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Prior Medical Experience – Will it Help or Hurt You in Nursing School?

*Original post released on 3/23/2023

Some potential nursing school students work in medical fields that may leave them wondering if that experience is beneficial or detrimental. In this article, I want to explore the different reasons as to why having medical experience may help or hurt your chances for success in nursing school. Let’s jump right in and begin with the ways it can be harmful to have prior medical experience when entering nursing school!

To be honest, overall, I believe that having medical experience is more of a benefit than a detriment. However, in good faith, I want to disclose and explore a few of the ways I feel as though it could detract from your nursing school success. Perhaps, the way it might hurt your chances of success the most is in the sense that your past medical experience may have allowed you to develop bad habits or habits that are no longer supported with evidence-based research. Similarly, it can make it more difficult to be open to learning new information…or unlearning old, out-of-date, or incorrect information.

On another note, at times, having prior medical experience can result in an inflated ego or self-esteem/confidence which can be dangerous when providing care to a patient. A nursing student or nurse who thinks they know better and doesn’t ask questions or think twice is a risky nurse, for both their license and the patient’s health.

Some nursing students come from a medical background that isn’t quite human-related. For example, some people make the transition from a position such as veterinary technician to nursing. The medical experience is still great, but it can make the person used to a healthcare environment and protocols different than those utilized for human patients. It has the potential to make it a little more difficult to adjust during nursing school.

A final point to make about prior medical experience, which could be viewed as either helping or hurting your chances of success in nursing school, is that it can result in more relaxed interactions with healthcare providers and other nurses. In the wrong context or by certain people, this more relaxed attitude can be seen as egotistical and/or unprofessional. In the right context, being comfortable and relaxed around healthcare professionals can be utilized as an incredible anxiety reducing skill! It also has the potential to benefit your patients because you may be more likely to advocate for them assertively to ensure their needs are met.

On a more positive note, let’s examine the ways in which prior medical experience can help you during nursing school! You might be more likely to understand medical terminology, the healthcare environment, procedures/medications, etc. In addition to this, you’ll likely be more familiar with healthcare duties and routines overall. This increased knowledge has the potential to alleviate some stress during school, ESPECIALLY if your knowledge is correct and evidenced-based. It also has the potential to reduce your workload during nursing school.

Depending on the type of prior medical experience, it could help you with navigating the healthcare setting, interactions with other healthcare professionals, and/or nurses. Furthermore, it has immense potential to help you prepare for and nail nursing school admissions applications and interviews! You’ll have context to draw from when answering emotional intelligence based questions, which tend to be a pretty common type of question utilized in these circumstances. Lastly, prior medical experience can help with adjusting to the fast-paced healthcare environment more easily.

Again, these are just some of the different aspects to consider when making the decision about whether or not to obtain medical experience prior to pursuing nursing school. I’ll reiterate that I feel it is immensely more beneficial to have some medical experience than none at all prior to nursing school. I entered nursing school with experience in the veterinary field and as a pharmacy technician. I found it to be more helpful than not, especially in terms of understanding medications. If you are already working in the medical field, use this article as a way to be aware of some of the potential adverse ways it can impact your success in nursing school. Then, do your best to avoid those consequences of having prior medical experience. Now go out there and pursue nursing with all the same ferocity, regardless of prior medical experience. Until next time, happy studying!

Andra Alyse

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