Going Back to School for Nursing: 10 Tips
Whether you are switching into the nursing field, getting back into nursing, or looking to advance your career in healthcare, going back to school for nursing is a big decision.
Returning to school is a lifestyle change, no matter if you’re attending classes part time or if you’re considering accelerated nursing programs. If you’re going back to nursing school as an adult, you’re likely managing getting a degree while continuing to work. You may also be raising a family or be responsible for caring for loved ones.
These tips for nursing school will help you with time management, self-care, and finding balance in your life, no matter what you may be juggling outside of your school work.
10 Tips for Going Back to School for Nursing
- Put your assignments and deadlines in a calendar as soon as possible.
- Don’t cram for exams.
- Learn the ins and outs of your textbooks.
- Make your own study guides.
- Practice questions are your friend.
- Set up your studying space for success.
- Try teaching someone.
- Get creative.
- Try drawing a concept map.
- Change it up.
1. Put all of your assignments, due dates, project milestones, and lab/clinical days and times in a calendar as soon as possible.
Having all your deadlines in one place will help you stay organized when you’re going back to school to be a nurse. You can use a physical planner book or a calendar app on your phone — whatever works best for you. You may also want to consider blocking off study sessions (no more than an hour or two at a time) on most days of the week. This will help you make sure that you set aside consistent time for studying.
2. Do not cram for exams. It won’t work and you will be exhausted.
Whether you’re going back to school for nursing with a bachelor’s degree or you’re starting from square one, know this: You are going to have a lot of information thrown at you. This information needs to be fully absorbed, because all these individual pieces will come together to create the whole picture of healthcare. This high-level learning cannot happen in a weekend’s worth of cramming.
3. Learn the ins and outs of your textbooks.
Something you’ll discover when going back to school for nursing: Reading textbooks is very different from reading magazines or novels. Textbooks have different highlighted sections and supplemental information. Whether you’re using physical or digital textbooks, you should familiarize yourself with what the highlights mean and where to find additional information and texts.
If you have digital versions, you can often find great note-taking features, search features and embedded dictionaries. If you have print versions, we recommend sticky tabs from your local office store to mark important pages for quick and easy reference.
And remember, your textbooks are just one tool in your nursing study guide toolkit. You need to know them, but don’t rely on them as your only resource.
4. Make your own study guides.
If you’re going back to school to be a nurse, consider using PowerPoint or flash cards to pull information together as you are learning. We recommend PowerPoint (or an equivalent software) because it lets you insert photos to help you visualize the content easier.
5. Practice questions are your friend.
The more questions you answer, the better you will be at answering questions. Seek out and answer as many practice questions as possible for each of your courses and answer them as a means of studying. Be sure to read the rationale behind the questions’ answers even when you answer them correctly. Again, nursing isn’t just memorizing, but understanding the theory behind everything.
6. Set up your studying space for success.
Everyone studies a little differently. Usually people find quiet, undisturbed spaces most helpful for studying. Seek those spaces out. Consider the library or a quiet corner of your home.
You may choose to study with friends, but make sure that if you do, they don’t get you off-track.
Remember, your best friend might not be your best study partner. It’s okay to seek new connections for the sake of studying only. Many nursing programs will organize study groups. Ask your professors for information on how to access them.
7. Try teaching someone who doesn’t know much about the topic you are studying.
Having to explain your course work in simple but comprehensive terms to somebody else can help you learn the content. If you can teach it, you understand it.
8. Get creative.
One of the best ways to help our brains learn is to engage as many parts of it as possible. Consider drawing a picture or a diagram to explain a certain concept or task you’re learning about. Don’t worry if you feel like you aren’t an artist! The important part of this sort of exercise is thinking about how you will make a picture out of a concept. Ask yourself what will convey the concept the best.
9. Try drawing a concept map.
Concept maps are a great way to both get your creative juices flowing and to connect the pieces of information that need to be absorbed in order to truly understand what you are learning. Lots of resources exist to help you learn how to draw a concept map.
10. Change it up.
Keep in mind that the way you studied in high school, for a previous degree, or even in your previous semester of your current program, won’t necessarily work when going back to school to be a nurse. Learning is a journey and life changes as you go along. Be prepared to vary your studying methods as you go.
IntelyCare Can Support You
Going back to school for nursing can be an exciting — if exceptionally busy — time in your life. Want to gain experience in a supportive setting? Learn more about how IntelyCare can help you before, during, and after you get your license.