How to Survive Nursing School: 9 Top Tips

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If you’re thinking of going back to school for your nursing degree, you may be wondering how to survive nursing school. Is nursing school hard? Yes, but you can do it by applying some proven learning strategies, making use of Utica University’s extensive support resources and forming a study group.

students studying together

Generally speaking, nurses tend to be dedicated, hardworking professionals who are genuinely passionate about helping others. They have a challenging job, and so it should come as no surprise that nursing school is equally challenging. Is nursing school hard? Yes, it certainly can be. A rigorous curriculum is essential for preparing the next generation of nurses.

Here, you can get some actionable tips on not only how to survive nursing school, but also how to succeed in nursing school and learn the invaluable skills you’ll need to help your future patients heal. Remember that when you enroll in Utica University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you’ll receive comprehensive student support services.

With all the support resources available and the prospect of a rewarding career path on the other side, you’ll see that making it through the challenges of nursing school is a worthy pursuit.

How to Succeed in Nursing School: 9 Essential Tips to Follow

As mentioned above, there are things about nursing school that make it stressful. Add in the fact that you’re compressing 36 months’ worth of material into a 16-month accelerated program and life might seem a little overwhelming for a while.

To help ease your anxiety about how to survive nursing school, we compiled these tips, complete with advice from Utica University ABSN students who’ve been in your shoes.

1. Identify the Most Effective Learning Strategy for You

The very nature of nursing school involves learning about complex biological and physiological processes. As an accelerated nursing student, you’ll be tasked with not only demonstrating your understanding of complex medical jargon in your proctored exams and writing assignments. You’ll also need to be able to show that you can apply this knowledge on your feet in simulated patient care scenarios and clinical experiences.

Utica student working on computer with a textbook

In short, you’ll need to learn a significant amount of information in 16 months. It’s helpful to know effective learning strategies heading into nursing school. One persistent myth is that people have different learning styles. For example, one person might think they are an auditory learner, while another is a visual learner. Yet, there is actually no scientific evidence to support the theory of learning styles. That said, there are indeed learning strategies that have been proven effective. Here are a few of them:

  • Use active study techniques. Active studying requires more than just reading a textbook and using a highlighter. After every few paragraphs, pause and summarize what you’ve read in your own words. You can also develop questions based on the material, or organize the material into a concept map or flow chart.
  • Avoid cramming. Marathon study sessions are never effective for long-term knowledge retention. Instead, designate a few hours per day on most days of the week for studying — don’t wait until a day or two before an exam.
  • Review promptly. After each class, take about 15 minutes to review the material you’ve just learned.

2. Set a Study Schedule (and Stick to It)

Time management and prioritizing are everything when it comes to succeeding in accelerated nursing school. You may have been able to “wing it” in some of your undergraduate courses, but such a study strategy will only set you up for failure in nursing school. Because nursing concepts build upon one another and you’ll need to pull from a wide base of knowledge during clinicals and simulation labs, it’s imperative you schedule a time to study — don’t just leave it until you feel like it.

Inputting your exam and deadline schedule and clinical shifts into a planner can help you stay on track and enable you to see what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months (and remember you don’t have to do everything all in one day). Some students even suggest color-coding classes and topics to help you wrap your head around all your nursing school responsibilities.

“On the e-Learning platform is a pre-made calendar for assignments, so I add to that,” says Chelsea Egwim, ABSN Class of May 2020. “For exams, I know the majority of that week will be spent studying for the exam and getting your assignments done for the week. I get super overwhelmed looking at the calendar sometimes, but you want to take it step-by-step by looking at the calendar for the whole semester. Just know it’s doable and you don’t have to do it on your own.”

3. Make Study Buddies

Nursing is a rigorous yet rewarding profession, one that’s all but impossible to survive on your own. Just as nurses working in the field depend on their coworkers to make it through each shift, so too, do accelerated nursing students.

That’s why it’s important to start forging relationships with other members of your cohort as soon as you begin our program. While leaning on your family and friends will help curtail some of your school-related stress, no one else will quite relate to the unique challenges involved with nursing school as your classmates.

2 Utica nursing students smiling with their arms crossed

It’s important to bond with this group for support, encouragement and accountability, Sandra says.

4. Find Time for Self-Care

With everything we’ve mentioned above about the importance of sticking to a study schedule so you don’t fall behind, it’s just as imperative (perhaps even more) to remember that if you feel like you need a break from studying, you should take one!

Powering through and cramming will not serve you well in the end in an accelerated nursing program. On the contrary, taking breaks could make you more productive. So go ahead and pencil some “you” time into your planner to help you unwind and stay balanced.

several colorful clocks fading in and out

Want to learn some smart time management tips? Check them out in this blog post.

5. Remember Your “Why”

Sometimes, the most effective trick for how to survive nursing school is to adjust your mindset. Everyone who enrolls in nursing school has a reason for being there, whether it’s inspiration from a nurse who helped care for a loved one in a time of need or your deep desire to make a difference in today’s ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

Especially during those tough all-nighters or a rough clinical rotation shift, it’s important to remember why you chose to become a nurse in the first place. Use your reason for wanting to enter the profession as fuel to help you power through those trying moments.

While nursing school is challenging, just think of how satisfying it will be when you graduate and your first patient thanks you for making an impact on their life — that moment alone will be confirmation that your effort was worth it!

6. Make Use of Accelerated Nursing School Support Resources

Utica student smiling in a clinical setting

In addition to the nursing school survival tips mentioned above, another surefire way to help you succeed in the Utica University ABSN program is to rely on the myriad support resources available to you. From academic assistance to backing you up with your adjustment to life as an accelerated nursing student, our dedicated team of instructors and support staff is here to help students not just survive nursing school, but thrive. Here’s a look at some of the resources you should take advantage of.

  • Digital learning platform: Utica University’s ABSN program uses a blended, hybrid curriculum that enables you to complete your coursework on your own pace — provided you meet instructors’ deadlines and exam schedules. Our digital learning platform, Canvas, offers interactive resources and access to the course materials from anywhere with an Internet connection. Plus, it offers an online discussion forum to connect with peers and instructors.
  • Synchronous sessions: During these online review sessions, you’ll log into a virtual meeting with your instructor to review the material and ask questions.
  • Faculty and instructor support: The instructors at Utica University genuinely want to help you get the knack of how to succeed in nursing school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and let an instructor know if you need some extra guidance.
  • Success coach: Whenever you’re feeling a bit lost, schedule a chat with your ABSN success coach. Our success coaches are always here to offer tips and emotional support.
  • NCLEX test prep: Since passing the NCLEX is a mandatory milestone for aspiring RNs, we build NCLEX test prep right into the curriculum. Each of our ABSN students has access to NCLEX test prep by Kaplan.

7. Use Nursing Mnemonics

Nursing mnemonics can help you retain a larger volume of information more easily. Mnemonics are mental tricks; they are sort of like a blueprint for information. For example, if you want to remember the symptoms of hypocalcemia, think of “CATS.” This refers to convulsions, arrhythmias, tetany, spasms, and stridor. Similarly, PISO can help you remember the location of electrolytes around cells. It means “potassium inside the cell, sodium outside the cell.”

8. Practice Teaching Nursing Concepts to Study Buddies

Did you know that one of the most effective ways to learn material is to teach it to others, even if you’re not feeling super confident with your own grasp on it? It’s called the protégé effect, and it’s scientifically proven. Form a study group and take turns teaching each other nursing concepts.

9. Supplement Your Course Material with Outside Sources

It’s absolutely critical to thoroughly review all of your course materials. You can also reinforce nursing concepts by talking about them on the discussion forums. However, you need not limit yourself to the course material alone. Take the extra step of searching online for educational nursing materials, such as video tutorials and NCLEX study guides. This can be particularly effective if there are some topic areas that you’re struggling with.

Utica student smiling in front of manikin in hospital bed

Are You Ready for the Challenge of Accelerated Nursing School?

As you can see, accelerated nursing school is challenging, but it’s a challenge worth pursuing. And with all the advice from former students and support resources available to you as a Utica University ABSN student outlined here, you’ll find that it’s not only possible to survive accelerated nursing school, but to thrive.

Are you ready to take on the challenge? Start by reaching out to one of our admission representatives by completing this form — he or she will follow up with you soon to see if you qualify for our program.

The Ultimate Nursing School Admissions Checklist

Ready for nursing school but stressed about applying? We recommend downloading our free admissions checklist to learn the important ins and outs of applying to accelerated nursing school.

The ultimate nursing school admissions checklist