9 Study Tips for Nursing Students

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A nursing student studying on a laptop.

The world needs nurses. To stay on top of their busy schedules, nursing students should employ effective studying techniques, which include being prepared, staying organized and practicing intentional self-care.

Earning an advanced degree like a Master of Science in Nursing can equip graduates to take on crucial and demanding nursing roles. Nursing students who are pursuing an advanced degree often have other commitments, such as working full or part time. Finding and implementing the right study tips for nursing students can be a great first step.

Nursing Student Study Tips: Preparing to Study

Before nursing students begin studying, they should set themselves up for success with adequate preparation. The following nursing student study preparation tips can make all the difference.

1. Understand Learning Styles

Every student has a different learning style or method for retaining new information. Before the first day of instruction, nursing students should determine what type of learner they are, so they can plan their study methods accordingly.

Nursing students can apply their individual learning styles in different ways. For example:

  • Visual learners may prefer to look over an infographic of a physiological process.
  • Auditory learners may read aloud a section of a pharmacology textbook.
  • Tactile learners may use patient simulators, such as medical manikins, to practice new task and clinical skills in person.

2. Schedule Study Time

A useful study tip for nursing students whose time is at a premium is to come up with a customized study plan, based on their individual schedules, and stick to it consistently.

The Pomodoro Technique

A popular time management technique, the Pomodoro method works well for nursing students who need to tackle long assignments or who want to avoid distraction. Here are the basic steps, according to Forbes:

  • Choose a single project or task to focus on — don’t multitask.
  • Set a timer for 25 to 30 minutes and start working.
  • When time is up, take a break of no longer than three minutes.
  • Repeat the above steps.
  • Take longer breaks between sessions after the fourth session.
  • Mark off each session as complete as you go along.

The Pomodoro technique keeps nursing students focused while avoiding burnout. Plus, the one-small-step-at-a-time, manageable approach relieves jitters and prevents procrastination.

3. Create an Ideal Studying Environment

Many nursing students study at home. They can find or set up a dedicated study area by doing things such as:

  • Avoiding beds, couches and armchairs — getting too comfortable can lead to drowsiness
  • Clearing up clutter — it can be distracting or make study tools hard to locate
  • Lighting the study area evenly from a window or with lamps
  • Limiting outside sounds with ambient noise or music without lyrics

Study Tips for Nursing School

Success in advanced nursing programs calls for organization and commitment. The following study tips for nursing students can get them off to a great start.

4. Avoid Cramming for Exams

As most nursing students know, cramming means intense studying right before an exam. Here are a few reasons why cramming can be counterproductive:

  • Processing a lot of information at the last minute increases anxiety, frustration and fatigue.
  • Cramming overnight can cause sleep deprivation and a lack of focus the next day.
  • Cramming may cause students to memorize information rather than think critically about it, which results in forgetting much of it after the exam is over.
  • Cramming doesn’t allow students the time to practice concepts, which improves critical thinking and analytical skills.

5. Prepare for Classes Ahead of Time

Preparing for classes ahead of time is a key study tip for nursing students. Before a class meeting, for example, students can familiarize themselves with content by:

  • Watching instructor-posted videos
  • Skimming relevant readings
  • Taking notes on or discussing material with a study partner
  • Considering how the new material builds on what came before
  • Learning new vocabulary or key terms

When nursing students organize new content in advance, it gives them a head start on the material and allows time for preparing relevant questions.

6. Join a Virtual Study Group

Study groups can be greatly beneficial to nursing students. Writing for Wolters Kluwer, certified medical-surgical nurse Shelly Morgan says nursing students can improve their studies with teamwork, and study groups are a great example of that.

A virtual study group can include the following:

  • A group chat where students post comments and questions about assignments throughout the day
  • A scheduled Zoom meeting for students to go over a particular study topic
  • Posting to a message or discussion board to engage in dialog with other students in a course

Self-Care Tips for Nursing Students

Nursing school’s demands can cause stress. Nursing students can use coping strategies, a form of self-care, to handle stressors.

Coping strategies — efforts people make to overcome, reduce or tolerate stressful events — can be emotional or behavioral. Examples of coping strategies nursing students shared in a Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences study included:

  • Seeking advice or emotional support from others
  • Looking for the good in an experience (positive reframing)
  • Taking action to make a situation better (active coping)

When nursing students apply self-care as an active coping strategy, they not only feel empowered in nursing school but also equip themselves for future success in their nursing careers.

From a pilot study featured in Nursing Open, these are three active self-care strategies for nursing students to follow.

7. Get Quality Sleep

Sleep affects the mind and body, influencing a nursing student’s response to stress and their ability to focus and retain new information. When nursing students get quality sleep, they support their academic performance through better mental and physical health.

Here’s how nursing students can achieve quality sleep:

  • Go to bed at roughly the same time.
  • Avoid caffeine starting at least four hours before bedtime.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
  • Play soothing instrumental music at a low volume.
  • Avoid interruptions during sleep time.
  • Avoid using beds and bedrooms for studying.

8. Exercise and Eat Well

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association advises that nursing students understand the value of regular exercise and eating well to improve health and reduce stress.

Exercise and nutrition tips for nursing students include:

  • Practice yoga to energize the body, focus the mind and be present with patients.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to ensure a steady supply of fuel for the body and mind.
  • Get the body in motion to unwind after a long day, whether it’s a ballet class, a bike ride or another form of exercise.
  • Take snack breaks for energy during a busy day spent studying or doing clinical work.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar that cause energy “crashes” and disrupt sleep.

9. Practice Complementary Alternative Therapies

Complementary alternative therapies (CAT) are therapeutic practices that fall outside the realm of traditional health care. These are some CATs that nursing students can try:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Reflective journaling
  • Foot reflexology
  • Positive affirmations
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Tai chi

Results of a study cited by Nursing Open found that when nursing students tried two or more CATs, they and their patients were likely to benefit from reduced stress and an awareness of how traditional and alternative health care approaches intersect.

Put in the Work

Advanced practice nurses earn patients’ trust by empowering them to play an active role in their own health outcomes. Tips for boosting study skills and managing stress can transform an aspiring nursing student into a frontline warrior in health care.

If you want to advance your nursing career, the University of North Dakota offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree with two specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Discover UND’s M.S.N. programs and get ready to do the work worth doing.

Recommended Reading:

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Nursing?

Essential Nursing Skills for MSN Students

Private Practice vs. Hospital: A Look at Nursing Environments


American Psychiatric Nurses Association, “Self Care Tip Sheet for Nurses”

ATI Nursing Education, “How to Create a Home Study Space”

Cerebrum, “Remembering What We Learn”

Forbes, “The Pomodoro Technique Explained”

Healthline, “The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body”

Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, “Stressors and Coping Strategies During Clinical Practice Among Diploma Nursing Students”

Nurse Education Today, “Examining the Association Between Self-Care Practices and Psychological Distress Among Nursing Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Nursing Open, “Teaching Accelerated Nursing Students Self-Care: A Pilot Project”

Osmosis, “How to Study in Nursing School: 8 Tips from an Expert Nurse Educator”

Sleep, “The Long-Term Memory Benefits of a Daytime Nap Compared with Cramming”

Wolters Kluwer, “Preparing Beginner Nursing Students for Success: Tips for the First Year”