I once had a nursing instructor who told me that I was never going to make it as a nurse. . . Boy was she wrong!
I have said to friends and family that nursing school instructors are horrible.
I have heard other nurses talk about their days in nursing school. Everyone has had a bad instructor but it seems in nursing that the frequency of horror stories is beyond that of any other profession.
If I had a way to wave a magical wand, I would fire every nursing instructor ever. Since that is not possible, and in order to get your nursing licensure you must have nursing instructors, the next best thing to do is survive.
Nurses Eat Their Young
This is true. They are wolves. If you do not know the answer to a question that they think is common sense or you were supposed to have learned in your text book they will berate you, make you feel stupid and make sure that everyone in the surrounding area knows that you have said something or done something they find ignorant.
Know that you will have many instructors that treat you that way, so how do you survive being a lamb in a wolf’s world?
- Come to class as prepared as possible
- Observe in silence for a few weeks before asking questions
- If the instructor calls you out and you do not know the answer, make that clear by saying, “I am not 100% sure of the answer but I can find out.” Then find out.
- If they want an answer and will not allow you time to look it up, preface your answer with, “I am not sure, but if I had to guess I would say…” Never act like you know the answer to something you are unsure of. Trust me on this one.
- Let it go. When all logic fails and the instructor becomes unglued, Let It Go. Focus on your goal of graduating and do not take it personal, no matter how personal the instructor makes it.
Use Your Critical Thinking Skills
I absolutely detested being told to use my critical thinking. I remember thinking, “What does that even mean?” For the most part I thought it meant use your common sense and hoped like heck that my common sense was somewhere in the ball park of their common sense.
While this is sometimes true for some nursing instructors, the actual concept of critically thinking is using the knowledge you have about a patient and allowing it to answer questions not asked or to create questions that need to be addressed. This is poorly taught in school, so how do you critically think if you are not being taught to critically think?
- Understand that thinking critically comes from a base knowledge. So get yourself a good base knowledge and memorize normal lab levels, vital signs, etc.
- Most critical thinking comes from recognizing something that is abnormal and what that abnormality means for the body.
- When you are able to make connections from abnormal labs or vital signs to identifying what your patient might look like and anticipate what your patient might need, you are thinking critically.
Teaching and Nursing
The problem I find with nursing instructors is that they are nurses who are trying to use a skill they have not mastered (teaching) to teach their nursing skills.
I had many teachers that just read from their power points, or would go so far off topic that you weren’t sure if you would be tested on the material. There have also been classes with a psych nurse teaching med-surg or an OB nurse teaching community health. Unfortunately, until nursing change, we will continue to head down this path. But what do you do as a student who still needs to learn this material?
- Read your text books and power points.
- When you do not understand something, take side notes on it and if your instructor cannot clarify this information for you, ask another instructor, student, or nurse.
- Reach out to your upper classmates, they may have had these instructors and might able to help.
Hang in there. Be confident that you will make an amazing nurse no matter what you missed on your exam or what comment an instructor might have said to you. I once had an instructor who told me that I was never going to make it as a nurse. Boy was she wrong!
The best thing I learned in nursing school was to let it go. Not because that was the right thing to do or because it made nursing school better for the nursing students to come, but because I needed sanity and happiness within myself to fuel myself forward and finish school. Be kind to yourself because it is likely that you are in for a ride that is about as crazy as it gets.
Do you have an experience to share? An instructor that made you want to cry? Discuss it in the comments and get it off your mind so you can let it go.