I'm going to my 3rd semester of the nursing program. I'm on summer break and honestly, I have forgotten about school and will until July/August.
The 1st semester to me is always the hardest because it is a new system that you have to get used to. The clinicals, care plans, and just the whole dynamics of answering NCLEX-style questions. I first want to mention that allnurses.com is a wonderful resource. There are many others experiencing the same feelings as you, plus there are several forums for nurses from different specialities. I visit that site as much as I visit BHM.
The first thing to do is breathe! Are you working? I went from full time as a tech in the hospital to part-time because working 3 12 hour shifts plus studying every day was too much! Even part time was hard, BUT this experience has been very valuable. I don't care what anyone says, if you want your job search process to be easier when you graduate, get a tech job somewhere. Right now, due to the glut of new grads, especially in metro areas( like here in ATL), it is hard to get a job as a new grad and many new grads cannot afford to be picky. Some have even given up and said they were just going to go for their masters. So, become a tech ( or nurse extern, they may call it since you're in nursing school) and work on a PRN( basically, you make your schedule) basis.
If you're not going to work, then at least join some organizations in your school like Student Nurse's Association so that you can show employers that you are different from your grade. A lot of people are smart in nursing school, but what makes YOU different? Remember, you have to set yourself different from the rest. I know it's stressful now, but imagine what the future holds if you don't start thinking about it.
Anyway, here are some tips that helped me in my BSN program.
1. I was sleep deprived alot. Coffee will be your best friend. But this is why organization is the most important part of being a nursing student! I am a procrastinator and often times, I got so stressed by the time it was near deadlines, but I also put my greatest effort at that time too, because I knew that there was no more time for BS.
2. I have to have my study space and no distractions. Find somewhere you can really zone out and focus on the duty at hand. For me, it was Starbucks. I hate studying at home, too many distractions.
3. Don't try to buddy with everyone, but don't necessarily become a loner. If you are going to study with someone, study with someone AT YOUR LEVEL OR HIGHER. I made the mistake of studying with someone who did not even understand the more basic concepts, so it was more like I was teaching her, than her helping me. It was not a mutual study buddy relationship at all. I don't like to study in a large group, either since things can get out of hand quickly.
4. Develop a system and work with it. I know that I make my highest grades when I do the following: Record the lecture ( if allowed,), listen to it when I get home and type all the words the teacher is saying, read the chapter, google any words or extra stuff on the subject ( youtube is your friend), my other friend would make quizlet flashcards ( that's how she studies), then when all my notes were completed, i would send them to her, she would send me her flashcards and then we would sit together and study and bounce examples off each other. 1-2 days before the test, I would do NCLEX style questions from a prep book like Saunders. Sometimes, I would "Teach" myself or my boyfriend, sister, whoever a certain concept like diabetes or cardiac issues.
5. Have a firm grasp of A &P I and II. If you can understand how a system works, then you will understand what is happening exactly when the system is not working. Nursing is not about when things are right, it's about when things are wrong and how we can fix them. Without a firm grasp of how certain body systems work, you will struggle in MedSurg and Pathophysiology.
6. Clinicals-Practice, practice, practice! A lot of people who made the best grades in class sucked at clinical and some of the best people in clinical sucked at classwork. Practice your skills as often as you need to so that you can shine on the floor and the instructor will give you a good reference in the future.
7. Be very weary of any social networking sites. I have seen people in my class post some questionable stuff and people report them to the teachers. These people in your class are often not your friend and they can really catty. Stay out of it.
8. Do many NCLEX style questions so you can understand how nursing exams work. That is what kills most people. They are not accustomed to critical thinking. All the answers on the exam are going to look right, but the key is to choose the one that looks the most right. Sometimes, teachers might throw out certain questions because two answers may have been right all along. That's how frustrating the exams can be.
Nursing school has been stressful, but it has also been fun studying with certain people and I have made some good friends out of it. I remember that I am there for one reason, so that I stop being a tech and make some decent money as an RN ( even though they have hell to deal with too, depending on where you work). Working the hospital makes it even better because I have a greater understanding of how nursing works in the real life vs. in school.
Sorry, if this is really long but I really like to see others succeed in nursing school. I was once very stressed and I know studying for the NCLEX will be hell because I will be in a rush to graduate and start working very soon. So far, I have a 4.0 and hope to keep it that way. Good luck!
Edited by kkscottdale - Jun 15 2013 at 10:37pm