After all your applications are in, financial aid is secured, and your start date is scheduled, you’re probably wondering what to do next. It’s no secret that nursing school is one of the most challenging things you’ll do. And while stress is a natural reaction to taking on a new challenge, you can set yourself up for success by arming yourself with a few key tools.
While nursing school is hard, as millions of working nurses can testify to, it is manageable, especially when you prepare ahead of time. Read on for our top seven tips to help you not only survive, but thrive in nursing school.
For any student, but nursing students in particular, having a designated study space is essential to establishing an effective study routine. An at-home study space can help you find focus, avoid distractions, and can even help you retain information. Numerous studies have linked the context in which one studies with their ability to recall information.
Whether it’s noise control, finding the right lighting, or the perfect chair that helps you stay alert while reading, establishing a study space is a great first step in setting yourself up for success at the start of your academic journey.
Related Resource: 10 Best Study Space Tips
Nearly every nursing student gets overwhelmed at some point during their school experience. Often the feeling of being overwhelmed is a result of feeling out of control with the amount of work, responsibility, and time dedication ahead of you. One way you can get anxiety under control is to get organized.
Having a day planner or calendar app to keep track of important dates for assignments, tests, and projects is a simple but effective way to manage your time. You can block out certain days or certain hours of the day to dedicate to your studies and marking those dates in a calendar is not only a good reminder to do it, but a simple way to feel a little more in control of your time. Make a list of “must do” items and “like to do” items. This will help you prioritize your studies and tasks as well as what’s going on in your personal life. Next, tackle things on your “must do” list one at a time until everything is checked off.
Organizing your study space is another important step to making the time you do dedicate to studying as efficient as possible. Reduce distractions from TVs, radios, and other media that might keep you from focusing on your homework. Get good lighting and comfortable seating that supports extended hours of study without making you feel too comfortable that you fall asleep.
Related Resource: How to Deal With Nursing School Stress
Take care of yourself. This is a topic we talk about a lot, but it’s because it is essential to avoiding burnout and keeping you on top of your game as a student. Self care can look like a lot of things. But one place we recommend starting with is your physical health. Get plenty of sleep, eat wholesome foods, and exercise when you can fit it in. The wellness of your psyche is partly dependent on the wellness of your body, so take time during your busy schedule to maintain your health, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
Take breaks. Studying and reading will become a large part of your daily routine as a nursing student. But it’s important to take a break from the books and get fresh air to reset and reinvigorate your mind. Whether it’s a hot shower, a short jog, or getting coffee with a friend, using breaks as an incentive can help you push through when studying gets tough.
In nursing school, there will be days, right off the bat, when the amount of reading you have will resemble Mt. Everest. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel swallowed in books, pages, and notes, but there’s always a way out, even if it means climbing higher than you thought possible. Avoid letting your reading pile up, you’ll learn better and you won’t get left behind in class. Establish a reading schedule early on and try your best to stick to it.
Repetition is key to internalizing information – trying to binge it all at once can make it challenging to retain information and can often work against you. Break out the challenging parts into snackable bites. Read it, think about it, try to articulate it in your own words, then continue on.
Read assigned chapters in preparation for your next class lecture. Ameritech uses a “flipped classroom” model which encourages students to first familiarize themselves with the material then come to class prepared to discuss. This practice not only exposes you to the material multiple times, but also in different formats so you have the ability to read about it, discuss it, then get quizzed on it, which contributes to better retention.
It goes without saying that nursing school is rigorous. The amount of information you will learn and retain throughout your time here is enormous. But success does not always equal perfect grades. Nursing students who focus on comprehension of content versus stressing out over memorizing just enough to pass the test and get the grades are more resilient and often more prepared for the NCLEX post graduation.
Rather than obsess over each grade, focus on comprehension, learning the material, and developing your critical thinking skills. The stats and lab values are important, but sometimes you can’t build the technical knowledge until you understand how to think like a nurse. Developing that skill can be different from getting the highest score possible.
The most important thing to remember is to focus on learning the material. Some people can read all the information but not retain any of it. Everyone has a different learning style, if you find yourself struggling to internalize the course material, talk to your professors or reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning for more study tips.
Related resource: 10 Proven Study Tips to Retain Information
Getting involved in a study group early on can dramatically enhance your academic experience as you move through the program. Study groups can help fill in your gaps of knowledge, help you retain more information, and help motivate you to study in the first place.
Not only does a study group help you learn information, but taking part in group study with your cohort early on can give you a foundation of support as you all move through the program together. Establishing relationships, routines, and good habits early will help you stay on track as the program becomes more challenging.
Related Resource: Common NCLEX Test Questions
There are a few tactics to successfully finding balance between work, school, and life. The first is learning how to say “no.” This one is difficult, but necessary. Your first semester in nursing school might be a bit of a transition. You’re an adult, so you’ve developed habits and routines for managing time and balancing life and work, but the addition of nursing school will throw a wrench in your system. Intellectually, you might know you’ll have less time to see friends and family, but you need to prepare yourself to say no whenever those “must do” items loom. Don’t feel bad when you set boundaries for your time. It’s a precious commodity for nursing students and you’ll benefit from it in the long run.
The second tactic is giving up on the notion of being a perfectionist. Finding the right balance between enjoying your lifestyle and succeeding at nursing school is challenging, and you won’t always be perfect at it. Some of the greatest learning experience will come from you not being right. But being able to find the resilience needed to keep going is what makes nurses the amazing caretakers that they are.
Ready to take the plunge and start your path to a fulfilling career in nursing? Check out our College of Nursing page for more information on our program offerings. If you’re ready to get in touch, please fill out our request form for more information.