6 Essential Life Lessons I Learned In Nursing School


1. Learn to identify your BEST option.

Nurses are trained to think critically since day one of nursing school. We are instructed to pick the best answer among all the other correct ones. We are trained to eliminate choices that may seem right, but are apparently not the finest option. In our generation, we’re all told that we’re young and that making mistakes is okay because chances are, it will make us a better person. It’s true, although sometimes in life, we’re faced with different opportunities at once and though they all seem so great, you can only choose one. And whatever choice you make is very crucial to how the rest of your life is going to turn out. May it be regarding your career, love life or maybe relocation, weighing out the pros and cons isn’t always so easy and the process of elimination isn’t always fun either because hey, there’s always the thought of what if’s at the back of your mind. But my point is that in life, there will be times you’re at the fork of a road that requires some serious decision-making. And as a grown up, you need to be prepared for that.

2. When all else fails, trust your gut.

Intuition is a powerful thing. Even when you’re at the situation mentioned above, sometimes, despite your competency and knowledge, intuition is all you’ve got. The brain can only handle so much information and that’s when your intuition is there for a reason. It’s a tricky thing trying to distinguish intuition from self-doubt, or intuition from arrogance. I don’t even want to talk about how many test questions I’ve missed because I doubted my first choice. However, I’ve learned that the more you use your intuition, the more you’ll just…know. It could be that tiny voice in your head, that little hunch you had, or that literal “gut feeling” you get. Learn to listen to them.

3. When unsure about something, toss it.

This is kind of similar to intuition. This one is just more direct and one-sided. In the operating room, there is some sort of surgical commandments that nurses and doctors live by. One of them instructs that if you are unsure if an object is sterile or not, then it is considered unsterile. If unsterile, it’s pretty much of no use in the procedure. I have applied this value in my life and the result has been pretty satisfactory. It has saved me money from shopping and buying things I’m unsure about. It saved me from a possible diarrhea from a 3-day-old leftover food in my fridge. It saved me from getting lost and taking the wrong train when I was in a rush. Most essentially, it saved me from investing any more of my time and emotion to people who are becoming toxic (or possibly been toxic all along). Don’t let the fear of missing out get the best of you. Besides, your intuition (refer to #2) is probably already telling you something is wrong, that’s why you were feeling doubtful to begin with.

4. Give without expecting anything in return.

I was fortunate enough to go to a nursing school in a foreign country where I probably spent more time gaining experiences in the hospital than reading my books in the library. That said, I was able to interact and care for different types of patients. But the most sincere and most genuine thank-yous I’ve ever received came from the most unfortunate ones—the poorest of the hospital population. Writing this reminded me of the Friends episodes where Phoebe tries to prove to Joey that there is such thing as a truly unselfish act. But maybe Joey was right, because even though I wasn’t getting paid in money, I was getting paid in experience. Either way, hearing about their gratitude is one of the most rewarding feeling I’ve ever felt. But maybe this is why kindness is an addiction to some; it feels euphoric. Giving without expectations can undeniably be revitalizing. Although it could absolutely be a challenge especially in pragmatic times like this, I’m just saying, once in a while, sharing compassion is all you need as a pick-me-up during a long, hard day.

5. Sometimes, there is no room for mistakes. 

This one is kind of related to #1 but I figured that it needs a number of its own because I think this is pretty vital as a 20-something in this generation. We live in a generation where we’re told to make mistakes to learn from during our youth. Live wild and live free, they say. However, nursing is a profession where there is no room for mistakes. Not to glorify the profession I’ve chosen, but it’s a profession where one miscalculation can lead to overdose, one misunderstanding can lead to malpractice, one blunder can lead to a lawsuit, and one error can lead to someone’s death. Although mistakes continue to be educational regardless of our age, there comes a time in our 20-something years when we need to stop making too many of them in order for us to finally get our shit together. Fortunately for us, life isn’t justified by the amount of mistakes we’ve made, but there comes a point in a grown-up’s life where telling yourself there’s a reason for everything just seems like a load of bs. You are in control of your life. Whatever you’re faced with, you have a choice. If you’ve made too many mistakes and your life is still the same, it’s time to reevaluate your life and get some new perspective.

6. We’re all just vulnerable human beings.

Healthy or not, no matter where we may be in life, we’re all just vulnerable people susceptible to all kinds of pain the world can offer. We’re all just human beings trying to survive. Our struggles might differ from each other, but in the end, we’re all just trying to prove ourselves something. So be kind, as Buddha says, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.