Navigating Nursing School Success: Tips for New Students
As aspiring nurses embark on their academic journey, the quest for guidance on excelling in nursing school is ever-present. While numerous articles offer insights, we’ve gathered the essential tips for new students in one convenient location, courtesy of our nursing consultant expert – hooray! Read on for a comprehensive guide that promises invaluable advice to ensure success. You won’t regret delving into these expert-approved strategies tailored for your nursing school journey.
Tip #1: Strategize Your Week, One Step at a Time
Illustration: Colored pencils on a dark background with the caption, “Your nursing school schedule will change frequently, so your future self will thank you if you always write in pencil.”
In my nursing school preparation course, Crucial Concepts Bootcamp, I guide students to create a comprehensive list of tasks for the semester. However, when planning their time effectively, I emphasize taking it one week at a time.
As you’ll soon realize, change is a constant in nursing school. Assignments undergo alterations, due dates shift, clinical days intertwine with simulation days, and labs may be rescheduled. It can be a logistical challenge. Therefore, invest thirty minutes every Sunday evening to review the upcoming week and plan exclusively for those seven days.
There’s one caveat to this approach. When dealing with extensive projects spanning multiple weeks, having them on your planning radar is crucial, ensuring you avoid last-minute cramming. For such tasks, like papers and group projects, mark them in your calendar in advance and allocate time each week for their completion. However, for weekly tasks, assignments, quizzes, and meetings, wait until the Sunday before to organize your plan.
If you’ve never used a planner or are unsure about tackling this aspect of nursing school, explore this in-depth post where I provide a step-by-step guide on effective planning.
Tip #2: Transform Your Notes into Your Own Words
This particular tip stands out as a game-changer for nursing students, yet it often gets overlooked due to the time required – a resource that always seems in short supply.
I’ve heard students say, “I’d rewrite my notes, but time is limited. I need to focus on studying!” Here’s the revelation: rewriting your notes is likely the most valuable studying you can undertake.
By rewriting your notes, several remarkable cognitive processes unfold:
- Repetition of Learning: As you revisit and review your class notes, you repeatedly expose yourself to the content. However, many students stop at this point, merely reviewing what they jotted down in class.
- Processing and Assimilation: Rewriting your notes in your own words forces you to process and assimilate information. To simplify and articulate a concept, you must truly understand it. Writing it out challenges you to explain it in a straightforward manner. Once you can do this, you truly comprehend the material.
- Ownership of Information: Your rewritten notes, in your language and words, make the information vastly more familiar during subsequent reviews. It becomes uniquely yours – your way of explaining things.
- Long-Term Memory Formation: Rewriting notes, especially by hand, aids in transferring information into your long-term memory. As I did in nursing school, even typing notes proved immensely beneficial.
- Gap Filling: While reviewing your notes, you may identify gaps in your understanding. Seize this opportunity to consult your textbook and fill in those knowledge voids before too much time elapses.
- Connecting the Dots: Instructor-provided PowerPoint slides often contain bullet points without clearly indicating how each point relates to the others. Rewriting your notes allows you to connect the dots, clarifying relationships between concepts. Consider the impact on clarity when revisiting the material weeks after the lecture.
Although rewriting your notes post-lecture may demand a couple of hours, it emerges as a fantastic study method and an excellent investment of your time.
Tip #3: Incorporate Regular NCLEX Practice Questions
The majority, if not all, of your nursing school exams will adopt the NCLEX exam format. As a new student, one of the most effective strategies is to initiate NCLEX practice questions right from DAY 1 of nursing school. Familiarizing yourself with these question types early on will prevent them from catching you off guard during your initial exam – trust me.
As you delve into a topic in class, engage with NCLEX sample questions related to that subject. Document any valuable insights you gather, storing them in a Google Document or notebook. The key here is to review this information consistently!
Tip #4: Swiftly Identify and Address Time Wasters
Numerous factors vie for your time and attention in nursing school, and it’s crucial to recognize those that sneak in and consume your time – not always the obvious culprits like TikTok or your favorite TV show.
Consider the following:
- Are routine assignments or quizzes consuming more time than they should? If a task, such as writing a discussion board post and responding to peers, takes excessive time for a routine weekly occurrence, it’s likely a time-waster. Can you streamline the process to reduce the time spent?
- Evaluate your study group’s effectiveness. If it lacks a clear focus on achieving specific goals during each session, it might divert your study time rather than enhance it.
- Are you spending excessive time searching for assignment instructions, digital files, or paperwork? Establishing organizational systems for nursing school becomes essential. Dedicate an hour this week to organizing your paperwork and digital files, minimizing future time wasted on searching. Review organizational strategies in Crucial Concepts Bootcamp if you’re enrolled.
- Plan to refine your organizational systems during breaks, ensuring you always know where to store and locate your materials. This strategic investment in the organization pays dividends repeatedly.
Tip #5: Lay the Groundwork for a Productive Day the Night Before
Each night, before closing your laptop or leaving your desk, invest a few moments in looking ahead and preparing for the next day. I can attest that skipping this small step often leads to a more stressful morning or even the oversight of important events.
Assuming you’ve embraced Tip #1, with all your essential events and to-do items documented in your planner, pay particular attention to:
- Review anything scheduled for tomorrow, especially early-morning commitments that might be overlooked if you oversleep or become distracted.
- Assemble your breakfast (consider overnight oats) and pack your lunch. These seemingly small tasks significantly impact the smoothness of your morning routine.
- Lay out the clothing or uniform needed for the next day.
- Prepare your school or clinical bag with all necessary supplies (refer to Tip #8 for additional insights).
- If morning exercise is part of your plan, set out your workout attire and any required gear for easy access. If you intend to listen to a podcast during your workout, queue it up the night before – every minute counts!
Tip #6: Establish a Well-Defined Morning Routine
Similar to an evening routine, a well-thought-out morning routine is crucial for an intentional and stress-free start to your day.
I recommend having two distinct morning routines—one for days with a bit more time and another for early class or clinical days. My standard morning routine typically unfolds as follows:
- Drink at least 24 oz of water (simultaneous with other routine elements).
- Attend to Oliver’s needs.
- Engage in exercise, whether a Peloton session, a walk, or an on-demand class like yoga or Barre.
- Brew coffee.
- Shower, beautify, get dressed.
On days when I deviate from this routine, I notice a decrease in focus and a sense that something crucial is missing.
Tip #7: Take Charge of Anxiety
Have you ever experienced that overwhelming feeling where your body and mind seem disconnected, thoughts racing from one to the next? It’s a familiar scenario, particularly during hectic times with a mounting to-do list and looming deadlines. This sensation can undoubtedly manifest in nursing school, and it feels disheartening. When your brain refuses to focus on a single task, it can be perplexing—how will you complete everything when you feel like you’re spiraling out of control?
When this occurs (and chances are, it will at some point), the first step is to recognize what’s happening. You are not helpless or floundering; your brain outpaced your body. My top advice in such situations is to do three things: Stop. Breathe. Regroup.
- Stop: Halt those swirling thoughts consuming your mind. They’re sapping precious mental energy, and you have more productive things to focus on.
- Breathe: Take ten slow, deep breaths once you’ve halted the mental chaos. It may sound simplistic, but it works. Inhale. Exhale. If distracting thoughts creep in, start the count again—ten deep breaths in and out.
- Regroup: The most effective way to regroup is to understand what needs to be done clearly. Create a list of tasks, prioritizing them. If you’ve already done this in my Bootcamp or from reading my book, that’s fantastic. Now, consult your calendar and allocate time for each task. Begin with high-priority items, working down to routine or non-time-sensitive tasks. If you’re new to time management or planning, refer to this post for a step-by-step guide.
Once you’ve regrouped, get to work. It’s genuinely that simple.
Tip #8: Optimize Your Backpack for Maximum Efficiency
Consider your backpack more than a laptop carrier; consider it a “mobile office.” Packing essential items ensures efficiency and productivity at school or in the library. Here are some ideas for what to carry in your backpack:
- Change for the vending machine (preferably for a healthier option).
- Non-perishable snacks (almonds, bars, dried fruit, jerky, etc.).
- Water bottle.
- Change or an access card for the photocopier.
- Writing tools (pens, highlighters, sharpie, and pencils – yes, use a pencil in your planner!).
- Binder clips or paper clips (opt for binder clips for sturdiness).
- Mini stapler and hole punch.
- Staple remover.
- Your daily binder (if following the system outlined in Thrive Guide and Bootcamp).
- Page flags and tabs.
- Tablet if you’re a digital note-taker or using it for e-books.
- Any necessary books.
- Chargers for all devices.
Can you see why we recommend a rolling backpack?
Tip #9: Essentials for Clinicals
Nursing students often wonder about the items they should carry during clinicals. First and foremost, adhere to your school or unit’s policies regarding using items like fanny packs or carrying personal belongings in your pockets. Unless there’s a strict “nothing in your pocket” rule, you can generally carry most necessities on your person. Here’s what I recommend for students aiming for maximum efficiency during clinicals:
- A few alcohol swabs – these will be in constant use, so it’s beneficial to keep them easily accessible.
- End-caps, also known as “dead-enders,” are closed-ended caps for IV tubing to maintain sterility when disconnected from the patient. Avoid looping the IV connection back to the y-site port.
- Hemostat and scissors (a pair of utility scissors is typically sufficient).
- Pens and a Sharpie. Mini sharpies, attachable to your badge holder, are particularly convenient.
- A small notepad for jotting down valuable insights gathered throughout the day.
- Your stethoscope is a crucial item, of course!
Tip #10: Extend Yourself Grace
Lastly, it’s crucial to remind yourself that the journey to becoming a nurse is a significant transformation. It doesn’t happen overnight, and stumbling is perfectly normal. Embrace it.
As long as you pick yourself up after each stumble, learning from every mistake, regardless of size, you are evolving and growing. Keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other. Keep asking questions, seeking answers, and progressing on one assignment, care plan, and exam at a time.
Before you know it, you’ll reach your destination – you’ll be a nurse.
You’ve got this!
Frequently Asked Questions About Best New Nursing Student Tips
Q1: How can I effectively plan my time in nursing school?
A1: Start by creating a weekly schedule, focusing on one week at a time. Include all assignments, quizzes, and meetings. For more details, refer to Tip #1.
Q2: Why should I rewrite my class notes?
A2: Rewriting your notes enhances learning by reinforcing concepts, promoting information processing, and aiding in information ownership and long-term memory formation. It also helps fill in knowledge gaps and connect the dots between different topics. Learn more in Tip #2.
Q3: How early should I start practicing NCLEX questions?
A3: Begin practicing NCLEX questions from the early days of nursing school. Familiarizing yourself with the exam format early on is crucial. See Tip #3 for more insights.
Q4: How can I identify and avoid time-wasting activities in nursing school?
A4: Recognize and address time-wasters by evaluating the efficiency of routine tasks, managing study groups effectively, and implementing organized systems. Check Tip #4 for detailed guidance.
Q5: Before a nursing school day, what are the key steps for a productive evening routine?
A5: The evening routine involves reviewing the next day’s schedule, preparing breakfast and lunch, setting out clothing, packing necessary supplies, and more. Refer to Tip #5 for a comprehensive guide.
Q6: What should be included in a morning routine for nursing students?
A6: Develop two-morning routines—one for days with more time and one for early classes or clinicals. Activities may include hydrating, exercising, brewing coffee, showering, and dressing. Find more details in Tip #6.
Q7: How can I effectively manage anxiety during busy times in nursing school?
A7: When overwhelmed, stop, breathe, and regroup. Recognize that the feeling is temporary, take deep breaths, and create a clear plan by making a task list and allocating time to your calendar. Explore Tip #7 for a step-by-step approach.
Q8: What essential items should I carry during clinicals?
A8: The recommended items for clinicals include alcohol swabs, end-caps for IV tubing, hemostat and scissors, pens, a sharpie, a small notepad, and your stethoscope. Discover more in Tip #9.
Q9: How can I navigate the transformation of becoming a nurse successfully?
A9: Give yourself grace, acknowledge that transformation takes time, and embrace the learning process. Keep moving forward, learn from mistakes, and tackle each assignment, care plan, and exam one step at a time. Read Tip #10 for motivation and guidance.