What You’ll Learn at Nursing School

Many years ago, when nurses graduated from nursing school, they would recite a pledge known as “The Nightingale Pledge,” in honor of Florence Nightingale, who is credited as the founder of modern nursing. Nurses who made the pledge, said in part “… I will Endeavour… to devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care”. Although nurses today rarely repeat the pledge when they have completed their training, this remains the spirit of what is learned at nursing school.

When a person trains as a nurse, they enter a world that is like no other. Every day of the week and twenty-four hours a day, nurses provide bedside care to hospitalized patients. Other nurses provide support to doctors in medical centers or private health clinics. Still others act as consultants in midwifery, lactation, legal practices or in other specialty fields. Opportunities for career advancement and diversity within the profession are endless, making it a truly satisfying career choice.

However, with so much scope on offer, the range of knowledge that needs to be learned is endless and covers a range of skills that is beyond just the provision of basic nursing care. A student studying nursing can expect to graduate with many other life skills that will help them in their personal lives as well as in their professional nursing role.

Nursing is about providing holistic patient care. A nurse must be able to understand the disease processes affecting the patient, and how to treat those diseases. They must also be able to recognize when a patient’s condition changes. They must comprehend the rationale behind the treatment of a patient at any stage of the illness, treatment or recovery.

A nurses’ training will provide the theory and the practice necessary to successfully care for patients in both a general or specialized nursing field. Additionally, they will learn the time management and leadership skills that will enable them to complete the many tasks that need to be attended to on any given day.

So how does a nurse learn all these skills during training? A typical nursing course involves a period of study and practical application of that study. Theory is taught during the study periods and usually requires the student to pass an exam that covers the material. The practical application is learned during clinical instruction in a hospital under the supervision of a Registered Nurse, or when practicing skills that have already been demonstrated and learned in a clinical environment.

Nursing training involves a process of building on skills learned in a progressive manner so that they can be applied in any given situation. Some skills basic to all nursing programs include:

  • Learning to lift and move patients safely
  • How to observe a patient’s condition and identify symptoms that could indicate that a patient’s condition is improving or worsening
  • How to undertake simple and more complicated procedures that are part of the treatment of a disease process.
  • Developing skills in administering medications safely, in various forms.
  • Developing interpersonal skills that will help to assist the patient’s emotional recovery from illness as well as physical recovery.
  • Developing the skills necessary to provide support to grieving patients and their families, as well as knowing how to arrange support for patients facing a variety of other non-health related issues.

Nurses rarely work alone, so supporting the roles of the medical and allied health teams (such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists), is an important part of the learning that nurses must undertake during their training. A major function of nursing is to implement the care plans that doctors and allied health professionals set for patients, and a nurse’s training will prepare them to do just that.

The range of skills nurses learn in the course of their training is basic and foundational for all nurses. It will prepare you for not only the academic knowledge that’s required for you to succeed in this field, but also the interpersonal skills that mark nurses for what they are: compassionate people who dedicate themselves to the well-being of others.


Learn More: Taking the Nursing Board Exam