10 Best Study Tips and Tools for Nursing School Success
By Chaunie Brusie
During my senior year of nursing school, life suddenly got a little busy for me. And by a “little busy” I mean I found out I was pregnant, I started planning a wedding with a deadline of three months, and I was still working night shift as a nurse tech.
Honestly, I don’t know how I survived that time in my life, although I do hazily recall a lot of puking and a lot of ice cream consumed. One thing that I remember clearly, however, is that I didn’t have the energy or time to focus on studying as I had during my early days of nursing school. Heck, I barely could make it through class without having to run out and throw up in the nearest trash can, so you had better believe I didn’t have time to take pages and pages of notes. If you’re anything like me and looking for a little help studying (probably minus the pregnancy part), I’ve rounded up some of the best study and nursing school survival tips that won’t leave your hand cramping from taking notes.
1. Take a break when you need a break
If you’re feeling like you need a break from studying, don’t fall trap to the thinking that you need to power through and keep cramming. You might think more = better, but studies have shown that taking a break can actually make you more productive.
2. Know your own learning style
Many students may make it to the college-level without even knowing what their unique learning style is. Some people learn best by reading, some by writing out notes, others by listening, and still others by seeing or doing. The important thing is that you realize that no way is the “right” way, but there is a right way that will work for you, so experiment to find out what works best for you.
Instagrammer Maddie K. explained in a post that for her, being a visual learner means that she learns best through videos and pictures instead of just reading. So, for her, watching YouTube videos about the topics she will be tested on has been a life-saver. No, really, she said it herself: “YouTube videos have literally saved my life (heading in a different way can really help),” she wrote.
3. Reward yourself
A year out of school, 26-year-old labor and delivery nurse Danielle Smith’s biggest tip is to set rewards for studying. For example, she suggests that if you want to watch the new episode of “This is Us”, you should tell yourself you must first finish your flash cards for a chapter or complete at least 25 practice questions, etc.
“Other rewards could be a date/night out, or even a treat like your favorite candy bar, but not unless you accomplish something for school first,” Smith says. “This worked wonders for me!”
4. Avoid cramming
My biggest tip is to make sure you give yourself enough time to study all the content before your test!” advises second-year nursing student Kaylee Fenslau, 20. “Cramming is never good. I normally like to start studying a week before my class and I always do a little bit every day no matter what. I also use a planner, so I know exactly when my assignments and tests are due! Another tip I have is to do a lot of practice questions. That’s helped me immensely in knowing how to answer NCLEX questions—always make time for yourself so you don’t overload yourself with the stress of the assignments and studying!”
5. Schedule that study time
Second-year nursing student Kelly Carson, 25, says that time management and prioritizing are everything. And the real key? Scheduling out a time to study—don’t just leave it until you feel like it.
“The assignments are never ending so make sure you have a place whether it’s on the computer or an old fashion planner to write down your assignments for the entire semester,” she notes. “Also, getting a head start at the beginning of the semester has helped me to not get behind on readings and assignments!”
6. Diffuse oils to help increase concentration
If you need a little pick-me-up before studying, try some essential oils. Lavender, rosemary, and peppermint oils have all been studied and have been shown to increase concentration and retention. Try diffusing the oils or dabbing a little on your wrists before sitting down to a study sesh.
7. Try the 45-15 study strategy
If you’re having trouble focusing on your study sessions, try mixing things up with the 45-15 study strategy. The strategy is simple: set a timer for 45 minutes, then take a break for the next 15. The key is really, really focusing during those 45 minutes (no social media, folks!) and then really, really taking a break. Get up, get moving, talk a walk, and then get back to it. The strategy is a good way to prep and take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of concentration in your brain.
8. Don’t study solo
RN Ashley Cloutier, 31, knows that just like nurses out in the field depend on their coworkers to survive, so too do nursing students. “You develop an odd little family with your peers because you are together more than anyone else,” she explains. “Find a few people who you mesh well with, this is what got me through nursing school. Support each other, encourage, and hold each other accountable.
We used each other to study, quiz, vent, give a different perspective and discuss how nursing school was affecting our families, therefore us as well. People who have never experienced nursing school cannot relate to what you’re going through. The stress, demands, assignments, working for free, being away from your family, and when you are home, doing nothing but read or study. These guys will know exactly how you feel because they are going through it, too. Nursing school is one of the hardest things I’ve accomplished. I couldn’t have done it without my nursing crew.”
9. Create a study ritual
Pay attention to how you feel when you sit down to study—are you dreading it before you even begin? Groaning internally? Exhausted just thinking about it? It may be time to reevaluate your study environment. There is no reason to make study time something you absolutely hate; instead, try to set up little rituals for yourself before and while you study to make it more enjoyable. Try setting up a special corner, lighting a candle or even stashing your favorite snacks nearby for a little treat. And on the flip side, if you’re a creature of habit while studying, you could also try mixing up your environment. Get out of your house or apartment and visit a new coffee shop or deli to get some new sights and sounds while you study.
10. Prep before class
Chances are, your typical study style might look something like this: go to class, take notes, review the material, study, take test, right? Well, Shelby B., a second-year nursing student who runs the account @coffeeandcareplans has a different strategy that I think is genius. In an Instagram post on her page, she explains how she actually reviews the course material before class so she knows exactly what to listen for during the lecture and is even more prepared to get clarity on the concepts she needs more help with.
Do you have any favorite tips and tricks for studying nursing school? Share them with us and help out your fellow nursing students!