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Study Tips for Nursing Students

How can I study smart in nursing school?

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Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health.

Whether you are working on your pre-reqs or are already in nursing school, you have to study for exams and are probably stressed out over grades. You may have already figured out study habits that work for you, and you can add them to this list of tips to help other students! However, if you are struggling over grades and need help on figuring out just how to create study habits that work for you, here are a few tips.

Study Tips for Nursing Students
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Were your grades less than ideal this semester? Are you just beginning to dive into college life and are worried about how to study and making the grades you need? It is important to take college seriously for several reasons. College is expensive! You need to make good grades so you don't get suspended or put on academic probation. You don't want to have to drop out or fail a class because you didn't know how to study, or worse yet - you don't want to be dropped from your nursing program! Here are some pointers that may just help you not only pass, but pass with flying colors!

Where to Study

Library

Students often have to figure out a place that works for them. The majority of students prefer to study in the school library because it is quiet, there are other students - some may be from some of your classes, and there are also rooms that can be used for study groups.

Bookstores

Some students prefer to study in bookstores. There is a dull "white" noise in the background of people browsing and chatting, but not enough to be distracting. The perks are the chance to get up and walk around and browse the books when you need a break, and many bookstores now have a coffee shop for snacks.

Classroom

This is always an option if you are an on campus student and you want to study in groups (or alone). There are plenty of chairs! Use caution though, if you are studying alone. Don't get into a compromising position and put yourself in danger - keep the door opened at the very least, and don't let anyone trap you in the room - always have an escape route.

Home

Maybe not the top choice for most students due to the distractions. Phone, TV, family members, etc, can all lead to study time being disrupted. However, if you have an office where you can study undisturbed and you are comfortable there - dig in and get to work!

How to Study

Concentrate! Do you remember what you just read? This was always my biggest problem - reading pages and pages and not even knowing what I just read (although almost everything was highlighted)! How can you overcome this?

Study in a quiet place free from distractions

Have a routine for efficient study times

Take study breaks (I began implementing 5 minute runs on a treadmill at the top of every hour. During this time, I would mentally review what I had learned or studied the past hour. This helped me remember MUCH more!)

During study times, stop frequently and ask yourself questions about your reading that you might encounter on an exam

Review the notes of the previous lecture before class

In class, do not play/message/social network on your cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc. You will miss important information - information that could be on your exam!

Listen to the instructor, sit in the front of the class away from disruptive students, and focus on note taking

Notes

Split page method

During a lecture, divide your notebook page into 2 columns. On one side write down key points during the lecture, and on the other side, write down the page number from the textbook - and a few key points from that page. If your professor emphasizes something twice, highlight that point - it may well be a test question! Some students also make a third column for questions they have thought of to ask the professor.

Taking notes in class is a challenge. You may have attempted to write down every word the professor has said during a lecture, and in doing so, missed an important piece of information because you were writing down something the professor said 5 minutes earlier. Here are some tips on note taking.

Group notes

Form a study group and take turns being note taker in class. On the day that you are note taker, write clearly and write down key points. After class, share your notes with your study group. On the day you are not note taker, participate actively in class and ask questions. Write down key WORDS or page numbers so that the notes can be added to. Discuss the lecture with your study group as soon as possible (the material is still fresh) and create an awesome study guide!

Complete those notes!

During the lecture, the key points or phrases you have written down will not make sense later on. Add to those notes and clarify your points by making them into complete sentences. Make sure your writing is legible, or type them out on the computer. Research has shown that if you review your notes within 24 hours of the lecture, you will recall the new material 80% of the time. Retype your notes daily, this will improve your study habits and your grades.

Effective tips

Don't skip class!

You will miss important information and that can make a difference between passing and failing. Read the textbook material prior to your class, take notes, ask questions.

Preparation is everything!

If you read your material prior to class, you will know what the subject is about, you will know what is already covered in the textbook (you won't have to write that down again), and you can have questions ready.

Color your paper!

You will retain more information if you change up the color of your ink! Silly, but it is true! You can retain up to 50-80% more information when you change out the color of your ink. You can write dates in one color, key points in another, etc. Figure out what works for you!

Manage your schedule

How many hours should I study?

A rule of thumb is you should study 3 hours for every hour of class (if you are taking basket weaving, you can throw this out the window). If you're A&P or pharmacology class is a 3 hour class, you should study 9 hours a week for this class. If you are struggling in that class, of course you should study longer. Read your textbook, review or retype/rewrite your notes, use the textbook website for study questions if there are any, watch youtube videos that deal with your course subject, etc. Make study time a "sacred" time, where you are not watching TV, connecting with social media, etc.

Prioritize!

Don't set yourself up for failure by waiting until the last minute to study for an exam. Set aside time every day to review and study. Learn to say "no" to activities that cut into your sacred study time.

Effective Studying

You have to figure out what works for you, from what environment you study in - to how you study - to what time of day is the best time to study. Your brain will store information in your short term memory for up to 24 hours, but after that you will lose 80% of that information. In order to move that information in your long term memory, you need to find what works for you.

Repetition

is the key to moving information to long term memory. Visual learners can do this best by taking and reviewing detailed notes, charts, graphs, maps, etc. Auditory learners can read out loud the information, notes, textbook, or listen to the lecture (if you can record it) several times. Summarizing out loud the information, talk about it with other students in study groups, etc. Haptic learners are those that can't sit still or have to have music/tv on in the background. These are the people that are easily distracted. If you are a haptic learner, you might find that reviewing your notes while sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill is the best for you, or you may need to break up your studying with frequent breaks.

Online study sites

I found one thing that worked best for me was using study sites that let you make "flip cards" and create exams from the cards. Just to name a few, you can try quizlet.com or studyblue.com. One thing I made sure I did was to review the deck right before I went to sleep at night, and I would actually dream about the cards - and I felt like I retained so much more. I like those sites because you can actually search for cards that are already made and use those cards, or you can make your own to suit your needs. There are a LOT of sites out there that you can use, just find what works best for you!

I hope that these tips help you succeed! Best of luck!!!

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

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Wonderful tips, thank you.

Brian, ASN, RN

Specializes in CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele.

Great advice, thanks for sharing!

HappyWife77, BSN, RN

Specializes in Gerontology RN-BC and FNP MSN student.

Awesome tips! I like finding videos on you tube to watch over and over. Repeatedly hearing and watching videos really works for me.

Thanks for the advice.

:geek::yes:

~I feel more determined to work hard ~

thank you so much it is wonderful tips

Thanks so much for these awesome tips! Im in the process of trying to find my sweet spot for studying, im in an LVN program. It's full time, very time consuming! But I can do it, just have to find better study habits. After reading your article yesterday morning on my break at clinical, I decided to try the suggestions you've shared. Today, im going to my local Barnes&Noble to study there w/ Starbucks coffee in tow lol thanks again for your helpful hints. I guess when one is so busy and stressed out behind school, you tend to forget how to focus and plan studying ahead. I have to have structure, or It won't get done!

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health.

luckycharmSVN said:
Thanks so much for these awesome tips! Im in the process of trying to find my sweet spot for studying, im in an LVN program. It's full time, very time consuming! But I can do it, just have to find better study habits. After reading your article yesterday morning on my break at clinical, I decided to try the suggestions you've shared. Today, im going to my local Barnes&Noble to study there w/ Starbucks coffee in tow lol thanks again for your helpful hints. I guess when one is so busy and stressed out behind school, you tend to forget how to focus and plan studying ahead. I have to have structure, or It won't get done!

This made my day! Thanks for sharing! Best of luck - you got this!

dfridm, BSN

Specializes in Emergency Department.

I never really had a good study habit foundation and have had to learn how to make it effective for me. This article had some great tips. Thank you so much for this.

Thank you, these tips are great!

I have been teaching high school science/health careers for the past few years and had to take teaching classes to get my teaching credentials. These were awesome tips. One that I have learned and found extremely helpful is to summarize your chapter using a concept map, graphic organizer, outline, etc. You can google to get examples. Basically you start by skimming through the chapter writing down all the main points. After you get these down, you read through the content following each main point and write down the main points of that main point. It makes your reading comprehension more effective.

Don't cram. Its much easier to learn and retain info if you learn it little by little over several weeks

Thank you so much! Wonderful. 🙂

These are some really great tips! Thanks for putting them out there. Have you got any suggestions for online learning? I don't have a classroom or a lecturer to take notes from. I am basically reading the course outline, doing the weekly assignments and highlighting my book like crazy! It is also very easy to get distracted when you are at home day :bored: Sometimes, those bathrooms look really enticing to go and clean. Thanks again.

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health.

Sharide said:
These are some really great tips! Thanks for putting them out there. Have you got any suggestions for online learning? I don't have a classroom or a lecturer to take notes from. I am basically reading the course outline, doing the weekly assignments and highlighting my book like crazy! It is also very easy to get distracted when you are at home day :bored: Sometimes, those bathrooms look really enticing to go and clean. Thanks again.

Let me come up with an article for this! It is badly needed, I know!

Thank you Dr. Reyes. I am an RN in transition to an FNP in 2016. I have 3 young children and work fulltime. I have 3 clinical courses left and hopefully I will go for my DNP because your blogs have inspired me. Congratulations!

All of this is pretty standard, generic advice about the mechanics of studying. But it doesn't really address the point: learning.

In my experience, what struggling nursing students (and those who don't ever want to be struggling) need to do is this: stop focusing on memorization and start focusing on meanings, rationales, understanding the WHY of every fact you know.

Your faculty (and NCLEX later) expect you'll have some level of baseline fact knowledge, of course, but are much more concerned that you know how to think about using those facts when you have them.

Do you need to get more information? Why?

Do you understand what's important in a scenario or question, and what's not? Why?

Do you know what's expected to occur? Why?

Do you know the effect of a drug? Why do we care?

Do you know what a lab value means? Why do we care?

So many more whys...

Why, why, why... it's the basis of everything we do, it's the foundation of critical thinking in three little letters. It's not something you have to do just to pass nursing school and NCLEX, it's something every nurse has to do every day of a professional life. Get in the habit now.

When you read something, close the book for a second and ask yourself why we care, why it's important, why it works like that, why we do it like that. This will help solidify your knowledge and, more importantly, contribute to your ability to transfer it from one situation to another. This is the reason that the nursing process is the basis-- literally, the base -- of what we are and do. Why? Why? Why? The mechanics in this article are not the end of the answer of how to learn. Assuring yourself that you know why ... that's how you'll succeed.

Great tips, I'm getting ready to start my 2nd quarter of nursing school and still trying to my way of studying. I'm going to try studying at my local Barnes & Nobles because it has a Starbucks and read elsewhere if I can easily grab a book off the shelf to read up on something I don't understand.

These are great tips, thanks a lot for sharing!

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