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Study Tips: Tips From Former Nursing Students

GET THE MOST OUT OF CLASSES

  • 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.

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.
  • Turn course objectives (as found in the beginning of each chapter or from the course syllabus) into questions - instant study guide!

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.

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.

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 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.

FORMING AND 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.
  • 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!!!!!!!
  • Join our student nurse forums and share questions, tips and experiences with other students as well as experienced nurses

USE TECH KNOWLEDGE

  • 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.
  • 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.

WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE A 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!

DISCLAIMER: Except where specifically credited, the above suggestions have been reprinted from Angela Pearch's STUDY HELPS publication, which she developed from the public posts of SNURSE-L. Information reprinted here is taken from the free domain article with her blessings to copy, share and use freely. Thank you to the following contributors: Michelle Scott, Phil Stalling, Tracey L. Skinner, Mary Carroll, Glen Jett, Alice Rose, Ray Jones, Randy Church, Sheila Stump, Craig Overpeck, Mary E. Winters, Ray Constantine, Michael Smart, Nellie (?), Gary Michalosky, Vince Reynolds, Ryan White, Michael Truitt, Dave Selin, Jenny Jacobson, Mary Parker Debra L. Topham, Mary Carrol Christina M. Hoffman, Natasha Hauptman, Judy Blessing, Joycelyn Coats, Brenda Francis, Paul W. DeMarco Leon Guidry, Mickey Pullen, Anne McMillan, Heather Orpana

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