You Can Do This

I don’t envy any student right now. ESPECIALLY any nursing student. Clinical experiences, simulation labs, on-campus bonding, advisory sessions with professors… all of that has been stripped away from you. You might not have a traditional graduation ceremony. Your NCLEX test date might be postponed or your first big interview rescheduled. My heart aches for you.

In the meantime, what is nursing if not adapting, right? While many schools have gone virtual, I figured I’d share some of my tips & tricks that helped me throughout school.

How To Succeed in Lectures

  • If the instructor writes something on the chalkboard/overhead or repeats an idea then it is usually a key point and you should write it down
  • Personal preference: Try to sit towards the front and center of the class where you’ll be less distracted and can hear the professor the best and have a good angle on any visual aids that may be shown.
  • If your instructor talks fast, it may help to bring an audio recorder and record the lecture while taking notes. After the lecture is over you can replay the lecture and fill in any parts that you missed in your notes. Some instructors even post recorded lectures online or have them available if you have to miss class
  • Do reading assignments or homework questions before class, it is easier to take notes when you know what the instructor is talking about
  • Online lectures:
    • Dress the part: if you’re in your pajamas, you are more likely to get comfortable and lose focus
    • Sit at a desk or table: it’s helpful if you can designate a working surface/room in your home that promotes good posture and awakeness
    • Make sure you have good wifi connection and fully charged computer/tablet

Note-taking Tips: figure out what works for you! Okay to switch mid class, mid semester, or to have different note-taking styles for different classes! (ie. I used notecards for pharmacology, but used a whiteboard for physiology)

  • Color coding: a proven method not just for note-taking, but general organizing as well. The secret to being effective is to limit the number of colors you use; otherwise, you can become overwhelmed when you look back at your notes. 
  • Highlight: highlight parts that you need to study more in depth. Again, the trick is to use it sparingly to not overwhelm the page with fluorescent ink. 
  • Whiteboard: Mapping out key concepts on whiteboards with dry erase markers can help you link related ideas, see the big picture, and better understand difficult course material. My college had rooms you could reserve that had big whiteboards available, otherwise personal boards and markers aren’t that expensive! 
  • By hand: believe it or not, this is not everyone’s go to for note taking! But there are plenty of options including the Cornell column method, visual aids/mind maps, etc.
  • Computer notes: works for a lot of people! Quick typers, easy to edit and organize, can be shared with others. ONLY warning, be focused on your notes document and don’t be tempted to browse social media, text from your computer, or online shop… not only is it distracting to YOU but also to OTHERS in the lecture
  • Notecards: Helpful for when a class/unit has a lot of terminology or straight recall content. 
  • NEVER THROW AWAY YOUR NOTES! Anatomy and physiology notes will come in handy during pathophysiology, and patho will help you understand medication pathways in pharmacology! Also if you come across a patient with a certain diagnosis, it’s nice to be able to pull out related notes.

Ways to Boost Retention: Original research done by Edgar Dale shows that the effectiveness of learning or the learning retention rate based on the learning experiences and the media that was used for the instruction

  • See/Hear (lecture): 5%
  • Reading (textbook/notes): 10%
  • Audio Visual/Video: 20%
  • Demonstration: 30%
  • Discussion Group: 50%
  • Practice by Doing: 75% aka clinicals or simulation lab
  • Teaching Others: 90%
  • Immediate Application: 90%


  • Planner: another personal preference, but quite frankly I don’t know how people get through college (or life) without a planner. Mine might have been a bit extreme but I had it color coded, some weeks I had planned out by the hour, etc. 
  • Calendar: whether it’s on your desk, wall, or phone, know when you have class, meetings, break, etc!
  • Syllabi: every professor will have one (or at least they should!), give them thorough read throughs and put due dates/exam days in your planner/calendar at the beginning of the semester/class

One thought on “You Can Do This

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