How to Be Successful in Nursing School: 3 Keystone Best Practices

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When thinking about how to be successful in nursing school, there are three main best practices to be aware of. First, get organized by using a master calendar and scheduling study sessions in advance. Second, seek help from those around you, and third, use all your resources.

nurses walking in a hallway

Nursing school has a reputation for being challenging, with good reason. Nursing schools need to graduate practice-ready nurses who are prepared to protect and promote their patients’ health and safety; because of that, the curriculum can be intensive. However, if you follow three core best practices on how to be successful in nursing school, you can facilitate your progress toward earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Knowing how to survive nursing school is vital for an accelerated program, such as the Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN (ABSN) at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU). Our ABSN program leverages your previously earned non-nursing degree to allow you to graduate with a BSN in as few as 15 months. You’ll be able to enter the nursing workforce sooner; however, due to the accelerated pace of the program, it’s especially crucial to follow best practices and stay on top of your work.

Explore these three core best practices to learn how to get through nursing school successfully.

nurse sitting on hospital bed

Is nursing school hard? While nursing programs can be challenging, learn more about why that is and how these difficulties prepare you for a nursing career.

1. Master the Art of Planning

The first keystone best practice that can help you determine how to be successful in nursing school is to master the art of planning ahead. Planning is essential for every student, but particularly for those who are prone to procrastination. By determining how much time you have to complete each task, you’ll better understand the importance of staying focused and on track, as there won’t be much room for procrastination.

How to Survive Nursing School by Getting Organized

Organization will be your friend in nursing school and beyond. Your most important tool for organization will be your master calendar, including study sessions (see below).

However, you might also try:

  • Setting reminders on your phone so you don’t forget a study session or an upcoming exam
  • Using a timer app to keep yourself on track toward completing assignments
  • Following a set routine on most days of the week
  • Maintaining files of digital notes for classes and studying (Compared to handwritten notes, digital notes allow for later expansion. Use folders and subfolders to keep them organized by class and subject area.)

Make a Study Calendar

nurse at desk working on computer

Creating a master calendar is arguably the most crucial step toward getting and staying organized. Your calendar—which can be digital or a tangible planner—should allot time as needed for the following:

  • Classes
  • Nursing labs
  • Clinical rotation shifts
  • Individual study sessions
  • Group/study buddy sessions

It should also include all your assignment deadlines, exam dates and appointments with your Academic Success Coach, if applicable.

It’s not advisable to schedule marathon study sessions over the weekend while doing minimal studying during the week. Students often find better results when they break up their studying into segments lasting an hour or two. As you add various time commitments to your master calendar, look for time segments you can allocate for studying.

nurse using laptop

Follow these eight tips on how to prepare for nursing school to enter your program with confidence.

Schedule Regular Group Study Sessions

Group study sessions can be highly effective for nursing students, as different students will have varying strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle with behavioral health topics and one of your cohort members excels in this area, they can help you. Plus, the interaction during a group study session can encourage active engagement with the material.

Prepare Before Each Class

Getting into the habit of arriving early for each class can be helpful. Spend 10 to 15 minutes reviewing the material from the previous class to encourage memory retention. After each class, if time allows, you can spend an additional 10 to 15 minutes focusing on the material your instructor just covered.

2. Tap into Your Knowledge Network

Nursing school can be such a monumental journey in your life that it can be easy to forget that other people are going through it, too. One keystone practice for how to be successful in nursing school is to reach out to others, both for practical assistance and emotional support. There is no need to isolate yourself and try to get through nursing school independently. Instead, actively tap into your knowledge network.

How to Be Successful in Nursing School: Connect with Instructors

Your instructors are one of your most important resources for getting through nursing school. At Notre Dame, our instructors are particularly invested in your academic achievement and are always accessible to our ABSN students. However, you need to take that first step to reach out.

You can actively connect with and get to know your instructors in your classes and your nursing labs. If you’re taking courses online, you can use the discussion forums to ask questions and request clarification on various topics. Of course, if you’re taking courses on our campus, you can have face-to-face conversations with instructors. Try to connect with instructors during office hours and in classes and labs.

Reach Out to Your Peers

We’ve already discussed how participation in study groups is one of the best practices for how to survive nursing school. However, members of your nursing cohort can also be a source of emotional support during this challenging time. Throughout the ABSN program, you’ll likely grow close to other members in your cohort, particularly if you decide to take in-person classes instead of online coursework. Positive camaraderie can go a long way toward helping you—and your peers—get through the program successfully.

NDMU nursing students

Seek Out Potential Mentors

In addition to reaching out to your instructors and members of your nursing cohort, consider seeking potential mentors elsewhere. You can turn to a mentor for guidance on anything nursing-related, whether it’s advice on choosing a nursing specialty or feedback on your bedside manner.

Some of the professional nurses with whom you interact during your clinical rotations may become mentors to you. Whenever you arrive for a shift during a clinical, being professional, friendly and courteous toward others is essential. This can go a long way toward nurturing professional relationships that may become mentorships.

Keeping in touch with these individuals after your clinical ends is also important. It’s advised to make an effort to connect with them on LinkedIn, for example, so that you can use the chat feature on that platform to keep in touch and ask nursing career-related questions. Doing so can establish a professional network you can draw upon when looking for your first nursing job.

3. Incorporate a Variety of Resources

As a nursing student, you have more resources available to you than you might realize. At Notre Dame, for example, you can work one-on-one with an Academic Success Coach. Your coach can help you with anything from staying organized to developing good study habits to NCLEX prep. In addition to working with your coach, it’s a good idea to use a variety of resources as you figure out how to be successful in nursing school.

Coursework Material

One of the most apparent resources available to you is the coursework material. You can access the same comprehensive coursework material whether you take classes online or on campus at NDMU. Online, you’ll be able to watch videos and complete interactive activities as often as needed to master the material. You’ll benefit from small class sizes and more face-to-face interactions in person.

NDMU ABSN student sitting at desk studying

External Resources

Although your coursework will provide everything you need to know to get through nursing school and pass the NCLEX, it can be a good idea to supplement it with external resources. This is particularly true when working on NCLEX prep. You can find video tutorials, podcasts, NCLEX exam guides, NCLEX-related apps and similar study resources online, often at no cost.

Practice Exams

It’s strongly recommended that you take multiple full-length practice exams as you ramp up your NCLEX prep toward the middle and end of nursing school. In fact, you may want to take your first practice exam toward the beginning of your program to determine your strengths and weaknesses. The results of your practice exams can guide your study sessions. In addition, practice exams can help you become more comfortable with the types of questions you’ll encounter.

nursing student studying

If you’re still overwhelmed, try these additional study tips for nursing students.

Start Your Nursing Journey Today

Now that you know how to get through nursing school successfully, are you ready to start working toward your dream career? Notre Dame of Maryland University’s ABSN program can allow you to graduate in as few as 15 months, fully prepared to tackle the NCLEX exam and pursue a nursing career. Additionally, our Academic Success Coaches and dedicated instructors will help support your progress throughout your academic journey.

Contact us today to speak with an admissions counselor about the ABSN program and determine your eligibility.