In general, studying is an integral component for success throughout your pursuit of higher education, whether it’s at the undergraduate or graduate level. Considering nursing programs are challenging and demanding at each tier, there are specific study tips that can enhance the outcomes of your educational attainment and, in turn, job prospects.
Like most medical programs, nursing programs are very demanding because they require you to remember and apply everything you have learned in your nursing classes. Since each course builds on one another, you will constantly be expected to use your critical thinking and decision making skills throughout the duration of the program and in the field.
1. Develop Good Study Habits
If you don’t have solid study habits, then nursing school will prove to be much more difficult than it has to. Before you run the risk of multitasking or bombarding yourself with too many things at once — make a plan. This means your daily schedule should reflect projects, deadlines, exams and work or personal activities that need to be completed each day. If you don’t have a planner or calendar — it’s time to get one!
If you’re worried about the quality of your study habits, your first strategy for avoiding hardship is to make sure you attend class, unless it’s an absolute emergency. This way, you can participate in crucial discussions or learn of information that will be presented on the next exam. Considering there is so much information to absorb, you’re hurting your chances of being successful by employing an inconsistent attendance record.
While not every student finds it necessary to take notes in other programs, it is crucial to take notes as a nursing student. Rather than using short hand or jotting down notes in between the lines in your textbook, organize the way you take notes by creating a personalized format that works for you. At the very least, be sure to include headers, subheads, bullet points and other pertinent information your professor recommends having on hand.
In order to refine your learning skills, it’s a good idea to utilize different methods of studying such as creating flashcards or recording your lectures/notes. Flashcards are useful for straightforward quizzing, and can help you remember definitions for diseases/conditions, their applicable signs and symptoms, as well as diagnostic tests and interventions. Tape recording lectures is also helpful for catching all the material your professor disseminates during test review days, and if you’re an auditory learner — this method is an added bonus for you!
2. Become a Better Test Taker
Tests are a huge aspect of being a nursing student, and are something each student needs to become acquainted with early on. Therefore, becoming a better test taker is essential to properly applying the knowledge you’ve learned throughout the program. Unfortunately, many of us experience some degree of anxiety before and during the test, to the point where it mentally paralyzes them. Aside from ensuring that you are well prepared to take the exam and arrive to it on time, you need to take care of your body to reduce the likelihood of anxiety. This starts with getting enough rest, not cramming the night before an exam, and employing methods of relaxation such as deep breathing and thinking positive thoughts.
One thing that many students, regardless of age or level of education, do when taking an exam is not taking their time to read directions and questions carefully. When you rush through a test, you run the risk of misunderstanding the content or what is being asked of you. Remember that all nursing exams are about choosing the best answer, so do your best not to read too much into a question. That said, only make changes to your answers in instances where you misread the question or didn’t know the answer beforehand. Our gut instinct is usually the best way to go on exams.
Once the test is over — do yourself a favor and avoid discussing questions and answers with your classmates. This only heightens anxiety levels and reduces your confidence for future exams. Instead, make sure you go over your test with your professor if you’re not satisfied with your final grade to see what you missed. This will not only reinforce concepts that you’re not sure about, but will serve as a great studying tool for tests down the road as all nursing courses build on one another! If you’re still experiencing a consistent struggle with your exams, opt for tutoring and make sure you don’t miss any review sessions! You’re not alone in this, so make use of your resources.
3. Join a Study Group
The best thing you can do to ensure you’re retaining the information you learn in class and from the textbook, is to form a study group. While you’ll retain some information from your teacher, and even more when you go over it yourself, your chances for retention increase significantly when reviewing with others. Study groups help each participant learn from one another by providing information that others may have missed, explaining and reviewing key concepts and pertinent data, as well generating positivity, encouragement, and moral support.
In order to make sure your study group stays on track, each member should devise a study plan. This will help address the needs of each member, as well as achieving mutual goals. However, make sure the study group stays at a reasonable number to ensure everyone is getting the attention he/she needs. Make time for meeting in person and communicating virtually, as studying will always be an ongoing process. Divide work evenly and hold each other accountable for contributions. Devise practice questions and compare and contrast notes to ensure everyone is on the same page.
4. Make Sure You’re One Step Ahead
It’s also important to not make the mistake of only relying on your study group for reinforcement of information and data. Since there’s so much information to learn, be ahead of the game by preparing and reviewing the material the day before it is supposed to be covered in class. This will help you ask better questions, give you time to let the information sink in for analysis, and will refine your note-taking. Rather than trying to understand everything introduced in one sitting, preparing ahead will help you focus on what you don’t understand.
Another useful tactic is to type up your notes after class. This will help you jot down all of the information that’s still fresh in your head, as well as providing the chance to turn your notes into a study guide. It may seem like a lot of work, but this method will make studying every day easier for you in the long-run.
5. Create an Ideal Study Space
Since we’re all a product of our own environment, the space you set up to help you study will largely affect your success as a nursing student. Therefore, the space that you designate for studying should only be used for that activity. If you incorporate housework, friends, family, music, food or other noise into the picture, it’s likely you’re going to have a hard time staying focused. The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to utilize a quiet space in order to mitigate distractions and maximize the quality of your studying. Lastly, develop a studying routine to maintain throughout the week so you’re mind knows when it’s time to get down to business.
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