What are your tips/tricks for doing well in nursing school?

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    Hey everyone!

    I just finished my fundamentals of nursing course and I start my 1st semester of actual nursing school in 2 weeks. I am nervous as ever. I always did pretty well in my pre reqs like english and psychology but all of my science pre req's I got C's. Im kinda disappointed because I would love to get an A or B in these courses, but these courses really kicked my butt! I got a C in fundamentals of nursing too which makes me feel like im just cutting close to being a failure

    Anyways, I want to do well in this upcoming semester. I am in an ADN program and passing is a C (70). I am a visual learner and in order for me to study, I write things down continuously on my dry erase board until it is in my head and I make my own flashcards and I am very hands on which will help in clinical (and the fact that im a CNA already). When it comes to the nursing material I get frustrated because the professors will go over things in class and wont go over other things, so I never know what to base my studies on. I hate wasting hours trying to understand something and then nothing ends up being on the exam about it. I dont know if I should invest and buy a recorder to record the lectures since im not an auditory learner



    What im really trying to get at here is what is the best studying technique you have used that works for you visual learners like myself? Also how do you gather what to really FOCUS on in the millions of pages you are assigned each night? Do you go into the knitty gritty details (example: tables in the book explaining each and every thing each person did to contribute to the nursing profession or another example is for nutrition knowing EVERY single food in the book that has vitamin D in it) or just summarize what you just read? That is my weakness which is trying to sort out the info.


    Please share I would love to hear from others!
    Last edit by TeeGuneys23 on Jan 5, '13 : Reason: add
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  3. 7 Comments so far...

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    I understand your frustration! The thing is, Fundamentals of Nursing is the hardest out of all the nursing courses. Why? Because these are all new concepts being thrown at you. The good thing about nursing school, is that it's very redundant (i.e. oxygenation, fluids and elctrolytes, etc.). And as time goes on, you'll start to notice that nursing school is getting a little easier!

    I am a visual learner as well, and what helps me is concept mapping (or brainstorming) while I'm reading the material. Yup, I said it, concept mapping! I have ADHD and I'm meds for it and even on the medication, all the words and the droning of my instructors lectures didn't help! So my advice to you, on flashcards and I mean Big flashcards, map out the most important concepts! So for example, if you are learning about electrolytes, and you need to know about sodium, draw a big circle and write SODIUM in the middle! Then from there you branch it out! So the normal value of sodium in the human body is 135-145, you will map out what happens in a patient who falls below 135, and what happens if they exceed 145.

    I know that sounds confusing, but that's what seriously saved my butt! Good luck and just stay focused; there is a light at the end of the tunnel
    WantToBeMidwife likes this.
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    I'm also going to put concept mapping out there. We discovered it during a study group and it changed my life...a little, at least. It helps link ideas together in a logical way, but it's also great to get out of a "mind blank" jam. Sometime I can just see the answer in my head, because I or one of my friends wrote it. We have little dry erase boards and also use the giant white boards in the library group study rooms.

    I've found though, that it's best not to focus solely on your preferred learning style. Unless you have an sensory impairment, we can all learn every way. If you try to study using every style, you're bound to find you benefit from all. Just moreso your top choices.
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    What I do is, with the notes I take in class, I re-write everything in categories, in columns. Re-writing it helps me retain it better because since I don't want to re-write 100 pages of notes for each test, I condense it down to 10 pages or less of hand written notes. This way, I get the most important information and I have to re-read and comprehend my original notes for my study notes to make sense. Then I go through that 10 page packet 4-5 times before the test.

    Also, I found that when you try to know everything, you end up having a worse grade than if you looked at the big picture. For your example of should I know every food that has vitamin D in it or know everything a person did to contribute to nursing? No. What I like to do is to know what vitamin D does for your body (strong bones, calcium levels), or what that person is known for (specific theory). Then I can comprehend the most basic examples for what those things do. Strong bones/Calcium = milk, eggs, fish, leafy greens (most commonly these are what you will need to know since they give your body the most vitamin D). Specific theory = Example: Erikson's Psychosocial Stages = list each of the stages in order, and from the title of each stage, for example trust vs. mistrust, you can figure out what that is if you know what order the stages are in. Since that one is first, it would be infancy = meet most basic needs of an infant in order for trust, ignore for mistrust.

    Nursing school does get easier because these things keep coming up because they have to do with a variety of problems. So once you start understanding these things, it will be no sweat.
    WantToBeMidwife likes this.
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    Thank you all for the great advice. I definetely think I will benefit from concept mapping and also condensing the chapters into a smaller amount of notes so I'm not overwhelmed with the pages. Thank you guys
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    For the visual learner, probably the concept map idea is probably the best way for you to learn. Concentrate on the relationships between things like a given problem or a given situation and what do they do to the body. Understand the big picture stuff, and relate the little stuff to the big picture. This way, you will get a very much more adept idea of how things happen in the body and why and how they interrelate other to other problems.

    Another big thing to remember is that most patients have more than one problem concurrent with other problems. They take not just one med, but multiple. If you understand how each problem interacts with other systems in the body through the big picture idea, you might be able to better understand how multiple problems will interrelate and interact with each other. Same thing with the medications. Chances are highly likely that you're not going to end up being a pharmacist, so you're probably not going to have his intimate of a knowledge in how medications react, interact, etc. but if you have a good idea of how the act and can influence each other, you might be able to have a better idea and deeper understanding of how one medication could potentially influence other medication actions.

    While I am not a visual learner, and I'm not very good at concept mapping, I do really like the idea of using a large white board for writing this stuff down. I have a large whiteboard, I think I'm going to use it in that way. Thank you very much for that wonderful suggestion!
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    Whatever it takes, learn the whys of things. Straight memorization will get you only so far-- nursing school will demand that you understand why something is the way it is, because 1) the next semester will build on that, and you don't want to be learning it then when you ought to have learned it now, and 2) being a nurse demands it.

    Always ask yourself, when you learn a new concept, "Why do we care about this?" If you have the answer to that you've done a lot to make sure it will stay in your knowledge bank, ready to pull out when you need it again.
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    What I would recommend is to basically make nursing school your life during the semester. You're on the verge of this anyway becuase of the workload. But what I'm talking about is just going over something everyday.....everyday. I agree with what was said earlier, about the new concepts being difficult to learn, but if you take your powerpoints or notes and just go over them all the time, it should sink in.

    I have a tendancy to wait until the test to go over the material because I'm working almost every day I'm not in class or clinicals. But I am weird about remembering things so I haven't had any problems. Not everyone is like this so, so just continually go over things.

    Something else that helped me was to not spend much time on content that I felt I had a good grasp of. The only test that was cold hard facts and figures was the fluid and electrolyte test, so I studied to remember all the values and labs. But most of the other things were just overall concepts, asked in the "Out of this world" style of NCLEX, mixed in with some very bad questions from instructors.

    Time management is key, especially with the skills portion of the program. You want to practice those things to the point of getting sick of it. This is because repetition is the only way some things sink in...

    Hope ya do well!!!!!!


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