THREE BIG NURSING SCHOOL MISTAKES YOU MIGHT BE MAKING

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1 * * * S P E C I A L R E P O R T * * * THREE BIG NURSING SCHOOL MISTAKES YOU MIGHT BE MAKING (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!)

2 Table of Contents About Nicole Whitworth! ii BIG Mistake #1: The Cram! 1 BIG Mistake #2: Memorization! 3 BIG Mistake #3: Teacher Knows Best Syndrome! 5 BIG Mistake Bonus: Insecurity! 7 Confused About Which Study Strategies to Choose?! 8 i

3 About Nicole Whitworth Founder of Your Nursing Tutor I created Your Nursing Tutor in 2010 based on a desire to help nursing students all over the country (and the world!) achieve their dream of becoming a nurse. After Graduating from the University of Delaware with my BA in Psychology, I attended the University of Arizona for my Masters in Clinical Psychology. While there, I decided to try out online dating "just for fun." Ironically, that little internet experiment resulted in meeting my wonderful husband, Daniel. Daniel has also become the behind-the-scenes technology guru and co-founder of Your Nursing Tutor. After getting married, I returned to school once again and graduated from Norfolk State University with my BSN in Within a few months, I had successfully passed NCLEX and received my RN license. Throughout my life, I have developed a passion for helping students increase their understanding of the information that they are studying. I hope that my unique way of approaching nursing material will help YOU become the best nurse you can be! Daniel and I have been blessed with two amazing children, two trouble-making kitty cats, and one very affectionate dachshund. We all live happily together in Virginia Beach, VA. In my spare time, I also enjoy cooking, reading nonfiction, attending my local MOPS group, being active in my church, and pretending to garden. You can contact me through my website at or by ing me at ii

4 BIG Mistake #1: The Cram The Scenario Suzie s hand is shaking as she clicks to reveal the first exam question. She s not sure if it s nerves or the five cups of coffee she drank to stay awake as she pulled another all-nighter cramming for this exam. She looks at the question and panics, thinking that she must have studied the wrong chapters last night. Then she realizes that it is just that all of the information is blurring together in her coffee soaked brain. With time running out, she frantically starts guessing until she has finished the exam. Finally, Suzie pushes her chair back in disgust as she prays that she guessed enough answers right to pass. Crashing in her bed a little while later, she passes out thinking, Thank God there s a whole week until the next exam. This time I m not going to cram. I promise The Problem It s impossible to remember most of the information you review while cramming. Even if you remember enough to pass the exam, that knowledge will be long gone by the time you take NCLEX. If you want to be a great nurse, you need to be able to remember this information a lot longer than that! Plus, using cram sessions to study quickly becomes a vicious cycle. You get so burnt out from studying that you just want to take a break after the exam. But before you know it, the next test is tomorrow and you need to pull another all-night cram session to cover the material. If that wasn t enough reason to know that cramming is a mistake, you should also know that one of the functions of sleep is to help your brain remember! So if you study and get a good night s sleep before your exam, then you will remember more information than if you stayed up all night studying. Plus, you ll feel better and be more alert for your test. The Solution Take a deep breath and relax. Cram sessions are often motivated by anxiety and fear that you won t reach your dream of becoming a nurse. But by now I hope you realize that cram sessions are actually a barrier to becoming a great nurse! A much better way to study is by reviewing smaller chunks of information more frequently. Instead of trying to review three chapters in one 1

5 night, review the most common diseases from a single chapter. That s less overwhelming. You won t be able to cover every single detail this way, but what you do cover you will understand and remember much better then when you crammed. One of the hardest things to do is to break out of the cycle of cramming. It requires a little extra effort, planning, and discipline on your part...and possibly some small, short-term decreases in your grade. But if you are keeping your eye on your long term goal becoming a great nurse then it is worth it. The first step is to not take a break from studying after a cram session! If you do, then the next test will sneak up on you and you will be back to cramming. Instead, you need to make a plan for how you are going to study for the week. Decide when, where, and what topics you want to cover. Then once you have a plan, stick to it! Remember, being disciplined enough to study a little bit very frequently will save you from the pain of another cram session. And it will move you closer to reaching your dream of becoming an awesome nurse! 2

6 BIG Mistake #2: Memorization The Scenario Ebony pulls out her trusty flashcards for a quick review before the exam. She had been nervous that she would forget something important, so she wrote everything down: medications, disease symptoms, lab tests, even nursing care! Ebony feels like she knows everything she needs to know until she sees the first multiple choice question. None of these answers seem like the symptoms from her flashcards! Her palms start to sweat as she takes a guess and moves on. The next question is a scenario, but the symptoms described sound like they could be anything! How in the world is she supposed to know what kind of nursing care to provide when she doesn t even know what disease the patient has? Frustrated and discouraged, Ebony can t figure out why she doesn t do well on the exams even though she spends so much time studying. The Problem Trying to memorizing nursing material will only prepare you for two things: recall and recognition. Those are two of the easiest types of questions that are on NCLEX, and you will not pass if those are the only types of questions you can answer. The NCLEX questions you need to be able to answer are application and analysis types, but they are much more difficult. Memorization is not going to help you very much with application and analysis questions. The bottom line is that when you spend most of your time memorizing, you end up feeling like you know the information. But when test time comes, you still can t get a good grade. The Solution Memorization has probably been the primary study method that you have used for most of your life because most schools require it for you to be successful. Think back to your own school experiences whether it s learning the multiplication tables, historical dates, or even a foreign language, you ve probably found memorization to be the fastest and easiest way to learn what you needed to know! But nursing school is very different than classes you ve taken before, and so you really need to change the way that you think about studying. Now, I m not saying that memorizing is completely useless in nursing school. But the trick is to know when to memorize, and when to study in other ways. If you are trying to learn vocabulary words (or better yet, root words), then memorization can help. If you need to know the normal 3

7 range for electrolytes or other lab values, then memorization is perfect! But most of the nursing knowledge that you need to learn goes beyond that. It requires you to start thinking about why you take certain nursing actions, and how a specific disease causes those symptoms. The nursing student who studies with the goal of understanding the material will find nursing school to be much easier than the student who studies with the goal of memorizing every medical detail. 4

8 BIG Mistake #3: Teacher Knows Best Syndrome The Scenario John knows the importance of attending lecture. His teacher worked on a Med-Surg floor for 13 years, so she knows what she is talking about. John pays attention in class, takes a lot of notes, and keeps up with the assigned readings as best he can. The powerpoint slides usually look very similar to the information in the textbook anyway. Now it s test day, and John feels confident that he has studied everything that could possibly be on the exam. But throughout the exam, he notices several questions about topics he s never even heard of! Had he really missed that much information? As soon as the exam is over, John rushes home and pulls out his lecture notes. Just as he thought the teacher had never even talked about some of those questions! That s just not fair, John thinks angrily, how can she test me on something she never even talked about? The Problem There is a lot of nursing information to learn, and not enough time to review all of it during class. Plus, your teachers want to start preparing you for NCLEX! Not even the best nursing instructor in the world will be able to teach you every topic that might be covered on your NCLEX exam. In fact, it s pretty much guaranteed to be the opposite: you WILL see several NCLEX questions about topics that you ve never even heard of! So it s good to start practicing now. The Solution Change your expectations about what your teacher is responsible for. Your teacher s job is NOT to tell you everything you will ever need to know about nursing. Your teacher s job IS to highlight some of the most important pieces of nursing information. Then your job is to use that information to practice thinking like a nurse. You can t usually control what kind of teacher you have. Sometimes you will get lucky and have a really good teacher, and sometimes you ll be stuck with a really bad teacher. When you get stuck with a bad teacher, it s up to you to make a choice. You can either choose to get angry at your teacher for not covering all the information that she tests you on, or you can choose to take a deep breath and do whatever you can to continue your quest to learn to think like a nurse. If you choose to get angry about things you can t control, then you will drain your emotional energy and distract yourself from your real goal of learning to think like a nurse. But if you 5

9 decide to take a deep breath and continue working on the things you can control, then you will empower yourself to focus on what s most important: doing whatever it takes to become a successful nurse. Either way, just remember that it is ultimately your responsibility to learn to think like a nurse. And if you care enough about that goal to read this report, then I know you can do it! 6

10 BIG Mistake Bonus: Insecurity The Scenario It has always been Jen s dream to be a nurse, and she can t imagine doing anything else with her life. But nursing school has been tougher than she expected, and she is terrified that she won t be able to graduate and live her dream. If she fails, her family and friends will be so disappointed! She knows that if she could just find that perfect NCLEX review book or the right kind of tutoring that she could be successful. But despite all of her searching, Jen still hasn t found the secret that will make her confident that she will pass nursing school. So as her NCLEX review books gather dust on the shelf, Jen anxiously continues looking for the answer to her nursing school worries. The Problem There are no tricks that you can use to become a great nurse in a single day, so you are just wasting your time when you continue looking for the book, website, teacher, or even tutor that will suddenly make everything click for you. And as you continue looking, your anxiety levels will continue to increase because you re not able to find the easy solution that you feel so sure is out there somewhere. In the meantime, you are wasting valuable study time! In your quest to discover something that doesn t exist, you never use the resources that you ve already found. So you end up stuck in a negative cycle of wanting to do better, but thinking that you don t know how to do better. And since you re constantly looking for something out there to fix your problem, you don t have the confidence to change the way you are currently studying. The Solution If you want to be a confident nurse someday, you need to start by being a confident nursing student now. No more feeling insecure because you re afraid that you re missing out on some great resource that could magically make you think like a nurse. Trust me, if there was something like that out there, then I would tell you about it. But the reality is that I ve tutored many nursing students, used many review books, quizzed a multitude of nurses, and have only discovered one resource capable of making you think like a nurse...your brain! The good news is it s free, and you have access to it anytime! 7

11 Training your brain to think like a nurse is a lot like training your body to run a marathon: you get the best results by having regular, consistent work-outs. You ll never reach the finish line if you only do one or two great work outs and then go back to sitting on the couch. Also, don t get discouraged if you try some new study techniques and don t get an A+ on your next exam! Just like an athlete, you won t usually see immediate results when switching to better study methods. In fact, you ll probably end up with a sore brain at first! Ultimately, success in nursing school is the result of practicing good study techniques over time. So be looking for those small gradual improvements, and stick with it until one day you wake up and realize that you re thinking like a nurse! Confused About Which Study Strategies to Choose? The PASS Program can help! Discover the study techniques that work best in nursing school, and how you can start using them now to become an awesome nurse. Check it out today! If you found these tips helpful, then please invite your classmates to sign-up at 8

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