Nursing School Shouldn’t be so DAMN Hard!

nursing school is too hard

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With that said . . . there are a few out there that just don’t get what we are doing.  I created this episode to set the record straight on some of our philosophy here at

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Podcast Transcription

What’s going on, beautiful people of NRSNG How are we all doing? Thanks for joining me today. Today I have something that I’m very excited to talk about. Something I wanted to talk about for a long time, and just a few things have really pushed me to talk about this. It’s kind of a rant again I guess, but it’s something I really want to share with you guys, and I want to really get some thoughts out there. Like I said, it’s kind of a rant. I have a few things that I really want to talk about, but getting it all organized in a manner that’s going to make sense is going to be the struggle. But it’s something that I really want to share with you guys.

Before we get started, I just want to tell you that with NRSNG, we reach about three to five hundred thousand nurses and nursing students every week through social media, through the YouTube channel, through the podcast, through the blog. We reach a huge amount of nurses and nursing students, and I think that’s so incredible. With our emails we’ve emailed over fifty-two, about fifty-six thousand nurses, and we email those nurses every single week, and we ask, “What are you struggling with? What’s your biggest challenge?” You know what we hear more often than anything else is just, dealing with the stress of nursing school. Dealing with the stress of professors, the stress of keeping everything organized. That’s one of the things that we hear more than anything else.

In the very first email that I send to people I share my struggle with nursing school. My struggle with nursing school was dealing with professors that were not able to teach the material, that just read from PowerPoints, and were very unorganized and unprepared. I put that out there a lot. I put that out there on the blog, I put that out there in this podcast and on the YouTube channel. A lot of videos. That’s what I really share with people, and that’s kind of what brings people in to us is that challenge and that struggle. I was nervous when I first started sharing that challenge and that frustration with nursing school, because I wasn’t sure if it was just unique to me and to my program. But you know what, after talking to all these nurses, after sharing this with all these nurses, I’ve had exactly two people tell me that they think I should be nicer to nursing professors and nicer to nursing education as a whole.

Now, what that tells me, and what we get on the opposite end of it is we get maybe ten to twenty emails a day specifically telling me that my story sounds so reminiscent of theirs, that it sounds so exactly like their struggle and their challenge with nursing school. They reach out and they thank me for everything that I’m doing, and for sharing my story, and for sharing my struggles, because it’s exactly what they’re going through in nursing school. Again, after talking to hundreds of thousands of nursing students, and emailing directly with nearly sixty thousand nursing students, exactly two people have said, “I think you need to be nicer.”

Let me tell you why I’m not going to come off of this rant and this push to improve the way that nurses are taught. There’s two reasons. First of all, teachers are hired to teach, okay? When a nursing instructor is brought into a school and is brought into a program, they’re there to teach the students how to be nurses. They’re there to teach about med surg, they’re there to teach about pharmacology, they’re there to provide these students who have never seen this material before with the knowledge that they need, okay? It’s not appropriate for a student to come in with no background knowledge, with minimal background knowledge, (I mean, they took anatomy and physiology so they’ve memorized every bone), but then to bring them in and not provide them with the guidance that they need to understand the material, that’s completely wrong.

Number two, you would never want to work with a nurse that saw you struggling and said, “Well, that’s how it goes, sink or swim.” That’s completely inappropriate. When you work on a nursing floor you work as a team. If a nurse is drowning, if a nurse is struggling on the floor, you reach out your hand, you walk by them, you say, “How can I help you? Are you okay? What can I do for you? Is there anything I can do to help you?” There’s one reason why people in my hospital want to work on the neural ICU, and it’s because that floor is the floor where everyone works as a team. It’s not my patients, it’s not your patients, it’s, “These are the patients we have tonight, now let’s help each other out.” Everyone works together.

For those two main reasons, I’m never … This mentality that, “Well, nursing, it’s tough and we need to make school tough, and we need to make sure that nurses struggle a little bit.” That’s insane, that’s asinine to me, because teachers are there to teach, they’re there to provide information, they’re there to guide. Number two, you would never want to work with a nurse that said, “Well it’s sink or swim. Good luck. Read fifty chapters, come back and take your test, good luck.” That’s just a completely wrong mentality. The way that I see nursing education improving, and there are so many professors out there and so many schools out there doing this, and I greatly appreciate that.

In my podcast with Ashley Adkins she talked about her nursing program and how she absolutely loved the teachers and the way that they taught the material. I know that there are instructors out there, I actually communicate weekly with many nursing instructors who are doing so much good for their students. The problem is, I think the majority … There are so many out there, and so many students that are sinking because they’re not being provided with the material and the guidance that they need. A nursing professor needs to set up an environment where they’re providing quality information to their students so that the students can actually learn. I believe it’s 100% inappropriate to give a student four chapters and say, “The test is tomorrow.”

I think what really needs to happen is to say, “Okay, we’re going to talk cardiac physiology. This is how we’re going to talk about it. This is what it’s going to be. This is what it is.” And to teach that material in a way that it clicks in their head. To say, “Well now you’re in nursing school, you just get it. You’re going to have to understand it, that’s how it is. Good luck.” Is crazy. You need to be providing the material to the students in a way that they can understand it. You don’t go into calculus and the professors say, “The homework is here. Have fun, see you tomorrow.” The professor teaches you. They show you how to work the problems. They show you tips and tricks and tools for getting the material. That’s what needs to happen in nursing school.

This culture of “sink or swim”, or “do or die”, or “you either get it or you don’t” is just crazy to me. We can teach this material. It’s complicated, it’s hard, it’s very complex, and I’m not asking for nursing school to become easier in that aspect. I think that nursing school, in some ways, needs to become more complicated in how in-depth we understand diseases. But we can’t expect nurses to understand disease processes and methods of care in a deeper way if we’re not even providing them with the basics, so let’s get beyond just, “Here’s your med surg book, we’re going to have our final in sixteen weeks. Good luck.” We need to get beyond that and start actually teaching the material so the nurses can begin to understand it.

Now, a couple of things that I want to say here. No one would admit that there’s aspects of nursing and nursing education that don’t need to change. No one is going to say, “Well, nursing education is perfect. Nothing needs to change.” Even these people … Well, the two individuals that have reached out and said that they think I’m being too mean, have in the same sentence said, “Yes, things need to change, but … ” “Yes, we need to teach better, but … ” “Yes, some nursing professors are bad, but … ” There’s always this, “Yeah, we know there’s bad things about it, but let’s just let it be, or be nice.” Or whatever. That, to me, also is crazy.

I want to create a culture within NRSNG, and I know that all of you that are listening to this are part of this culture, and I thank you so much for that, and we’re going to create change, but I want to create a group, this cohesive group within NRSNG that are agents of change. You’re going to go out into the workforce and you’re going to create and force change within your floors, within your units, within your schools, and that’s what we’re going for here. We’re going for groups of people and this massive herd of nurses that are so fired up to create a workforce and a body of nurses that are agents of change. That’s the best word I can think for it is nurses that are this cohesive group that are changing nursing throughout the world.

This podcast is listened to in dozens of countries from Asia to Oceania to South America, all over the world this podcast is listened to, and that fires me up because it means that we’re getting this message out, that you guys are resonating with what we’re teaching here, and that you’re going to go out and create change wherever you are.

Now, one thing that people will tell me is that, “Well, you can’t change the whole system. Nursing school, that’s just the way it is. That’s the way it’s always been, and it’s not going to change.” Or, “That’s the way we do it in this hospital, and it’s not going to change.” You know what, I’m not stupid, okay? I know that we can’t change an entire system, but why the hell would I keep my mouth shut when there’s problems? I know that we’re not going to change nursing education overnight. It’s not going to happen in my lifetime probably, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep my mouth shut.

I know we’re not going to reverse global warming in one generation, but I still recycle. If there’s a problem, I’m not going to sit here and let it just continue. I saw a problem within the way nursing education is done and I’m opening my mouth and I’m talking about it. I’m not attacking individual professors, I’m saying as a whole, as a group, nursing school, nursing education needs to change. I had some phenomenal professors when I was in nursing school, but you know what? Those couple that were terrible are what the problem is, and that’s what we need to work on, that’s what we need to change. Ignoring the problem or assuming that it’s better to keep your mouth silent is just pure lunacy. It’s just crazy.

Those nurses that are concerned about hurting feelings are the same that are going to silently allow administration, patients, or other nurses to walk all over them in the hospital. It’s not okay. It’s okay to ask, “Why?” It’s okay to open your mouth, it’s okay to be this agent of change. It’s okay to try to create environments where it’s okay to ask, it’s okay to look for change, it’s okay to question. Keeping your mouth shut is crazy, okay?

I want to share a couple stories here. When I was in nursing school, I did speak up. I would have meetings with my cohort where we’d get administration involved. We’d get the dean of the college, the dean of the program, to come in and speak with us face-to-face. Things did change. Minor things changed. Not everything that we wanted to change, not entirely, but little things changed. What we were doing is we were making it better for the next group. After class was over we’d say, “Okay, this is what maybe should change about this class.” Or, “This is what needs to improve with this instructor or the way they teach.” I understand that that didn’t make it better for me, but it makes it better for the next cohort.

Let me tell you something, those professors, those instructors, that administration knew me by name, okay? Not necessarily in just a bad way of like, “Oh, here comes Jon again, uh-oh.” But they knew me personally, and they still know me. I still have email communication with those professors, and when I went to apply for my first nursing job, they were my references. Let me tell you what my manager told me when I went in to interview for my job. She said, “Well, your references are incredible. They’re impeccable. They just can’t speak highly enough of you.” What I’m trying to say here is, I wasn’t disrespected or I wasn’t pushed aside for opening my mouth. What my professors and what my administration saw in that is they saw someone who was willing to stand up when things needed to change. That’s exactly what nursing units need. Hospitals, nursing units, schools, need people that open their mouths, okay?

I do the same thing on the job, and my manager and I are good friends. I have her number in my phone, we text message, we’re friends. As a charge nurse, one of my responsibilities at the end of a shift is to tell her how the shift went basically, just a shift rundown. I’m very open with her about, “This needs to change. This is not right what’s going on here, and we really need to fix this, and here’s maybe some suggestions of things that we could do.” She doesn’t disrespect me. When she knows I’m working she’ll call, we’ll talk, we’ll chat, and we’re friends. She text messages me about what’s going on in life. We’re Facebook friends, okay? Opening your mouth and being up front about what needs to change and what you see as wrong in a system is not a bad thing. Have some courage. I know because you’re listening to this podcast that you are one of these nurses that had courage.

Now, let me give you just four couple tips about how you can do this respectfully. There’s obviously a very wrong way to go about asking for change, and there’s a good way for doing it. I’m going to give you four tips for how to do it the right way. Number one, be respectful. When you’re asking for change, you don’t be disrespectful, so number one, be respectful. Number two, be direct. Number three, be honest. Number four, state what you want out of the change.

Again, number one, be respectful. Don’t go into someone’s office, slam your books on her table and say, “That was an unfair test. I want a better grade.” That’s not respectful. You need to go in there and say, “Look, can we talk about this test? Can we talk about this teacher? Can we talk about the way that we’re evaluating for this? Can we talk about the way that lesson was taught?” You talk about it, you be open, you be honest about it.

Number two, be direct. Don’t dance around an issue. Be direct about what the issue is, and about exactly what’s going on. Don’t bring in a whole bunch of issues, say very directly, “This is what needs to change.”

You be honest too. If something arises that you don’t feel comfortable with, state directly to the manager, the house supervisor, to the administrator, “No, I’m not comfortable with that. Can we talk about that a little bit more?” Don’t allow problems to grow without having a chance to talk about it.

Number four, state what you want out of the change. Say, “This is what the problem is, this is what I would like to see happen.” Part of being respectful is too respecting that the administration, the manager, whoever it is, has the right to listen to you or not listen to you, or to take your advice or to not take your advice or your suggestions. You be respectful. When all is said and done, if nothing comes of the change, then you had that open dialogue, you were able to talk, you’re seen as someone who wants to create change, and that’s okay.

Now there may be people who are very vindictive with this. There’s some of that that happens in nursing. That’s how it is, but I don’t want you to start cowarding down. I appreciate the hardworking, honest instructors out there, but there is so much that needs to change, okay? I was just emailing with a couple professors today who are clearly very hardworking professors. They emailed me and they said, “I’m always looking for the new thing for my students and how I can help them.” One thing that we do provide that some people that clearly don’t understand our mission or what we’re doing here at NRSNG, some people get all their panties in a bunch or whatever about our “cheat sheets”. It’s that word “cheat sheets” that people just get off about. Now let me tell you why I do these cheat sheets and why I’m not going to stop doing them.

First of all, there isn’t a physician or nurse that’s working currently that doesn’t use reference sheets. Reference sheets are required basically to do your job on a floor. You bring a physician up for a complex ICU patient, they’re going to pull out a couple of things, they’re going to look through some notes, they’re going to call a pharmacy, they’re going to talk to their colleagues about the best way to treat this patient. Collaborating as a group in nursing and in medicine is essential. Expecting someone to have all the information that they need to succeed is crazy. As a group, as a body of knowledge, we can do so much more. That’s one reason.

Number two, having concise and usable material is vital to understanding. You can’t bring your med surg book on the clinical floor, but you can bring a couple of these cheat sheets that we create. I create those for you to use on the clinical floor. I want you to have them, okay? I would rather have you glance at a cheat sheet before doing a newborn assessment than to fudge your way around it and harm somebody. That’s just crazy, okay? That’s why I create these concise materials for use.

Teachers are supposed to break it down and teach. That’s another thing, if you’re in a program or you’re with a teacher who’s not breaking things down concisely and cutting out all the fluff, then that’s what I’m here to do. I can’t do that for everybody, I can’t do it on this grand scale of hundreds of thousands of nursing students that need it, but what I can do is I can create these concise materials that can help thousands of people, okay?

Bullet points help to reinforce what you’ve learned. Bullet points and these targeted materials on one specific subject, this one page sheet about EKG or about lab values are essential. Bullet points help to reinforce what you’ve learned.

Also, these cheat sheets are not shortcuts. Those of you that have been receiving our Friday Freebies for a long time know that these aren’t shortcuts. Within each Friday Freebie I send you an email about how I’ve used it in my experience as a nurse, and how using this can help you, but it’s not a shortcut. It’s not like, “Here, here’s the EKG cheat sheet, now you know everything about EKG’s and you’re going to be set, and don’t look at anything else, and look at it once and you’re set.” No, what these cheat sheets are is they’re exactly that. They’re reference sheets, they’re cheat sheets. They’re things for you to reference when you need them, but you need to do all the background work, okay? You can’t just look at this and get it. You need to do all the background work and study your butt off, and read and highlight and take notes, and then this cheat sheet is there when you need it.

Lastly, I want a generation of nurses that gets it. I want a generation of nurses that understands what you really need to know about hemodynamics, or again EKG or newborn assessment. I want these nurses that come on the floor and they’re just incredible nurses that get what’s going on. They’re not looking all over the place for answers when it’s really dialed in on what they need to know. For people who think these cheat sheets are some sort of shortcut or that providing this material for people is some sort of easy way out in nursing school, you’re crazy. You clearly don’t understand our mission here at NRSNG. What we’re here to do is to create an army of nurses that are the most focused, most courageous, and hardest-working bunch of nurses.

Those of you that are listening to the podcast I know get that, I’m preaching to the choir right now, but I want people to understand that. When I say, “Nursing school doesn’t have to be so damn hard.” I’m referring to the process. The process is screwed up, and it’s so fricking screwed up that it’s going to take decades to change. What shouldn’t be so damn hard is this process of how we’re teaching. Nursing school, at its core, is really pretty easy. We teach nursing. We teach the science of nursing. We teach the art of nursing, and all this extra crap, these politics, this, “I’m the teacher so you do what I say.” All this stuff needs to leave nursing education and nursing school needs to be much easier than it is.

But at the same time what I’m saying, and I said this earlier, is that would allow us to teach at a deeper level, for nurses to understand much deeper. The material can’t get easier. I don’t want the material to get easier, I want the material to get harder if anything else. I want what we’re learning to be more in-depth and more complicated and more difficult so we can contribute at a deeper level in an interdisciplinary team. But all this extra crap that’s going on in nursing education needs to be done with, okay?

I’m seeing that happening slowly as I see these nursing instructors and nursing administration reaching out to me and asking, saying, “We agree with your message. We want to push this. We push people to your materials because it’s so spot-on.” I appreciate that, and I think that those people really get what we’re trying to do. I’m not out here trying to attack any specific school, any instructor, or anything like that. I love nursing education, clearly. I mean, that’s what I’m doing, and I want to forward that mission of nursing education. I’m here to work with these schools, to be just a supplement to what’s going on out there.

I want to be that supplement, I want to be there with you, and for those nursing instructors that really get what we’re doing, I appreciate you, and thank you so much for what you’re doing. You guys out there on the front lines with the nursing students daily, trying to teach. I know there’s issues that need to change with how we’re bringing nursing students in and stuff too. Just know that I’m on your side. I’m on your side, and I want to improve this system, and we’re here to do that, okay? That’s what we’re doing here at

If you’re not getting the Friday Freebies I beg you, please go to, get the Friday Freebies. If you’re not in our free med surg course, please go there. Go to, get in that free med surg course, free EKG course. We are here to make this whole process better, okay? We’re not creating a shortcut by any means. What we’re doing is we’re making the process better. We’re supplementing the way it’s done. I want this all to improve, okay? We’re her for you, you guys. We love you so much, thank you for all that you’re doing both instructors and students and nurses. We’re all in this together, okay? That’s the big message here is we’re all in this together. Love you guys so much. Thank you for leaving reviews, comments. If you have any questions as always just reach out to me, [email protected] We’re here for you, okay? We’re all in this together guys. You know what time it is now, go out and be your best self today. Happy nursing.

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