Study Tips for Nursing Students

Nursing school is tough. Nursing students are made responsible to memorize and understand so much material in so little time, but guess what? Before you know, you're mixing up signs/symptoms (s/s) between medical diagnoses. This is when you start making mistakes during exams. Every student usually develops their own study habits after the first or second exam, but I wanted to share how I studied throughout nursing school with the hopes that it may help you as well. Note: Some of the habits that I developed I've acquired from different people. I will give credit to those throughout my article because without them, I would've never passed! :)

1. I never 'just' used the professors lecture material...

Don't get me wrong... Some professors provide the necessary content for you, however, some do not. And those who don't provide the content usually want the students to go home and do they're studying. This is one of the main reasons why I never just rely on given content. It's almost ALWAYS good to go home and study on your own when you go home.

Usually I have the professor's lecture printed out before hand when I go to class. I usually use the printed out material to take my notes down. After lecture, I would go home and re-type everything! (Note: I used to re-write everything, but this was very time-consuming so I decided to re-type instead.) Re-typing was my way of re-inforcing everything. The more you re-inforce, the better it sticks.

2. I always make cheat sheets...

You're probably like.. Cheat sheets? We can't cheat in nursing school! lol! Yes, definitely... there will be NO CHEATING in nursing school at all! But these sheets that I make includes everything in one sheet of paper per diagnosis. And when I say everything, I mean everything (diagnosis, s/s, labs, tests/exams, interventions.) I developed this habit from my cousin, who also graduated from the same nursing school I did. She would make these cheat sheets and took them everywhere she went. 

For an empty cheat sheet template, click here!!!

I usually just write my cheat sheets, but I decided to type one for you. I use bullet points to make everything much more visible and organized.

I usually just write my cheat sheets, but I decided to type one for you. I use bullet points to make everything much more visible and organized.

3. Join study groups, but make time to study by yourself...

Everybody in my nursing program recommended to make time for study groups. With study groups, you'll be able to see what others know and know what you need to work on. You'll be surprised at what information you can learn from others that you totally missed from studying on your own. However, this doesn't work out all the time.

You can see success with study groups depending on the people who you study with and how much they know. Some study groups can get off track by talking about other things that don't pertain to your study session. Some people come in to the study group knowing the minimum amount of information, therefore can contribute only what they know. And if the content is not fully understood, study group members can confuse each other the wrong information.

Really pay attention to who you study with. While study groups can be helpful, make time to study on your own. Studying on your own keeps you focused on the information and your rationales. If you have questions about something, you can always call someone or ask your professor the next day during lecture time.

4. Practice questions! Practice, practice, practice!

I'm sure you already know that nursing exams are so different than what you're used to. Medical diagnoses can be so similar to each other in terms of s/s that you can confuse them during the exam. So it is sooooooo important for you to practice questions in order to get comfortable with them. Along with practicing, you'll be able to come across rationales and further understand the disease process.

Here are some of the success books I used for Q&As!

By Beth Richardson PhD RN CPNP FAANP
By Kathryn Colgrove, Ray Huttel
By Margot R. De Sevo PhD LCCE IBCLC RNC
By Patricia M. Nugent RN MA MS EdD, Barbara A. Vitale RN MA

5. Take breaks and some time for other hobbies...

Remember to take of yourself and make some time for your hobbies in between studying. I remember learning in my Human Anatomy class that the human brain can only retain 45 minutes of information and be stored into long term memory. Beyond 45 minutes will only be stored as short term, therefore will be useless when you try to reinforce information. (I have no evidence for this fun fact! I learned this years ago!)

For me, I loved to play with my planners and my journals in between studying. Playing with art and crafting as little as 15 minutes allows me to break off from the books and retain information better once I start studying again.

In conclusion, develop your own study habits and conquer your nursing program...

While some of you may find my article helpful, some may not and may still need to develop their own study habits. There is nothing wrong with that all! Find what works better for you and please comment below so that others may incorporate your ideas as well. Most students find a study habit that works for them after the first or second exam per semester.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed this 5 tips I have written up for you today! If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment or email me directly. Otherwise, you guys have a great day today with more happy days to come! Happy Nursing!