Nursing school can be challenging and is characterized by tough coursework to difficult exams. There’s always new material to learn, review notes, critical information to memorize, prepare for the nursing exam, and clinical skills to practice are all important components for the average nursing student.
It can be harder to balance all the studying and coursework from your nursing program and your home and work obligations outside of school. You also want excellent grades and a successful nursing career, this can be overwhelming, increase your stress level, lead to unhealthy feeding habits and lifestyles.
Breath in for a second, you are doing great already. You just need a few study tips, better time management, and some good strategies and plans.
This article will help you tackle school with an optimistic attitude and a realistic plan.
Table of Contents
How to Excel in Nursing School
- Follow the rubric
- Prioritize your Study time- A little daily
- Seek Academic Help (Study group or a tutor)
- Utilize other learning tools
- Online Learning
- Take Breaks
- Employ new ways to retain information
A successful nursing career starts from successfully completing nursing school. Not going to sugarcoat, this is a major commitment, but with a simple plan, some good study tips and the right approach to studying you will do very well. The career is very rewarding (lucrative), challenging, and exciting.
Follow the Rubric
There’s a lot of work to do, so you’ll want to be smart about your approach. The first and best way to start is to follow your instructor’s rubric carefully and your nursing exam guide. A rubric is not created by your instructor for fun—it’s for your benefit. Following the rubric is essential for getting the grades you want, and avoiding easy mistakes, can also help you organize an assignment more effectively.
An exam study guide is always given in school, this is very important as it reveals which subject areas the nursing exam focuses on and how the test presents questions. This will save you from studying not so necessary things for your particular class.
Although everything you need to know as a nurse is contained in the licensing exam, if you study towards the nursing exam using the rubric of each course, you’ll feel more confident on testing day.
Prioritize your Study time – A little daily
Slow and steady studying is the most effective way to prepare for assessments. Taking time to study is the most important part of studying. Succeeding in a nursing school takes quite a bit of studying outside of the classroom, so it is crucial to schedule your study time and prioritizing it daily.
You cannot do a week’s worth of study in a few hours on the weekend or do not feel like you need to sit and study for hours and hours at a time in a marathon-style study session. This is the least effective way to study because when you sit for hours, you end up not retaining information and engaging it in a meaningful way.
Start by spending a little on your studies every day, break your study time into manageable pieces, this will help you have stronger engagement, retain crucial information, and feel less overwhelmed.
During your study time, do away with distractions. It is important to focus (stay away from your phone or turn off the internet), know your weaknesses, and be able to confront them head-on.
Seek Academic Help (Study group or a tutor)
Nursing school can be challenging and there’s nothing wrong with seeking help. Remember you are not doing it alone. Reach out to some peers with the same academic goal and study together.
Over the years, studies have shown that students who study with peers retain approximately 90% of what they learn, unlike just 60% of what they hear in class alone and just 10% of what they read.
Also, studying with others helps provide encouragement, moral support, share study tips and improve your performance.
You can also consider seeking help and advice with a specific course from someone who succeeded in the same classes. These tutors can help you with time management, reading strategies, and class content, among other things. There’s a stigma around [seeking] tutoring and there really shouldn’t be. 80% of students who engage with tutors are often much more successful than those who do not.
Utilize other learning tools
Online resources: Augment your class resources with others. Google and research on a topic before you read a chapter. This serves as a preview in your reading. There are many health credible related websites like Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Healthline. These websites can help you to learn more and give a better presentation than your textbook or instructor. There’s nothing that says you can only learn from your text or instructor.
Youtube is a very good study tool for synthesizing and reviewing information. Research has shown that the brain assimilates visuals faster than texts, this is why supplementing with Youtube is recommended. You can even make playlists of helpful related videos, to help you review for a test or clinical experience.
Quizlets: Collaborate on Quizlet review before tests with your peers. Some online tools like Evolve, RN Mentor app provide quizzes and interactive case studies too. It doesn’t hurt to find a new learning tool while studying, you never know the difference a new tool might make in your studying.
Don’t limit yourself to the same study tools you’ve used since middle school. Talk to your classmate and try something new! Many nursing school cohorts have groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, and telegram to share study materials and tools.
Using online resources to learn may pose a bit of a challenge initially as we are familiar with physical classes but it is important to remember that future nurses are training for the workplace, where they’ll be using electronic charts and patient-monitoring technology daily.
During the pandemic, students had no choice but to familiarize themselves with online learning methods and tools. For example, eBooks allow you to highlight passages, while a search bar makes finding keywords or terms simpler than turning to the index. You can even have the eBook read out loud to you this can be handy if you’re trying to squeeze in some simple multitasking.
Academic success is the goal but don’t forget that nurses are also humans. Do not burn yourself out trying to study. If you spend all of your time studying, you are just going to get overwhelmed and probably not retain as much information as you would hope. Take regular breaks so you do not lose interest or enthusiasm. Sometimes, just a short change of scenery, listening to your favourite music or just taking a stroll can help recharge your batteries and improve retention.
Brain breaks are necessary. These small “off” periods can give you a second wind and ready you to keep chipping away at the materials you need to cover.
Do whatever works for you, balance your habits, and make sure you enjoy your breaks.
7. Employ new ways to retain information
Nursing studies require a different and higher level of memorization. You can create flashcards, sticky notes that will help you review those facts when you are doing other things.
Try taping cards listing vital sign ranges to your bathroom mirror, so you’ll see them when you’re brushing your teeth. Or sticking notes with surgery procedures on your closet door so you see it each time you are dressing up. Eventually, without even really trying, those facts will be second nature.
Also, know your studying strengths like using visuals, form acronyms, reading, writing, listening, practising, or quizzing, generally anything to make information stick.
Nursing school isn’t a stroll in the park, it is challenging for almost everyone. These exams are intended to test your knowledge of course material and your ability to apply this information in a patient scenario.
These tips above were gathered from various nursing students and successful nurses. They are proven to be your best bet to achieve a healthy balance between school and your life outside school. Use them to your advantage and achieve your dreams of helping humanity.