Hi guys! My name is Eline, and I’m in my first year of nursing school. I know, it’s quite the contrast to Law school, on which the usual articles are based. What I do believe is that not only nursing students, but every student will find some kind of inspiration (hopefully) for when it comes to making it through the year. Let me start by saying that nursing school is not easy; at all. It takes a lot of planning, time, effort, … Now that I’m nearly done with my first year, I’ve managed to list some tricks and tips that helped me through it.

Tip #1: Try to work every single day
I know it’s easier said than done, trust me. But even if it’s for half an hour, it makes a difference. There’s so much theory and practical things that need to be known by the time your exams are coming around, and they’re always there before you know it. Whatever’s been done is done and is something you no longer need to worry about.

Tip #2: Read the books they use references from
I’m not telling you to read every single book. But if you do stumble upon some sources at the end, I highly advice you to at least take a look at this book. It may contain a lot more and more clear information than your syllabus does, making it easier and more understandable. For me, studying becomes easier when I get the entire picture. The more information and explanation I get, the easier it becomes. I even bought one of those books mentioned on the last page of my syllabus, because it made everything much clearer and easier to understand.

Tip #3: Find your group
Even though it might be an idealistic thought you have in your head; summarizing every course by yourself is a lot of work. It would mean working for school every single day, for a long period of time. For example: Anatomy is already a really big course, with a lot of Latin names that need to be known. By the time you summarized that entire book, there will not be much time left for the rest of your courses, that contain a lot of theory as well. Having a group of friends that you can work together with makes everything much easier. If you have a question about something, but don’t really feel like contacting the professor through mail, there’s a big chance that someone in the group does know. You can even work together when it comes to summarizing; they can do specific chapters while you do yours, or you can even divide the courses. Just make sure your group puts in the same amount of work that you do. It’s frustrating when you’re the only one that seems to be making an effort.

Tip #4: practice your practical skills
When you think about nursing, you probably think about the number of things we need to know and do. There’s a lot of skills we need to be able to do, which we of course learn in school. It’s really important to practice those skills outside of class as well, because if you only practice during school hours; you probably won’t make it. Practice, practice, practice, until it becomes a routine. It’ll make it less stressful when the test is around the corner. As a nurse, there’s little to no room for mistakes. Our teachers are very aware of that, so they expect the best from their students.

Tip #5: Don’t postpone important tasks
Everyone has those days where they really don’t feel like working for school, even if there’s a deadline coming up. The amount of days still ahead of you may give you the feeling that you still have time, but I’m advising you to just get it over with. You never know what might happen during those days; a new task is always possible, which will only give you less time to work for that deadline. It’s much better to have completed that task beforehand, than to be stressing because you only have two hours left and you’re not finished yet. The first year of nursing school contains a lot of deadlines (at least, my college does). If you keep postponing, the pile of work will only grow bigger and will cause a lot more stress.

Tip #6: A clean study environment
This is a very cliché study tip, but it is so important! Working on a cluttered desk will only distract you from the tasks you actually need to get done. The needed books, a bottle of water, your laptop (if needed), some pens and some paper are more than enough as it is. I also advice not to use your bed as a study place; It will make you tired, want to lay down and take a nap. I used it for a while, and it caused a very rough time for me. Using it as a study place made it unclear for my body that it was a place to rest as well, causing a lot of sleeping problems. Another thing I advise; find a spot with a lot of natural light.

Tip #7: Plan ahead
Personally, I use a desk planner to keep track of classes, tasks that need to be handed in, practice moments, … If I don’t use it, my head is all over the place. It’s important to know when you’re going to do what. Being in college certainly requires the ability to plan. It makes things less stressful, and you’re always sure you don’t miss important dates, deadlines, classes, … It will just save you a lot of trouble.

Tip #8: Make an overview with all of the deadlines and hang it somewhere you can see it every day
This thing helped me out so much. Before I made it, I was always stressing that I perhaps forgot about something, that there was a deadline I missed, … So I decided to make an overview with all of my deadlines, and whenever a deadline passed (or whenever I finished and uploaded it), I would highlight the date so that I could see when the next one was without having to scan the entire list every time. It’s hanging beside my study corner, a place where I sit every day. Whenever I’m slightly worried about deadlines, I just look at that list and it eases it down fairly quick, because I know I’m up to date.

Tip #9: Find time to take care of yourself
Nursing school can be hectic. It can take up a lot of time, causing a lot of pressure and stress. Find something that you really enjoy, and make sure you do that one thing now and then. School is important, but so are you. For me, by example, it’s writing. I love to write stories, books, … It just my way of escaping everything for a little bit and just make my imagination flow freely. Find your thing.

Tip #10: Find your own way to study
Just copying someone else’s routine because it seems efficient, is not the way to go. I did this in the beginning of my year, because I thought it was a good method and that it would help me too. Turns out it did the exact opposite; It wasn’t what I was used to, making it really unclear to me, and hard to study. If your way is a bit messy, it doesn’t matter; as long as it works for you. You’re the one that needs to be satisfied by it. Sure, it’s nice when things look pretty and colorful, but not if it does not work for you.

Tip #11: YouTube
I remember that when I was studying for my anatomy course, I had a lot of trouble studying a specific part. The syllabus was really superficial and unclear. So, I decided to type it in on YouTube. Turns out that there was this channel that contained a lot of videos explaining many things that I had to study, in which they explained it so detailed that watching it once made me understand it completely. So, YouTube is not just for entertainment. It can be so helpful and useful whenever you stumble upon a problem.

Tip #12: Try to attend every single class
I know, I too have those days when I need to wake up at 6AM because I need to be at school by 8AM for my first class. And, especially when it’s still dark out, it is really hard to get up out of bed, get dressed and get out the door. But let me tell you that classes are so important. Sure; your syllabus (or textbook) is the thing you really need to get all of your information which you need to study. But your teacher gives extra information, handouts, explanations, … He might even give away some important things considering your exam. I have a teacher that sometimes uses the sentence; “And that would be a really good question for your exam.”. Who knows what you might miss.

Tip #13: Get your own information.
In my college, there are some books that we must purchase. Some of them have never been used during class, or as a tool to study my theory. Some of them are really vague to me, making it hard to actually use them. Don’t be afraid to go on the hunt for a different book! Even though it’s not the same, medical theories are facts, and won’t change because you bought a different book. Other books might be better for you, because they’re way of explaining things might be better for you. And even if you’re unsure whether or not to use this book; ask some advice from your professor! Who knows; they might even know the book.

Tip #14: Use your free periods
It is very tempting when you have 3 hours of free period, to just spend it laughing and talking with your friends. But use this time in your advantage! Go summarize the class you just had, book a practice room to practice your skills, … Whatever’s been done at school, means less work at home.

Tip #15: reward yourself once in a while
Have you been working hours already, and do you feel really unmotivated? It happens, and you really shouldn’t feel bad about it. Your brain needs time to process the information it just took in, cramming in everything at once is nearly impossible. So, if that moments occur, allow yourself to just take that long break you desire once in a while. Watch that episode of that one show you’ve been thinking about the past hour, go watch a YouTube video (or two, or three, …). You can’t keep being focused forever. Sometimes you just need a break.

So, that’s about it. Every single tip in here is what I’ve been doing this past year, and it’s really helped me to keep track of things. Nursing is a great profession, and if you want to go for it, just go for it! I was seriously contemplating to go to for nursing, because I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it. But with a lot of hard work and motivation, you can get there! It’s all up to you.

Article by Eline.

Eline is a 19 year old student who is currently in her first year of nursing school at the AP Hogeschool (college) in Antwerp. She loves writing and just finished writing her first book. Eline shares more of her life on her Instagram @elinekerkhof and she is thinking about starting her own blog.