Succeeding as a Nursing Student

How to

Succeed as a Nursing Student

Do you admire the way nurses work? What you see is the end product. It takes a lot to mold anyone to a professional nurse. To get to nursing school requires you to work hard and determination to overcome any challenges that come your way. When you succeed in the nursing program, it will transform into a rewarding career. Nursing education is like an adventure and as we know all adventures have some challenges that you did not anticipate. The problems should not discourage you from joining a nursing program if that is your call. With careful planning, you can overcome all the hurdles to thrive in a nursing program and career.

To succeed in a nursing program, you must understand what makes up a nursing program as you will not only take lessons in your chosen specialty. The goal of a nursing school is providing students with knowledge and skills that enable them to deliver effective care to the patients.  After completing their undergraduate nursing degree at two to four-year college or online, students will be considered to be generalist nurses upon passing the NCLEX-RN exam and acquiring a license in their state. 

On the other hand, Registered Nurse (RN) license includes a broad-based knowledge as the nursing education for this level covers a broad range of job opportunities. The bulk of coursework is in the medical and surgical care for the patients. However, there are still classes in the core requirements that include obstetrics, pediatrics, community health, and psychiatry. Beyond them, there are additional classes in areas such as research, pharmacology, ethical and legal issues in nursing as well as the role of a professional nurse.

If you want to succeed in nursing, you must prepare well for comprehensive study in various subjects.


You will have an easier time in a nursing college if you observe the following:


Nursing school can be tough because you must study widely to gain in-depth knowledge of each subject. It requires hard work, many hours of research and dedication. Many new students think about their life as practicing nurses only to realize that it requires them to give much of their time and effort to studies and preparing for the exams. You must prepare well mentally and physically for class studies and clinical rotations. The preparation includes good organization, use study guides and clinical time to the maximum and their advantage.

Gather broad knowledge

Many students enter a nursing school with the intention of working in their favorite specialty areas such as pediatrics or Gerontology. The option to join your specialty will be there, but that is in the latter stages of your program. Early classes help you to gain knowledge and skills that lay a foundation for you to be a well-rounded health care provider which is essential for a successful nursing career. Take every subject seriously even if you assume that you will not use it in your specialty position. For instance, you might be a cardiac nurse but once in while you may attend to a patient whose treatments also requires the application of obstetrics knowledge. You may even end up working a generalist. Although undergraduate students do not choose a specialization, it is likely that you will do your nursing apprenticeship rotation in the last semester. Most of the time, students end up doing the apprenticeship in the specialties that they want to work in but they must everything in their program to pass an NCLEX exam. It is a general examination for assessing all parameters of the nursing practice and not just a specialty area that someone pursues in the preceptorship.

Be organized

Familiarize yourself with course schedule and make plans on how to fit in the time for studying and other activities. Always make sure that you have a “to do” list that prioritizes your tasks. Set aside a section of your room to keep your nursing gear and books that you do not forget or lose anything. Let every aspect of your life to have a proper organization. Cluster your household chores like cleaning or laundry to prevent distraction from studying.

Be a team player

You should make an effort to be comfortable when working with others even if you are an introvert. No nurse can work alone. You will need the help of your peers for studies, group projects, clinical rotations and graduation preparation. Be ready to give what you will expect to get from you classmates or your experience in the nursing school will be miserable. Respect all the people especially your dedicated teachers because they are the ones who take you from one step to another. Listen more and if necessary talk less.

Take things in perspective

Try to maintain some perfectionism but have it in mind that your grades might drop below your expectations at times. Nursing students are smart nut it is hard to maintain same grade point average throughout college life. If you get a low grade, accept that you have to work harder next time and move on. If you are not getting along with a clinical instructor, keep calm. Within a short period, the clinical will be over, and you will start the next one.

Maintain a healthy life

Although nursing education takes much of your time, remember to take care of your life. Eat a healthy diet, engage in some exercise and participate in other activities that help you to freshen up your mind such as joining a club. Take enough rest when you get some time off your busy schedule. Each night, take a good rest to prevent fatigue. When you have time to rest, watch, read or listen to something that has nothing to do with nursing. It will help you to catch up with the outside world more so if you are an on-campus student.

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Nursing has a comprehensive syllabus that takes much of your time even if you are a part-time or online student. Prepare well by making sure that you buy all the necessary books and supplies you need before commencing the course. A good suitcase or backpack is necessary for carrying books as they are bulky. A computer is essential if you enroll in an online program and researching for information on nursing even as an on-campus class student.

Put any necessary plans in place to manage your time. If you have another job or family, forewarn the concerned people that nursing school is time-consuming and make contingency plans to have someone standing in for you when are unavailable for some role.


Nursing school students read much content about various specialties such as physiology, anatomy, disease processes, management, and effective practice. It helps you to master all the subjects you learn by tackling them in chunks as you move along. It is a better way of taking in information that recalling it after one intensive study session.   Cramming does not help in the understanding of nursing programs as each set of content build on the previous units.

 Do not take shortcuts with your assignment. After all, nursing is a serious business that plays a critical role in the health, wellness, and lives of the people. You should strive to become a nurse who has all the necessary skills to take care of patients but not somebody who crammed tests and passed without hands-on knowledge. After a lecture, create about 30 minutes or an hour to review the information that your teacher discussed in the lecture. Make sure you do the review within a short time. If you put it off longer, you will have forgotten some information.

 A medical college may have a lax attendance policy than a high school, but you should not abuse the freedom to stay away for lessons. If you miss any, it has to be for a good reason.  Do the best to catch up with what you missed as soon as you can.  Failure to attend classes means that you miss the key materials that end up on your test later. Also, you also pay much money to join a nursing program.

When you in class, make sure that you understand everything or at least most of what you tutor teacher. It is important to take note because it will help you to retain the information.   Primarily, you will fully understand the material by learning it three times: when you hear it, write down and when studying your notes.

It is essential to note down the points that your teacher stresses frequently. It must be something important for your nursing practice, and the likely questions appear in your test. During the class sessions, it is essential to participate in answering questions by your teacher and asking questions about something that you do not understand.   You will get more from your class when you are more engaged.

Always complete the assignments.  It helps you to increase your knowledge and lets you learn more when reading the reference material. If you can, create time to read other material relating to your assignment. The best way of dealing with reading is by following the syllabus.  It is helpful if you can read content on specific topics before the class.  Write down the questions you have about the subject and ask about it in class.


    Clinicals involve learning healthcare in an actual job setting. You must attend clinical when you are studying to become an RN or LPN. Nursing students are under a nursing preceptor or clinical instructor during a clinical. At this time, they apply their classroom knowledge in a work setting. These tips will help you to go through your clinical and gain valuable experience:

  • Be a good learner

    You might have much classroom knowledge, but there is still a lot to learn as there are some things that students cannot learn in a theory class. Maintaining a learning mindset helps you in absorbing new information that develops you to a better nurse. Soak in all the knowledge about nursing practice. Your supervisors and the staff have much experience and will teach many tricks that make your role to be easier.


  • Keep focus and avoid distractions

    Any work environment has its drama or negativity, but you should avoid becoming part of it as it will become a distraction. Keep reminding yourself that you are attending a clinical to learn and avoid the pull to other distractions even if they strongly target you. It does not mean that you keep off everyone as it is through interaction that you learn.  The important thing is to avoid the drama.

  • Care for both the patient and patient care 

    Do not be restricted by the protocol and only perform patient care forgetting the importance of caring for the patient as a person. Try to know your patient better and make a difference in their lives.  If you ask a patient about how their night was or wish them a quick recovery, it makes them feel that someone appreciates them.

    Put in extra time 

    Go the extra mile the same way you would do when studying to excel in an exam. Clinical are equally important and if your find something that you can do beyond your schedule is going to add to your knowledge, go ahead with it.

  • Volunteer to perform tasks 

    Watch, learn and do what you nursing instructor preceptor or nursing instructor does. When there is something to do, offer to be the one who performs it. If you are uncomfortable with something, ask for supervision and try it.  After a short time, you will create an impression on the other staff and demonstrate your willingness to do what it takes to learn this trade.

    A clinical experience should be hands-on. Do not just observe. Volunteer to perform even the tasks that people consider to be dirty such inserting catheters, giving injections and oral medications under your instructor’s guidance. Do not take a back seat as this is about securing your future. At this stage, you should be aware that you are going to come across with unpleasant sights such as blood or vomit.

  • Be confident

    Trying our new skills on your healthy classmates in a lab might seem easy, but it is a different experience to practice on strangers who are sick. Be brave and confident so that no opportunity to develop your abilities passes. Keep going back to the lab for more practice as your patients and instructors will appreciate you more. When your instructor is impressed, he or she will have the confidence to consider offering you more lab sessions.


  • Prepare well for tests and exams 

    The type of testing that student’s face is one of the most significant hurdles for nursing students. Nursing exams focus more on testing the ability of students to apply nursing knowledge and think decisively about health care situations and problems.

    Have fun 

    Do not be gloomy about your clinical. Think of it positively as an opportunity to learn things that equips you with knowledge and training necessary for success in clinical. It brings some anxiety to know that the lives of patients are in your hands, but you should think more about how good it is to offer health care that improves the health and quality of life for a patient.


    To get excellent grades in your nursing tests or exam; it is essential to observe these tips:

  • Gauge the extent of your knowledge

    You have been learning for a whole semester, and some of the concepts you learned are going to be in the exam yet your brain cannot retain everything. Avoid wasting precious time to study everything you know as a simple browsing will be enough. Use in-class quizzes and tests as your guide on the topics that you understand the best and worst.   Pay particular attention to your weak areas and any missed lectures during the semester. Try many practice questions as possible. It helps you with knowledge on how to break down questions and increase the critical thinking skills.

  • Select a fitting study method 

    Everyone prefers a different learning style. Search for resources containing brief but well-loaded information if you like audio. You might even record your lectures or your voice as you read it loud then listen to it when studying. Such resources include recorded lectures or podcasts.  If you prefer visuals, find images, flashcards, and videos.

  • Organize a realistic study plan

    Commit some of your time, at least one hour daily to study. It is much easier to study for an hour each day than holding off the days when you are less busy such as the weekend and study for an entire day.  Do not let anxiety about the upcoming exam to disrupt your mind and study habit. Mild anxiety might help to increase the urgency with which you prepare too much of it can lead to a mental block. It is essential that you plan some study sessions. Nursing is a broad subject and trying to cram the entire semester in a single session will not work.

  • Organize a realistic study plan

    Commit some of your time, at least one hour daily to study. It is much easier to study for an hour each day than holding off the days when you are less busy such as the weekend and study for an entire day.  Do not let anxiety about the upcoming exam to disrupt your mind and study habit. Mild anxiety might help to increase the urgency with which you prepare too much of it can lead to a mental block. It is essential that you plan some study sessions. Nursing is a broad subject and trying to cram the entire semester in a single session will not work.

  • Take breaks 

    Create some rest time especially when are studying alone. When people are reading for an exam, there is an urge to read all night or for many hours. An occasional break helps to revitalize the mind and humans learn best in short bursts. Study for about an hour and take a break of up to 15 minutes. During the break, do something that refreshes your mind such as taking a walk, messaging a friend or eating a snack.  Use a timer with an alarm tone to maintain your schedule for study sessions and breaks. You find that you will learn more, feel more rested and enjoy learning.

    If you study at night, make sure that you also leave sometimes get enough sleep. If you stay up all night, it will ruin the next day. You may take some energy coffee or much coffee to stay up all night, but it will not eliminate the fatigue. Accumulated fatigue will turn you to a zombie creating the risk of forgetting most of what you learned.

  • Use a planner 

    Proper organization and efficient time management is the key to succeeding in a nursing school.  A planner will help you to stay on schedule. A planner can be a calendar notebook or a phone application.   A nursing program is filled up with lectures, quizzes, exams, projects, and clinical. A planner helps you to keep the plan and keep track of the project dates.

    A nursing program might seem to be tedious, but at the end of each semester, you will have learned many things. After all, it is only a short moment in comparison to the rewarding career that it opens for you.

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