With their state-of-the-art medical technologies and outstanding nursing programs, the United States has long been one of the most desirable destinations for international nursing students to enroll. As an international nursing student studying in the U.S., you’ll have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education that provides hands-on experience under the guidance of world-class nurse faculty members.

But before you can begin learning from leading experts in the field, there are a few important things that all international nursing students should know. Below, you can find out the crucial skills you need before enrolling in a U.S. nursing school, and how to set yourself up for career success.

1. Strong English skills are a must.

One of the most frequently asked questions of any international nursing student is, “Do I need to have good English to succeed in my program?” To put it simply: Yes, you need to have a good grasp of the English language to enroll in a U.S. nursing school.

Most nursing school programs will require you to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to ensure that you understand the language well enough to complete the coursework. This is true whether you’re a first-year nursing student or an experienced RN enrolling in graduate-level studies in the United States.

2. You need to complete prerequisite coursework first.

Before you can apply to nursing schools in the United States, you need to show proof that you have completed the necessary prerequisites for the program. International nursing students must fulfill these prerequisites in order to obtain an F-1 visa, which allows you to take up foreign residence in the United States for the duration of your program.

Once you’re accepted into a nursing program, your school admissions office will issue you an I-20 application form. The next step is to fill out this form and take it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where you will pay a fee to submit your application for a student visa.

3. Take advantage of scholarships and financial aid programs.

Even for in-state students, the cost of nursing school in the U.S. can be steep. In-state nursing students can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000-$8,000 per year, depending on the type of education, location and the type of school (i.e., public vs. private).

As an international nursing student, you can expect to pay more than an in-state American student. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of housing, food, and all the basic nursing supplies you’ll need for nursing school. To help ease the financial strain, be sure to apply for financial aid and scholarships that are available to international nursing students. You can find out which financial aid opportunities are available to you by getting in touch with the admissions office of any nursing school you’re considering.

4. Buy everything you need in advance.

Studying in the United States for the first time can be overwhelming. With so much to take in, it’s easy to forget all the supplies you need before your first day.

Depending on when you arrive, you’ll want to figure out which medical supplies for nursing students in advance and order them sooner rather than later. This includes at least a few sets of scrubs, a good pair of slip resistant shoes and compression socks, note-taking supplies, a stethoscope, and a clipboard, just to name a few.

5. Study groups are key to your success.

Though you may prefer to study solo, don’t immediately dismiss the idea of joining a study group. As an international student, being part of a study group can make all the difference in your success. Studying in a group can help you retain more information from class, improve your test scores, and provide you with moral support from your fellow classmates. Additionally, working with a group builds teamwork and social skills, which are highly valued in the field of nursing.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Nursing school is challenging even for those who are accustomed to U.S. teaching styles. If you’re struggling to keep up with the coursework or to understand a certain concept, don’t hesitate to reach out to your nurse educators. After all, they were once nursing students as well and have been in your shoes.

Though they may not know the exact challenges of being an international nursing student, they can help make your life a lot easier in several ways. Be sure to make use of their office hours and let them know what you’re struggling with. They may post their lecture slides online to help you study or work with you one-on-one to help you better understand the lesson.

7. Get comfortable with NCLEX-style testing.

Don’t wait to begin preparing for the NCLEX test. Instead, start studying for it while you’re enrolled in nursing school. This challenging test—which is required to become a nurse in the United States—can throw many students off with its different styles of questions. The format ranges from multiple-choice, order response, calculation questions, and select-all-that-apply questions, which can take some getting used to.

Fortunately, there are ways for international nursing students to prepare for the NCLEX test early. In addition to challenging yourself with a daily NCLEX-style question, you can also invest in practice resources offered by Kaplan, NRSNG and UWorld.

Being an international nursing student can be challenging. On top of social and cultural barriers, you’re also faced with undergoing a rigorous program that will put your skills to the test. Don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing your dream of studying nursing in the United States. By keeping the above things in mind, you can ace your nursing school program and go on to become a successful nurse.

Deborah Swanson

Deborah Swanson is a medical office professional with two decades of experience helping small practices and large hospitals alike improve efficiencies. She recently started consulting with allheart.com providing insight into the daily activities of medical professionals and how best to serve them.

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