5 Steps to Dealing with Setbacks in Nursing School

It doesn’t matter how conscientious you are, eventually you will deal with a setback in nursing school.  Maybe you will get a bad test grade, fail a class, miss a deadline, or make a mistake. The type of setback doesn’t matter quite as much as you think it does.  What really matters is how you handle it. Here are 5 steps to dealing with setbacks in nursing school.


Before you can deal with a setback, you have to know what you are dealing with.  What are you seeing as the setback? Is it a failed exam or an inability to balance work and school? Are you having trouble communicating with your instructors or not understanding the course materials?  To effectively deal with a setback you have to identify exactly what the problem is.


Once you know what you are dealing with, it’s time to analyze the situation.  How and why did the setback occur? Look at the circumstances surrounding the setback and really examine what happened.  Often times, there is more than one reason for a setback occurring.  Maybe you didn’t study as much as you should have for the test but you were also working additional hours too. Perhaps you did not understand the material or the course expectations, either because they were not clearly presented or you missed some key piece of information.  Analyze how and why the setback occurred so you have a full understanding.


It can be very tempting place blame when dealing with a setback. You might be thinking, if only the instructor had lectured better, the textbook was easier to read, or your boss had given you time off to study. While there can be enough blame to go around (no one is perfect, after all) what is most important is to acknowledge your role in the setback. Go back to your analysis of the situation.  What role did you play in the how and why? Get a bad grade? How did you study? Fail a class? Did you ask for help? Having trouble balancing work and school? What time management strategies have your tried? This is not to say you should blame yourself either.  This is an exercise in admitting what responsibilities you have when it comes to your setbacks.


You can’t change the past but you can plan for the future.  What steps to can you take to make sure you don’t encounter this setback again? You can try strategies like meeting with your course instructor for tutoring, talking to your boss about limiting your work hours, or trying a new calendar system to keep your deadlines straight.  Be as creative as you want but find a way to plan on avoiding similar setbacks in the future.

Let it Go

No, you don’t have to sing the song from Frozen, but if it helps, don’t hold back. No matter what you do now, you can’t go back and undo your setback.  All you can do is let it go and learn from the experience. Don’t forget that it happened but likewise, don’t hold it over yourself.  Everyone has to deal with a setback every now and then.

Nobody wants to admit when they’ve had a setback and they are never a fun thing to experience.  But, how you deal with a setback will help you in moving forward. Nursing school isn’t easy and students must take care of themselves including when things don’t go their way. These 5 steps to dealing with setbacks in nursing school with certainly help get you back on the road to your success.