Hey guys, a lot of you have asked me on Instagram about how I studied in nursing school. I noticed, while writing Surviving SUSON Part I, I still haven't shared my secrets with you all. Well, here it is, my tips, tricks, and tools to successful studying.
#1. Find out how you learn
The most important thing to do, especially if you haven’t figured it out already, is to figure out how you learn. There are many different styles of learning. The three primary styles are visual learning, auditory learning, and tactile learning. Auditory learners learn by hearing and listening. They understand and remember things they have heard and learn best by reading out loud. Some things that auditory learners can do to learn better are sitting in front of the class to hear better, read stories, assignments, or directions out loud, or record during the lecture to playback later (if your professor allows this). Visual learners learn by reading or seeing pictures. They understand and remember things by sight. Some things that visual learners can do to learn better are write down keywords, ideas, or instructions, color code things, or avoid distractions during study time. Last but not least, tactile learners learn by touching and doing. They understand and remember things through physical movement. They are “hands-on” learners who prefer to touch, move, build or draw what they learn, and they tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. Some things that tactile learners can do to learn better are, take frequent breaks during reading or studying periods, use a computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch, or use flashcards and arrange them in groups to show relationships between the ideas. My learning style is a mixture of all three with an emphasis on visual learning. (You’ll see why later). If you don’t know your learning style, there are many quizzes you can google in order to assess yourself. The quiz I used can be found at the link listed: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml
#2. Find a study group!
Now that you’ve figured out how you learn, it’s time to find your group. This group of people will be the backbone you never knew you needed. They will keep you focused, grounded, and probably become your life-long friends. They will push you when you need pushing and comfort you when you think the world is ending. You guys will celebrate together, cry together, have fights, etc. because let’s face it, these will be your brothers and sisters for your journey through nursing school. Word of advice: Study with people who will challenge you and not be afraid to get in your shit if need be. Keep your group as small as you need it to be to get the job done! If your group is 10 people but you guys get the job done, then that is fine. If you don’t feel that the study group is beneficial for you, either speak up or leave. Don’t let anything hinder your success.
#3. Stay organized/Take Notes
This is probably one of the hardest rules/tips to follow. It’s really all about discipline. The single most important piece to keep me together during high school, college and even now was my planner. If you haven't already, invest in a planner. All your important test dates, personal appointments and even grocery lists can go inside your planner. This was how I mapped out what I would be studying that day or if I needed to alter my schedule because I had something else to do. Another way for me to keep organized was to color code everything. All my notes from nursing school were color coded. This helped me stay organized because I see color. When I would take notes in class, they would be in black ink. Black ink meant basics. This was all the stuff I either should’ve already known from general knowledge or discussions in class. Once I mastered that, I would move on to a different color to refer to as intermediate. Guys, this would probably be in the color pink because it’s my favorite. This would be information I had read and knew but I hadn’t necessarily mastered it yet. I would also go back and highlight in yellow or green content that I needed to review again. Last but not least, the information I flat out did not know would be written in a totally different color, like red, to serve the purpose of making sure I went back to review it again and again. Of course, all my notes were not like this, I mean I’m not a complete psycho just borderline lol.
#4. Read first
Tying into the previous tip, make sure you read first. It is always more beneficial to read your material before heading to your study group or if you can before class. This is not always possible I know, but it will help you in the long run. Reading before class or before study group gives you a guide on how to study. Teachers tell you all the time don’t continue to study what you already know. If you were to read first and mark up everything you have a general knowledge of, this leaves you with the more difficult content that you can focus on. When I was able to read first in school, I saw it made a big difference in my test grades.
#5. Find resources
Nowadays, there are so many resources to aid in your success. If you’re reading and something still isn’t clicking for you, find another resource to help you understand things better. For example, in nursing school, I had my textbook, but we had extra resource books like Medical Surgical Made Incredibly Easy, that would break things down even further. We also had computer programs to practice questions on. There are literally endless resources you can find or use depending on what you’re studying. Guys, Google is our best friend. Use it wisely! If you want it bad enough, you will not let anything stop you from learning what you need to learn to pass.
#6. Meet with advisors
Your academic advisor is your lifeline in school. They can really help you excel at getting to the end goal…graduation. Use them to your advantage. You can talk to them about anything academically. They can tell you what classes you need to take, recommend what you need to do in order to pick up a minor, and most importantly keep you on the fast track to graduation. I did not use my academic advisors to the best of my ability. The semester I signed my graduation application I discovered I needed an additional class in order to graduate. I was under the impression that another class I had taken would be a substitute for one of my required classes and it wasn’t. My graduating semester I was taking a class that I could have easily taken my freshman or sophomore year but because I hadn’t talked to my advisor and thought I had it under control it backfired. Don’t be me!
#7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
ASK QUESTIONS IN CLASS! You are in class for one reason and one reason only…to learn. Make the most out of your learning experience. If the teacher is lecturing and there is something that you don’t understand, raise your hand and ask for clarification. Don’t hold up the class because you’re completely clueless and haven’t prepped for the lecture. That’s annoying. Asking questions in classes helped me out when I needed further explanation. Somebody in your class may have the same questions and are just too shy or soft-spoken to ask for themselves. Asking questions is not lame or uncool especially when you’re paying for your education. Take advantage of having your teacher as a resource and your classmates to have in class discussions. This helps us, auditory learners, especially because something said in class can stick with you.
#8. Review tests
After you’ve studied your best and taken your tests, it helps to go review your tests with your teachers. Going to test reviews is something I wish I would’ve had more time to do in school. It definitely helps to go into comprehensive final exams because you have an idea of what all you need to study. Your professors are there to help you. Going to their office shows them that you actually care about your grades and schooling. This can definitely make a difference at the end of the semester when you might be failing by a partial point. I know teachers that will pass you simply because they saw you trying and being concerned all semester.
#9. Use field experience
My experience in clinical for nursing really helped me study better. We were able to see so much of what we were studying in an actual setting. If you read about something and discussed it in class, it’s such a great feeling when you get to see it happening in person. For example, in my OB class, we read and discussed the stages of childbirth. It wasn’t until I actually saw a live birth that I decided this is really what I want to do. (After all, I do want to be a midwife, guys.) Another example is the skills we practiced in the skills lab. Starting IVs, inserting foleys, suctioning trachs, etc. were not as interesting until we were actually doing them on real people. This can also apply to other majors as well. Whatever the major is, use your experience to get familiar with your craft.
#10. Take time for yourself, You need to recharge
This is one rule we always look forward to and never fully indulge in. At least I never do. Guys, self-care is the best care. Getting stressed out over tests, assignments and other school-related topics is never good for us. This is why every blue moon, we have to take time to take care of ourselves. Go get your hair and nails done if that’s what you like, go get a massage or take yourself out for a nice dinner and a movie, anything to please yourself if only just for a few hours. Your mind, body, and soul will appreciate it. Your energy can become too depleted, you really have to recharge to boss back up!
And these my friends, are the tips, tricks, and tools that got me through nursing school. Do you have any tips you want to add? Leave them in the comment section below! Surviving SUSON Part 2 should be ready next week guys, but until then….
The Klassic Nurse 💋
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