8 Tips for How to Get Through Nursing School Successfully

Maybe you are thinking about going back to school to become a nurse, or you are just starting nursing school. Either way, you are likely well aware of the challenge that lies ahead. It is no exaggeration to say that nursing school requires a lot of hard work, and for good reason. After all, nurses carry a great deal of responsibility, making a thorough education vitally important.

Last month, we talked about what you need to do to get into accelerated nursing school, such as Mercer University’s 12-month second degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track in Atlanta. This month, we will be discussing how to get through nursing school successfully.

Your success in nursing school ultimately depends on the effort you put in. Here are eight easy-to-implement recommendations you can and should heed to make the most of your nursing school experience — from organization and schedule setting to study and self-care.

1. Get Organized

Whether studying nursing theory via traditional, campus-based lectures or online coursework, you are going to be taking a lot of notes. Not only that, you will need to reference those notes later, both for subsequent courses and NCLEX preparation. This makes strong organizational skills critical to your success.

To help you stay organized in nursing school, consider:

  • Keeping all of your notes and printouts in well laid-out binders, giving thought to how you might best reference the information later on. (For example: splitting up chapters with dividers, using color-coded tabs to call out specific topics, highlighting only the most important information so it is easy to spot as you flip through.)
  • Setting aside a room or area of your home for studying. Optimally, this space should be free of clutter and distractions, as these have been found to inhibit the brain’s ability to process and store information. If you plan on studying at coffee shops or other public places, or live with noisy people or pets, you might also consider picking up some noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Making to-do lists. Just be sure to keep them brief and limit the number of items on your list to only the most important tasks.
Nursing student studying with notebook and laptop

2. Set a Schedule

Arguably, schedule setting could fall under organization; however, it really deserves its own entry. Talk to almost any nursing student and he or she will tell you how important it is to set a schedule, especially with a fast-paced offering like Mercer ABSN. Not only does a schedule keep you on with your assignments, labs, and clinicals, it can also be a major time-saver, helping you to prioritize what you need to do and when so you make the best use of your time.

While our easy-to-use online learning management system (LMS) features a built-in calendar to help you stay on track, many students tell us they keep more than one calendar. Of course, what you do is entirely up to you. Some students, for example, take a very granular approach, breaking each day into chunks, sometimes a semester at a time. Others take a less-detailed approach, noting only key dates and times. Whatever you do, be sure to make time in your busy schedule to get rest, have fun, and take care of yourself (more on that later).

3. Think It Through

From the very first semester of our Accelerated BSN track, students take NCLEX-style tests, which can come as a bit of a shock. No ordinary test, the NCLEX gauges your readiness to practice as a registered nurse by assessing your ability to choose the “most correct” answer in response to a scenario. In the world of nursing, there are countless scenarios in which one response may not necessarily be wrong but is not the best course of action — and that requires an entirely different approach to test taking than most of us are used to.

To help you prepare for this style of test, you need to get in the habit of thinking analytically. Consider what is most important versus what is extraneous information.

4. Ask Questions

Two ABSN students working together in skills lab

For many of us, asking questions can be an uncomfortable task. However, it does not have to be. In fact, research suggests that people who ask questions are more likeable than those who do not.

In nursing school, you cannot be afraid to reach out if you need help or do not understand a concept. Not to mention, as a nurse, you will need to ask patients questions every day, so it is best to get in the habit now.

Though students in Mercer University’s Accelerated BSN track complete their coursework online, we make it easy to connect with your instructors and classmates through our online learning management system’s built-in discussion forums and chat features. You can also contact your instructors through email, by phone, or in-person via office hours at our ABSN learning site, where you will complete your skills and simulation labs. Many instructors even encourage students to text them with questions. Remember, your nursing school instructors want to see you succeed.

5. Write It Down

If you are of the growing number of people who prefer to type notes on your computer or other digital device, you might want to rethink your approach. Studies indicate that students who handwrite their notes are more likely to remember them than are those who type their notes. Researchers believe this is in part due to the extra time it takes to write things down with pen and paper, and because taking notes by hand builds motor memory. Typing, they say, lacks the same motor memory benefits and often leads to “mindless transcription.”

6. Make Study a Habit

Any nursing student will tell you that you have to make study a daily habit. You simply cannot expect to succeed in nursing school by cramming the night before the test. If it was covered in your reading assignments, labs, online coursework, etc., it is fair game on tests and quizzes, making it crucial that you review your notes and course materials on a regular basis.

In addition to studying on your own, there is great value in meeting up with members of your cohort to study and review course materials. Doing so exposes you to other perspectives and learning opportunities.

7. Be Positive

It might seem a bit cliché, but there is real value in maintaining a positive outlook. This is especially true of self-talk, or the conscious and subconscious things we tell ourselves. Thinking positive may not stave off illnesses or prevent bad things from happening, but it can prevent us from sabotaging our best efforts. For example, if you walk into a test with a negative attitude — that is, believing you will fail — you may very well second-guess yourself on questions you know the answers to, whereas a test-taker with a positive attitude is less likely to let doubt creep in.

Mercer nursing students standing in line

8. Practice Self-Care

With so much to learn, it can be tempting to feel like you should spend every waking minute reading your course materials, attending labs, and studying. Diligent though this may be, it is a recipe for burnout. Nursing is a demanding job, so it is a good idea to get in the habit of practicing self-care now.

Self-care includes:

  • Getting enough sleep — For most adults, 7–8 hours a night is optimal.
  • Exercising regularly — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity each week.
  • Eating healthy — This includes getting enough fruits and vegetables and limiting alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption.
  • Taking breaks to clear your mind.
  • Practicing stress-management techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

Set Yourself Up for Success in Nursing

Becoming a nurse starts with finding the right nursing school. As one of the oldest nursing programs in the south, Mercer’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing has a history of nursing excellence. If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, our accredited ABSN track in Atlanta could be your quickest path to a career in nursing — one that will rigorously prepare you to be a skilled, compassionate nurse leader. Give us a call today to find out if Mercer ABSN is right for you.