Does nursing school prepare you for nursing?

It’s the age old question. Does nursing school prepare you for nursing? Before we answer the question let me paint you a picture….

Ha-haaaaaa! Finally graduated nursing school.

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I’m the best new-grad that’s ever walked the face of the planet. I’m the king of the world! I’m the greatest! I’m the ….

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The sad truth of the matter is that nursing school can only prepare you so much for what’s to come after graduation. Feeling like Sandra Bullock untethered? You’re not alone. You’ve been blasted with mountains of info and you’ve distilled it down to application in hopes of passing the NCLEX-RN. 

Does nursing school prepare you for nursing?

The short answer: generally no

The longer answer: yes and no

Let’s reminisce about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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3 things nursing school does NOT prepare you for

Complicated Scenarios

No amount of school can get you completely comfortable with complicated situations. These moments require teamwork, rapid assessments, and timely interventions. When executed properly and appropriately, it’s the highlight of a nursing career. 

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However, new grads don’t have a body of experience to draw upon. This precipitates second guessing, rushed decisions, and (potentially) patient safety issues. The team is there to help, but often times that can be daunting as well. Veteran nurses and physicians can be difficult to communicate with, and feeling incompetent in complicated scenarios causes new nurses to shy away from asking for help. But remember! These nurses and physicians were once newbies too! Pretty soon you’ll be on a first name basis with some of the greatest nurses and physicians in your hospital – heck…. might even be in a book club together…… 

So dive in, utilize the team, and get comfortable… You’re going to do great!


Working as a nurse is incredibly stressful. It’s one of the many reasons why nurses are so revered – they handle large amounts of stress daily. The health (and sometimes lives) of your patients rises and falls upon the actions and inactions of the nurse. Though physicians make the preverbal play calls, the nurses execute the play.

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Each individual handles the pressure differently. Please remember to take time for yourself, learn to not sweat the small stuff, and reach out to coworkers, friends, and family when the stress gets overwhelming. Mistakes will happen, but it’s how you respond in those situations and how you move forward that will determine the longevity and quality of your practice.


The worse days are always the days where someone dies who shouldn’t have. Whatever the situation, handling losses and grief can is hard. Nursing school teaches about grief and therapeutic communication at length, but it never really comes close to situations where you or your patient’s family are grieving. Again, the more experience you have with it, the more accustom to handling the situation with grace and tact. Soon you’ll be an emotional ninja, able to sooth, console, and simply be there for your patients and their families. Though I don’t wish these situations on anyone, they forge nurses into heroes – And that’s why we got into this business.

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3 things nursing school does prepares you for

Choosing a practice specialty

The education your clinical rotations brings is very valuable. Not only does it offer hands-on practice for nursing skills, it also offers a wide base of experiences in many different units. Most new grads finish school with an idea of what type of nurse they want to be and where they would want to work. Half the battle of leaving nursing school is leaving with a sense of direction and purpose. After all, that was one whirlwind of a program.

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And let’s be real, this is a half-truth. Some schools teach to HESI while others teach to NCLEX-RN while others teach to something else. But in general, you def wouldn’t be able to pass the NCLEX-RN if you didn’t go to nursing school (let alone be eligible to take it). When you pass, and pass you shall, my young padawan, you’ll look back and thank you school faculty for all the knowledge they passed on to you…. And then right after you celebrate like this….

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Don’t forget your one month study plan for passing the NCLEX-RN is here and for additional insider info on how the NCLEX-RN works here.

Safe patient care (aka how to NOT kill someone)

Rule number one is do no harm. If there’s one thing nursing school does a great job of is cramming the textbook answers for patient care down your throat. This is generally great because it’s the latest and greatest of patient care standards and infection control. You’ll find the “old school” RNs will continue to provide patient care the “way they’ve always done it” and they’re potentially setting YOUR patient up for a hospital acquired infection or some other catastrophe. Don’t be a dummy. Remember what you’re school taught you and stick to the book. All we need to do now is remember – wash your hands, foley insertion is a sterile(-ish) procedure (most of the time), and wipe front to back. Follow these three goldies and you’re well on your way to safety stardom. Oh …. and follow the rest of the rules too.

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For more info on how to be a boss dipped in sauce….. check out our other posts on the Magoosh NCLEX RN Blog.