Date Published: September 13, 2018 - Content shared from Ati Nursing Blog

We recently brought in two of our best nurse educators to share tips for taking on the new school year. They dove into organization techniques, during class tips, testing and studying strategies, NCLEX prep advice and so much more.

We’re sharing an overview of their helpful advice. To hear everything they had to share, view the video here!

Starting the Semester off Strong

Nursing school can be overwhelming and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Start thinking and acting like a nurse, and testing like one too!

Find a mentor! It can be a peer mentor, such as a student who is a semester or two ahead of you. It can also be an educator mentor.

New nursing students, find your biggest nursing school book and take a look at the preface! There is a ton of information in here – study guides, NCLEX review questions, audio clips, podcasts and so much more.

Create a calendar! Develop a routine and stick with it.

If you’re a returning nursing student, focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. If you were successful with your first year, you’re going to rock it and be successful again.

Another good tip for mid-program students, take some inventory of what worked the year before and do those same things!

Soon-to-graduate students, don’t celebrate just yet! Start focusing on NCLEX prep and take the NCLEX prep seriously.

Organization Must-Haves

Create a calendar! This can be a good, old-fashioned paper calendar, done on your phone or through an app, such as My Homework or My Calendar. Put your exams, due dates, study times and time for yourself – work, family activities, etc. Set alarms tied to these!

Study time can be three to four hours a night in nursing school. Put this on your calendar for six days of the week! It is a full-time job for nursing students. Be sure to share this schedule with your friends and family so that they know you will be busy.

What Nurse Educators Really Want You to Know

If being a nurse is something that you truly want to do and you are willing to put in the time and work to prepare for it, you can and you will become a nurse. Believe in yourself and believe that you can do it!

We were you! We were students, we understand and we are here to support you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions during class! Be mindful of office hours if it is something that is a little deeper. They’re there for you.

A lot of your professors work in hospitals and may become your colleague following nursing school. Utilize them as a resource! They want you to be successful.

During Class Tips

Go to class! Where you to pick to sit is very important, so pick a good spot. Sitting up front may seem intimidating but it will keep you on your toes.

Your class preparation starts begin before you walk in the door. Be sure that you have read the syllabus and done the reading. Know the key objectives, key points and have a good understanding from the reading as you head into class.

When you’re in class, take great, meticulous notes. Check with a professor to see if they are comfortable with you recording the class.

Be mindful of what your professor has chosen to discuss in class. That was selected for a reason!

It’s difficult to take notes word for word. Try some note-taking methods, such as the Cornell method. Use shorthand and abbreviation. Don’t forget to revisit your notes within 24 hours of class.

How to Prep for Clinicals + Labs

Clinicals are a long day! They can last anywhere from 8 – 12 hours and you can have as many as one or two a week.

Buy some comfortable shoes! Be sure that these shoes are approved by your school, and your sock color too.

Pack healthy snacks. You will be there for 12 hours so you will want to have energy-filled, healthy food.

A lot of schools require that you prepare prior to clinical. You may have a pre-clinical day. This is the time to learn all about your patient, or client. You will have their diagnosis, look through their chart, lab results, medications, etc.

Clinical is so very exciting because it is a time to practice hands-on what you have learned in class!

New nursing students will spend a lot of time in the lab! Attack and approach the lab experience the same way that you do with the classroom – be prepared. You should know from your syllabus what skill you’re working on.

The lab is a safe place for practice. You will have skills that you need to master before heading into the clinical setting – starting iv, inserting a catheter, etc.

If there is an open free lab time available to you, take advantage of it! Consider bringing your study group so that you can critique each other and practice.

Study Advice

Studying is a part-time job for nursing students! You should be studying three to four hours a day. If you are putting in this study time every day, there will be no need to cram for exams.

Designate a study place – in your home, at the library, in a park! Make that your consistent place. Be sure that this is a comfortable place and is distraction free.

Study when you are your best you – be it mornings or nights.

You don’t want to get burnt out, so be sure to take breaks! After 30-45 minutes go on a walk, have a snack, etc.

Consider a study group. If this type of studying works for you, take the same preparation approach. Go into it being prepared yourself and able to work with others, teach them or ask questions. Bring an outline and stay focused!

Keep study groups to a manageable number! Consider groups of four.

Study groups are not for everyone. If you have found great success studying individually, stick with that!

How to Combat Test Anxiety

Preparation will decrease those jitters!

The day of your exam, it helps to take a deep breath, count to three and turn the negative comments in your mind into positive ones.

Arrive early for your exam.

Survey your test before diving in. Know the number of questions and amount of time that you are allotted.

Take advantage of post-test sessions. A lot of courses provide this and it’s a great opportunity to ask your professor questions and prepare you for the next test too.

Keep in mind strategies for when you don’t know the answer to a question. These default strategies will help! Check out Nurse Logic for these.


For new nursing students, all of the content will come! That takes time. One thing you can think of now is NCLEX-style testing. The more comfortable, familiar and skilled you get at this style will help you in the long run.

Remember that NCLEX-style questions are really different than other questions.

If you are near graduation, NCLEX prep is serious. We recommend that you choose a resource to help you prep.

See more NCLEX prep tips from our past Facebook Live event, Prep Live! ATI’s Mini NCLEX Review.

Student Life Hacks

Student / work / life balance is tough. Find something that you enjoy in life and keep that thing with your during nursing school – meditating, going to the park, etc.

Support is so important during nursing school! Let your friends and family know when you have big exam, etc.

Staying healthy in nursing school is equally important! Eat well, sleep, exercise, stay well hydrated, get a flu shot, hand sanitizer will be your best friend.

Always have healthy snacks with you! Consider a snack pot luck with your classmates.

Working during school is possible! If you are going to work during nursing school, try to find a way to have work “work” for you. Try to reduce hours or just work weekends, consider a job in the healthcare environment.



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