As a nursing student you know one thing for sure—no two professors are alike. The benefits of having great professors are obvious, but even the most difficult professors will teach you some valuable skills.

Even if you know you’ll learn in a course, it doesn’t make dealing with an obnoxious professor easy. How can you make the best of a bad situation?

Start Each Class With Good Communication

Sometimes, students and professors get off to a bad start that never seems to resolve itself. Professors deserve and are used to a certain level of respect, and you should approach them with that in mind. Start any communication with them by addressing them as “Professor” before their last name, until you are directed to do otherwise.

Triple check to be sure you have spelled their names correctly. Use polite language (never slang) and err on the side of being too formal. That means don’t send an email full of texting abbreviations, and always thank them for taking the time to help you.

Act Like You Deserve to be Taken Seriously

Of course, to lay a good foundation with your professors, you need to be a good student. Get to class on time, not 5 minutes late. Pay attention to what is being taught and participate in the discussions. Don’t spend lecture time on your phone or playing catch up with other students. Get your work in on time and with all the requirements. Be focused and your professor will be likely to notice and take you more seriously.

Reach Out for Help If Needed

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Despite your best efforts, you might get a professor who is impossible to please, is rude, doesn’t give good lectures, and gives exams that border on out of line. If you have approached the professor for help and have gotten no where, you are not out of options. All schools have either an academic advising or a student support services office that will work with you to help you resolve any conflict or miscommunication. The Dean of Students is also an excellent resource when you are having real difficulties with a professor.

Find an Out

If you just have a really bad feeling (for instance,your professor tells you that even a hospitalization is not an excused absence), then see what your options are. Talk with your advisor and see if it’s too late to switch classes.

If you feel the professor is on a mission to fail you and you have exhausted all your options and outside assistance, you might look into withdrawing from the class. You ‘ll probably lose money, but it might impact your nursing school career less than failing a class. Your advisor will help you through this decision.

Accept the Life Lesson

Dealing with unpleasant people is difficult and can rattle your confidence. But it also makes you tougher, and as a nurse, that’s a skill that will come in handy. Learning how to cope with someone’s unflinching criticism (whether deserved or not) is good practice for anyone’s career. If your professor has pushed you to the limit, take a step back and see what you can learn from the experience and use that to your advantage in the future.

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Whatever problems you might have with a professor in your nursing school years, you can turn the lessons you’ll learn from it into something useful and helpful.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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