While Nursing School can present challenges for many aspiring nurses, there are tips that can help any aspiring student to be successful in nursing school. These tips are not exhaustive but cover a lot grounds, namely:
1. Organization and time management. Organization and time management are very important to nursing school. One of the biggest tips when you’re starting is to get organized and to prioritize. So it’s really important to know your due dates and to plan ahead and have those due dates mapped out so that you can decide what is your biggest priority on any given day and start with that, because you’re not going to be able to accomplish everything, you know, in a short amount of time. So you really have to plan ahead and prioritize.
So choose the thing that needs to get done on any given day. It is important to keep a calendar or a planner or something similar, whatever works for you, to use that. Some people have a month-by-month calendar and would jot down everything from the syllabus in there so that they could see the big picture and then they would try to take it one day at a time, where they knew what they could prioritize for that day and then kind of take it one day, and then look at a week, and then a month, and then all level. Simply trying not to overwhelm yourself, just taking it one day at a time and focus on the priorities.
Know how to pace myself, similar to a race, where you have to have endurance and also kind of do some little sprints in between.
2. Preparation and Review. It is important to read and prepare yourself for the lecture. Studying and preparing for tests, something like test review is basically a strategy for studying to cover the basic material, and it’s been proven to help.
Before going to lecture, you pre-read and review the lecture. Then right after the lecture, review the lecture in its entirety covering what was covered. It will be very helpful if possible, to also record the lecture so you will listen to it, and then make sure that you are staying on top of the material on a daily basis. So by the time the exam comes, you don’t feel the need to cram everything at once because you have taken little chunks of it on a daily basis and it’s worked really well for so many people, and it will work for you.
Doing a study guide is also very helpful. So taking that large lecture and large reading and condensing it down into maybe a one page, hand-written for yourself the way you understand it really works well, because you could make a connection as you are writing and having that one, kind of synthesized page of information for a larger section of information. So when it came time for the test, you would have a pile of study guides that you can review. Always make sure that you incorporate planned breaks within your studying time to avoid information overload and the possible incidence of diminishing return. So making sure that you are not getting too tired, getting up, stretching, walk around, even if it means taking your dog for a walk, anything like that to just give your brain a break is really important. Then also trying to find a buddy is often helpful. You know, every test is a little bit different. Any time you’re doing a skills type of test or studying, practicing for skills, it’s really helpful to have a buddy. And the same goes for the lecture exams as well. Conduct practice questions. So many people view and believe nursing tests are a little bit different than anything they have had or done before. So it’s really important to practice those types of questions using whatever resources that can help, like you know, the Kaplan resources, your different textbooks that you can use for different exams, so practicing questions is really helpful as well.
3. Balance. Balance is the key word in stress management. You have to find a way to not let the stress overwhelm you or take over. So whatever it is outside of nursing school that makes you happy, finding that and making time for it helps you achieve balance in terms of sanity as a student and your everyday life. So family support, your friends and acquaintances can have a role to play in this. Maybe you’re not going to have as much time as you always had before nursing school for everybody, but it’s still important to reach out to those people and have fun with them because it’s a huge stress relief and then, you know, finding time for other things that make you happy.
Moreover, whether it’s exercises, yoga, meditation, dancing, all of those things can really help to balance your life and the stress that you might have during nursing school. And also scheduling time to enjoy the program with classmates does help. Scheduled Group activities and stepping away from it all is a great stress reliever. So your choices outside of nursing school are definitely going to impact how, you know, you are in nursing school, or a any program for that matter. A healthy lifestyle is a really big part of being successful in nursing. Put simply, take care of your body, mind and soul in a lot of different ways. One being healthy diet, so it’s important to stay balanced with your diet, just like staying balanced with stress or anything else in nursing school. So it’s important to eat right, to eat healthy foods, to not, you know overdo a lot of things. Try to do everything in moderation. You know, it’s nice to have a treat every once in a while and to allow yourself that is really great. But just be aware of what else you might be doing that could be harmful to your body. With that in mind, exercise is really important, making sure that you’re taking care of your body.
In terms of healthy lifestyle, one area a lot of people seem to neglect is sleep. Sleep deprivation is not good for the mind nor is it for the body. Get enough sleep to rejuvenate. Given the tremendous of material that one has to cover, especially learn and assimilate, you have to make sure that you are getting enough sleep. If it helps, you can time yourself to find out how much of sleep you get or don’t each night. Some people tend to put off sleep, which is not healthy. Many will try to either take coffee or energy drinks in order to keep themselves from sleeping but they are forgetting one thing, it is a way for your body to tell you that you need a break. So really, sleep should be a big part of the equation especially when it comes to achieving balance, and healthy balance at that. As adults, we need anywhere between at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night in order to function at our best. It is even far more telling given that as students of nursing, you are entering a profession where you will teaching and advising others about being healthy and living healthy lifestyles. So, in a way it’s important that nursing students live up to that and take care of themselves, living and acting by example. Before you can take care of others, you need to learn to take care of yourselves. So sleep, exercise, eating are all part of the equation. It’s not the time to start trying to stay up late. You need to really listen to your bodies and take care of your bodies as well in order to perform well in the classroom and eventually as a professional in the field. You have to strive to be the best nursing student you can be and eventually the nurse to our patients.
The various schools for nursing offer many resources for students including having time to work with the learning specialists.
Take advantage of the prep program called VARK, which looks at what style of learning works best for you. Be it visual, be it reading, auditory, kinesthetic, or multi-modal; and after looking at that you will find a way that works best for you. It’s a really good resource that worked for many people. There are a lot of resources available within each program. Utilize the learning specialists for any area of help you need including, paper writing, and that whole aspect of APA and things like that as well as the medical library. That was a great resource. In many ways, it a home away from home when you need it. Get to know the library staff there. They’re very helpful as far as helping to find articles as resources especially for new students. Technology issues with logging in, getting a room just to study and having a nice place to study and having a whiteboard to use and books that you could check out to supplement your learning. So the library should be considered a great tool and should be utilized by many.
It does not hurt to, matter of fact, it is recommended, to turn to your classmates at times for help. Exchanging information amongst students can be beneficial. They should be considered a great resource. Everyone studies a little bit differently. Everyone might have a different level of expertise. So going to them for help is always really helpful. Ask your instructors. If you’re really not understanding a concept, try to ask them to explain it, you know, in a different way perhaps, and just engage your instructors and ask questions if you’re not understanding. The classroom is not the place to be timid or shy. Ask questions for clarity and reinforcement.
Take advantage of your nursing school lab. To tap into that resource, there’s open lab times, there’s extended hours. You can check with the lab staff for available times. It is a good place to practice skills and to just take advantage of the equipment that’s there. This is one area that networking with fellow students and classmates really pays off, especially with people from all kinds of different backgrounds, different ages, different walks of life, different everything. Tap into their varying skills and uniqueness to help you advance in the program. It’s also a good place to meet people. You will be exposed to different mindset as you prepare for your future in health care. There are a lot to gain seeing and working with and amongst all these people that are very passionate about taking care of people, providing amazing patient care, patient-centered care, all of these things that you have in common, and for the most part on the same page in moving forward.
As you work your way to graduation, it’s exciting to look at healthcare as a whole, the College or School of Nursing in particular and understand that you are part of the process in shaping the future of healthcare. And meeting great professors and hopefully carrying on your friendship with your classmates wherever your future takes you, and maintaining those relationships as you start your career in nursing as a nurse practitioner. These careers may be as a vocational nurse, a Licensed Practical Nurse, (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), psychiatric nurse, pediatric nurse, or a nurse practioner. The opportunities are endless.