5 Tips to Help You Survive Nursing School

If you’ve made the decision to go to nursing school – congratulations! Healthcare needs qualified and dedicated providers, and nursing is an excellent profession. Nursing school can seem daunting both at the beginning and all throughout. Ask any nurse and they’ll tell you that nursing school held some of the most challenging times of their lives. But instead of telling you how challenging and time-consuming it can be, we’ve rounded up a few great tips to get you off on the right foot. Ready? Here we go!

Ask Questions & Sit Up Front

One of the best things you can do for nursing school success is getting in the right mindset from the very beginning. Break free of habits like trying to be invisible in class or sitting in the back of the room. Instead, on your very first day of classes, head to the front of the room and find a seat. Don’t be afraid –you’re preparing yourself to pay attention and not get distracted. It’s even a good idea to show up a couple minutes early. Also, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions when (not if) you need clarification or are not quite understanding something. Asking your professor right away while help to immediately understand concepts better, and there is always someone else in the room who has the same question.

Get Organized

As soon as you know what classes you will be taking and what books and materials you’ll need, it’s time to find an organizational system that works for you and put it into practice. A favorite of mine is color-coding. Assign each course a specific color. Then, buy all your notebooks, folders, and binders for each class in that specific color. If you can’t find the colors you want, use tape, markers, or paper to identify them. If you can easily access your materials and keep them together, that’s half the battle of studying!

Another good organizational tool is using a planner or calendar. You can use a paper one or a digital version on your phone or computer, but whatever you decide to use, make sure to use it consistently. Update it each day with assignments, readings, projects, exams, and reminders. Fill out the information for each day so you know the night before what your day will look like and you don’t run into any surprises. Don’t forget to schedule time for self-care and relaxing – those are important too!

Don’t Wait to Ask for Help

If you find yourself struggling with a certain concept, don’t wait until test time to get it figured out. Instead, you should reach out to classmates or your professor for assistance. This is especially important as time goes on because in nursing school classes generally work off of the previous classes’ information. That means if you don’t understand a major concept in a course, whether you pass it or not, you should get help before moving on to the next course or you’ll find yourself falling further behind.

Figure Out How You Study Best

Nursing school is very demanding of time and brainpower. If you don’t know how you best study, now is the time to figure it out. Nursing students often find that the way they studied or worked in previous courses doesn’t work as well in nursing school. By determining how you best learn and study early on, you’ll save yourself time and frustration down the road.

Take Care of Yourself

Because nursing school is so demanding it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. Your priorities might change to favor doing well in school, but don’t forget that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to succeed in the long run.

Your physical health is of utmost importance, you cannot learn well if you don’t feel well. It may seem difficult to make time for yourself, and you might feel like these things are unnecessary, but they will help you in the long run. Make sure you are eating healthy, and stay hydrated with water. Try to avoid energy drinks and soda, even on your most tired days. If you need a caffeine boost, opt for green tea or black coffee, but leave out the sugar. You should also be getting 30 minutes of exercise each day. Squeeze that in, even if it means just taking a brisk walk and breaking it up into two 15-minute sessions.

Don’t neglect your mental health during this time, either. Make sure you have a good support system in family and friends and don’t hesitate to talk with a therapist if you need to. There’s no shame in keeping yourself healthy.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads Ph.D, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.