NURSING SCHOOL SURVIVAL TIPS
A Nursing Student’s Guide to Survival
A Former Nursing Student
1. Tests in nursing school are like NO OTHER TESTS you have ever taken.
Nursing school tests require you to apply what you have studies to actual
situations. For some, this change sometimes proves to be difficult. I tell you this
not to discourage, but to encourage you. Be prepared for this. An example of a
nursing school question is as follows:
A nurse notes bilateral edema (swelling to both sides) in the lower extremities of a client with known coronary artery disease who was admitted to the hospital two days ago. The nurse plans to do which of the following after noting this finding?
a. Review the intake and output record for the last two days.
b. Change the time of diuretic administration from morning to evening. c. Request a sodium restriction of 1 g per day.
d. Order daily weights starting on the following morning.
The correct answer is A. Edema is the accumulation of excess fluid in the interstitial spaces, which can be measured by intake greater than output, and by a sudden increase in weight.
2. Purchase an N-CLEX book and appropriate standardized study book ASAP
We recommend that you buy any N-CLEX book. N-CLEX is the name of the test
you will take to become licenses by the State of Texas. Saunders Publishing is a
great choice! You can find this book at the local book stores or can order one
The Division of Nursing gives exit exams. At the time of this writing, the test
given is the HESI. However, this could change in the future. Whatever test is
being given, it will be wise to purchase a study manual to help you prepare for
this test. The DON also has a study unit on the library computers at SFASU.
Any of these materials will help better prepare you for this test.
3. Buy an updated nursing drug book. (Saunders or Mosby are recommended.)
4. Don’t purchase recommended books until you have talked to the instructor.
Sometimes they are not worth getting.
5. Get a schedule and date book. Then, go through and write out the dates of all
tests and assignments for the whole semester.
6. Get to know your classmates!!! You will be spending a lot of time together and it
will work in everyone’s best interest to make as many friends as you can.
Teamwork is VERY important in nursing school.
7. Get to know your teachers!!! Do not be afraid of your instructors. They are there
to help you (even though sometimes it may feel as if they are not).
8. Always go to class and take notes. Tap recording lectures may help, especially on
test review days.
9. Study in a quiet atmosphere. The following study techniques may prove helpful:
; Quiet, classical music may help concentration and help drown out noise.
; Take headphones and classical music with you when studying at the library,
especially around mid-term and final exam time. This strategy also helps to quiet
down a talkative roommate or friend.
; You might try using the SQRRR method.
Survey: Look over the material to be studied.
Question: Make a question out of every subtitle in the chapter and answer
Read: Read the first few, middle few, and last few sentences in each
subsection. Try to pick out key words and phrases and write them
down, if this procedure helps.
Recite: Recite this material back to yourself.
Review: Briefly go back over what you have studied.
10. Do not wait until the last minute to study. Read at least a couple of days in
advance and write down notes or write out flash cards.
11. Use acronyms when studying, i.e., TRAMP. This acronym is used when
administering medicine. It refers to the things to check: T = right TIME, R =
right ROUTE, A = right AMOUNT, M = right MEDICATION, P = right
12. Be sure that you know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!!! This is how you
prioritize your nursing care and knowing this will help you on tests.
13. Take frequent breaks when studying for a long period of time. Get coffee, call
your friend, take a bath, do workouts. Try anything to get your mind away from
the books for a little while.
14. Many times, the instructors assign a HUGE amount of reading and you may not
get around to reading it all before the test – DON’T STRESS!! Skim through the
chapter Reading Boxes, Tables, Charts, and Summaries. Read N-CLEX and
standardized test books before the tests. These books are great at touching on
basic and important topics.
Study Tip of the Day: Form a study group to help divide and conquer
large volumes of information, and to provide mutual support and encouragement! Study Tip of the Day: Click to View or Add Text.
o say that nursing programs are challenging is an understatement. The sheer volume of T information you need to learn and the demands on your time can feel
overwhelming. How have others managed to get through school with their sanity intact? Nurses who have been there say there are several things you can do to increase the efficiency and efficacy of your studying. The simple suggestions below will make a world of difference.
Don't Do It Alone
The most important thing you can do is to form study groups with your classmates. Studying with others incorporates one of the basic principles of learning trainers use: Tell, Show, Do, Review. Your teacher tells you the information you need to learn, and shows you how it works. Relying on this alone, you will only retain 20% of what you were taught. When you go over it again on your own, your retention increases to 60%. It is only when you add the "review" factor - sharing the information with others - that your retention skyrockets to 90%. Study groups help fill in the gaps - others may have information you missed, or may be able to explain a concept in a way that makes more sense to you. With study groups, members learn from each
other, reinforcing key concepts and critical data. Additionally, study groups provide encouragement and moral support - everyone benefits!
Prepare Ahead of Class
This may sound crazy, but it really helps you in the long run. Use your course outlines and read material the day before it will be covered in class. This way, concepts will be familiar to you and you can focus better on what is being taught. You will retain more information, ask better questions and you will find your note-taking is more focused.
No one likes it, but it works. Some students type their notes up after class - it gives them a chance to streamline information and add things while still fresh in their memories. Other students tape lectures, then play them back in the car for reinforcement. Still others use the tried and true method of flash cards - quick, easy bites of information written on index cards, or flippable question & answer cards.
Make Time For Yourself
This cannot be stressed enough. Set aside a little time each day, or a chunk of time each week, to pamper yourself. Read a good book that has NOTHING to do with nursing; take a long walk at dusk; relax in a bubble bath with some soothing music and an aromatherapy candle. Everything else really CAN wait - you deserve at least 30 minutes a day to take care of yourself. It is all too easy to reach the burnout level if you eat, drink and sleep school. Your studies will be more effective if you allow for some time to relax and recharge. Making time for yourself will, in the long run, help you be a happier, more balanced, whole person (and a better student, too!).
More Tips from the Pros
ere are some great tips and advice from nurses who have been there and know what H you are going through:
Getting the Most Out of Classes | Getting the Most from Your Books | Thriving in Clinicals | Ace
the Test Aligning Your Attitude | Using Study Groups | Using Technology | Managing School &
Get the Most out of Class
During even the most boring lecture, look interested. The secret of a good image is striving to be that which you wish to appear.
Remember, some teachers are just jerks. Deal with it. Learning how to deal with jerks is a good skill to cultivate in any discipline.
Introduce yourself to your instructors. You don't want to just be a "face in the crowd.
Return to the top
Get the Most from Your Books
Take your materials out of your house to study. Get away from distractions, undone dishes, radio and TV. The doughnut shop or all night cafe will offer quiet and ample amounts of coffee.
Read nursing journals and magazines. Often current articles will compliment your text and make the information more easily understood.
Use individual sheets of paper or large index cards to make a file of disease/conditions and their treatments. List etiology, signs and symptoms, diagnostic tests, interventions, etc. and keep them in a binder for future reference as well as present study.
Take notes from your notes!
After taking notes in class or from the book, put away the book and tape player and outline the notes.
Use NCLEX review materials as your study guide. Sort questions by topic as you go through school and study those questions pertaining to your current lesson. It will help you learn and give you a head start when it's time to schedule your NCLEX .
Turn course objectives (as found in the beginning of each chapter or from the course syllabus) into questions - instant study guide!
Return to the top
Thrive in Clinicals
Whether you don’t know how to make a bed or have been an EMT for years, remember everyone begins clinicals as different levels of experience. Focus on where you are going, what you will learn - not on how much (or little) you know now.
If you have trouble remembering protocols, lab values or even your patient’s name :) write them down on index cards and keep them in your pocket. The more you use them the more you study them.
In Psych rotation, take a moment to center yourself before working with patients. Most respond best to a calm focused approach.
Study your instructors. The more you know them the more likely you are to understand them and what they are expecting from you.
If you don’t know how to do a procedure, look it up, check the protocols, ask for help. Instructors would rather be "bothered" walking you through the procedure than fixing the mess or hearing the complaints if you do something wrong.
Be helpful to the nurse you are assigned to for clinical. Take all the vitals, never contradict publicly, don’t ask constant questions (that’s what you have instructors for) In general, kiss-up.
The nurse will be glad of the help and be more likely to help you.
Don’t make your supervising nurse hold your hand. Even if you're scared and have never done something before, jump in and do anything suggested.
Volunteer information! Instructors like to be informed about your patients. If they can trust you to keep them informed, you are likely to be trusted to work independently.
Explore volunteer opportunities in your area. It ain't just for candy stripers any more. Many clinics and outreach organizations are completely run by volunteers. The experience can help you shine on the floor.
Return to the top
Ace the Test
Take your tests in comfort and style Wear comfortable loose fitting clothing on test day. Loose fitting does not mean sloppy. Do your confidence level a favor and dress for success. Cardigan sweaters, full skirts and stretch pants are comfortable without compromising your professional style and attitude.
If you need to take issue with the instructor over a point on a test, do it privately. To dispute a mark in public will embarrass them and make them want to be proved right. And bring it up in the context that you need the correct information, not that you’re going for that one little point.
When the instructor and the text conflict, offer both answers on the test when possible. If not (as in multiple choice), most instructors will allow you to approach them quietly during the test. You can display your knowledge and ask which answer is being requested.
Ask former students about an instructor’s testing style before taking that first exam.
Return to the top
Adjust Your Attitude
Buy a good personal planner and note all projects, deadlines and tests in it. Plan a realistic schedule and follow it. Just take one day at a time, confident that every day’s tasks bring you closer to your goal
Being a nursing student is harder than being a nurse in many ways. Just relax, don’t sweat the
small stuff, and be receptive to patient and staff needs.
Replace your fear, anxiety, and worry with joy. Have fun with what you know. Have fun learning neat new stuff. You can’t stop bad things from happening but you can learn from it. You can enjoy your new role.
Don’t give up. Failure is not an option!
Graduation is not a goal. It is simply the natural consequence of your actions!
Set the tone of the clinical day right. Press uniform, lay out clothes and shoes, get essential items together (always in the same place) and pack your bag the night before. You'll feel "with it" and together the next day. It’s a great confidence builder.
Return to the top
Using a Study Group
FORM A STUDY GROUP! Especially one you can stick with through graduation. Develop an invested interest in each other and divide and conquer the huge amount of info. Nursing students are expected to learn.
Go through your notes together. Sometimes someone else puts information down in an especially memorable way. Sometimes someone else catches something you missed.
Sit in the front row! Most study groups form from those you associate with during classes. So select your lab partner with care and sit in the front row with the students who are (or want to be) brilliant.
Divide and conquer! Assign a portion of each chapter or assignment to each member of your group. Each person is to make up study questions for their portion and distribute copies to the others. Presto! Your own practice exam!
Network with students ahead of you for information on courses and instructors. A little foreknowledge can go a long way.
Select a net-friend from the snurse-l and exchange topical questions over e-mail
Make quizzes and ask each other questions about your subject. Reward yourself for the hard work and studying you have done along with a successful test - we all know they are not at all easy!!!!!!!
Return to the top
Tape the lectures on audiocassette. Then listen to the lecture again while you rewrite your notes. You'd be surprised what you missed the first time.
Read your clinical notes into a tape recorder by topic in a concise, repeatable form. ASK QUESTIONS on tape that you can answer when you listen to it. Listen to tapes on your way to clinicals in your car or on a headset walking to class. You can even save them to be used for NCLEX review.
Search out and use web resources in your research papers. Also get the free learning software available from FTP sites on the net.
Use your e-mail account to communicate with instructors. You are likely to get a well crafted, concise answer to your concerns if they must be put in writing. It also eliminates phone tag and restrictions to office hours.
Some software and database programs allow you to create a template to your specifications. You can make forms for care plans, assessments, process recordings, any standard paperwork. Then all you need to do is fill in the blanks and print it up.
Return to the top
Managing School & Family
Lower your standard of housekeeping. You don’t need to make the beds every day as long as your sheets are clean. You want the place clean enough to stay healthy and organized enough to find your shoes in the morning. Every thing else is just petty pride.
Care and upkeep of a significant other is important. Tell your SO how much you appreciate them and count on them. When they do something you find helpful - THANK THEM. Remember, you’re
in this together.
If you have all day care (not hourly) use it! Drop the kids off when the doors open and STUDY. It helps the kids and you if you have a regular time you reliably pick them up though.
Shop around for reliable daycare. Most facilities will send a child home "sick" with a touch of diarrhea or have an arbitrary degree temp as the "sick" point. Have a back up plan if your child is "under the weather"
Look around your community for activities you kids can enjoy while you are in class or studying. Little league, after school programs and community events are all good possibilities.
Set aside family time and protect it - even when you have a paper due the next day.
Set aside study time and protect it - even if it means hiring a babysitter or trading babysitting duty with a friend.
Enforce a "family homework time" let everyone study together at the table. You will set a good example of study habits and have some extra family time together.
From Jill Gosselin: Trying to attend nursing school and raise 4 kids really is a challenge. People always ask me how I do it. Well, you have to be organized and have lots of patience. I never study when my kids are awake. My kids need me to be mom, not student during the day. I do have schedules for them and 8:00 p.m. is bedtime. I do my studying from about 8:30 to 12:30 each night. I have no distractions then and I retain what I am studying. This really has been the key for me and I am proud to say I have one semester of school left. Stay focused and organized! Thanks, Jill, for this great tip!