Over the years, I thought a lot about how nursing students learn best. I’ve tried a lot of different things too.
I’ve tried hands-on in the clinical setting, flashcards, handouts, lectures, practicing questions only, reviewing content only, private tutoring, webinars, having students write content, having students say content, listening to content.
There’s a lot of choices when it comes to nursing students learning content! And this is what I’ve learned. Students learn best when:
- you are not stressed out or too tired
- the content is interesting and memorable
- the content is organized
- you can repeat the content or action a few times to make it stick
- there’s a real person available to guide you on how to use the materials available and if you need clarification
Here are some different sources for learning content, my opinion of each and some tips on how to make the learning experience better:
Hands-on in the Clinical Setting
This is hands-down the best way to learn because you are directly dealing with patients. The problem is that students can be really stressed and can’t think because they are so nervous.
Tip: Go in early to learn all about your patient, practice your skills in the skills lab on the mannequins. Common skills are: NG tube insertion or removal, trach care, inserting a foley, inserting an IV, NG med administration. Your instructor should never leave you alone and should help talk you through it when you are doing a skill on a patient for the first time. If they are being impatient with you then they are being a big jerk.
I love flashcards as long as you know what to put on them! The problem is that students put too much info on them because they don’t know what’s important.
Tip: Make your cards have less information on them. Don’t just memorize lists, try to understand the principle that goes with that list.
I love listening to interesting instructors lecture and I find it extremely entertaining when they start to tell their stories (as long as they don’t go on a tangent). But I can’t stand those boring ones with the monotone voice. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of those.
Tip: Skim the chapter (or other resource you use) that the instructor will be going over before you attend the lecture. Write out some notes on things that seem important to you or you want clarification on. Then at the lecture write notes (with a pen and paper – not typing). Get clarification if you’re still unsure of what they are talking about.
Practicing NCLEX-Style questions
You do get tested on your clinical skills when at clinical, but the real test is passing the NCLEX. If you’re not practicing NCLEX-style questions you are crazy!
Tip: You should be practicing NCLEX questions the first week of nursing school! I’ve even had students who never cracked open a book, they just looked at flashcards for content and then practiced NCLEX-style questions.
Listening to Content
Everyone knows of those great NCLEX audio lectures that get passed around illegally on the internet in the facebook study groups. I’m not going to say his name, but you know who I’m talking about.
Tip: Pay to go to his live review. He is an amazing teacher who is able to make content memorable and fun. I saw that he has an app now for his content.
Private tutoring will be amazing for you if you get the right tutor. They will be able to simplify complicated topics and help you with a plan.
Tip: I wrote about how to find a great tutor here.
Writing Down Content
I love writing down content for learning. However, you can’t write everything down! Sometimes you just want to be able to recognize something out of a list, not recall the whole list! For example, I can’t remember what diseases go under droplet precautions because there are like 15 of them! But I can pick them out of a list.
Tip: Get a blank sheet of paper and write down a disease or topic at the top and start writing down everything you can remember. If you’re doing a disease, it helps to go in this order:
- cause and simple patho
- signs and symptoms
- diagnostic tests
- interventions (including meds)
How Do You Learn?
I’d love to hear your tips on how you learn and study; and what resources you use. Post in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org