So yesterday, I posted about how nursing school is like prepping for a marathon and that one important thing to do is study every day. I truly believe that because there is so much material and so little of it is memorization that going over a little bit every day makes the monumental task of each test a little easier. It occurred to me that not everyone may know how to do that, so I’m going to go over what I do to study every day (and it’s not just re-reading all my notes!).
- Write it down – if you are of the age of computers, you may not ever spend much time writing things. You probably type. There’s nothing wrong with that but there are studies that show that writing things by hand helps you remember them more. Yes, it’s hard to do and it takes longer but honestly, I think that’s why it sticks better. You have to think about what letter to write. I take my notes in class by hand, following along on the powerpoint. If I can’t get everything down, I will make a note in my notebook to go back to look at a slide again. Writing by hand helps me remember a LOT of stuff. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be legible.
- Read what’s in the book – and not just skimming it. I mean actively read what’s in your book. Most teachers assign reading and it’s not because they’re mean. It’s because there is so much that you can’t possibly get it all in class. You may not even be able to read everything (I’ll get to this is a bit though) but you should try. If nothing else, find the sections in your book that correspond to what you did in class. Chances are that your instructor finds that material important. While you read, look for anything that stands out as different from your notes. That way you can ask questions the next day (or email your instructor and ask).
- Answer practice problems – Nursing school is unique in that every student must take the NCLEX before they can become a nurse and begin to work. So most nursing schools base their tests around NCLEX questions. So you have ready made question banks to practice with. Buy a book or an app or whatever you want. There are plenty of free resources online (but be sure it’s a good source!) that have questions as well. Do those questions before your test. Most books also come with question banks that you can access online as well. Use those resources. I promise your instructors do too. If nothing else, you’ll be getting good practice before you graduate and have to take your real NCLEX.
- Make flash cards – it sounds high school and odd because not everything is memorization. However, this gets you to write again (or type it, if you insist on not writing by hand) and gives your brain another chance to process the information. The more times your brain sees it, the more you will recall later.
- Schedule time to study – Time management is crucial in nursing school. The more you have to do, the more crucial it becomes. It’s also important of you are a person who gets easily distracted by things like Netflix. Write down a time to study and stick to it. My life is super scheduled and it helps immensely. It’s very easy to get distracted by something and lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s 10 at night and you’re saying you’ll look at it tomorrow.
- Reread your notes – again, more exposure.
- Complete the extra assignments – sometimes you get those things that you know won’t be graded. Often times, they get pushed aside and only half heartedly completed. Put effort into those assignments though. Again, your instructor assigned with a purpose in mind. I’ve yet to met any instructor that assigned something just because they felt you needed to be kept busy.
- Take breaks – your brain needs time to process. Make sure that you take time off from the notes and reading and other things. Give your brain a chance to figure out what it knows and what it doesn’t. You may be pleasantly surprised if you take the rest of a night off and go back the next day.
- Apply material when you can – use clinical time or friends, whatever you need too (please don’t stress your friends out, just think about them if they’ve ever had the disease process you’re studying). Especially clinical time, really think about the disease processes your patient’s have and try to apply what you learned in class. That doesn’t mean you have to go into a patient’s room and go over everything with them. Just think about it. Look at medications, symptoms, behaviors and apply what you know.
So that’s my process. I do each of these things before every test, when I can. I don’t always have extra assignments and sometimes I can’t do everything because there isn’t enough time. That’s especially true this summer when we’re taking a class crammed into four weeks. Do what you can everyday though and you’ll be surprised when you get to the test just how much you can recall.
If you’re in school or about to be, I hope this helps you. The rest of my blog readers (if you read this!) I’ll have something non-school related tomorrow, I promise! Until then!