A bachelor’s degree in nursing is sometimes the first step toward a satisfying career in a demanding medical field, but some individuals earn their RN first and return to school later for their BSN. If this has been your path, you probably already know that you won’t learn all the tricks of the trade in your RN-BSN program. Great nurses absorb knowledge from inside the classroom and combine it with experience they gain on-the-job. If you’re on the path to earning your BSN, here are five things that having a degree simply can’t teach you.

1. Doctors Don’t Know Everything

Nurses often work under the supervision and guidance of doctors, but doctors are human too–and that means they’re capable of making mistakes. While physicians have the technical training and expertise to make tough decisions during critical moments of a patient’s care, not all of them are exceptionally talented. Doctors can sometimes make poor judgement calls, possess very strong or unpleasant personalities, or communicate too little and in a manner that’s hard to understand. When working with these individuals, cooperate with them to the best of your ability. When your gut tells you that there’s a better way to handle a particular situation, listen to it. Bring up another suggestion and see if the doctor will jump onboard.

2. You Don’t Have to Memorize Insane Amounts of Information

Throughout the course of your RN-BSN program, you will learn much about the human body and the way it functions. You’ll learn how to care for patients. You’ll learn how to operate advanced machines. You’ll learn much more than that, and there’s no possible way to absorb and retain every bit of material. Lucky for you, you won’t have to. Those heavy textbooks are meant to build a foundation of knowledge to prepare you for the real world. Your daily work will require far more critical thinking and prioritizing than simple memorization.

3. Good Time Management Is Essential

Working in a healthcare environment can be pretty chaotic, especially if you are an emergency room nurse. With so many patients around you demanding immediate medical attention, you’ll often feel overwhelmed and torn in many different directions. Common sense will tell you that it’s impossible to tend to everybody at once. So how do you choose? Prioritizing is something you won’t learn in your RN-BSN program. Only your instincts and experience can point you in the right direction. If you’re ever unsure, ask your colleagues to guide you to those who most direly need treatment.

4. Dealing With Death

Saving lives is something that nurses do on a regular basis. Sadly, you can’t save everyone. Grave injuries, chronic illness, severe allergies, and unforeseen complications can all take the life of a patient. Your RN-BSN program won’t teach you how to cope with death, especially if you’ve developed a close bond to a particular patient. All you can do is try your best and expect the worst. Death is emotionally taxing and can cripple your ability to work, so seek counseling whenever necessary.

5. Take Care of Yourself to Care for Others

One thing you certainly won’t learn in your RN-BSN program is how to take care of yourself while on duty. Nurses spend nearly every waking minute of their workdays tending to the needs of others while pushing aside their own. When you don’t give yourself enough time to eat, use the restroom, or take a quick mental or physical break, your performance will suffer. Stay healthy in order to provide the best care you can possibly give.

If you have a passion for taking care of those in need, nursing could be the perfect career choice for you. Nursing is said to be one of the most fulfilling professions out there, but it’s easily one of the most stressful. To become a successful nurse, you need to adapt and evolve. That can only come with experience. There are things you simply can’t learn in your RN-BSN program.

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