to create one. Make a study plan that goes beyond the practice questions and hone your test taking skills.
There is self-guided test preparation literature, or you can elect to sign up for NCLEX test preparation courses. Be sure that you are aware of the licensing requirements within the state you’re going to be practicing in—not necessarily the state where you are getting your degree or will be living in—because not all states have the same requirements.
4. Get comfortable in your basic nursing skills
Now is the time to take your time! Before you have the stressors of being on your own, take the opportunity to practice placing IVs, changing dressing, inserting catheters and other basic skillsets so you can be confident in the field. During the course of your career, you will have to spend your time having to learn policies, procedures, and computer systems as they change with your job and your employers – but these basic skills will likely never change. This is your last opportunity to master them, so take all the time you have.
5. Make time for self-care
This tip might seem like it’s out of place, but it’s important to remember that taking time for self-care during your time in nursing school is just as important as studying and honing clinical skills. The last stretch of your schooling can be incredibly difficult at times, but you should be reminded that you already know more than you realize and give yourself grace. Don’t let the stress, senioritis, and anxiety get in the way of achieving the goal you are so close to realizing. Taking the time to give yourself some self-care and giving yourself credit for the accomplishments you have made thus far is important for your success going forward.
It’s a great time to look back—and ahead
During these final months while you’re working hard, take time to embrace the friendships you have made, the educators who have inspired you during this journey, and the family and friends who have supported you through some of the more trying times.
Whatever career path you decide to take, you should feel confident that the skills and knowledge you have acquired during the past few years will serve you well as you enter into the noble profession of nursing.