How to Stay Motivated in Nursing School: 5 Tips to Keep Your Spirit Up
In this article, we're going to talk about how to stay motivated in nursing school.
To stay motivated in nursing school requires several things. For starters, you need to remember why you started your journey. You need to make sure you celebrate small victories. Setting SMART goals and surrounding yourself with a good support system. Below we’re going to dive deeper into some of these tips and others.
I'll say it straight away: nursing school is hard. There’s lectures to attend, exams to pass, and lots of clinical and practicums taking place.
It’s definitely not a career path for everyone, but if you’ve decided you want to pursue nursing as a career, you’ve got to find ways to stay motivated when the going gets tough.
To help you out below are five tips for success in nursing school and beyond.
Keep them in the back of your mind the next time a challenge arises. Oh, and by the way, it will.
Staying Motivated in Nursing School
#1 Remember Your “Why”
Why are you pursuing nursing?
Hopefully, you genuinely want to work in this field, and you aren’t just doing it because your parents or someone else told you to.
While nursing often turns into a wonderful career, without that initial drive to want to pursue it, things can take a turn.
No one wants to work for decades in a job they don’t like.
We’re not saying you need to absolutely love what you do, but you should have a real interest in it.
When you go after a career path that makes you excited, it’s that primary motivation that you can go back to time and time again.
This goes for just about all things in life, too!
Whenever the going gets tough, keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why are you studying nursing?
Is it so you can help people feel better?
Is it to make a difference in other peoples’ lives?
Is it to contribute to the public healthcare system?
Do you want to work with older people?
Those in the oncology unit?
Think about what it is about nursing that initially caught your eye.
Cling to that motivation and remember it the next time you think about giving up. It helps a lot of people to have a visualization of where they want to be when all is said and done.
Imagine a scenario you want to play out once you’re finished with your studies and rotations, and you're finally a licensed nurse.
What are you doing? How are you feeling? Who are you working with?
For example, maybe someone who wants to work as a pediatric nurse imagines himself or herself helping children and making their doctor’s visit a bit less scary.
Maybe they’re the one who helps a small child get over their fear of needles or doctors.
That’s an awesome end goal and something they can keep in mind the next time things feel tough.
#2 Celebrate Your Small Wins
This goes for just about anyone, but especially nursing students because it’s easy for them to feel unnoticed.
Lots of attention goes to doctors and surgeons, but in reality, nurses are at the front lines of healthcare.
They’re the ones who are there when it’s time for a blood draw, a routine checkup, or a child’s vaccination.
They patrol the hallways of a hospital unit, checking in on the patients, and ensuring they feel as comfortable as possible.
They’re one of the first people that individuals see when they head to an emergency room.
Nurses are everywhere, and their contributions should be celebrated!
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and the daily grind can wear down on even the most optimistic person.
That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the small victories because they really do add up.
Think about it, most great successes are just a series of small wins!
With that mindset, it’s possible to power through even the most difficult days because you’ve got way more wins under your belt than losses.
Even getting into nursing school is a victory that should be celebrated.
You had a goal, you took the required examinations, and you made it into a school.
Successful steps such as that all lead up to your ultimate goal.
It’s so easy for individuals (nurses and non-nurses) to get caught up in the idea that the path to success just happens.
In reality, it’s way more complicated. Rarely do people just suddenly have a huge breakout success.
Instead, they build up their strengths and progress little by little each day.
Some days feel more successful than others, but that’s okay. It all adds up! We’ll talk about the path to success in a later tip.
#3 Set Some Goals
If you’re studying nursing, odds are that you’re a go-getter, at least to some extent.
Use that to your advantage and set some attainable, yet challenging, goals throughout your nursing school career.
It can sound juvenile or played out, but goal setting is something that a lot of people never fully take advantage of.
Moreover, once folks do decide to set some goals, they often create unattainable goals or fail to give themselves a timeline.
This is where SMART goals can come in.
SMART stands for:
When setting a goal, it needs to be specific or how else are you going to know that you’ve achieved it?
You want to become a nurse, but what kind of nurse?
Make the goal measurable so you can easily track your progress.
Let’s say you want to be a nurse in the ER.
Maybe you can measure your progress by tracking the relevant skills you learn one by one.
Maybe you start by learning about human anatomy, then you learn how to take blood, then you learn how to diagnose trauma.
Each of these skills is a measurable benchmark you can record as you get closer to your goal.
Perhaps the most important component to a SMART goal is the A; that it’s attainable or achievable.
You’ll only set yourself up for unnecessary failure and disappointment if you set goals that you can’t realistically achieve.
Consider your geographic, financial, and any other obstacles that could play into your goal.
Next, you need to make sure that the goal is relevant, in this case, to nursing.
Is it something that you’re actually capable of and willing to work for?
Don’t say you want to be a leading nurse at an NYU hospital if it’s not relevant to your desires and abilities.
Finally, your goal needs to be time-based or else you’ll just keep procrastinating forever.
Set yourself a reasonable deadline, taking into consideration how much time you need for schooling, rotations, and other kinds of hands-on practice.
It’s not only about setting goals but also checking up on your progress.
Have regular check-ins with yourself or recruit a friend or teacher to hold you accountable.
When you know that you’ll be looking back and reporting on your progress with someone, or even yourself, you’ll feel more motivated to push onward.
Related: How to Set SMART Goals in Nursing
#4 Find a Support System
Nurses need support, too!
Don’t be shy about asking for an accountability partner or study buddy.
You can even ask friends or family members who aren’t in nursing to regularly check in on you and motivate you to keep going strong.
Just knowing that you have a support system behind you is enough to make you want to try harder.
Not sure how to ask someone to be your accountability partner or part of your support system?
Try saying something along the lines of,
“I’m going to be challenged a lot in nursing school, and I’d like you to check in on me every once in a while to see how it’s going.”
Not only will your friend or family member feel appreciated, but they might even ask to be your cheerleader, too.
Trust us, there’s enough motivation to go around!
Having a support buddy can be as simple as having coffee with them once or twice a month.
This gives you a little mental break and healthy social interaction, and it gives you the opportunity to let your friend know how nursing school is going.
Other ways to stay accountable to your support system include texting them when you have an exam so they can remind you to study while offering words of encouragement.
A study buddy might even be part of your support system, which is a double advantage.
#5 Remember That Success Isn’t Linear
As we said earlier, it’s those small victories that really add up to big wins.
However, success isn’t just about the things that go right.
Even our failures have something to teach us. It’s a difficult concept for lots of people to accept, but there’s a way to celebrate or appreciate failures.
This doesn’t mean you’re throwing in the towel or being okay with mediocrity.
Rather, it shows that you’re human and that you’re growing.
The only way people learn is if they make mistakes, otherwise there’s no growth.
Those who say that they don’t mess up probably haven’t experienced much!
Success does not happen in a straight line, it twists and turns and dips.
There are going to be times when it’s smooth sailing and times when it seems that everything is crashing and burning.
When you remember that any great success story comes with its fair share of failures and challenges, it becomes easier to tackle those obstacles with grace and grit.
Hopefully, you found this article helpful. Nursing school can be hard but remember it's doable.
Do you have any other words of encouragement or advice for other nursing students?