Nursing can be an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s no secret that nursing school is infamously tough. Endless hours in the classroom, countless exams, clinicals, and high academic expectations can leave you feeling overwhelmed rather than enriched by your education. Don’t worry — many nursing students feel this way while earning their RN, even with the behavior supports professors have in place to help them. There are plenty of ways to not only make nursing school easier to handle but more beneficial in the long run. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your education.

Take Every Opportunity to Study

A large portion of any nursing program is memorization; medical terms, procedures, diseases, patient rights, and entire textbooks’ worth of information are just the tip of the iceberg for what you’ll need to know. Whether it’s your work break, a few minutes on the bus or whatever downtime you have at home, take every opportunity to study. If you have flashcards or a study guide on hand, keep them easily accessible so you can pull them out to review at a moment’s notice.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Work

There are countless career options in nursing, and almost all of them require you to get your hands very dirty. On top of administering vaccines, IVs and sutures, it’s very likely that you’ll help patients with vomiting, digestive issues, mucous, oozing infections and all manner of hazardous bodily fluids. This is all part of the job, and it’s important that you develop a tolerance for intense hands-on work right away. If you find yourself getting queasy, remember: keep all of your attention on the patient as a person. Everything else is just an obstacle you’re helping them overcome.

Give Yourself Time to Recover

Most people in the medical field would agree that nursing school is draining. It requires more time, effort, and grit than you might first think, and it’s even harder to give it your all when you’re exhausted. Whenever you can afford to take a break, do it — try to keep a steady sleep schedule and get as much rest as you can, even if it’s just a short nap here and there. Step outside and catch your breath once in a while, and try to fill your diet with foods that will nourish your body. Above all, do your best to enjoy any time you have with friends and family. Breaks are detrimental to your quality of life and education!

To choose a career as a nurse is to willingly wake up every day with the sole intent of helping other people. If you’re headed down this career path, you’re in for a long and arduous ride, so don’t neglect yourself. Rest when you can, study when the opportunity arises and remember that stress and dirty work are a part of the job. Fortunately, another part of the job is the reward of knowing that thanks to your nursing education, there’s a good chance you’ll save a few lives over the course of your career.