Nurses are charged with many responsibilities, requiring them to be attentive to details and skilled at multitasking, so it is no wonder that nursing programs are difficult. Nursing education programs are designed to teach all nurses need to know in order to begin a career, though they are likely to never stop learning. There are many resources available to help nursing students through the education process. Students are encouraged to take advantage of as many of these resources as possible, but what works for some does not necessarily work for everyone.
Staying organized can help students to balance the demands of nursing school. One way in which students can do this is to make a plan or calendar of deadlines and exams. Most instructors provide a syllabus at the beginning of class with a course calendar. This can be done on a calendar, planner, smart phone app, or computer. Even something as simple as listing these important dates on a piece of paper can help them stay organized. Students can even plan out study sessions, in order to ensure they have enough time set aside to study. Developing good time management skills can help nursing students to be more prepared and to avoid procrastination. Waiting until the last minute leaves little time to fix errors or dedicate extra time to studying topics not fully understood.
There are many different resources one can use to prepare for exams, but one of the best is notes taken in class. Instructors often give clues about what is likely to be featured on exams, but this does not make other class material less important. Students should take quality notes that they will understand later, emphasizing any information that is likely to be tested. Reading the notes after class, while the information is still fresh, is good practice for committing material to memory. For those who learn by listening and find it difficult to take notes and follow along, a tape recorder can be used in lecture and used as a substitute for notes. While studying, it may be helpful to turn notes into flashcards in order to test knowledge.
The textbook is also a helpful resource. Corresponding chapters can be read before lecture as preparation, or after as review. Comparing the text to the lecture material is a good way to encourage critical thinking and to develop a deeper understanding of the material. For those who learn well this way, outlining the chapter is a great way to develop a structured knowledge of how the information is related. Students should engage in active reading strategies to aid learning.
Other exam preparation resources include study questions listed in the textbook or provided by the instructor. Students may also find it useful to talk to peers who have already taken the course about how and what material to study effectively for the exams.
Students should not be afraid to ask questions, especially when having difficulty understanding a topic. If instructors do not welcome questions during lecture or one is uncomfortable interrupting, he or she can write down the question and ask after class. Professors are one of the best resources available to students, and in many cases they appreciate when students care enough to make sure they understand. If asking questions in the classroom is not an option or questions arise after lecture has ended, scheduling a meeting with the instructor or visiting him or her during office hours is also an option.
Studying Alone or in Groups
Depending on your preference, you can either study alone or in a group. If a student prefers to study alone, he or she should go somewhere quiet free from distractions in order to increase productivity. It helps to find a place where one feels comfortable and is able to concentrate, and to go to this place routinely to study. Making a study schedule that includes time for relaxation and socializing works well for some, because it provides additional structure.
Study groups can be both helpful and harmful. Students should study in groups only if they find this method to be effective. Groups can be helpful, as students can compare notes and share ideas on the subject. Some students may have a better understanding of certain topics than others, allowing them to teach others. In addition, group study sessions are great for testing each other on the material. Study groups can be inefficient and ineffective when students spend more time socializing than studying and have trouble staying on topic. For this reason, it can be helpful to study with acquaintances, rather than close friends. These groups are sometimes organized by the instructor, but students can also set them up using flyers, word of mouth, or social media.
Books, News, and Scholarly Journals
Learning does not have to take place only in the classroom. Nursing students might also want to read books and scholarly journals related to nursing in order to increase their knowledge and understanding. These resources can be found in libraries, bookstores, and through subscription. Staying current on health news is also a great habit for nursing students, as changes in healthcare and medicine are likely to play a large role in their future. This additional learning is a great way to subject classroom and clinical learning.