Learn. Study. Pass. Done.
Almost three semester's-worth of tried and true tips for studying from a mother of 5, Army spouse, husband is also in school getting his PhD. We are busy, and I have found effective ways of studying because my responsibilities are many. I do not have a ton of spare time on my hands. =)
Study Tips from an adult re-entry student nurse. With five kids. And a husband also in school. And we have a dog. And a guinea pig and a hamster. Read: we are busy people, ain't nobody got time for messing around in this house!
I think an important aspect of studying is to find out YOUR best way of study. I know this sounds silly, but it really is true. Some people need to study alone, and some people need to study with a group. Some people need to read a book, some need to take notes, and others can search up all the mnemonics and do great. We all have a different way to getting to the same information. Find what works best for you.
That being said, I think there are some major similarities among all the different ways of studying that I have found work best.
First, if you have power points, or notes from your teacher, read through them, highlighting in one or two different colors as you read. Highlight your main topic ideas in one color, and important information surrounding that topic in a second color. For example, if your sentence says, “Appendicitis is caused by obstruction of the appendiceal lumen,” highlight “appendicitis is caused by” in pink, and “obstruction of…” in yellow. Continue the notes in the same color so your eyes will look for pink for main information and yellow for supporting information.
After reading/highlighting the power point, read the book pages/sections that go along with your patho. The book fills in gaps and explains in a more detailed manner. This is a second pass at the information and it helps to solidify concepts. Once you have read the information from the book – make concept maps to capture important information like the pathophysiology, manifestations, nutrition, collaborative care, patient education, etc. I have had success with concept maps, but I have also used the professors written objectives to make study guides very successfully. If your professor gives “Objectives” for a section, create an outline, and answer each of the questions thoroughly and use it to study. Whether you decide on a concept map or answering objectives, you will have to reference your power points and book, and this will be part of studying.
Another awesome study tool is to use adaptive quizzing. I found an adaptive quiz option worth the money during my first semester. I purchased mine through Elsevier, because that is what my school uses. It is quizzing geared toward my med/surg book, and for around $80 – I still have it in my third semester, and use it every day. The quizzing is adaptive, so the more you get correct, the harder the questions become. It helps further solidify the material, and it really follows the text exactly. I love the adaptive quizzing.
Another tool that I have found paramount to studying is NCLEX questions. We were all told in our first semester to “do questions, do lots of questions, and then do more questions.” I did the adaptive quizzing questions a lot in my first semester of fundamentals, and it was very helpful. However, can I tell you how shocked I was when I took my first exam?? I was VERY shocked! The NCLEX style questions were unbelievable. I thought I had failed my first exam (and actually I had received a 92%, and the highest grade in the class, and I thank adaptive quizzing for that!) and felt defeated. During my second semester, our professor repeated, “do questions,” anytime anyone asked how to study for her exams. In my first semester, I learned to listen to whatever professors say more than once. My first professor had said to do questions, and now my second professor was repeatedly telling us “DO QUESTIONS!” so, I decided that they probably know what they are talking about and I bought med/surg NCLEX books. I believe I bought two of them. NCLEX questions are INCREDIBLY helpful because while you take questions you are reading the rationale, which is essentially – STUDYING (and yes, read every rationale, whether you know the reason why or not!). There are only so many ways to ask questions – if you do many NCLEX questions, you can reason with yourself with questions you may not feel confident in answering correctly. Do questions, do allllll the questions! Then, do more questions. Do this for fundamentals, do this for med/surg, do this for psych, and OB, and peds….do the questions.
Study groups are also a great way to talk out loud about concepts. Your friends remember different information than you. We all have different aptitudes for information. Study group was great for fluid and electrolytes because there was so much new information and we all remembered different things – we talked out loud and asked each other questions. We were teaching each other, hearing concepts out loud, and repeating – this is “teach back method,” right?? It works!
Last, when all else fails, and it has taken me two and a half semesters to learn this, if you don’t know the answer to a question, use: ABC/Safety/Pain. We all know “ABC,” of course. We are taught that right off in fundamentals. My second semester professor taught “ABC/Safety/Pain,” but I did not start using it until my current semester to answer questions I was having difficulty answering. Try this method out during adaptive quizzing, or NCLEX questions: when you really have no idea of the answer, or maybe even you have narrowed it down to two (because is that not usually the case?) but still do not know what to choose – ask yourself if you can address airway, breathing, circulation, safety or pain – in that order, with any of those options. Obviously, sometimes you do not need to address breathing because the patient can breathe perfectly fine, so do not just choose to slap on some O2 just because that is an option. Make it relevant to the question and situation being asked about. Try it and see if it works for you! I have also heard people say to ask themselves “what could I do for the patient right now that if I did not do, would cause harm to the patient over the next 24 hours?”
Simple things you have already heard, but probably ignore because you’re in nursing school:
- Study for 15-20 minutes, take a 5 minutes break. I think this works really well, and I do this often. I have 5 kids, so I do chores on my breaks. It is good for your health not to sit all day anyway! It gives your brain a break and your body some blood flow.
- Eat healthy. Come on it’s 2017 – we all know we are supposed to eat healthy. We are going to be nurses. How are we going to sit there and teach and tell our patients to eat healthy if we can’t even do it? Incorporate healthy foods into your diet if this is an issue for you. One salad a week, then two. A new vegetable, and lots of water. Reduce your sugar/carb intake!
- Also, same for exercise. We are sedentary as a people. We drive cars, look for the closest parking spots, Netflix and chill, and sit for hours in class and at home to study. We need to move more – it is essential for our health. You cannot say, “I’ll do it when I graduate,” because there is no reason to wait, start now. Walk your dog, or do pushups (start on your knees even!) and squats….get moving. Exercise is essential for healthy aging.
- Sleep – because it does a brain good.
We need body and brain health to study and learn, and we need body and brain health to be nurses that are strong and clear-headed.
That is it. Do the work, and the work will be done. We got this!Last edit by Joe V on Oct 26
Hi! Student nurse, Army spouse, mom of 5 funny kids, midwife wannabe.
Joined Nov '15; Posts: 160; Likes: 164.Oct 26What a great article filled with useful tools to be used throughout nursing school and after too! Thank you.Nov 3Quote from melodyweiI think I am in a pretty great program. Most of my instructors are well-organized. Our SIM labs came with a high level of stress in our first semester because of one poor instructor being very critical. It was not just one group - but all of our SIM groups that experienced the "critical feedback." I can let things roll off my back - but it was pretty stressful nonetheless, and it made all of us very nervous for our second semeter of SIM labs. We finally have mostly gotten over it - the initial nervousness has not gone away, but the instructors listened to our feedback and have changed their critique of our actions for post-conference.This is great advice! Thank you so much! Do you have any advice on labs and clinicals?
Anyway, all that to say..... do all the preparation for labs, SIM labs and clinical rotations just like you do for tests and quizzes. Put in the effort to look at your SIM patient, do the prep work that you are given. They are leading you toward all the answers you need.
I also want to say I have begun to listen to my "nurse gut" this semester. I messed up at my second SIM lab. I knew what to do, I knew which patient I was going to assess first. And then we were talking as a group, about our plan, and I let someone change my mind. For no reason. It wasn't well thought out or anything. It was simply - I was nervous and wasn't thinking clearly. I went in and assessed the other SIM patient - even though I CLEARLY had no reason to do this. I knew who to assess first. Start listening to your nurse gut! It is there for a reason (it helps you on test questions too, if you can picture a real person behind the question).
All of the prep work for lab/clinical helps prepare you. The experience develops you. You only know what you know, and you haven't experienced it all yet. So go in with an open mind - and remember ABC, Safety, Pain - in labs, in clinicals, on tests....everywhere.... I was standing in my first SIM lab this semester... it was a group SIM, so there were several of us working together as nurses. And we were all sort of at a standstill - we didn't know what to do. So I stopped, thought for a moment "What do I need to do for this patient??" and "ABC/Safety/Pain" popped into my head.... and I promptly went and retrieved a medication that would help with the patients pain. It was the correct action. Think of your nursing process - use it - we are being taught it for a good reason. =)Dec 5The elsevier adaptive quizzing is great. I have access codes if anyone would want one DM me/ email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have the NCLEX-RN one and the HESI Assessment- patient reviews with RN case studies and practice test.Dec 17This article is extremely helpful! While I am not new to college - I am new to subject's that don't come easy to me. While I find the human body and health extremely interesting; my prior degree came so easy to me that I could ace any test and write any paper with little effort outside of lecture. This is now an issue because as I am anticipating I will not get through my prerequisites this way let alone nursing school! I should do some research in 'how I learn' so that I can find the method that works best for me!
Thank you for taking the time to write this up!
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