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Ask any nursing professional – or even anyone who knows and loves one – and they will tell you it can be one of the most demanding and stressful careers anyone can choose to pursue, although the many rewards it offers usually mean that most nurses do feel it’s all worth it in the end (and aren’t the rest of us lucky that they do?)
The stress and sometimes frustration that can come along with a career in nursing actually often begins in nursing school. This is hardly surprising; along with affording the education in the first place comes the stress of achieving and maintaining the best possible grades, passing school exams, preparing for those crucial professional nursing exams and the looming prospect of one day soon actually being the person responsible for the health and well-being of other human beings.
Passing nursing school is a huge achievement and the beginning of a wonderful career, but when the going starts to get tough it can start to seem like doing so will be a little like achieving the impossible dream. However there are some strategies that you can put in place, and tips you can follow, that will make passing nursing school, while not a breeze, a lot easier than you might think.
Understand That Marathon Study Sessions Are Not Your Friend
Part of any nursing school program involves more than a few exams and tests, and these can really stress students out. But marathon study sessions the week before the test are not the way to go. Staying up late ‘cramming’ for an exam only creates more stress and a troubled brain is not one that is very receptive to retaining information. And a tired one is not very good at concentrating.
A better way to plan to study is to take it a little at a time on a regular basis. Spend time reviewing your notes after every class and then a little every day going forward. You can also help yourself out by getting creative about when and where you study. Transfer notes to your smartphone – and there are lots of apps to help you do that – and you can go through your notes while on the bus, waiting in line at the grocery store or even outside in the sunshine between classes.
This kind of regular short study routine will allow you to learn and retain more and not only get more sleep at night but also reduce exam nerves considerably.
Join a Study Group
The best way to study is not always in your room, alone, hunched over a tiny desk.
Group study can be hugely beneficial for everyone involved, and if you take the time to look you’ll find that almost every nursing school has a number of them.
Studying with a group allows you to gain a support network, a sounding board, a source of stress relief and other people to hold you accountable for keeping up with your studies and to help you solve problems. It’s also an excellent way to make sure that you don’t become so isolated by your studies that you fall prey to loneliness and depression, something that is an increasing problem on college campuses across every educational discipline.
Yes you have lots of classes, and lots of studying to do but you also need to take care of yourself and your body, and so making time for exercise is a must. Many nursing students are actually very aware of not only the physical health benefits of regular exercise but also the mental ones in terms of stress relief.
What you may be less aware of is that a number of reputable research studies have found that it can also help you retain more of the stuff you are studying. According to researchers regular exercise releases more brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an essential protein that supports brain development and learning. So as you jog, walk, run, play ball or even just get into a game of hacky sack you’ll be boosting your brain as well as your body.
Practice the Art of Meditation
There really is a lot to be said for the practice of meditation, and making use of it can be especially beneficial for stressed out nursing school students. Taking a few minutes before a class, or before a study session, whether alone or in a group, to meditate can be a great way to focus and clear your mind so that it is most receptive to all the information you’ll be asking it to take in.
You don’t need to learn any special techniques, or to take any special classes to benefit from meditation. Simply find a quiet spot, close your eyes, breathe normally and focus on something – your breathing, a calming thought, a simple mantra, whatever works for you – for between five and fifteen minutes, whatever, basically your schedule will allow for.
Watch Your Daily Diet
Skipping breakfast, skipping lunch, filling up on hastily grabbed junk foods; these are all bad habits it is very easy to fall into when you are in nursing school. However, making sure that you eat a balanced diet and that you get all the ‘fuel’ you need to keep your body – and your brain – properly nurtured.
This is also not the time to try out fad diets or unusual eating plans. Most fad diets – the ones where you eat like a caveman, or cut out whole food groups – often leave people without the energy they need to get through the day, and as a busy nursing student that is the very last thing you need.
Indulge Yourself Once in a While
All work and no play makes Jack – or Jill – a very dull person, and not a very happy one either. Yes, you are in nursing school to work hard but taking some time to indulge yourself and do something you love is a must.
Many students actually find that the littlest things can make a big difference. Adding a fragrant flowering plant to your dorm room. Relaxing with a good – non academic – book and a calming cup of tea. A Friday night Netflix session watching something that is completely unrelated to the field of medicine. Work out what little ‘treats’ make you happiest and make sure you indulge in them on a regular basis.
Give Journaling a Try
If you find yourself ending every day at nursing school a little overwhelmed and confused – which is very common, there’s a lot going on and a lot to take in – the ‘old-fashioned’ practice of journaling can be a big help.
Take a few minutes every day to jot down your experiences, thoughts and feelings about the day. There are some great apps available for smartphones if you don’t want to keep a physical journal, but however you journal, give it a try. Studies have found that doing so helps relieve stress and process information more effectively. Another plus? It will create a record of a time that you will enjoy reflecting on years down the road but may no longer be able to clearly recall.
Passing nursing school isn’t easy, it takes a lot of work and dedication. But if you keep your eyes on the prize – a lucrative, rewarding, in demand career that you can take almost anywhere -and follow some of these tips and strategies you will make it!