When starting out, it is natural to have questions about how to get through nursing school. Learn how to conquer the challenges you will face by adapting these tips for how to be successful in nursing school.
As you begin your nursing school journey, you will likely undergo a wide range of emotions which may range from excitement to anxiety. Nursing school is a challenge, and it can take some time to gain solid footing and determine how to get through nursing school. At University of St. Thomas Houston, we are well-versed in guiding students through the rigors of our 12-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (2nd Degree) program. Especially with our particular program's accelerated nature, the dedication and day-to-day work required to succeed is higher than in a traditional BSN program.
With our insights about how to be successful in nursing school, we can share some practical insights with you. From study tips to strategies for balancing your personal life during nursing school, we will cover 10 nursing school tips for success that will help you excel in your nursing courses.
1. Create a Schedule for Your Day
Nursing school can feel overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Determining how to organize your studies can be difficult when you have a flurry of commitments, including simulation labs, study groups and clinicals. But creating a schedule and sticking to it will give you structure and help you stay on track.
Here are a few ways you can schedule your day:
- Schedule a consistent bedtime and wakeup time each day, getting enough sleep each night.
- Write all your in-person school activities for the week in a planner, or enter them into your calendar app.
- Block off time for studying every day.
- If needed, adjust your daily study time until you feel you can get through all the material at a comfortable pace.
- Schedule a few hours each day on the weekend for studying.
- Schedule time for working out or doing your hobbies.
Making a comprehensive schedule will help you maintain focus, stay motivated and feel relaxed. Being intentional and proactive about when you study and for how long will help ensure you keep up with the material.
2. Don’t Procrastinate
It can be tempting to put off studying until a few days before the exam, but being proactive will serve you much better in the long run than procrastination. Nursing school moves at a fast pace, especially in an accelerated program, so it can be hard to get back up to speed if you fall behind. Start studying for exams early, and give yourself plenty of time to learn the material without being rushed.
Another way to stay on top of your coursework is to ask questions promptly. Sometimes when students get confused about the material, they bury their questions instead of speaking up. In nursing school, it’s important to quickly notice any gaps in your understanding. Then reach out to classmates or the instructor soon to get clarity.
It’s best to be proactive in ensuring you understand a topic, because the topics in nursing often build on one another. Therefore, focus on learning each topic well and clarifying questions as soon as possible to stay on track.
3. Use Efficient, Interactive Study Methods
One of the foundations for how to get through nursing school successfully is to study smart. An ABSN program demands a lot of time and energy studying for online coursework while also attending simulation labs and clinicals. Time is scarce, and you want to get the most bang for your buck with study time.
When you begin studying for an ABSN program, here are some helpful ways to raise the quality of your studying so you can become a learning machine:
- Listen to or watch lectures at your own speed so you can pause, rewind and replay as needed.
- Make outlines for your lectures to condense all the pertinent material into one or two pages.
- Use interactive study methods as much as possible. Examples include flashcards, practice questions, working through mock scenarios and quizzing peers in a study group.
- Determine if you’re a primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. Then implement study methods that emphasize that medium.
- Rather than simply trying to memorize facts, use mnemonics, auditory cues, stories and other memory devices to cement memorized material in your mind.
4. Try Multitasking
Some people prefer to compartmentalize their studying and non-studying time, but if you don’t mind multitasking, it can help you increase your efficiency. By layering studying into your day, you can be productive in times you otherwise wouldn’t.
A few examples of how you can multitask with studying include:
- Study flashcards while you are waiting or have downtime.
- Study notes or do practice questions when you have extra time during clinicals.
- Watch lectures and videos while you are working out, doing household chores, or cooking.
- Listen to relevant audio materials or podcasts while driving.
The more you immerse yourself in your nursing education and make it part of your everyday life, the more the knowledge will sink in.
5. Ask Questions and Seek Support
One way to get through nursing school successfully is to rely on others for support as much as possible. Asking questions not only aids your understanding, but it also invites others to share and speak out when they are confused. By asking questions, you foster an atmosphere of collaboration and community support.
At University of St. Thomas ABSN, we are committed to every student’s success and wellbeing. Our instructors, faculty and tutors want you to reach out and ask questions. You can count on our nursing faculty and instructors to be available online, over the phone and in-person. If you find that you need assistance, our academic success coaches will sit down with you and help you form a personalized study plan.
Not sure who to contact if you need some help? Here are 7 nursing student resources.
6. Prioritize Personal Wellness
During an ABSN program, it can be easy to focus so much on school that it consumes your entire life. While it’s vital to spend enough time studying, it’s not healthy or necessary to spend all your time studying. Remember, your own needs are also a priority.
It’s important to balance your schoolwork with life. The world around you doesn’t stop just because you are in school. It takes 12 months to finish the program, and we want you to be able to stay strong and motivated without burning out.
Nourish your body with good food and try to move your body for at least an hour a day. Make sleep a priority and don’t push off checkups or any medical care.
7. Care for Your Life Outside of Nursing School
Take time to evaluate your personal priorities. What activities or people do you value most? What do you consider a beneficial use of your free time? Narrow your list down to the top few, and then add these priorities to your schedule.
For example, if getting coffee with your sister every Saturday is something you enjoy, then put it in your schedule. If going to your child’s recital is important to you, make time for it. Make time for listening to music, reading a good book, or watching an episode of your favorite show. Don’t neglect the things and people you love while in nursing school; find a balance that works for you.
8. Focus on the Your Goals
You likely began considering nursing because you want to do something meaningful in your life, and you enjoy contributing to people’s health and wellbeing.
When you jump into nursing school, try not to get so weighed down by the to-do lists and studying that you forget the purpose of it all. You are in nursing school because of your passion for helping people and making a positive difference in their lives.
Once you begin your clinical placements, use these not only as a learning experience, but also as a place to refuel. Pay attention to the patients you meet, listen to their stories and remember the role you played in their recovery. They are the reason you want to become an excellent nurse. Your hard work will pay off because you will get to spend your career doing what you love.
Help stay focused on your future as a nurse by exploring a day in the life of a nurse.
9. Start Studying for the NCLEX-RN Exam Early
Once you finish nursing school, the last hurdle before you can get your license is the NCLEX-RN® exam. The NCLEX-RN® is not a test you can cram for. That’s because it is no ordinary test. Like many tests, the NCLEX-RN® is multiple-choice; but what makes it different is that many questions include multiple correct answers, meaning that you must choose the answer that is most correct.
This requires a different type of thinking and intentional practice with this style of question. From the beginning of nursing school, incorporating NCLEX-style practice questions into your studying is a smart move.
Here are a couple of tips on making the NCLEX-RN® studying process easier:
- To be successful, plan at least 1–2 months of dedicated studying for the test.
- Schedule which days you want to dedicate to test prep. Plan out your practice exams, too.
- Establish goals. Set realistic goals to help mark your progress and keep you on track. This can be completing a certain number of practice questions, mastering a concept, or achieving a high score on a practice quiz.
With the right amount of effort and time, passing the NCLEX-RN® is within reach. Just remember to start early and incorporate practice questions into your nursing school studies.
10. Connect with Your Peers
Your peers and others in your cohort are one of your most valuable resources when it comes to how to succeed in nursing school. You may not be taking your classes in a physical classroom together, but you are still accomplishing some very difficult things together and will have no shortage of opportunities to connect.
For the most part, you will complete your labs and clinicals with others who are also in the ABSN program. This is a great opportunity to get to know one another, ask for input, and help each other grow.
Because your peers are all completing their coursework online, just like you, you should consider starting a study group. Perhaps others have skills that you struggle with and can help explain it to you in a different way. Whatever this looks like for you, remember to reach out to your classmates because not only will these relationships make nursing school more enjoyable, they will help you grow as a nurse.
Jump into a Rewarding Nursing Career
Now that you know how to get through nursing school, let’s take a step back. If you haven’t yet applied to nursing school, and you’re still considering whether nursing is the right fit for you, we are here to help.
At University of St. Thomas Houston’s ABSN program, we’ll talk through any questions you have about our ABSN program and how to become a nurse through our 12-month second-degree ABSN program. The field of nursing inspires us every day, and we are excited to educate the next generation of life-saving nurses.
Contact us today if you want to learn more about how to begin your nursing journey.