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How To Survive Nursing School If You Do Not Like Lectures

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Any advice for a first-time nursing student?

One student's quest to find what works when traditional lecture formats do not.

How To Survive Nursing School If You Do Not Like Lectures

I spent years in grade school trying to figure out why I could never comprehend new material during class like other students could. I would take notes in every way possible, sit and intently listen, prepare before by reading the material to be presented the next class but to no avail. I never made a GPA over 2 point something in high school so when I decided to returnto a community college for my LPN to RN bridge program, I knew I had to find a different way.

I had to start from step 1 since all of my post high school education was a one year LPN vocational program which meant no transfer credits.I faced classes in subject areas that I failed time and time again: math and science. To even apply to the program, I needed Chemistry, A+P 1 & 2, statistics, and Microbiology. I started with A+P 1, I knew I would do fine in the anatomy portion, one thing that has always been my strength is memorization.As for physiology, I knew it wouldn't just be memorization, it would be complete understanding of all the little parts that make the whole system work well.

I went in for the first class as I had done many times before,my notebook (I even had a special note taking one) ready with the chapter we were covering that day at the heading, and I prepped the night before by reading the chapter. At the end of the class I was more confused than I was the previous evening.

My professor had said the key for most students in physiology was learning the big picture before learning all the little pieces that put the picture together. That's when I finally got it and that is all it took to solve years of educational frustration.

I just don't learn like that.

It is impossible for me to understand the big picture before I fully understand the little pieces and lecture is set up directly opposite of that idea. As much as I tried during lectures, my mind always wandered. I have always been a reader even though I performed so poorly in school and I have always been a visual learner as well but it didn't translate well when sittingfor a traditional lecture

I had been forcing myself to learn a way all these years that my brain just couldn't work with. With that realization, I began to study for my first test in a completely different way than I had before.

I had five chapters on my first exam which equaled hundreds of text book pages. I am an avid reader, yes, but I also lack the ability to sit for hours at a time. I did some research online and found most of the information in textbooks are filler information. I read only the boxes, bolded words/sentences,and the first and last sentence of every paragraph. I made concept maps insteadof notes, graphs instead of flashcards, and for things I needed to memorize I utilized online flash cards to save time.

When I didn't fully understand a concept, I went in search of reputable academic sites that provided videos, illustrations, and alternative ways of explaining a concept. I found I must talk difficult concepts out and I did this by either helping a fellow student or explaining it to my very loyal but bored dog who often sighed during my pseudo physiology lectures.

I went to every lecture and did keep an ear out for any pertinent information but instead of forcing myself to focus on something I would not learn from, I sat in the back, quietly used my laptop and concept maps to review information, and to study for the anatomy portion (also very handy to use online flashcards for) so I could focus my study time at home on physiology.

I blew through that first test. It was the first time in my life that I ever left a test knowing I just aced it. I had always told myself that it was OK I was not a super smart academic person, but I had wasted many years telling myself I could never succeed in educational pursuits when Iwas the one stopping myself this entire time.

I continued studying in my new way and before I knew it I was applying to my bridge program with a 3.96 GPA. There were some definite bumps, I took Chemistry twice, had to study more for that class than NCLEX PN,and A+P 2 was one of the most difficult classes I have ever taken, the A minus I received as a final grade felt like an Olympic gold medal. I am someone who must study every day, as much as I wish I was one of those students that could read a chapter then pass a test without much effort, at least now I knew how to pass and gain knowledge at the same time.

I am coming into my final semester of core nursing classes, I am due to graduate in April, and the study habits I developed for my firstA+P 1 test have changed some to meet the needs of those classes but my core study plan has stayed the same. I found I have had to study less in core nursing classes because I spent so much time on the foundational pre-requisites like anatomy and Chemistry.

When a student who is about to start nursing school asks me what my best piece of advice is for them it is always find which way you learn best during pre-requisites. If it's not the standard way you have been taught is best, that's okay as long as your getting results and actually learning. Search the internet for different ideas, try out different things, use the strengths you already have! I am not a genius by any means and have done well even while working, having 3 kids, and a husband.

I hope this helps some for students who struggle with traditional lecture formats and if anyone would like recommendations for websites that have helped me I would be glad to pass along the information. Good luck to everyone!

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10 Comment(s)

Love this! I took a nursing success class and it so helped me learn that I was utilizing the wrong tools to study for my classes.

It was like the light bulb went off; concept maps didn't do anything for me. Case studies, and open discussions about how to use the information did wonders.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 43 years experience.

I started out reading this article expecting not to like it ... but ended up liking it a lot. Too many people think "they know how to study best" and are quick to say "this is the way to do." In fact, there are many ways to study and we each need to find what works best for us.

I was always a good student in lecture classes and other students would sometimes ask to borrow my notes. Boy were they disappointed! I never took many notes, made flashcards, or did most of the stuff "experts" would recommend. I listened and just jotted down a few key ideas now and then that would tell me which material to study for the test -- or that would help me relate one key idea to another. I was always looking to relate one thing to another to create a good sense of the "big picture." I wouldn't waste time or energy on the little details. That's what the books were for.

I was in lecture to learn what the professor's perspective on the topic was ... So I would want to be sure I got that from the lecture. Then I could fill in the little factual details for the books, articles, etc. myself later.

wannabeny said:
Love this! I took a nursing success class and it so helped me learn that I was utilizing the wrong tools to study for my classes.

It was like the light bulb went off; concept maps didn't do anything for me. Case studies, and open discussions about how to use the information did wonders.

I really wish they offered a college prep course in my high school or offered just a general how to study course in college even! Would have saved me years of frustration. Glad you found what worked for you!!

llg said:
I started out reading this article expecting not to like it ... but ended up liking it a lot. Too many people think "they know how to study best" and are quick to say "this is the way to do." In fact, there are many ways to study and we each need to find what works best for us.

I was always a good student in lecture classes and other students would sometimes ask to borrow my notes. Boy were they disappointed! I never took many notes, made flashcards, or did most of the stuff "experts" would recommend. I listened and just jotted down a few key ideas now and then that would tell me which material to study for the test -- or that would help me relate one key idea to another. I was always looking to relate one thing to another to create a good sense of the "big picture." I wouldn't waste time or energy on the little details. That's what the books were for.

I was in lecture to learn what the professor's perspective on the topic was ... So I would want to be sure I got that from the lecture. Then I could fill in the little factual details for the books, articles, etc. myself later.

I am glad you liked it!! So true about people thinking one study way is the best way, obviously all of us has found that not to be true. I am convinced more would succeed in the nursing program if there were more study routes talked about and examples given. Flashcards online for me have been a life saver but one of my school friends can't stand them and does exceptionally way memorizing things just by looking at them a few times. Wish I could do that!

al3x117, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Medical/Surgical/Telemetry RN. Has 1 years experience.

I am the same way!!!! Thanks for this.

I am beginning an RN PROG. now and I loved the article it really put things in perspective to me as how to categorize and trying different tactics while studying. I usually do look at the information as a hole than begun to disect the details. With countless hours of pounding in the information I get it buy I hope I can have an, "aha," moment where it will all make sense. Thank you for the article I really felt it was I who wrote it :) ... good luck with all future endeavors

Buyer beware, BSN

Specializes in GENERAL. Has 40 years experience.

SaltySarcasticSally,

Have no fear.

If you do not like lecture there always another lecture to choose from.

"I read only the boxes, bolded words/sentences,and the first and last sentence of every paragraph. I made concept maps insteadof notes, graphs instead of flashcards, and for things I needed to memorize I utilized online flash cards to save time."

Can you give some examples of graphs and concept maps. The bold words and boxes are good ideas too. I need an example of the two former things. Thanks

Thanks for sharing your experience! Really informative

Hello guys I need some advice please. So I applied for nursing school and I took my pre-requisite. I don't remember them well I took my first nursing class and didn't understand it and I failed. I'm retaking it this coming semester and I'm afraid to fail again do you guys have any advice please? tips on how to study because I really don't know how to specially for this I feel so helpless and stupid.