*Original post released 1/17/2023
Nearly everything about nursing school is hard, but there are some things that stand out as more difficult than the others. For example, it could be the fast pace of materials presented, juggling the different sections of lecture/clinical/lab, NCLEX-styled nursing exams, memorizing textbooks worth of facts, etc. I could go on and on listing different aspects of nursing school that are hard for students. For me personally, the hardest thing about nursing school was managing the overwhelming amount of information and content expected of us to learn from the multiple classes each semester. In no other pre-requisites during college had I ever had to take multiple sections of each class (lecture, lab, and clinicals), the material seemingly different in each section yet complementing and compounding upon each other. If you missed a major concept early on, it could have…and likely would have lasting effects well into the semester, other sections, and possibly later semesters as well. To me, it felt as if the weight of my entire nursing career rested on whether or not I could grasp the material and build upon it effectively.
So you’re probably wondering how on earth I managed to handle this area of nursing school that I struggled with most… I’m going to outline a few of the tactics and techniques I used to downplay the mountainous obstacle of content in my way. Hopefully you’ll be able to adapt some of these tips to your approach to nursing school as well. I’ll make sure to link other helpful articles to get you the most support and advice possible. Without further ado, let’s get started!
One of the most important interventions you can do for yourself in nursing school to stay on top of the content is to AVOID procrastination! This means looking over and studying material a little each day, for each class, to build upon the material. This also means DON’T cram for quizzes, exams, sim lab test offs, and/or clinicals. In the end, your likelihood for retaining the material is next to nothing and you won’t be effectively building on the materials you’re learning. Yes, there is a certain extent of memorization involved with nursing school, but in order to think critically, you need to be able to apply those concepts you’ve memorized and decide how they impact the care you’re providing…whether hypothetically in an exam question or in real life at clinicals.
While studying, you can take multiple different approaches to spice it up, enhance your learning, and play to your strengths. One of the first things you need to know in regards to studying is how you learn best. Evaluate your learning style and decide if you’re more of a visual, audio, or tactile learner. Once you know this, you can begin to incorporate those learning styles into your study sessions to help the material “stick” better in your mind. Maybe this means drawing concept maps, making flow charts, drawing diagrams, watching review videos on YouTube, reading your notes again, re-writing your notes, recording a lecture and listening to it over again, etc.
Another piece of advice to consider is getting involved with a study group. Find a small group of students, who you trust and can rely on, and consider divvying up the content to make the workload easier to bear for the lot of you. Utilize the exam study guide provided to you or create one of your own and divide up the concepts. If you’re interested in how to approach this, check out this article here. There are ways to make your own guides and increase your chances of success! One of the most effective ways to be successful in retaining and applying the material you’re learning is to teach each other the concepts. When you teach another person, you find out exactly which parts in the content you don’t know as well which helps you determine where to focus your study efforts.
Set aside dedicated study time in your schedule for the nursing program’s classes. Make sure to also schedule down time for yourself too! While studying, consider rotating study subjects every 1-2 hours or when you find that you’re tiring from the content/class. Also try switching up your study method…if you’ve been reading text materials, switch to watching a review video on YouTube or quizzing yourself with ATI questions or book questions. Avoid distractions whenever possible; set aside your phone and other devices, choose a location that enhances your study time, and consider utilizing a focus driven app to set a timer for 25 minutes of focus and 5 minutes of break time. If it helps you, make flashcards or quiz yourself with provided review questions or those at the end of assigned readings.
Those are all things I did to help myself handle the sheer overwhelming amount of content thrown at me during my time in nursing school. Of course, there were also many more things I did as well. I want to link a few articles here to help direct you to different topics that may help you with handling the content:
- Note-taking in nursing school
- Approaching NCLEX style exam questions
- Managing anxiety in nursing school
- Nursing school hacks
- How to be more productive
- The best apps for students and nurses
- Clinical Dos and Don’ts
- Pathophysiology Tips
- How to excel in Mental Health lecture
- Balancing life during nursing school
- Managing Med Surg lecture
- Performing focused assessments
- Staying organized in nursing school
- Tips for acing pharmacology
- Getting the most out of nursing school
Until next time, happy studying!