Having recently finished my first year in an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) program, I reflect on what I was up to the same time last year. I was totally devoted to forums, constantly reading everything available and trying very hard to be prepared for the rest of the two-year program. I am happy to report that forums are awesome. I would advise anyone beginning nursing classes to peruse as many posts as possible to shed a little light on what your first year has in store for you. My first semester began with the discovery that I was in nursing classes with a gaggle of drama queens. Fortunately, a very brave student made a stand and shut the queens up. After that, the environment reverted to one where learning could ensue. So, my first bit of advice is to steer clear of the dramatics or stop it dead should it arise.
You will study more than you ever thought possible, even if school so far has been a breeze for you. Nursing classes are not for one where you can get away with a fine memory and learn by rote. You cannot pass any exam in nursing school by memorizing information, you must know how to apply that knowledge. You must correlate one bit of data with another. Your thinking will be altered a bit, and you may not even know it.
Another thing I learned – study groups don’t study. You may know you are a person, like me, who doesn’t study well in groups, but prefer to get the information on your own. Nonetheless, I thought I’d give the group a try. The first two sessions were about gossip, entertaining yes, but not subject enlightening. The group splintered into several with those having similar study habits forming a union with successful results..
Organizational skills have never been more important when taking nursing classes. Save your acceptance letter, every certification, lab slip and record given to you in school. You will need these for your resume portfolio. Make a special place for study in your home and stock it with all the things you need to do your studying and nothing more. You will eventually figure out what mode of study works best for you.
Communication doesn’t just happen randomly. You must network during your nursing classes as well as out in the real world. Collect every little bit of information you can from whoever you can get it from. The person off to the side knows something you don’t. The lady near the back aisle does too. Talk to them and learn. Your class will probably have a Facebook group to share information. Join it.
Time management includes keeping a detailed calendar. A Blackberry or smart phone will work if it is always with you and you never lose it. If that is not the case with you, keep the old low tech planner book with you. You can write a lot more notes and the calendar will remain at your side, unless of course, you forget it, then you can write on a napkin and transpose the notes into your planner later.
You will spend thousands of bucks on books for nursing classes, just your first semester and that won’t be enough material to learn it all. Throughout the year, after networking with several of my fellows, I purchased five books that were not on the required list. These have been invaluable for everything from test taking skills to understanding fluids and electrolytes to overcoming those hideous HESI exams that must be taken during nursing school. While we are on the subject of test taking skills – you will need them big time. There are many questions on tests that demand a knowledge base, not particularly a factual one. The test-taking books you have will surely have a test-taking tutorial or two. Go over these tutorials again and again until they become part of your very fiber.
Nursing classes are challenging. Don’t burn out. Go have some fun occasionally and relax. It will keep you going.
I hope this lengthy treatise has given you some insight. I went on this journey knowing nothing. It would have been helpful if the second year students had filled me in on a few basics. Go on. Learn, discover and know. Enjoy the journey.