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Nursing School Hacks!

*Original post released on 3/25/2021

Nursing school is its own beast! I am a firm believer in the fact that there is not enough of a supportive environment and exchange between nursing school graduates and current/incoming students. Nurses need to empower and uplift each other to become better professionals, because no other healthcare professionals will be as supportive as we can be for each other. With that being said, I want to take some time to divulge some of the most useful information I learned throughout my time in nursing school. These are things that will hopefully help you approach your program more productively, efficiently, and successfully.

When you finally get that notice of acceptance into your nursing program, please trust me when I say let the competition END at admission into your program. Each of the students accepted into your cohort has earned their placement in the program, and now is the time to give each other the encouragement and support you will need throughout the next two years. I suggest making a class/cohort Facebook group or other social media page. This allows you all to keep in touch, share memes, de-stress, ask questions, and release other helpful information and/or announcements pertinent to your success in the program. It can be a life saver! For example, let’s say you’re sick and had to miss class. You ask if someone has a recording of the lecture or typed notes…be willing to do this for each other! Nursing is a team sport; the sooner we come to realize this, the better it will be for our patients, our profession, and the healthcare team in general.

In regards to studying, there are a few tips I can offer as well. Form a study group as early on as possible. When choosing members of your study group, don’t rely solely on pre-established friendships as this may not be the most productive use of your studying time. Consider the following attributes of a study group member: motivation, intelligence, positivity, reliability, trustworthiness, will challenge you daily, and won’t add unnecessary stress to your life. Scope out spaces on campus or in town that are the most conductive to your learning and capable of augmenting your learning whenever possible. Example? Small conference rooms in the library setting with HDMI access for your computer so you can use digital flashcards (Quizlet) for the entire group to view and discuss.

Another tip that worked really well for my study group in school was making our own study guides…when one was not afforded to us, of course. If we were lucky enough to be given a study guide, we’d section off the different objectives onto a Google Doc and assign one section to each group member. A date for completion was given, usually 4-5 days prior to the exam whenever possible. If a guide was not given to us, we’d take the objectives from our assigned readings and compile them into a Google Doc ourselves. It’s important to assign a leader for each exam to compile the guides, with this duty rotating for each subsequent exam. I would always list everyone’s names at the top, assign them a specific highlighted color, and then highlight each question as I went through the list of names. This is an important concept as well because it ensures everyone has to answer questions from each section and isn’t learning only one chapter or concept for the exam.

During lecture, make sure you always ask questions and seek clarification when you need it. If you’re uncomfortable doing so during the lecture, seek guidance during your professor’s office hours! They love that, and it can be an even more personalized session to help you better. You won’t know what to ask or seek clarification about if you don’t go to class, however. You are paying for these classes, so you may as well attend them! Otherwise, it’s a waste of your money… If your program has one, utilize the skills lab or simulation lab as much as possible. If you have “open lab” times, sign up and make time for the slots you sign up for! Focus heavily on grasping pathophysiology and pharmacology information because it is the foundation for so much of what we learn in nursing school. It is required and applied in nearly everything we do as nurses.

When studying and completing assignments, complete the less desirable/harder/most important tasks first. The longer you work or study, the less likely you’ll be to address those types of assignments with the intensity and focus they may require. Limit distractions during this time as much as possible. To study nursing material best, turn the lecture notes or your book notes into questions and anticipate potential exam questions/answers. Flashcards are a great tool for this type of learning, but remember that you are studying to learn and to be able to teach and treat your patients in the future, not to memorize. Memorization serves little purpose in your career when it comes to critical thinking. However, flashcards can be used to help you grasp black and white facts upon which to build your knowledge upon.

Incorporate your learning style while studying to help you cement the information you’re trying to understand. If you’re a visual learner, draw diagrams or watch YouTube videos on various pertinent topics. If you’re an audio-based learner, listen to YouTube videos, recorded lectures, podcasts, etc. If you’re a tactile learner, utilize the sim-lab and re-write your notes. Use any and all possible “dead time” that would otherwise be spent doing monotonous and/or unimportant tasks such as commuting to and from school, walking, working out, walking to classes across campus, etc. This lets you maximize these “dead times” and truly enjoy your down time guilt-free.

Consider the 25+5 study method. This means that for 25 minutes, you study or work on an assignment without any distraction. After the 25 minutes, you get 5 minutes to rest, relax, recharge, and look at your phone, etc. Repeat if needed and change subjects if you find you’re struggling to concentrate. Utilize any and all available practice exam questions and simulations you can get your hands on. This means completing the end of the chapter questions in your books, doing only questions, using supplemental books, phone applications, and answering in-class questions. This will not only help prepare you for the NCLEX upon graduation, but it will also help you with your nursing school exams. Many programs utilize an NCLEX-based question style to help better prepare you for the licensure exam.

On your exams, approach each question as if the answer choices were true/false statements. After reading each question carefully, take the answer options one at a time and eliminate anything you can prove to be false. Even if you are only able to eliminate two answer choices, you’ve still increased your likelihood of getting the correct answer by 50%! That’s time worth taking on an exam.

I hope these have helped give you all some insight into how to better approach the demands of nursing school. Stay tuned next week for an article about different hacks for nursing skills, not just for school in general. Until then, happy studying!



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