Pocket Survival Guide and Playbook for the Nursing Student

For two and a half years nursing lectures and exams consumed my thoughts knowingly and unknowingly. Whether I attended family events hosted by my parents or social gatherings planned by my friends, my attendance was ultimately determined by my second bible, my notorious planner. In years past, I would not have imagined that that lilac bound book comprised of fast approaching exam dates, hundreds of clinical hours, and jam-packed study sessions at Moe's would lead to the tremendous joy I felt when I earned my degree.

During that time, impromptu weekend road trips were replaced with Saturday night treks to the library and early morning strides to Harry's Coffee Shop. Textbooks and jellybean colored notecards became a permanent extension of my body. Wherever I went, heavy textbooks and rubber band bound stacks of notecards followed. Often times, I could be found in my new favorite hangouts, which were Dr. Coleman’s and Fisk's office drafting and editing graduate school application packets. Plus, from time to time, these individuals became my life coaches and my off-book therapists.

 Before I knew it, graduation was fast approaching, and I was shopping for the perfect white uniform dress for the Nurse Pinning Ceremony. Finally, the big day arrived! Five semesters worth of meltdowns and hours of devout studying and preparation had led me to that moment. As I confidently and joyously walked down the aisle, I was confident that my nursing program prepared me to be a caring, compassionate nurse.

Since nursing school differs from other disciplines, I was imparted with invaluable guidance and wisdom that certainly navigated my path. Frequently, my mentors emphasized three principal themes that create a prescription for a success while enrolled in any nursing program:

1. First things first: Make college your job.

Make earning your nursing degree priority #1. Don’t allow other interferences, such as a taxing social life or a job, interfere with your ultimate goal.

Set personal and academic goals. At the launch of the new semester, get ahead and stay ahead!

Get to know your faculty and clinical instructors. These individuals may serve as a resource, a mentor, or a reference. Honestly, faculty and instructors enjoy helping students! 

2. In class…

Develop strong listening and note-taking skills. Developing listening skills is paramount since this will be your prime source of information. Remember: Listening and hearing are completely different. Listening is active by nature, and hearing is passive.

Recognize that mastering the information is your responsibility. Don’t blame the professor for your lack of success. Participate in lectures and ask questions.

Read notes or required reading before lecture. Before class, make a note to remind yourself to inquire about any unclear topics and ask yourself: “What do I want to learn today?”

Look for the professor’s pattern. In lectures, professors are referring to notes on specific pages or references.  You can recognize what professors are signifying as important and identify the main idea of the presentation.

3. Study, study, study

Manage your time. You remember 70% of what you say and 90% of what you do so be sure to schedule your study time.

Rephrase and explain. Explain the material in your own words to a fellow classmate.  If you can’t explain it, you don’t know it!

Make note cards. They are easy to carry and study during short breaks in-between lectures of lunch. Making note cards creates a stronger imprint on the brain; thus, increasing memory.

Join a study group. In study groups, several of my classmates brought something to the table that I did not grasp. Likewise, I shared my ideas.  I recommend a maximum of 5 people.  It is imperative to come prepared and engaged. This is an opportunity to strengthen your knowledge on your subject. It is not a time where you teach or be taught by another student!

Applying their recommendations made school easier and at times enjoyable. I urge you to share your stories and experiences that helped you succeed throughout nursing school. I can’t wait to read your posts!


Great information! Your experience and helpul hints are important for all students. 

Thanks for reading my blog! I am glad that it helped. 

The playbook is really good. We should anticipate good things from that one. - Bernadine Fried