- Take your own notes
If your nursing school allows you to bring a computer to class bring it every single class and take your own notes. You can also pull up PowerPoints or Note Templates your professor created and type in your own comments—but I really recommend creating your own new notes typing out the explanations of concepts in your own words. Don’t forget to Bold or Underline concepts that your professor really stresses. If you are being tested on terms or medications, my biggest piece of advice is to create flashcards. They are practically fool proof.
- Have a social life
You’re going to hear that you need to study all of the time. That’s right, you do. Nursing school is tough. BUT! You absolutely have to make time for a social life. It is essential to your success to take breaks, have fun, and have something to look forward to. If you create a weekly schedule (even in your mind) block out time to be with your friends, significant others, and family before you block out time to study to ensure it is in there. Make it happen!
- Study with people who want to actually study
I used to plan a time to study with my two best friends from class every week. We would get a cute little coffee and then sit down to study. We never studied. We would talk about anything other than class unless a really important test was coming up. Study with people who really want to study, create your own study guides, and once you feel confident with a concept TEACH IT to your study partner.
- Change the way you think about the work you are doing
You will do some busy work. You will do some work that takes you hours and only counts for 5 points. You will do some work that you won’t use during nursing school. It is up to you to decide your attitude toward this work. I used to change my thinking from complaining to saying, “I really want to be a competent nurse. I want to know everything possible about nursing so that I can respect my patients and their families by being the best I can be. I want to know more so I can be a safe nurse.” You are in school to become a nurse, all of the work you do is important.
- Connect with your professors on all levels possible
It is so important to have an actual relationship with your professors. Start off the very first day by walking up to them or emailing them and introducing yourself. Address them by their professional title; if your professor has a Doctorate degree call them Doctor. Ask them questions, be proactive in class, and go to them immediately if you are struggling with something conceptually.
- Don’t waste time and/or opportunity in labs or clinical
If you have a skills lab to practice in practice as often as you possibly can. Practice your skills until the very last minute of class doing them over and over again. Do not get to clinical and have to turn down performing a skill because you haven’t ever done it before or you don’t remember how to. Better yet, do not ever turn down an opportunity in clinical whatsoever unless you feel unsafe. Clinical is your time to make a mistake and have someone who expertly knows how to do the skill correct and teach you about it. Clinical is not your time to watch, it is your time to do. Also, connect with the managers at clinicals. There is always a job waiting at the end of school for those who make lasting positive impressions!
- Use outside resources to fill knowledge gaps
Of course use your textbook and class notes to study. However, if you don’t understand a concept, YouTube a video that explains that concept in simpler terms. There is a video for everything. YouTube taught me the different insulins in a way that I won’t ever forget. If I couldn’t understand it completely to where I could teach it, YouTube could always explain it for me. Sometimes you just need the explanation in a different way for your mind to grasp it. Google images helped me understand cardiac catheterization and the heart itself by drawing it out for me. You have the world at your fingertips online, don’t struggle for no reason.
- Use a Review Service to pass the NCLEX
Before you sit for NCLEX use a Review Service. I, personally, took the Hurst Review because my school had contacted them. This was the best thing I ever did for myself when it came to passing NCLEX. The Hurst Review will teach you the must-know information for the NCLEX in a lovely condensed booklet that is much easier to understand than 4 years of class notes and textbooks. I passed NCLEX in 75 questions on the first try because of Hurst. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to magically figure out what to study. Let the professionals help you and guide your learning to actually prepare you correctly.