How to Study for Nursing School: Forget Study Tips, Go for Strategy!
What are you struggling with in nursing school?
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My concern is that there is so much information to remember, how do you keep it straight in your head? I am currently studying for my Med Surg Hesi and when I answer a question incorrectly, I ask myself, how would I have remembered that?
Ask anyone who has been to nursing school and they would most likely agree that studying to become a nurse is a seesaw of trying to get enough sleep versus trying to not get too overwhelmed with the mind-numbing bulk of study materials that they’re EXPECTED to master.
Doesn’t it sometimes seem like the present nursing curriculum is designed to be some sort of mental torture ala hunger games? With challenges (aka exams) every step of the way?
To make things worse, most of us have had that one classmate who would always be just chilling before a big test and still end up getting good grades while you, who’ve spend all waking hours studying, reading, and memorizing end up just barely passing. What is the secret? Why is nursing school so hard for some and so much easier for others?
Staying Sane Through It All
Okay, sucky instructors aside (the type who’d just read from slides), you have to understand that a huge part of acing nursing school is all about ditching the non-productive study habits you may have and gearing up with a new proactive studying strategy. I’ve learned (the hard way) that staying sharp with new tools is how you can keep everything straight in your head, no kidding!
With the above said, the studying strategies discussed below are certainly not new although you may only be hearing some of them today. They’re not comprehensive either, but you can simply pick out which ones would work for you depending on your learning style. Each strategy stands by itself or you can pair them up with each other!
Ready? Okay, let’s start with:
Don’t Volunteer To Be a ‘Tribute’
When you approach becoming a nurse as having to ‘remember’ a ton of information and having to memorize every answer to all possible exam questions, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In fact, this might be the number one reason why a lot of students are feeling overwhelmed in nursing school.
We can think of what’s described above as having a case of victim mentality; sort of like volunteering yourself to be a sacrificial lamb to the current state of nursing education. Hey, that’s not the right approach if you want to pass your exams and be a nurse!
You see, nursing school is not meant to be a passive experience and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. You have to have a battle plan right from the very beginning and know what studying habits to keep and what to ditch. The same goes for information.
Cut the Clutter
This is obviously easier said than done, but the thing is, it can be done!
Do you know what percentage of what you were forced to read in school ever makes it to your final exam? I’m bet not a lot; and don’t get me started on the percentage that applies to real life nursing either!
Clearly, there’s a lot of unnecessary information you shouldn’t be wasting your time on because you’ve been ‘programmed’ to think that everything is new and should be processed by you. Here’s how you can cut out the clutter – Just SSIIP!
- Scan and Sift: Don’t be suckered in into committing information overdose. Haven’t you noticed that about half of the information in books are just regurgitated material from previous chapters? Scan what you have to study and skip the redundant content and then sift through what remains to get to the juicy parts.
- Import in Intervals: Even the best thanksgiving dinner can be made better and appreciated more if you sample smaller portions of each dish first versus trying to stuff your face with everything at once. The same goes for studying. You have to first let what you’ve read sink in before going for second helpings (or the next chapters).
- Pin It: Now, after you’ve understood what you’ve read, it’s time to further scan, sift, and import in intervals. Whatever is retained (or whatever you can remember) is more likely to stay with you because you’ve taught your neurons that those are important bits of information. A mental pin board is a lot neater and easier to manage than pages after pages of the same thing.
Once you’ve learned how to SSIIP, studying piles of textbooks won’t be so daunting anymore, it will be as easy as pie! Ahem,
Make It As Easy as ADPIE!
Yeah right, there’s a new alphabet in town and it’s not the ABCs. ADPIE is the acronym we use for the nursing process and it stands for:
I’m pretty sure that you already know that, but what you may not realize is how it fits in when you’re still in nursing school and have to read 1,561,948 pages of material for an overnight reading assignment!
Blatant exaggeration aside, understanding nursing concepts does start with knowing how to merge this fundamental nursing skill with your study routine. You have to know how to:
- Assess the relevance of the material.
- Diagnose any possible weaknesses you may have in comprehending the concepts.
- Plan a mode of action on how you will overcome the pitfalls or weaknesses on your part.
- Implement your plan and re-assess, re-diagnose, and re-plan your approach as you go through the material. And lastly,
- Evaluate how much you’ve retained.
A great way of seeing if this works is to study something as though you’ll have to teach it to a friend later. It takes the stress factor off and makes you more confident as well.
I know this strategy sounds just like the first one but if you’d take a closer look, this is geared for the extroverted learner while the first one is for the introverted student.
To Be or Not To Be: Memorization Vs Comprehension
Next time you catch yourself having a ton of material that you need to go through and memorize, STOP! Ask yourself, should you be ‘memorizing’ or ‘comprehending’?
Too many nursing students fail to grasp that acing nursing school is about having razor sharp critical thinking skills ( and common sense) and not about going for all-nighters spent on ‘studying’ or memorizing whole books.
I mean, come on, take a quick look at your books and you’ll soon realize that it’s near impossible to remember everything that is in there unless you’re lucky enough to have a photographic memory. Puny humans (like you and me) would surely panic at the thought of having to remember an entire book by the end of the semester – and you’d surely use more than one textbook per semester, right?
Remember, Memorizing is Out, Understanding is In!
The key to survive nursing school is to understand and comprehend your study material as you are reading it. That’s the foundation you need for developing those critical thinking skills that all professors swear is all you’ll need to dissect nursing questions and pass your exams.
Quality over quantity is the name of the game. Once you get the hang of understanding concepts, you’ll soon see patterns emerge and you’d easily get how things are interrelated. The next step is knowing how to put that knowledge to good use, but that’s a topic for another blog.
At the end of the day (or on your exam day!) what matters is not how much study material you’ve read but how much you’ve retained and knowing how to use that retained knowledge to answer exam questions.
Developing a nurses’ mind may not come easy for most. It takes some serious strategy to develop that magical nursing mind that remembers everything and keeps tab of everything! Oh. And you know that nurses have superpowers, right?
How To Succeed In Nursing School (5 No-Fail Tips)
Nursing school is intense and can be challenging, no doubt about that. There are exams you need to study and thoroughly prepare for. There are grades you must maintain as high as possible. Then there are countless medical jargon to memorize and remember.
In the midst of all these, there is your future and career as a medical nurse, and you need to stay focused on it to realize your dream. These are all part of life in a nursing school, and they define a medical professional in the making.
While you can’t avoid the stress that comes with nursing school, you can at least find ways to manage it. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out with your BSN or you’re already ahead and set for MSN, you need to learn some essential tips on how to survive nursing school.
In this piece, I’ll share with you some fail-proof tips on how to manage the challenges that come with a nursing program and ensure you complete it with your degree and sanity intact.
Tips For Completing Your Nursing Program Successfully (How To Succeed In Nursing School)
Set Your Academic Goals
Once you know where you want to go, you’ll have an easy time staying on the right path until you reach your destination. Likewise, when you create academic goals for each semester, it makes studying much more manageable, and you’ll know how to approach and manage your tasks.
Your academic goals should be S.M.A.R.T., meaning they should be specific enough, so you don’t divert to other irrelevant things. They should be measurable, so you only work on what matches your energy levels. The goals you set should be attainable because you understand your individual capabilities. They should also be realistic and doable, with no need to aim for something you can’t achieve.
Finally, the goals should be timely. Here are some ideas I found helpful when I was brainstorming my academic goals way back when I was joining the nursing school. I hope you find them helpful too.
You need to constantly ask yourself these questions to gauge if you’re on the right track:
- Am I focused enough to stay at the top of my class?
- Do I have what it takes to attain the minimum required grade?
- Are there ideal nursing organizations I can join during and after completing my nursing program?
- Can I achieve the average test score?
Once you’ve identified specific milestones you want to achieve, you can work on how to achieve them. This helps you stay motivated throughout your academic period. It can encourage you to persevere and successfully complete your nursing program.
Know Your Learning Style
Perhaps in your short stay at nursing school, you’ve come to realize that you’re good at specific topics compared to others. You tend to understand some things much faster than others. It can all be tied to your learning style.
As a nursing student, you need to understand your brain’s capacity to grasp and process information. If you’re undertaking your nursing program online, it’s even more imperative that you identify the best way to learn different study segments. The reason for this is that you’ll be doing the major coursework, study topics, and exams independently.
There are typically three learning styles that you need to master. They include audio, visuals, and tactical training. During my days at nursing school, I tactfully found ways to master each learning segment because I fully understood my learning styles, which helped me hack the entire program successfully. Once you’re able to figure out your style, it makes studying much more effective.
If you’re an auditory learner, it means you’re more inclined to process information when it’s passed out aloud. You also like to make inquiries and share your thoughts on the information delivered.
Additionally, you’re also adept at discussing whatever you learn with fellow students to understand the topic better. As an audio learner, you have a natural ability to drive points home through storytelling.
Visual learners, on the other hand, use imagery to comprehend better whatever they learned. For example, you could convert what you read or saw into a drawing or picture and use it as a learning diagram.
If you’re such a student, you’ll realize that you find a quiet environment more ideal for learning than a classroom setting. Videos also make great learning resources for such visual learners.
Finally, tactile learners prefer to learn through actions. They use gestures and movement in their learning process, and this helps them engage deeply with each study material. If you’re such a student, you’ll realize that charts, diagrams, and models make great learning resources and make studying much more straightforward.
You need to understand which learning style fits your capabilities so you can effortlessly incorporate a winning strategy to maximize each study time. This is also crucial for retaining information gleaned from every learning session. If you’re uncertain about which type of student you are, the following questions can help you know where you belong:
- What was past my learning style or experiences?
- How are my past studies different from how I’m studying now?
- Which topics did I excel in compared to others?
- How was my examination performance compared to now?
- Did I engage in note-taking, and if so, how did I achieve that?
If you need additional guidance on understanding your learning style, consider Nursing.com’s learning resources. I’m sure you’ll find some practical strategies that you can implement to ace your nursing program.
Study In Groups
Two heads are better than one is an old cliche you might find logical and applicable in your nursing studies. According to research, students who study in groups tend to retain most of what they learn compared to reading independently or hearing in class.
Study groups also enable you to remain accountable to a specific group and keep you motivated. It also presents you with a support system since you and your fellow students have something in common: you’re all facing the same challenges common in nursing school. You also get to organize your schedules and designate times specifically for perusing books.
Study groups also create opportunities for networking with others on different levels. When you study in groups, you learn from other people, compare notes, and brainstorm ideas. The benefits of study groups are immense and can help you stay on track during your studies. However, before joining one, consider the following pointers:
- Create a small study group of at least three or four students. The fewer people you are, the easier it will be to create an organized team.
- Once you join a group, endeavor to stay committed throughout the semesters and participate in group activities.
- When joining a nursing school, don’t join a study group immediately. Give it a few weeks to get to know your fellow students and decide who can make the best study partners. This is because some students have different capabilities, and others may be good at RN than you do. So while it’s good to learn from others, you don’t want to feel left out.
When I joined nursing school, it felt like I had signed up for a full-time job. It gets even more tedious if you’re an online student with a full-time job and life’s commitments. Between juggling work, coursework, exams, and studies, I felt like the only way to succeed in nursing school was to study 24/7.
However, what I realized in my quest to stay on top of everything is that too much study coupled with work is unhealthy. It causes stress, burnout, and fatigue, doing more harm than good.
To avoid this, you must take some time off for yourself. According to research, taking short breaks between work and studies can refresh your mind and improve your mental health.
Learn Not To Cram Work
Nursing school is no mean feat. However, waiting until the last minute to cram work then do coursework makes things even more complicated and is a recipe for failure. With so much school work requiring your attention, you need to prioritize what’s important and focus on just that.
And there’s no way to get around it. You’ll have much to deal with and handle, but good time management skills will enable you to manage your schedules and studies less overwhelming.
Learn To Take Notes Efficiently
There’s a lot to be learned in nursing school. If you’re like me, you only need to find an efficient method, especially for taking notes, to improve your studies.
Here at NURSING.com, we find the Cornell Method more practical and efficient. This method includes five simple steps for taking notes and is a good framework for studying.
This method can also help you save more than four hours of study time every week. Imagine what you’d do with four extra hours every week? Well, below is the
Cornell Method comprising of five steps I thought you might want to try it out:
Record: The first step is all about taking notes. As you listen to your professor or watch a video or read a book, whatever your learning style, write your notes on a book. Remember to keep your notes concise and avoid being wordy. Also, remember to include pictures.
Questions: The next step is all about questions. After class, go over your notes, create questions and summarize the main points. On your paper, draft all questions on the QUE column. This question drafting process is crucial for identifying the essential themes from your nursing lessons. It also helps you create content and prepare for exams.
Recite All set. Now you have a good set of notes and questions. Your best step now is to put aside the notes and read the questions, then try to answer them aloud. Mark off the questions you cannot answer and review them from the notes later. This step is crucial since it helps you identify where you need to improve.
Time to reflect: Once you’re able to answer most of the questions from your notes, your next step is to do some reflection of everything you’ve learned and create a summary of what matters the most.
Close with a review: Phew! That’s quite some progress, and you deserve a pat on the back. Congratulations! All that you have to do is bind your nursing notes together and refer to them once a week or at least ten minutes a day. The more you review the notes, the easier it will be to retain all the information in your brain.
As you conduct your review, test yourself with the questions on the QUE column and the summaries you created. These are the MOST VITAL items that will most probably be featured on the exams.
Create A Practical Schedule
One sure way to manage your study workloads is by creating a practical schedule. You can start with a weekly calendar and create a breakdown of each day’s activities. The following are some examples of what to include in your daily schedules:
- Days and hours of study
- Time allocated for self-study or study groups
- Social life
- Personal time or breaks
- Family time
By creating a schedule for each day, it becomes easier to allocate your time, work on different tasks according to priority and decide when to take breaks.
Get Closer To Your Professors
One thing I learned when joining the nursing school is that those nursing professors serve a greater purpose than just teaching or lecturing students. Personally, I identified a few professors whom I got close to, and they became my biggest partners throughout my stay in nursing school. Through my relationships with my professors, I was able to:
- Gain insightful advice on how to take the NCLEX
- Learn from their personal experiences as nurses, a nursing professor, and even their days as a nursing student
- Learn about the best clubs and organizations to join
- Find resourceful and helpful mentors
- Discovered where to look for internships and practicums
- Received recommendation letters for future job searches
Never forget that your professors have your best interests at heart and want to be successful in nursing school. So instead of feeling intimidated, be courageous enough to approach them and ask for advice or guidance when you need it.
Remember To Care For Yourself
Once you’re deep into the demands of nursing school, it is typical to neglect yourself to a point where you forgo your personal needs. Sticking to a balanced diet, drinking a lot of water, and maintaining a healthy sleep life might be so obvious such that you don’t need anyone to remind you.
But it’s so easy to forget any of the above until it starts taking a toll on your health. Lack of all these can easily create room for burnouts and fatigue. To avoid getting to such unhealthy extremes, consider the following:
- Maintain a healthy diet: Don’t skip meals. Poor eating habits and unhealthy diets have the same thing in common: they’ll affect your energy levels, studies, and overall health.
- Drink less caffeine: Too much coffee leads to poor sleep and ultimately low productivity. Lack of sufficient sleep can affect your studies and overall health. Consider limiting your caffeine intake to at least two cups a day.
- Stay active: Any single activity like walking, jogging, and using the stairs instead of the elevator will do you so much good. Not only do these exercises help you stay fit, but they also help improve your endorphins levels.
- Get enough sleep: We can’t emphasize this enough. You need more rest to make it through nursing school. Even if you have to get to bed 15 minutes earlier, those few minutes count and benefit your brain health.
The above tips show that the secret to surviving nursing school isn’t around-the-clock studying, perfect grades, and whatnot—it’s about finding the ideal balance between life and school. If you can manage to commit the required time to your career without neglecting yourself or other aspects of your life… you’ll have set yourself on the right path to succeeding in nursing school.
At Nursing.com, we’re all about helping you be the best you can be and ace your nursing career. Below are reviews from successful students to whom Nursing.com proved to be an innovative platform for preparing for nursing school.
Through our clear-cut video lessons and courses, they were able to succeed in nursing school and beyond. Here’s what they have to say:
BEFORE NURSING.com, I felt so confused and discouraged. I kept wondering if nursing was even my thing. However, AFTER NURSING.com, I feel motivated and passionate about my chosen career path. Everything is clear now, and I’m confident I can do this.
I must admit that from the day I joined the nursing school, I felt discouraged and stressed. Other times I even cried. No, strike that. I cried every single week. Then after Nursing.com, I transitioned into this motivated and passionate student you see now. Nursing.com made my days at nursing school so much bearable.
~ Mercedes, RN
When I think of Nursing.com, I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I guess I can’t say thank you enough. Nursing.com yanked me out of quicksand. Now I’m a successful nurse and part-time student, and I know I couldn’t have made it on my own.
~ Gina, RN
My grades keep shooting through the roof. My study time has also decreased by half. I have every reason to feel this confident.
~ Clyde, RN
NURSING.Com Can Help You Succeed In Nursing School… Here’s How
Every nursing student is unique, and so are their learning styles. At NURSING.com, we understand this so well; that’s why we offer all lessons in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic form. We also provide reading and writing study tools to assist you in mastering every content just the way you enjoy or prefer to learn them.
To enable you to apply the knowledge you acquire, most of the lessons offered also include care plans, case studies, and concept maps created by practicing ED and ICU nurses. The classes also include:
- Medical images
- 3D anatomy models
Furthermore, getting started with Nursing.com is so easy; you only need to follow these steps:
- Watch videos
- Review the study tools provided
- Undertake practice questions
- Take NCLEX® simulation
At NURSING.com, we provide a supplement to nursing students to help them through nursing school. Our offerings include clear and concise videos on all topics covered in nursing school. We also provide 6,000+ practice questions, and we deliver multimodal content like cheatsheets, mnemonics, and more.
NURSING.com is one of the essential resources you need to succeed in nursing school and pass the NCLEX®. And you can find it all in one place. From lectures to study tools to practice questions, NCLEX® prep, and more, we have everything you need to pass with Nursing.com right here.