Beginning nursing school is a dream come true for many young people every year. It’s exciting to get on the path that will lead to your ultimate career goal of becoming a nurse. However, getting through nursing school is a challenging endeavor, and unless you are prepared and know more or less what to expect, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all the new things you need to learn.
Having made it through nursing school unscathed myself, I’m pretty familiar with how it all goes down, and I’ve prepared a few great tips to help all nursing students study, learn, and pass those exams.
- Stay on Track
It can be tempting to look through the syllabus and see what each course will entail. You might think you are doing yourself a favor by getting a head start on what you’ll need to know for the final exam.
Resist this temptation! I’m not saying you shouldn’t look ahead in your syllabus. By all means, have a look and see what your class will include. It’s even a good idea to mark down due dates for assignments and projects in your phone or calendar so you don’t forget them. But don’t try to learn everything you see just yet. This will only overwhelm you.
Remember that knowledge is scaffolded; this means that you learn the basics and then learn more and more as you go. If you try to learn everything now, you’ll quickly find that you don’t have the basic knowledge to self-teach difficult concepts.
Instead, focus on today. What is your assignment for today? What do you need to know today? Stay on track with the scheduling of concepts that your instructors have set out. Don’t fall behind, and don’t jump ahead. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed or anxious.
- Chunk it Up
One of the biggest drains on nursing students is the sheer amount of reading that needs to be done. You might have a hundred pages to read in a week. Sounds impossible, right? Not if you divide the reading into reasonable chunks. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first way is to simply divide by pages. If you have a hundred pages to read in 5 days, you’ll have to read 20 pages per day. It’s still a lot for a textbook, but it’s not impossible, and it’s certainly much easier than one hundred pages in a day. Another option is to divide the reading into sections based on concepts. Most chapters will be divided into headings and subheadings. If this is the case for your reading, take a few moments to divide out the chapters into chunks that make sense. Mark them with Post-it flags so you know where to start and stop.
- Get Organized
This is probably one of the best ways to pass your classes and exams. Getting organized from the get-go will set you up for success almost immediately. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
- Get a calendar. Whether it’s a digital app on your phone or an old-fashioned paper calendar with puppies, you need a calendar. Having someplace to note down the due dates of assignments, projects, and exams will ensure that you are never surprised by deadlines.
- Color-code. Color coding your courses can be incredibly helpful to get your mind in the right place for when you sit down and study. It will also help make sure you have everything you need when you get to class. For each course, assign a color. Then, get a folder, a spiral notebook, and a book cover for your textbook in the same color. You’ll quickly get used to bringing your purple and red things on Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, and your blue and green things on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Making your materials easy to find means you’ll spend less time looking for them and more time looking at
- Plan the night before. Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to look over your next day and plan what you need to do. Include everything from going to class to doing homework to going grocery shopping. Including things from school and personal life will help you make sure you stay balanced and keep you from neglecting certain areas of your life.
- Take Care of Yourself
Mental health, as we are seeing more and more lately, is a crucial part of who we are and neglecting it means that we are doing ourselves a disservice. Make sure to take time to yourself: make sure you are getting enough sleep each night, take some time each day for a hobby, and spend time with friends. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with school, so do what you can to protect yourself.
On a similar note, anxiety is almost contagious. Don’t let others drag you down into their anxiety. Choose your study partners carefully and don’t give in to pressure to ditch class or miss a study session. Your anxiety will only increase if you feel unprepared.
- Do it Every Day
If there’s one thing I hope you learn, it is this: Cramming doesn’t work! If you made it through high school by all-night study sessions in order to pass the test the next day, you’ll have noticed one of two things. First, it doesn’t usually work. If you leave it to the last minute to learn concepts, you simply won’t understand them well enough to pass the test. Second, even if you do remember everything for the test, do you remember them now? If the answer is no, you should understand now that this is not a great study method for nursing school. As a nurse, you will be expected to have a lot of knowledge and understanding of the human body. If you cram for tests and forget everything, your grades will not be an accurate reflection of what you know, which won’t be much. Do you really want to become a nurse who doesn’t actually know anything?
Instead, study a little every day. Build your knowledge, review often, and read as much as you can. Doing this will make sure that the knowledge you want actually stays in your head for the exam and beyond.