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Nursing Success Center  
Nursing Success Center - Success Tips


Being a nursing student can be fun and rewarding, stressful and overwhelming.  You may sometimes wonder how you're going to manage your classes, clinicals, work, and personal life.  The following tips have been gathered from various books, websites, and nursing students to give you some ideas on how to become a more successful student nurse.

Attitude is Everything!

  • Don’t compare yourself to other students.  Each student’s situation is different; some students have medical backgrounds, some are parents, some are starting a second career, and some have just finished high school.  Enjoy your own learning experience.
  • Build confidence by being organized!  Buy a good personal planner and keep track of your tests, projects, clinicals, and family/work obligations all in one place. 
  • Replace negative thinking with positive thinking!  For example, change "I'll never get through these next two years" to "I'm going to stay focused, learn as much as I can, and do my best over these next two years."
  • Support your fellow students with encouragement and compassion; you’re all in this together!

Taking Notes

  • Try to prepare for each lecture by pre-reading relevant material in your text and/or handouts; if you have some background about the topic, you’ll find that you will understand the lecture better.
  • Put a heading and a date on your notes for each day.
  • Your notes should outline main ideas that the instructor covered, along with details and examples, if provided.  Leave some white space in between main ideas so that you can add notes from your text, or from the next lecture.
  • Read over your notes within 24 hours of the lecture; this will help you to better process the information and identify questions/difficult topics that will require additional research.

Study Skills

  • Keep up with your reading assignments in textbooks and other materials; studying means reviewing the material, not trying to cram the past three weeks of required reading into two days.
  • Attend all lectures.  You never know if a question asked by a fellow classmate or a piece of information not found in the book might be on the next exam.
  • Create a quiet, neat study area.  If you think that you’ll be interrupted at home, find another place to study, such as a library, coffee shop, or bookstore.
  • Use the computer lab to learn NCLEX style test taking.  Take advantage of the Nursing Success Center ’s library of resources for additional study help.

Taking Tests

  • It’s normal to feel a little anxious before a test; this kind of anxiety actually helps you stay focused and alert. 
  • Remember to take care of yourself – get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, and don’t overload on caffeine.
  • Make an effort to relax periodically during the test.  If you find yourself feeling nervous or anxious, take several deep breaths or think of yourself in a peaceful, quiet setting.
  • Don’t be intimidated by students who finish early; just stay focused on your own work.


  • Everyone begins clinicals at different levels of experience; don’t get caught up in how much, or how little, you know.
  • Learn through observation.  Watch your instructor, use the skills lab, watch videos, and practice, practice, practice.
  • The night before, lay out your uniform, shoes, and other essential items; you’ll feel more organized in the morning and your day will be off to a positive start.
  • If you have trouble remembering protocols or lab values, write them down on index cards and keep them in your lab coat pocket.  Don't be afraid to ask for help!

Work and Family

  • If possible, work no more than 16 hours per week; with classes, studying, and clinical rotations, nursing school is like a full-time job.
  • Discuss your needs and goals with your family before beginning the nursing program; their lives will be affected as well.
  • If you have children, find reliable childcare and have a backup plan for unexpected events.
  • Set aside time for a specific activity and stick to it - for example, if you've devoted an hour to playing with your kids, don't spend the time worrying about your next test.  Similarly, if you've set aside an hour to read in your textbook, don't think about the piles of laundry or dishes.


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San Joaquin Delta College
5151 Pacific Ave
Stockton, California 95207
(209) 954-5151