If you’re like most nursing students, you’re a high-achieving individual with big goals and a dedication to doing your absolute best. Chances are, you were a star student in your prereqs, but in nursing school, you’re surrounded by other star students who are just as dedicated and driven as you are. Add to that the fact that many of your classes may be fully or partially online. How in the world do you become a standout student in nursing school and make a good impression in this environment?

Well, the good news is, it’s entirely possible. Just follow these tips for making a good impression and I promise your instructors will notice (even with online classes). If you want to listen to these tips on the go, tune in to episode 182 of the Straight A Nursing podcast.

Now some of this may be obvious to those who have worked in a professional setting before, but many students are new to these types of environments, so don’t feel bad if some of these never occurred to you before. Let’s dive in and I’ll share my tips on how to be a standout student in nursing school!

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Show You Take it Seriously

Your overarching attitude should be one that shows you take nursing school seriously. Some ways to do that are:

  • Be on time to clinical and class, even if it’s broadcast remotely. If you are late then enter the class as unobtrusively as possible. Take the nearest seat and move to your preferred location on the next break. And if you show up late with a to-go coffee, this is generally not a good look.
  • Show resourcefulness. Don’t email the instructor asking questions that are easily Google-able (is that a word?)  or answered in the syllabus, assignment instructions, or school handbook.
  • Show up prepared. Bring the required equipment such as a stethoscope or blood pressure cuff. Do any required prep work prior to entering skills lab, clinical, lecture, or simulation.
  • Be dependable. This means meeting your deadlines and turning your homework in on time. It also means that if you say you are going to do something, then follow through. This is especially critical in clinical. Your patients and the nurses are counting on you to do the things you say you are going to do. If you can’t complete a task, then you have to let someone know.

Exhibit Professional Behavior

Professional behavior is essentially the etiquette of the workplace, which applies to nursing school as well. It involves being respectful, courteous, conscientious, and dependable. Here are some examples of ways you can exhibit professional behavior:

  • This may seem like a no-brainer, but the simplest thing you can do is say “please” and “thank you.” You would be surprised how often this is overlooked.
  • When your instructor gives you feedback, thank them. Don’t make excuses. If you would like to explain your rationale as a way of seeking understanding, you can absolutely do that. Just be careful how you word it. If you’re starting your sentences with “Yeah, but…” then you are doing it wrong. Instead, you can say, “Can I explain my thinking and get your feedback on where it’s going wrong?” And then go on from there.
  • Adhere to the dress code and any policies about things like hairstyles, tattoos, and piercings. Don’t wait to be asked to adjust your appearance, just follow the guidelines from the outset. You may not agree with them and think they are outdated and uptight. Regardless, stick to the dress code out of respect for your instructors, your school, your clinical site, and the profession.
    • While we’re talking about the dress code, please don’t go to class looking like you just got out of bed, even if it’s online. Wear your uniform when it’s required and make sure it doesn’t look like it came from the bottom of the laundry pile. Pay attention to your personal hygiene and, in general, try to look pulled together and tidy. I’m not saying you need to style your hair and put on a full face of makeup. A make-up free freshly washed or shaved face with clean hair is perfect. If your hair is long and falls into your face, pulling it back into a simple ponytail or bun is all you need to do.
  • Avoid gossip, pettiness, and rude behavior.
  • Be a team player in the class and in clinical. Nursing school is not the time for an “every man for himself” attitude. I’m not saying you need to carry your other classmates, but if you find a great resource… share it! If you hear that lab was rescheduled, make sure your friends also know. If you understand a concept thoroughly, offer to teach it to your study group. In clinical, help each other out. This is excellent practice for on-the-job training. If someone asks for your help, do everything you can to be able to offer them assistance. I guarantee there will be a time when you need help and you’ll be so grateful when someone says, “Of course…what can I do?”

Use Clear and Courteous Communication

  • When speaking to others (especially your instructors), look them in the eye. Use their title, thank them for their advice or guidance. Err on the side of being too formal. They can always reel you back in by asking you to call them by their first name, for example.
  • Infuse professionalism into your digital communication…namely your emails. If you’re writing emails as though they are text messages, then I’m sorry to say you are doing it wrong. Use full sentences, greetings, a clear question or request, and again…always say please and thank you. While you’re at it, check that your email address is simple and to the point. Nursing school is not the time to use your “surferdude826” email address. Use some form of your name so the receiver can immediately see who the email is from.

Show Your Work Ethic

  • Be thorough in everything you do. Instructors can generally tell when you throw something together at the last minute. Putting thought and care into your assignments shows you take the weight of what you are learning very seriously. You are not doing these assignments to earn a certain grade or pass a test. You are doing them so you can someday apply this knowledge at the bedside when someone is 100% completely counting on you to do the right thing.
  • Do assignments/quizzes on time. Do not ask for extensions unless it is absolutely unavoidable such as an illness. Do not tell the professor you didn’t know when something was due. I promise you that information is readily available…
  • Don’t crowdsource your work when it’s supposed to be done independently.
  • Academic integrity is vital. Yes, students who don’t care about actually LEARNING the material regularly use Quizlet and other test banks. But I want you to ask yourself, is that really the kind of nurse you want to be? If you take shortcuts in school, you’re going to take shortcuts at the bedside. I know it’s hard to believe, but I promise you, even though nursing school is hard…doing the job is a hundred times harder. Integrity is key.

Make ​​a Positive Impression Online

It might be a little more challenging to make a great impression online when things can feel so impersonal, but it’s definitely possible!

  • Attend online classes from your study space, whether that’s a desk or a corner of the dining room table. If you’re lounging on the sofa or in bed, this sends a message to your instructor (and your brain) that you’re not engaged.
  • Showing up on time is just as important for online classes as it is in person.
  • Mute yourself. If I can hear your kids screaming in the background or the fact that you’re carrying on a whole other conversation, then you’re clearly not taking this class seriously.
  • Turn on your camera so your instructor can see your face and get to know you a little bit.
  • Just as you want to look presentable in person, the same goes for online classes. If you look like you just crawled out of bed, you send a message that you’re not prepared for class or taking it seriously.
  • Stay engaged throughout the class. Stay present, eyes on the instructor, ask questions if you have them, speak up to answer questions, or engage in the discussion. Avoid multitasking and get as much as you can out of this time with your instructor.
  • Thank the instructor at the end of the class. Teaching is hard work!

So there you have it, my tips for being a standout student in nursing school! I hope these tips help your instructors see what a thoughtful, dedicated, and talented student you are! For more tips on being a successful nursing student, download my free guide on the 20 secrets of successful nursing students.


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