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It’s that time of year again. Ready or not, back to school is here! It’s a challenging time to be an NP student. There are kids to shuffle, spouses to feed, work and home to juggle, and all amid the everchanging backdrop of “living in the time of COVID”. I wrote an article last year about getting organized for NP school and how at the graduate level, it’s much different than undergraduate school. By this time, you’re fully into adulting with many competitors for your time and energy. So how should you be setting yourself up for success in NP school this year? It’s all about finding and honing the right tools for a balanced work-life-study balance. In this post, we’ll dive into some ways to start the year off strong and set yourself up for success.
Invest in a planner and get organized
I know this seems quite basic and at this level you probably have some tracking system figured out for logging your life events. Oh, how wrong you are my friend! You would be surprised by the number of students I’ve seen in action without a means of keeping track of important events and dates. Whether it be paper or electronic, invest in a planner and use it. It won’t do you any good sitting on your desk and collecting dust. Write down everything: dates and deadlines for assignments, study group partners contact information, meet-ups and study sessions, tests, quizzes, clinical dates and locations, and personal life “must-do’s”. I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a method of organizing and storing important dates.
Join a study group immediately
Join a study group or create one on day one of class. Send out a “friend request’ or feelers on your class Blackboard. Ask if anyone is interested in forming a study group or even just contributing to a study guide for tests. You can create a shared Dropbox for note sharing and study guides. Not everyone is a group learner and that is just fine. However, it’s a good idea to share ideas with other classmates, who may pick up on details that you missed. It’s always nice to have study guides and practice quizzes. It’s even better to divide up the work of creating them.
You can’t read everything. Study smarter, not harder
Teachers will literally assign chapters upon chapters for recommended reading. It’s just not physically possible to read and retain all the material by reading an entire book chapter alone. Highlight and focus on headings, tables, charts, and graphs. Always review the information from your PowerPoints and class notes. You’ll need to get really good at focusing on what’s need-to-know information and what’s not worth your time. Most professors are recording lectures now as well, so you can listen and review later while studying.
Use study tools
One of my favorite study tools for success in NP school is Picmonic. Picmonic, a blending of the words picture and mnemonic, is an audiovisual platform built by medical and nursing professionals to aid healthcare students in learning, reviewing, and retaining large quantities of information required to succeed in school and pass certification. Humans are visual learners. It’s in our DNA! Picmonic picks up on this concept and blends picture mnemonics with humor and an easy-to-use platform. There is a specific setting for nursing and NP students. The great thing about Picmonic is that there is a smart device app as well as a Google Chrome extension. The Google Chrome extension is completely free! Picmonic touts that it’s proven to boost exam scores by 30% and retention by 331%. If you haven’t tried it, sign up here. ** In the interest of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link.
Invest in meal planning
There’s nothing worse than getting home from a long day of clinical, studying, or work and having no idea what’s for dinner. Your family will not thank you for this mishap. Whether you or another family member is preparing the meals, your family will benefit from a well-thought-out strategy for attacking the dinner dash. Spend some time each week mapping out dinner and plan to cook at least 3 meals a week with actual veggies. I know that when you’re super busy, the tendency is to grab something prepackaged or takeout. This, unfortunately, is usually the least healthy option. Plan ahead for your and your family’s health. A few of my favorite meal planning tools can be found in my NP gift guide.
Develop a balanced routine
Work-life-study balance is a must. If you don’t develop a healthy routine right from the start, you’re going to quickly burn out. Develop a study schedule around your personal life. Yes, school is absolutely important, but so are you and your loved ones. Go to the cookout that your friends have invited you to attend. Go to your kid’s soccer game. Attend your spiritual services and retreats. Ask for help if you are struggling.
Most importantly take time for yourself. Take at least 15 to 30 minutes to exercise daily. Yes, the recommended American Heart Association exercise intervals are much higher for daily exercise. But, in the real world; 5, 10, 15, or even 20 minutes is all you get. Find a good HIIT or Yoga video to boost your mood and health. Or better yet, do some laughter yoga and really boost your endorphins. Yes, laughter yoga is a thing! And it’s totally OK to do now. After the year we’ve all had, we can all do with some laughter.
Setting yourself up for success in NP school is an absolute must. Take advantage of some of the tips and tools we discussed in today’s article. The most important takeaway is to collect the appropriate tools and be sure to take a balanced approach to work-life-study balance. Remember we’re all human and doing the best we can. With that in mind, you’ve got this!