Study Tips

How to Study in Nursing School: 8 Tips from an Expert Nurse Educator

Osmosis Team
Published on May 8, 2021. Updated on Nov 21, 2023.

We're sharing eight major takeaways on successful study habits every nursing student should adopt. Read on to get prepared for academic success in your nursing program!

As you’re about to enter into an awesome and powerful field, you’re probably wondering about how to study in nursing school so you won’t get overwhelmed. Adopting smart study habits early on in your education will set you up to be a successful learner, test-taker, and practicing RN. Why not get them right from an expert nurse educator?

Why getting into nursing is a big deal

Did you know that, according to AACN Fact Sheets, nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the United States, with three times as many RNs as physicians? That number really speaks volumes about the big role nurses play in healthcare, but also about the challenging road to becoming one. 

Nurses work in so many different settings and are in charge of a lot of things. They collaborate as a team, but they operate independently of medicine or other fields. 

No wonder there’s tons of information to master in nursing school!

All of this can be overwhelming and confusing to any student: maybe it’s too much to learn in a short time, or maybe you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you feel like things aren’t sticking to your memory, or you don’t know what to use to learn with so many resources available.

As our expert nurse educator shares in our Osmosis webinar: “This happens to a lot of us.” Here are 8 key tips that Nurse Jannah recommends on how to best study for nursing school.  

1. Get a head start on your course material

Try to stay ahead of the game before you even have a lecture. Read the chapters or watch videos and get familiar with the content—whatever the preparation looks like, it’s important to do it ahead of time. 

The reason is that it’s really hard to catch up with the study in nursing school, as there’s a lot of ground to cover, and it goes by fast.

Some of the material you’ll learn is easier to understand than others, and that’s OK. Putting in the work ahead of a lecture is the most important part, as you teach your brain to set the right foundation for gaining knowledge. And even if you don’t understand everything, you build on that and let the lecture or next piece of learning help fill in the gaps.

A nursing student in front of a computer struggling with the material.

2. Try making concept maps

Instead of going with the classic way of taking notes — highlighting text and rewriting pages of notes — concept maps are one fun and easy way to study for nursing school.

A concept map is a visual representation of knowledge on a subject that helps you to organize your thoughts on it. Besides being much easier, it’s also an efficient way to understand the information (rather than memorizing it). 

Start with the topic you want to learn about and, first, build on it with what you learned. After that, use your notes, videos, or other resources to fill in the map and get the whole picture of that topic.  

A basic concept map with Heart failure in the middle and other bubles around it with questions like: What does it look like in the patient?.

3. Meet your learning objectives

This is something that many nurses often ignore as students but definitely shouldn’t. When you stumble upon your learning objectives (LOs), paying attention to them is one smart way to study in nursing school. 

Although it seems just like a list, LOs act much like your guide to studying because they outline exactly what you should be able to do or competently discuss after successfully learning about them. This is a really good guide to follow, especially when you have a lot of content and don’t know what you’re supposed to focus on.

You can find more practical and visual examples of these tips in our webinar

4. Make a schedule (and stick to it)

Another tip Nurse Jannah has for you is to make a schedule that really sets you up for success. This means one that is realistic and adjusted to your life, your time, and your responsibilities. 

There’s no standard timeframe for the best learning, so the key here is to focus on quality rather than quantity. If your daily schedule allows you to study for nursing school two hours in the morning or three hours in the evening, both are fine as long as it’s according to your real attention span. 

Another important thing here is to make sure you can stay committed to your schedule for studying just as you commit to other obligations in life in a practical way. This will keep you accountable as well.

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5. Teamwork makes the dream work

Speaking of accountability, another tip on how to study for nursing school the better way is to find a study partner: a friend, a tutor, or joining a study group to keep you connected. 

The best thing about study groups is that you can listen to different perspectives while discussing a topic. Actively listening to how other people think and apply knowledge helps you hone your critical thinking skills. This is one important skill to have in nursing school, as you’re taking different tests and answering different types of questions. 

Medical students group study in the table

6. Find your learning style

Everybody learns differently: some students are visual learners — and Osmosis makes that easy with thousands of animated videos for you — while others learn better by listening to lectures or doing hands-on activities. 

Try to practice a bit of self-reflection to discover your learning style and find resources that represent it as primary learning tools. The earlier you discover how you learn best, the easier it becomes to study and not waste your time the wrong way.  

7 Practice, practice, practice

Of course, it is also about practicing NCLEX®-style questions during nursing school. Not only does it challenge you to apply all the knowledge you gain, but also your ability to think at a high level and analyze data in different ways.

NCLEX®-style questions are unlike any other type of questions you’re used to seeing, which is why practicing them helps to reinforce your understanding of a concept and prepares you for the final exam: the licensure examination.

Join Osmosis and get access to thousands of nursing questions to retain, understand, and study more efficiently the simple way!

A nursing student studying contentedly.

8. Don’t forget the basics

Understanding the basics is the biggest starting point in your studying. You need to have a solid understanding of foundational sciences first, such as anatomy and physiology, because all the knowledge you learn in nursing school is based on these, and it’s also what makes learning more complex concepts along the way much easier. 

And finally... you got this!   

And we got your back. Check out what we have going on at Osmosis to help you do well in nursing school and get the best learning experience possible, with our comprehensive video library and study tools. 

And don’t forget to watch the full webinar here: Study for Success: Habits Every Nursing Student Should Adopt.

Nurse Jannah offering nurses waving with a text: You can do it.


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