Nursing is a wonderful profession, but the journey there is not easy. There are several paths to becoming a nurse in the US. While you can do an associate’s degree, some employers choose to only hire people who have Bachelor’s or even Master’s degrees. Once you finish your degree, you’ll have to take another exam to become licensed in order to practice.
It’s especially important to study properly in nursing school. Not only because the material can be difficult, but because it requires more than memorizing. You’ll be using what you learn in nursing school on the job, so it’s important that you really understand what it is that you’re learning.
I made a video with my tips on how to succeed in nurse practitioner school, based on my own experience. These tips got me through undergrad nursing school and NP school. I wanted to go more in-depth about each tip and offer a few more.
- Stay on top of everything. Treat the first test as if it’s the final. Getting into that mindset from the beginning sets you up for success. As I mentioned in my video, the library is often quite empty at the beginning of the semester, making it an even more perfect place to study. If you follow the readings all throughout the semester, you’re not going to be rushing to catch up before finals. You’ll be able to use the extra time to review the material and practice demo tests instead of studying some things for the first time.
- Keep a steady habit. Learn the best ways for you to study. Some people study better at night, while others are most focused when they first wake up. Some people study better with friends, while others need to learn the material by themselves. You might find that you work best in a coffee shop where there’s background noise. Or you might need the complete silence of a library or their own room. Once you find what works for you, stick to it. If you find that you study better at night, like me, find ways to make that possible for you.
- Exercise and eat right. It might be tempting to just grab whatever is fastest and easiest to keep you going all night, but you’ll be harming yourself in the long run. Exercise and eating clean with help you manage the stress. Not only by getting your mind off of school while you exercise, but keeping your body healthy will help your body regulate your stress hormones.
- Find a life outside of school. Keep up with your friends and hobbies. It will keep you sane. Having a steady habit will help you stick to a schedule, as well. Knowing that you have yoga at 7 so you only have 2 hours left to study, will make your studying more productive than feeling time stretch ahead of you. You’ll study better when you’re happy – so make sure to have some fun with friends.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep (6 to 8 hours a night). You can’t produce the same quality of work when you’re tired. Not only that, but sleep is essential for memory consolidation. You might think you’re being smart by skipping another hour of sleep to be able to read some more pages, but it’s wasted time if you’re not going to be able to hold on to that information for long. And the last thing you want it to be barely able to keep your eyes open during a test. Set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed if you need to. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Be prepared and focus. Review the material before class so it doesn’t sound as though the professor is speaking a foreign language. Put your phone on airplane mode to minimize distraction when you sit down to study.
- Try a study group. Studying with people can help you organize the material in different ways. You might think you’ve understood everything when you’ve read it by yourself, only to realize you’re not able to explain it well. Teaching someone else the material, as well as quizzing each other, can really help the material sink in. Keep in mind that your closest friends might not be the ones to study with. Not only because you might catch yourself talking instead of studying, but you might have different times or ways you prefer to go over the material.
- Take demo quizzes. This is super important. You can know the material inside and out but struggle on the final if you haven’t practiced answering any questions. Luckily, most textbooks offer practice tests at the back and online, even if your school doesn’t offer any.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Even when you practice all these tips, it will be hard. There will be times of stress and anxiety. There might be times where you wonder if you should just quit. Remind yourself of your end goal and exactly why you are doing this. The hardships are temporary and necessary to get where you want to.
Nursing school can be difficult, but if you’re effective, you can make it through and be successful without burning out. Remember to go easy on yourself and set realistic goals. You don’t have to go too easy on yourself, but practice self-compassion. Try not to compare yourself to others, and instead focus on doing the best you can.