Nursing School: Week 4 — Feeling Incompetent

Hey everyone! I’m so sorry that I have not posted in a while, I’ve been having computer issues again (I need a battery replacement), so please be patient with me. I decided to document how I am feeling after four weeks in nursing school. Before we get started, if you would like to see exactly how much nursing school costs, you can read my blog post on that here.

Nursing School_ Week Four

Well, it is Week Four. I cannot believe how much I have learned and can do within this time-span, it is a little scary when you think about it…I have adjusted to first semester fairly well, I did have one slight moment of feeling overwhelmed before orientation, but that has been it! Anyways, let’s get started with the juicy details. Last week we had our first Health Assessment exam. Our instructor told us not to believe that exam and that everything will only increase in difficulty. Our older students in the nursing program have told us that Health Assessment will be our most difficult class. I believe Pharmacology is too…


Speaking of Pharmacology, we did have our first exam Monday (09.17). The exam included: NSAIDs, Acetaminophen, Adrenocortical drugs, Thyroid drugs, Diabetic drugs and some basic med calc. I did not do as well as I would have hoped. Not going to lie, I had my first complete mental breakdown, especially after hearing people brag about how great they did by studying last minute. Unfortunately, that technique has never worked for me, I wish it did, but it doesn’t.

This may sound odd, but I genuinely know the content; however, I have struggled with text anxiety all my life which causes me to panic and make stupid decisions. The day that this post goes up, I have an appointment with my professor to review the exam and chat about my study habits. I also had no idea first-semester nursing students had tutoring services until now, so I will begin seeing a tutor for that course. Hopefully this will help quiet that voice inside my head that says “You’re just a stupid, 19-year-old” and help boost confidence in my ability. At this point I am feeling like I am just not smart enough, but hopefully I’ll feel better.

Week four also consisted of my first Foundations Exam. I did way better on this exam than Pharmacology (Most of my cohort did, which was great!) Foundations is said to be one of our easiest courses, so hopefully I will continue to do well in those course. The last big event of the week, were my first Vital Sign Check-Offs!

nursing_school_week_4I will admit, I was so surprised at how fast I have been able to complete vitals after learning it a week and a half ago. I guess that is what pressure does! I passed my Check-Offs on the first try (we are allowed two), which was great! I was a little unsure of myself, because I did finish check-offs under ten minutes, but I think I did well!

It was odd talking to the Simulator, but it was oddly reassuring, because I feel it is less pressure to talk to a non-human patient than a real patient.  For my program we completed blood pressure, respirations, radial and apical pulse on the Simulator and then explained the steps and interfering factors for those as well as rectal, oral and axillary temperature. We also had to explain O2 sat and the Wong-Baker vs. Numeric Pain scales to our clinical instructor. Our instructors would prompt us for some things or just ask questions to see if we “know our stuff“.

Overall, my first round of exams in nursing school went okay! I will continue to work on improving my test taking mentality for Pharmacology and hopefully return with a good report for the next update in about another three to four weeks!

If you are in school, how has your school year been going? If you are a nurse/senior nursing student, feel free to drop some advice below!



19 thoughts on “Nursing School: Week 4 — Feeling Incompetent

  1. Hello, getting here late, but you are on the right track. I have been a nurse for many years and continue to learn. Being organized is a must, but understanding things can change in a moment is key. I see others talk about making drug card and that would work in all your classes. But I would suggest making your good old flash cards. This will use all of your senses. Seeing, reading, writing them down. You can take then where ever you go. Have to wait on a friend or family member to try something on, you have the cards in your pocket or purse. You can sit with family while they watch tv and use the cards without bothering the others. You can have other students to study with you as you use another sense in hearing the information.. Everyone learns different find what works best for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Thanks for the advice! At the beginning of the semester, I actually tried flash cards. It worked well during pre-read, but not now. I found that filling out our study guides and using my white board helped much more (not to mention more efficient). Do I have the grade I would like? Not quite, I’m a horrible test taker due to nerves, but I believe I understand the content. It is crazy how much your learning style adapts in a semester! Nursing school is one weird cycle, isn’t it? Thanks for reading and thanks for all you do as a nurse!


  2. Hi Anna, I went to LVN (LPN in most states) school in 1987 at age 34. There were 43 students at orientation. There were 12 at graduation, 2 of which were transfers from other classes. When I walked out of the Los Angeles Convention Center, after taking state boards, I was actually wondering how I would face my coworkers at the hospital I had been working at with my interim permit. I was convinced I had failed. But I didn’t.

    I was not a reader or writer when I decided to try nursing. I had forgotten some cursive characters. When my mentor saw me using all capital letters one day, she said I wouldn’t be able to write that slowly in the real world of nursing. I had been a truck driver, bus driver, security guard, plus twenty other jobs over the years. None of those jobs required reading, writing or hand-washing.

    I carried my nursing school library around for a couple of years in my car when I first started working, just for comfort, especially when I worked registry. I worked with so many babies with tracheotomies, I forgot what a crying baby sounded like until my granddaughter was born.

    Up until age 57, I rarely read for pleasure. A patient gave me a biography of one of my favorite actresses for Christmas that year. Since then I have read quite a bit. There are lots of easier things to take in college than nursing. Because there is so much to learn, you won’t get some of it for a week or two until after you hear it. And the knowledge builds on itself. Someday, you’ll be watching a drug commercial and you will just know what class it’s in by the generic name. it it’s side effects, by what it’s designed to do. I read above something about drug cards. Writing them out in pencil was very helpful. Our counselor told us that adult learners have to hear something 5 times for it to stick.

    When I first started working, PBS had a local program called, “Meet Your Next Employer”. It was hosted by a couple of nurses, that wanted California to change the law to require a Bachelors (BSN) as entry level into professional nursing. They also said that you should start looking for your next job, as soon as you walk out of the interview where you were just hired.

    In California, nurses have to show proof of continuing education upon license renewal. I took a course on emergency nursing this time. Over the years, I took courses relevant to my work. I haven’t worked in two years, but this course taught me a lot about falls etc. And it gave me baseline information that I either missed or forgot.

    Anyway, hang in there and never forget that nursing is a privilege, an art and a science. you will be respected and admired all over the planet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for that advice and encouragement. I agree with you even though I one of the younger students in my cohort I have realized that for me I have to hear/go over something many times. I was just stressing about “knowing everything”, but your reminder that everything will build on itself helps a lot. Our Dean and instructors tell us this all the time, but sometimes it takes someone else to reinforce that. Nursing is definitely a privilege. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Anna,
    First of all, keep doing what you’re doing! Seeing a tutor is definitely the right thing to do, especially if you’re having difficulty. The best thing I did in nursing school was reach out to my profs and peers when I needed help! All of the feelings you feel are completely normal, just remember you’re smarter than you think! I look forward to reading updates on how you’re doing. I just graduated this spring but I can easily remember how it felt to be in nursing school! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Strangely enough, I just saw my Pharmacology professor to go over this last exam (I always do) and I was pretty bummed out, as I got so many things switched up. She told me she can tell I understand the content, but I start panicking. One of my classmates said the same thing. I think the panicking just stems from self doubt, so I’m trying to figure out ways to deal with that. Thanks for reading and congratulations!!


  4. Hi Anna,
    I am in my 3rd semester out of 5 which for my “track” in my program puts me in Med Surg. Fundamentals for me was more stressful than Assessment but I found in my cohort you usually had a knack for one or the other. I’m glad to hear that you did well on your first check off. We did a few in my fundamentals and I believe my most stressful two were IM injections (on each other) and catheters just because of making sure you stay sterile. My semester so far has been pretty crazy I just took my second Lifespan Pharmacology exam on Friday and I did better than I thought. I take my second Med Surg exam this Friday and I’m terrified. I usually know the material but putting it in a test seems to throw me sometimes. Anyways good luck this semester I’m sure you’ll do amazing and I can’t wait for your next update 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow you’re almost at the finish line! Yes. I definitely feel that Foundations comes easily. We just completed sterile technique and i already know I’m going to have to keep practicing! We are doing Med Administration this week, so I know our next check off will be challenging. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad everything’s going well for you so far, Anna! 🙂 I have the exact same thing happen with tests – I know the content before taking them, then when I actually need to use that information, it flees my brain!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I took a math test for which I felt I understood the material quite well – the first time I had felt that way since going to college. But somehow, that also made me nervous, because I needed to get a good grade on this test because I felt I understood the material! Well, I kept double and triple checking my work, so I didn’t even get to the last question! I did not do well on that exam, over all. While handing me my test, my professor told me to come talk to her. When I went, she asked what happened and why I didn’t get to the last exam. I explained my thought process. She said that a similar thing happened to her while she was in graduate school, except she was so stressed she couldn’t figure out the answer. As soon as she turned in the test, everything came to her. So she suggested that I try to stay relaxed when taking tests, find things that help me calm down before. Since then, I always like to eat some chocolate before exams and walk around outside for about 10-20 minutes for all my exams, and it helped a lot! Good luck for your future exams!!


  7. Oh my goodness, I totally relate!! I’m in week five of semester one as well and girl, the struggle is REAL! I’m taking nursing theory and nursing nutrition. Thank god pharmacology isn’t until next semester at my school…

    Nursing school really is as hard as they say though! It’s only week five and trust me, I’ve also had my first mini breakdown already. It’s just so crazy how fast paced everything is and there’s sooooooo much to learn and do each day/week that it’s hard not feeling overwhelmed! What’s mostly killing me right now are the early hours and long days with lack of sleep!

    But funny, we’re on similar tracks. I have also completed hand hygiene and vital sign test outs (and passed), and just had our first exams in both classes. I did OK, not as great as I wanted to, but will study harder next time! As for simulation, I’m not sure how I feel about that yet! Personally, it’s more comfortable on an actual human patient for me, because it feels weird talking to a mannequin, but hey, we all learn differently! This weeks clinical will be a vision and hearing clinical at an elementary. That should be fun!

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, I just wanted to say, you are definitely not the only one feeling the pressure and stress!! Just hang in there, study lots, complete all your work, make notecards, get EVERY point you can, stay positive, stay organized, have fun with it, and lastly GOOD LUCK!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Anna!
    What helped me in pharmacology was making drug cards! I printed them out but a lot of my friends made them on powerpoint slides and used those to study pharmacology. I combined information from slides, the book, and davis drug guide. I’m in my final semester and unfortunately have had a bad run with my preceptor and waiting to hear back on where I will be moved to next. Fingers crossed I get a new placement soon!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do you think drug cards will work for me even though my program teaches only by drug class? I’ve been studying from the charts they give us because it saves me a lot of time, but I may have to go back to flashcards.


      1. I think whatever works best for you! Sometimes it is trial by error in the beginning to figure out what your professor is wanting. Sorry for the late response!

        Liked by 1 person

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