It might be a slow process, but little by little, we’re getting rid of that “just a nurse” mentality. People are beginning to realize what a massive accomplishment it is to graduate from nursing school and to appreciate what nurses do every day.
Of course, when you’re in the middle of nursing school, it doesn’t help to hear about how hard it is. You need to hear how to get through it so you can start your career. That’s why our experts are here to help with some tips about how to pass nursing school.
How to Pass Nursing School: Tips for Success and Survival
Nursing school is a whole different world than high school. If you need some help with your academics, try these tips.
1. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
One of the most common problems for students in any major is cramming at the last minute. Between your stress and a time crunch, chances are that you won’t absorb the information you need that way. Even if you remember it for the test, it’ll disappear soon afterward and your day of pain will go to waste.
Instead, plan ahead and study in smaller increments. If you have a test in four days that covers four chapters, focus on one chapter each day. The same goes for assignments and papers. Break it up into smaller steps and have a to-do list for each day.
Try making a schedule for each day. Plan specific time windows for class, studying, and certain assignments. Don’t forget to schedule relaxation time so you avoid burning out.
2. Prioritize Class Material Over Assigned Reading
You can’t study every piece of material line by line for every test. There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Look at how the professor allots class time. If they spent 20 minutes on one chapter and two full lectures on the next chapter, chances are that your test will focus more on that second chapter.
3. Reread Your Notes After Each Day
After each day of classes, take a few minutes to read over the notes you took that day. This serves a few purposes.
First, the repetition will help you remember information so you’ll spend less time studying later. Second, it’ll hep you catch information you forgot to write down or notice when there’s a concept you don’t understand. This lets you jot down additional notes or ask the professor questions while a topic is fresh in your mind.
Keep in mind, however, that every professor is different. Some give equal testing time to the assigned reading as they give to class material. Treat each semester as a learning process and find out how each professor tests.
4. Experiment With Studying Methods
There’s no solitary studying method that works for everyone. Each person’s brain learns information in different ways, so different study methods work for you compared to your classmates.
Try taking a learning styles quiz to find out which methods may work best for you. From there, experiment with various options: flash cards, reading out loud, drawing flow charts, etc. The earlier you find out what studying methods work for you, the easier the rest of nursing school will be.
5. Don’t Just Learn From the Professors, Learn About Them
Every professor has different teaching and testing techniques. If you struggle with a certain professor’s class, trying paying attention to their tests. Look for patterns regarding what type of information they emphasize and what types of questions they ask.
In the same way, take a look at the testing format each professor uses. For a professor who prefers five pages of multiple choice questions, focus on terminology topics they could ask quick questions about. For a professor who prefers a few essay questions, focus on learning concept in a deep way you could discuss rather than rote memorization.
If you know someone else who had the same professor, you can ask them for insights as well. Steer clear of using their old assignments and tests, of course.
6. Shape Your Study Environment Like Your Testing Environment
As your brain learns the information you’re studying, it’s also taking in information about your environment. Each piece of information can serve as a trigger to help you recall the information you’ve studied.
Look for little ways to make your studying environment similar to your testing environment. For instance, suck on a mint while you study a certain subject and then suck on the same type of mint during the test. Drink from the same water bottle in both situations, or use the same pen.
7. Get An Overview Before You Read
Sometimes nursing textbooks go into such technical terminology that you miss the overview or the simpler points of a topic.
Try going to a source like WebMD and reading an overview before you start studying a subject. These sites have broad, easy to understand explanations that will give you a background for the in-depth information in your textbook.
8. Use Classmates to Fill In the Blanks
Study groups can be a great way to prepare for a test as long as you can all stay on subject. Try getting together doing a group “data dump” about each topic. Other classmates may have taken notes you missed, so you can study from a more complete set of information.
9. Skim Before You Read
Saying that you’ll read massive amounts of information in nursing school is an understatement. There aren’t enough hours in the day to pore over every word and memorize each page.
Before you start reading a chapter, skim it. Look at the headers and subheadings to get an idea of the major points you learn. This helps you stay focused and know what key information to note.
10. Use Your Professors As a Resource
Too many nursing students overlook their key resource: their professor. It’s the professor’s job to teach you, so if you don’t understand the class material, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
At the beginning of each semester, note every professor’s office hours and contact information. Keep it somewhere you can find it when you need it.
11. Handle Anxiety Before You Study
If you’re stressing about a test, the anxiety will make it even harder for you to study well. You’ll have better luck if you take a few minutes to relax and deal with your anxiety before you study.
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, and you can do it in as little as five minutes or less. This is one of many relaxation and stress reduction techniques you can try.
12. Find Out if You’re a Notes Person or a Highlighting Person
You may have already figured out that reading alone won’t help you remember information. As you read your textbooks, taking notes or highlighting are key.
For some people, taking notes works better because they don’t pay close attention to the words they’re highlighting. For others, highlighting works well and they don’t need to put in the extra time of taking notes. Experiment to see which method helps you retain information better.
13. Make Use of Little Moments
One of the biggest keys to remembering information is repetition. Simply reading over your notes many times can be a powerful studying method.
While you’re in nursing school, free time is at a minimum. However, if you incorporate repetitions into small areas of free time throughout the day, you can cut down on your studying time before a test.
Try reading over notes while you brush your teeth. Read through them while you wait for your lunch to cook in the microwave. It won’t feel like you’re taking more time out of each day, but you’ll remember more off the bat when studying time rolls around.
14. Rely On Others for Emotional Support
Getting through nursing school isn’t just about the academics. It’s a stressful and emotional journey as well.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t in it alone. Millions of people in the US have gone through what you’re struggling with, and they can identify. There are plenty of nursing school and funny nurse memes to prove it.
Look for little sources of joy and rely on your family, friends, and nurses for support.
15. Learn By Becoming a Teacher
For most people, the best way to learn a skill is to do it. While that doesn’t work with theoretical knowledge, you can apply the strategy in a different way.
Before a test, try explaining a topic or a procedure to someone who doesn’t know about it. You don’t need a fellow nursing student to help you. This allows you to work through troublesome pieces of information. It can also alert you to holes in your knowledge and help you find out what you need to study further.
Surviving Nursing School
If your struggling with how to pass nursing school, keep your eyes on the prize. Think about the rewarding career you have ahead of you and use that as motivation. Few people enjoy studying, but it’s a key toward decades of fulfilling work.
For more ways to survive nursing school and other academic pursuits, check out our education blog.