Nursing school is not easy. You are inundated with material that requires hours of weekly study to master. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. No matter how excited you may be in nursing school, your motivation will likely ebb and flow. Some days, everything seems perfect. Other days, pretty much nothing goes right. Losing motivation then becomes a question of when rather than if.
Those who have gone before you have tips that may help you keep motivated to complete your studies, pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam), and fulfill your dream of becoming a Registered Nurse.
Tip 1: Establish Goals
You might scoff at this suggestion and ask, “Would I be in nursing school if I didn’t set goals?” This type of goal setting is more simplified. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in nursing school. Studies are rigorous, and much is demanded of you.
Establish small, easily achievable goals. Write them down. Instead of planning on studying mega-hours on the weekend, set a goal of studying in shorter time frames every day. When you meet your goal, cross it off your list. As you take “baby steps” toward your goal, you can avoid overwhelm and can easily stay on track.
Tip 2: Practice Good Time Management Skills
This tip is closely related to establishing goals. Look ahead and determine what is required of you for the next day, next week, next month, and by the end of the quarter or semester. Break down these tasks into manageable chunks of time.
Make a master calendar to record requirements for each class and due dates for assignments. Record your test dates. Then, block time, going backwards so that you are finished with it, the day a paper is due. When you arrive at class for a test, you will be prepared for it.
Tip 3: Establish Good Study Skills
In nursing school, you are not required to just memorize information from your textbooks and parrot it back in a test given at the end of the term. Nursing school classes require a continuous mastery of information that builds on what you learned in the previous class. Then, you have to demonstrate that you have indeed mastered the material as you exhibit your skills in the real world, taking care of real patients.
Successful former nursing students have found the following study tips to be almost required:
Study effectively and avoid distractions
Set aside study time when you turn off your phone and forgo checking social media. It is difficult to concentrate when you are continually receiving text messages, emails, and checking Facebook.
One method some have found useful is to set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time, only concentrate on your studies. When the timer goes off, take five minutes to stretch, check social media, respond to texts, etc. Then, reset the timer and study for another 25 minutes.
If possible, set aside a spot in your home for study space. A room you turn into an office would be great, but not necessary. Just a corner of a table and a nearby shelf to keep your study materials can work.
Study smartly and efficiently
Cramming for a test may have worked for you in other educational settings, but do not expect it to be an effective study method for nursing school. You have to master information and nursing skills.
You cannot just learn information for a test by heart. You must know the information backward and forward until it is part of you and your nursing care is almost automatic. You have to understand the information on a level to apply what you have learned to different scenarios and crucially think.
Give yourself enough time to read through the text and respond to practice questions. Review the material before you get to class. Many nursing students underestimate the amount of time they will take to finish the reading materials or write a paper.
Tip 4: Ask for Help
Study time may be compromised if you have children, pets, a husband, who all need attention. They may not understand your need for study time. They may be asking you to watch their favorite television program with them or ask for your attention in other ways.
It may be time to corral the help of family members or friends who can babysit for a few hours a week to give you a block of time to study. If children are old enough, you can study together: you study for your nursing school classes while they do their homework.
Check with your nursing school to see if there are any resources to help you study, such as any tutoring available or exam preparation tools.
Join an organization designed to help nursing students. In addition to your nursing school, which may have resources, you may want to join organizations like the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA). The mission of the NSNA is to “Bring together and mentor students preparing for initial licensure as registered nurses, as well as those enrolled in baccalaureate completion programs.”
Being a part of a professional organization during nursing school may motivate you to continue on those days when you question whether all of your hard work is worth it.
Tip 5: Allow Yourself Some Free Time
The suggestion that you allow yourself some free time is one that may make you laugh. “How can that happen?” you may ask. Teach your family to check your master calendar so they know when you are working, when you will be at a class, and when you will be studying.
Make space on your calendar to schedule free time. This could be as simple as playing a board game with your family, going to a concert, spending time with a loved one, or just time with yourself. Allowing time for recreational reading may be just what you need to refresh your mind.
Tip 6: Celebrate Your Successes
Nursing students tend to flagellate themselves over their failures. Doing poorly on a quiz or showing up at class without having read the material can send you into a tailspin. Although you may want to evaluate what happened, so you do not do it again, celebrate your success.
Pass an exam you were worried about? Celebrate! Get a good grade on a term paper? Celebrate. Did a patient say “thank you” for the care you provided? Celebrate. Go out to eat. Have chocolate for dessert. In addition to this making you feel good, it will motivate you to get through the difficult times.
Tip 7: Get Enough Sleep
No matter how impossible you think this is, you must make time for yourself to get enough sleep. Although this seems like an impossible tip to follow, the American Nurses Association (ANA) emphasizes the need for nurses and nursing students to get enough sleep.
According to ANA, the benefits of a healthy sleep include “heightened alertness, boosted mood, increased energy, better concentration, more stamina, greater motivation, better judgment, and improved learning.” Those who are sleep deprived are susceptible to “obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and mood disorders.”
“How can I possibly do that?” you ask. Relying on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ANA offers some sleeping tips.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Be sure your bed is comfortable, your bedroom is one with adequate ventilation, and set the temperature so that it is neither too hot or too cold.
- Remove televisions and computers from your bedroom and only use your bedroom for sleeping.
- Avoid heavy meals late in the evening, just before bedtime.
Nursing school is challenging, but if you manage your time, ask for help, celebrate your successes, you can stay motivated and finish nursing school ready to begin your nursing career.