Beginning an online nursing program can be exciting, but also challenging. Diligence and commitment may not be listed on the syllabus, but they are crucial to successfully completing the program requirements and beginning a career in a field that values critical thinking, attention to detail, communication skills, and a high degree of professionalism.
Developing good practices early on can help students do well in their studies and form the mindset that will enable them to become effective in their careers.
Good habits to cultivate fall into four broad categories: time management and organization, study skills, organization of materials, and communication.
Master Your Time
Balancing a demanding course load with study time, family responsibilities, and a personal life can take some serious organizational skills. The schedule won’t get any easier after graduation and licensure – nurses frequently work 12-hour shifts, and many are on call even when they are not working.
Maintaining a calendar makes life more manageable. “Get yourself organized,” advises Magoosh.com in “Study Habits Of Successful Nursing Students” on its NCLEX-RN Study Tips blog.
You can choose a calendar app or use good old-fashioned pen and paper to keep track of what you need to know and when. Be sure to write down your class requirements – including test dates, assignment due dates, chapter readings, and anything else that needs to be done – so you can fulfill the expectations of your course.
Helpful apps include Google Calendar; Evernote, a basic organizational app that works with other apps; Remember the Milk, which organizes to-do lists; and Planner Pro Personal Organizer, which organizes events, tasks, and notes all in one place. Calendars aren’t just for students – families need them too.
“Enlist your family to keep a master calendar so everyone knows when you’re working, going to class and studying,” writes Minority Nurse blog writer Philip Murphy in his 2015 article, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Nursing Students.”
Murphy also mentions the importance of scheduling time for fun activities such as working out, reading, listening to music, or spending time with friends and family. Balancing work and enjoyment can help students get through the rigors of their online nursing program.
Self-care is important as well. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and following the same medical advice that nurses give their patients can help students be better managers of their studies and clinical duties.
Study Smarter, Not Harder
When hitting the books, quality counts for more than quantity. “Effective study means you read the material before class and, as the professor discusses it, you take notes,” writes Cynthia Howard, RN, CNC, Ph.D. in her Nursetogether.com article, “10 Habits of Highly Successful Nursing Students.”
“It will make more sense to you and you will remember it better this way,” she says.
Nursing school is not about test taking anyway. “When will I need this information?” is not a question nursing students ask. Everything learned in class will be directly applicable to professional work that students and graduates encounter in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
Other valuable study tips include:
- Study every day. Cramming before a test doesn’t help people retain material long-term. The most successful online students are those who schedule time to review their materials every day – and not just for individual classes. Test-prep books, flashcards, practice tests, and mobile apps can help prepare students for professional exams, and they, too, work best when studied over time.
- Build knowledge, don’t just accumulate facts. Linking new information to pre-existing knowledge and experiences can help students retain the material more effectively.
- Ask questions. Students who are too afraid to ask questions miss out on valuable opportunities to build their knowledge base. Asking for clarification on complicated topics or issues helps students be better nurses.
Know And Maintain Your Equipment
Once nursing students begin clinical hours, they will need certain supplies and equipment. Getting into the habit of maintaining the required items makes both school and, later, a career easier to manage.
Among the items that clinical nursing instructor Joan Spitrey itemizes in her Noodle.com blog, “10 Expert Tips For Surviving Nursing School,” are:
- Shoes – Although comfortable shoes might sound like an afterthought, they are an essential part of a nurse’s life. Registered nurses rarely have time to sit down, and most work 12-hour shifts in busy hospitals. Bad shoes can lead to foot problems, back pain, and leg issues that could result in permanent injury.
- Nursing equipment – Nurses without a stethoscope, a notepad, a pen, a small flashlight, or a pair of scissors could find themselves unprepared. On the other hand, being well supplied during clinicals helps impress potential future employers and also makes work easier.
Communicate And Expand Your Professional Network
Nowhere is the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” more true than in online nursing school. Maintaining relationships with fellow nurses, doctors, administrators, CNAs, and even the sanitation staff in a hospital contributes to the optimum functioning of a medical facility. And it’s never too early to develop the habit of professional networking.
“Connecting with online classmates and building a learning community is easier than you might think given all of the social tools and applications available today,” digital education consultant Debbie Morrison of the website Online Learning Insights writes about the importance of networking in her article, “Five-Step Strategy For Student Success With Online Learning.”
“Reach out to one student,” she suggests, “send an email to ask a question, create a Facebook group for your class, or even create a small study group.”
Fellow students could become future coworkers, subordinates, or even superiors. Starting off a nursing career with a strong social and professional network will serve a new nurse well for years to come.
About Duquesne’s Online BSN Program
Duquesne University offers one of the top-ranked online BSN programs in the nation and enables a registered nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing to earn a BSN degree. Classes start in fall, spring, and summer and the program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Topics include information technology, pathophysiology, genetics, and nursing ethics.
For more information, visit the Duquesne University online BSN web page.
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective Nursing Students http://minoritynurse.com/7-habits-of-highly-effective-nursing-students/
- Ten Habits Of Highly Successful Nursing Students http://www.nursetogether.com/habits-of-successful-nursing-students
- Study Habits Of Successful Nursing Students https://magoosh.com/nclexrn/study-habits-successful-nursing-students/
- Ten Expert Tips For Surviving Nursing School https://www.noodle.com/articles/how-to-survive-nursing-school-guide-2015
- Five –Step Strategy For Student Success With Online Learning https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/five-step-strategy-for-student-success-with-online-learning/