As we continue our series of the secrets of nursing school success, we’re diving in to secret #6 and #7.  You can read about these secrets here, or tune in to episode 189 of the Straight A Nursing podcast to catch them on the go.

Secret #6 of nursing school success: Successful students keep socializing separate from studying

While having a social life (even a very small one) is crucial to being a happy and successful student, the key is to socialize when it works for you and not when you actually should be working.

Time and again I’ve seen that one of the biggest time wasters in nursing school is the study group. These meetings can quickly become social events with the emphasis shifting from studying for exams to sharing the latest gossip, venting about a professor, and complaining about the rigorous schedule.

And while it’s great to have these social hours with your classmates, it’s important to keep them separate from your study group. And we do that by having a highly functional and focused study group. Here’s how you do it:

"I entered nursing school feeling on top of things and ready to conquer." - Grace's Crucial Concepts Bootcamp testimonial

Step 1: Invite the right people

For a study group to be effective, it’s important that the members work well together and utilize the same types of learning styles. If you’re primarily a visual learner, it’s not going to be the best use of your time if you’re in a study group with people who prefer to talk out concepts.

It’s also not helpful if the other group members are less motivated than you are. In order for the group to function well, everyone needs to bring something to the table, even if it’s simply their enthusiasm for learning. 

And lastly, it’s important that your group be an effective size. The bigger the group, the greater chance that things will fall apart. The most effective groups are between three and four people. 

Step 2: Define how your group will function

If you can define how your group will function at the outset, you have a much higher probability that it actually will function. Follow these easy guidelines for determining your group functionality: 

  • When will your group meet? Be sure to include a start and end time.
  • Will you meet regularly (weekly or every other week) or a few days before each exam?
  • How will you meet? Over zoom, in person at the school, or will you take turns meeting at each other’s houses?
  • Is there a group leader or do you share responsibility for the group equally? 
  • How will you study? To determine the best use of your time, you’ll need to take the learning styles of each group member into account. 

Step 3: Define the goals of each study session

By now you’ve got a pretty good idea of how your study group will function, who the members are, and when you’ll meet. Now it’s time to define the specific goals of each session. For example: 

  • Quiz each other to prep for an upcoming exam
  • Take turns teaching each other concepts
  • Complete an assignment together
  • Work on a case study or group project
  • Break down NCLEX practice questions

Step 4: Plan some social activities that are just that…purely social!

Take a moment to plan a social hour with your classmates, friends or family. And do it 100% guilt free! If your study group sessions truly are work sessions, then you’ve earned a little bit of free time every few weeks. Enjoy!

Secret #7 of nursing school success: Be resourceful

If I had to choose ONE trait for successful students, it would probably be resourcefulness. When it comes to undergraduate programs, nursing school isn’t like any other. And it’s definitely nothing like the classes you took in high school (or even your pre-requisites). 

Because there is SO much content your instructors have to teach from day one, there’s no time for hand-holding or spoon-feeding of any kind. Yes, they’re going to teach you the content, but in many cases it’s going to be at lightning fast speed. They expect you to take ownership of your education, utilize your resources, and show up prepared and ready to learn…every single time. 

Another reason resourcefulness is key in nursing school is because it is vital for working at the bedside. Being a nurse means being a problem-solver, a solution seeker and one who can overcome obstacles. If you can’t do that in nursing school, you are going to have a really tough time adjusting to life as a new nurse.

So what does it mean to be resourceful?

Resourcefulness is defined as “the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.”

One of the best ways to describe resourcefulness is to share some examples. I once had a student email me asking me what an elixir is. She was going through my Crucial Concepts Bootcamp (link to learn page) and came across a dosage calculations question about administering an elixir of acetaminophen. 

Rather than simply look the word up in the dictionary, she chose to email me instead. Since I only answer emails Monday-Friday during regular business hours, this means she had to wait a significant amount of time to get the answer to a question she could have easily found herself. In nursing school, you don’t have time to wait hours (or days) for information. If you need to know something, you probably need to know it right now. Being resourceful means using your resources….in this case, a simple dictionary is all that was needed.

In another case, a student was disappointed that her school had closed down all in-person activities at the height of the COVID pandemic. Rather than throw up her hands in frustration, she went to a local feed store and purchased syringes for use in small animals. She was then able to practice injections even though her school’s lab was closed. She sought a quick and clever solution to her problem. In other words, she was resourceful.

What are some ways you can show resourcefulness in nursing school?

  • First of all, DON’T email the instructor questions that can easily be answered in the school handbook, textbook, syllabus or course schedule. This is a huge waste of your time and theirs. 
  • DO seek answers to questions about concepts on your own. If you truly aren’t able to find the answer or understand a concept, then it’s time to reach out to the instructor. Many schools use a “try three before you ask me” strategy. So, it may be helpful to state what other avenues you have tried, so your instructor can see that you truly did make an effort before reaching out.
  • DO say, “I can figure this out” far more often than you say, “I give up.” 

One of the key ways to be resourceful in nursing school is to know which resources can actually help you the most.

Your key resources to use in nursing school are:

  • Your syllabus for each class. This is your GO TO resource for most questions about class structure, grading, policies, expectations, and your responsibilities as a student. 
  • The assignment instructions also provide a wealth of information about the details of your assignments. If the instructions include a rubric, use this as your guide. The rubric is essentially your instructors telling you EXACTLY what to do to get all the available points on your assignments.
  • Your school handbook has a lot of information about overarching policies and expectations.
  • There are many campus resources available to help you succeed. These include the university library, writing center, tutoring services, assistance with technology, and so much more. 
  • Your textbooks are a wealth of information and while you’re probably not going to be able to read everything word-for-word, they should be utilized as reference materials any time you have a question about a specific concept.
  • Many textbooks (both physical and digital) come with an online access code. These online resources are wonderful augments to your classroom experience and can include things like case studies, graphics or illustrations, and practice questions. 
  • Google is your best friend in nursing school. I actually can’t believe I have to point this out, but the number of times students in my Facebook group ask questions that can easily be answered via a quick Google search makes me think, ‘Do they know about Google?” And yes, while I know it’s often helpful to get a peer’s perspective, it’s often much FASTER if you obtain the answer yourself, and, in many cases, much more reliable.
  • Speaking of online resources, some reputable websites (in addition to this one, of course) are: 
    • Mayo Clinic
    • The health library at Cleveland Clinic
    • PubMed is great for research
    • In addition to your APA manual, Purdue Owl is a wonderful resource for helping you navigate APA style and formatting 
    • When it comes to specific disease conditions, I always look to see if there’s a national organization dedicated to the condition. Examples include the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Alzheimer’s Association, and the Christopher Reeve Foundation (for spinal cord injury information). 
    • For pharmacology, please utilize a reputable drug guide such as the Davis guide or even the manufacturer’s own website. 

Three reasons to develop your resourcefulness in nursing school:

  • It saves you time, which is probably the biggest benefit overall. If you email the instructor outside of office hours, they may not get back to you until the next business day. And if you’re trying to complete an assignment over the weekend, or right before it’s due, you simply cannot wait for someone else to respond.
  • Being resourceful shows you take yourself and your studies seriously. 
  • It’s great practice for the actual job of nursing. Being resourceful now will not only pay off in nursing school, it sets you up for a successful transition into real world nursing. 

Want to get all 20 secrets along with a workbook that has actionable planning and steps?  Grab The 20 Secrets of Successful Nursing Students here.

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