Young female student study in the school library using laptop
HealthMay 25, 2021

Preparing beginner nursing students for success: Tips for the first year

By: Shelly Morgan, MSN, RN-BC, CMSRN
When students walk into their first nursing class, their expectations may need some adjustments.

Are they expecting to earn straight A’s by studying in the same manner as they did for Anatomy? Have they earned adequate grades with minimal effort in previous classes? Perhaps they are working full-time with three kids at home and may be underprepared for the required nursing coursework? There are many obstacles a nursing student can encounter and several ways nursing faculty can help them adapt. Here are some of my best tips for supporting a nursing student through their first year.

Remediation is a valuable opportunity

Many times, the student considers making a mistake and attending a remediation session as a negative encounter, however, applying the effort to understand the error typically results in excellent comprehension. Encouraging students to fully participate in remediation and openly confront their errors can assist students to excel. Holding remediation reviews and encouraging attendance helps students to build their baseline knowledge early in their nursing school career.

Make study time matter

Is the student writing ten pages of notes and reporting that they studied for two hours every day for the exam? Encouraging the student to condense the notes into one or two pages can force the student to concentrate on the subject matter and thoroughly analyze the concept. With long, detailed notes, the student is potentially spending time reading through the notes without a full understanding of the material. If the student is able to multi-task while reading through the notes, the study is not as effective as it could be. Condensing notes to force the student to know and understand the material is a great method of teaching the student to pull the most important topics from the concepts and allows for an easier refresher for future semesters.

Clinical is the best part of nursing school

Every semester, students are incredibly nervous prior to clinical and sometimes will even pass on opportunities due to anxiety. This doesn't lead to good learning opportunities. Talking with students about taking every opportunity and experience presented to them is the best way to create a productive learning environment. By supporting lab practice and being available to talk through skills at clinical, the confidence of the student soars. Reinforcing the fact that no one knows everything about nursing and encouraging students to ask questions, the clinical setting can be a less stressful and more productive environment.

Nursing school is hard work

Nursing school is hard work, but everything worth having is hard work! Talking with students on the first day of class to ensure that everyone understands this is essential to set the priorities and workload expectations from day one. Celebrating small successes throughout the semester can provide the necessary support to the student to keep applying all the efforts that they can.

Learn to love study groups

Nursing students are some of the busiest people I know. When asked about study groups, common responses are “I learn best on my own”, “I don’t have time for study groups,” and “study groups do not stay on task.” Students may not have time in their day for a traditional study group. Helping students to understand that difficult tasks can be better accomplished through teamwork is a part of nursing. Suggest a non-traditional study group, a group chat with students posting study questions throughout the day may fit into the student’s schedule regardless of the busy day and hours worked. Scheduling a video chat with pre-assigned topics can help maintain the focus of the group and stay on task.

Shelly Morgan, MSN, RN-BC, CMSRN
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
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