Nursing School Grades: How Much Do They Matter?

Amanda Ghosh - 05/09/19

Grades don’t matter as much as you think, but skills and relationships matter a lot. The key to success as a young nurse is knowing how much energy to devote to the significant aspects of nursing school—studying, Skills Labs, and clinical rotations.

Your GPA Won’t Get You Hired

The book learning portion of nursing school equips you with foundational knowledge, but it doesn’t prepare you for the actual job of nursing.

Your hiring committee won’t care about your 4.0 GPA. They’ll care about your ability to prioritize, multitask, and assess patients and your ability to work well with their team.  

So, focus more on building skills and developing relationships and concentrate less on getting straight-As.

Build Skills

During Skills Labs you’ll get the chance to develop practical nursing skills without fear. Capitalize on this opportunity by getting really good at what you’re learning.

Skills Labs are terrific for developing skills like:

  • Patient assessment
  • Taking, monitoring, and responding to vitals
  • Sterile techniques and wound care
  • Catheter and IV insertion
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Medication administration
  • Multi-tasking
  • Prioritizing
  • Paying attention to detail

Ask your professors for feedback during Lab. Absorb tips and helpful advice like a sponge and practice, practice, practice. If possible, take advantage of office hours by spending extra time with your professors in the Lab honing your skills. 

Develop Relationships

Clinicals will teach you a lot about what you’ll actually be doing as a nurse. Learn everything you can. Aside from Skills Labs, these real-life experiences are where you’ll want to devote your time and energy.

Use rotations for the opportunity they are—the chance to practice what you’re learning in real life under the tutelage of an experienced nurse.

Also, be sure to develop good relationships with the nurses you work alongside. These interactions could land you a job, or at the very least, a great reference.

Strategically Prioritize Your Time and Energy

Although your focus in nursing school should be practical skill development, you can’t ignore grades completely. Nursing programs have minimum grade requirements, and you’ll need decent grades if you plan to attend graduate school.

You’ll have to balance studying with the time and effort you devote to Skills Labs and rotations.

Here’s how:

If you’re NOT naturally a straight-A student:

Stop obsessing over As and accept Bs.

You’ll be able to get into an advanced degree program with Bs, especially if those Bs are supported with solid work experiences and excellent references.

Spend more time and energy developing skills and building relationships and less memorizing facts and figures.

Books will be around when you need to find information but missed opportunities to develop on-the-job skills and connections will not.

If you’re straight-A obsessed:

If you’re a straight-A type, who thinks their stellar GPA will matter, you’re in for a shock.

No one will care about your 4.0 on the job market, and your book knowledge won’t help as much as you think.

Giving up a few hours of study time may drop you from an A to a B, but if those hours are spent practicing skills and building relationships, you’re coming out ahead in the end. You’ll be more equipped for your first nursing role and you’ll still have done well enough to advance your career academically if that’s part of your plan.

Of course, if you’re blessed with the ability to score straight-As while devoting most of your energy to Skills Labs and clinicals, rock on superstar! Just don’t forsake maximizing what you take away from these aspects of nursing school for a perfect GPA.

Nursing School Grades: A Shock or a Breath of Fresh Air?

The idea that B-students tend to fare better in the end usually comes as a shock to academically-focused students. But, it’s a breath of fresh air for those in the middle of the pack. While you don’t want to sabotage your exams, you do want to focus on experiences that will translate to real life. So, prioritize skill development and networking during nursing school and give yourself permission to worry less about grades. A nurse’s real ability is not measured in GPA points.