Help! I've fallen behind in reading and I can't get up

by ArrowRN 4,365 Views | 16 Comments

This article covers the biggest cliche question of all time: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Well in the case of a nursing student, to read first or not to read and just do questions first? That has always been the question when one delves into the best ways to study. Either way you better know your stuff or else…

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    Help! I've fallen behind in reading and I can't get up

    Ok so it’s a mare 10 days into the summer and I don’t believe that I’ve already fallen behind in my reading. What is wrong with me? Where did the time go? Wasn’t I up until 3am last night, I mean this morning, what did I do? I missed Memorial Day, family day get together for what? To be 10 chapters behind? What did I achieve besides nursing school sucking me dry of all my energy?

    Does it seem like you are spending hours on end studying just to get B’s and your friends are driving a Ferrari F430 zooming by passing classes with A’s, while you’re stuck in a 1930’s hotrod? Sure it looks nice but you are getting nowhere fast!

    There has always been a big contention as to how a nursing student should learn best. Some say you’ve absolutely got to read because without reading you simply won’t know the foundations of the nursing practice. However, others say to heck with reading! “Just do questions at the back of the book,” they say or use the study guide or follow the lecture and record them onto you iPod and just listen to that and you’ll pass the test.


    " Yes!!! I passed the test!”

    ...that all every nursing student wants to yell at the top of his or her lungs. Just enough to get by until it’s all over. But when will it ever be over? I'll tell you when...NEVER! because nurses are always learning. So the question remains; is it a matter of passing the test or becoming good nurses?

    I’ve been through enough schooling and other careers to know that, sometimes school is just that…school! And sometimes it has no bearing whatsoever on the real world career that we end up doing and I guess that is why so many end up being disappointed with their chosen careers.

    For me, however, nursing school seems different. I am not just training for a job or to make a quick buck, even though that maybe some people’s motives. I am training for a career in which if you simply stick a needle in the wrong place, that person can die. Or if you don’t use the right precautions, you could end up taking some disease back to your family and they can get very ill.

    I don’t want to be the second best nurse in my class. I don’t want to be the nurse who goes about aimlessly like a robot doing a bunch of procedures, looking at my watch every 15 minutes wondering when I get off, I want to be the best! And in nursing school that unfortunately means I got to read those 1000 plus pages of the text books one way or the other.

    Chapter by chapter, I will get it done somehow. Of course that is in addition to all the other stuff I have to read, plus assignments, group work and so on, in any case what it comes down to is not a pop quiz or midterm or a final exam, not even an NCLEX exam…what nursing school comes down to is literally life and death.


    P.S I'm sorry, I total ignored the never ending question as to which is the best method of study, to read first or to do questions first?

    I’ll tell you that one and half years from now, when I pass the NCLEX. Be sure to leave any comments or study tips for us nursing students. Now what was I reading…?
    Last edit by Joe V on May 27, '13
    havehope, usfgirl, Raewynv, and 2 others like this.
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  3. About ArrowRN

    I am second semester student in a BSN program.

    ArrowRN joined Feb '08 - from 'Starling City'. Age: 38 Posts: 914 Likes: 904; Learn more about ArrowRN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    16 Comments so far...

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    I'm a student now and so I understand the reading thing! I work full time as well so some days I don't think I'll bet get it all done. The past two semesters I've read the chapters, reread the chapters and taken notes on it, then studied from there with my notes and NCLEX books.

    This summer I have a test every Tuesday with about 200 pages on each test. I may try just using the Pearson Review and Rationale book for my first test and see how I do with that. I've had B's in all my classes so far. Good luck to you!
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    I'm just starting my accelerated BSN program. Its very intense, due to so much material in a little time frame.

    I have a test at least once a week. For me, the best way to study really depends on your instructors teaching methods. My instructors tell us to focus on her notes and lecture. So that's how I study. For this class anyway. I reference the books for concepts I didn't quite understand.

    There is no way you can read all those pages and retain it. I've already obtained a bachelors and I've read texts front to back, but I couldn't tell you everything about the book verbatim.

    Just do the best you can, try to focus on key points and main ideas. Don't beat yourself up too bad. You will be fine. As you know nursing isn't about reading every page, its clinical application.

    Were gonna do thing together. Hang in there. I work so I know what you mean by trying to catch up and read. Its crazy.

    As someone told me, take it one day at a time. Good luck bro!
    RN2Be77 likes this.
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    I tried the whole reading thing and it didn't work for me. I ended up being more anxious about having all those pages to read than anything so I just wasn't retaining the information. I made my own study guides according to the objectives, answered questions in the back of the chapters and online, and also used ATI online questions. I did pretty well too. The only book that I really read was my Fundamentals of Nursing book, but I just found that kind of interesting to read. Also, I never missed class and always paid attention to the instructors (but I did not record lectures and listen at home).
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    I record the lecture and combine that with the lecture notes. Afterwards, I would fill in the gaps by looking up specific things in the book that I didn't feel were covered thoroughly enough by my teacher. Then I'll test my understanding by doing practice NCLEX questions. After studying that, I look for videos, animations, pictures, and mnemonics to help retain what I learned. Then to review before a test I make charts comparing disease processes and drugs that will be on the test and do more practice NCLEX questions.

    Studying the material in different ways for works best for me. Just reading for hours on end from the textbook just isn't going to keep me actively engaged with the material and keep me thinking critically.
    FaithGurl93 likes this.
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    I had a class this past semester that was NCLEX review, and we did hundreds of questions each week. We were supposed to read first. I did not.

    Everyone does learn differently. What I've found is that for myself reading vast amounts of material isn't going to do much for me because I might retain 1 statement out of 100 just reading. Now, if I don't read, and immediately go to the questions, I have a different experience. Even if it is something I've never seen before, I try to puzzle it out and really think about it before I take a guess. I then read the rationale whether I'm right or wrong. I don't know about you all, but I learn from actively working with the material more quickly than I learn from just cramming tons of words inside my hear. Reading is a waste of time unless it's to clarify something, IMO.

    And personally... I'd rather have someone who is capable of figuring out the answer from actively working to puzzle out solutions taking care of me than someone who just reads and reads and reads and doesn't apply what he/she has read. Book knowledge is great, but can you correlate what you've read to the patient in front of you?
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    Remember your drivers education class? Was it invaluable to have the class so you learned the rules of the road? Of course. But did you really understand driving or really "learn" how to drive until you actually got behind the wheel? Also, didn't you learn even more once you got behind the wheel ALONE and were totally responsible for yourself? Nursing is like that to me. I had an instructor say that nursing school taught valuable information, but mostly it taught you how to pass the NCLEX. Her favorite phrase was "This is how it works in the NCLEX world, but this is how it works in the real nursing world." You are learning wonderful and amazing things in nursing school, but the only way you will learn to be the best nurse (and trust me, I understand that desire completely. I think my husband gets sick of me saying, "but I want to be the best nurse on the floor.") is to be an independently licensed nurse.

    And once you are an RN, the best people to learn from are your fellow nurses. Now, that doesn't mean reading goes out the window. Research articles written by nurses are some of the best material for learning. And oh the things you can learn from other nurses on your floor.

    Good luck in your journey!
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    At some point it's better just to cut your losses ans leave reading behind until the exam is over an you can start fresh, IMO. I love reading my textbooks. I have professors who test exclusively off of their PowerPoints and I still read. I'm type a and I've also found I learn better via a detailed narrative format, vs an abbreviated outline.

    But for me, reading and test prep are two distinct things, and once it's time to really start studying any reading is done in bits just to clarity things I still don't understand. I made the mistake of reading up until the very last minute and I won't make it again!

    NCLEX books like the Success series are awesome fillers. You learn so much by reading all the rationales. Love it.
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    Thanks for all the input. I find myself adopting different study strategies based on my topic strengths and weakness and adapting to these different methods. I still don't get students who look me straight in the face and say they read every chapter...really? every nook and cranny? Maybe they are natural speed readers, I don't know. In any case, I like reading textbooks that got the facts, like comprehensive reviews. What I hate is "fluff". If I ask where is New York located...don't say "New York is a beautiful place, you can do lots of things there..." and on and on... without answering my question or just leaving the answer right at the end. That's how most nursing or all text books are written and that is what makes it so time consuming.
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    I have a five page rule. I read five pages then get up, stretch, maybe grab something to drink then focus on another 5 pages. I find that reading too many pages at once just leads me to daydreaming about something other than the reading.
    havehope and Mrs.Louanna Sidi like this.


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