study blog.

a study blog for a nursing student.

Find the other parts under the “How to Survive Prereqs” tag

Like I said in the previous post, you need to learn and understand the material well enough to teach it to someone else. It’s not just a matter of getting those A’s. You need to comprehend what’s being thrown at you and eventually be able to use your knowledge to solve problems.

This starts with a good foundation.

Before Lectures

I'm not the kind of person that reads before lectures. It's just not my style. However, I am attempting to change that with my nursing courses. I've been warned to read by everyone who is/has taken nursing courses, and that's what I've been doing.

So, before lectures, now I:

  • Read my textbook.
  • Underline sections and definitions that I think are important.
  • Place post-it tags on pages with figures that might be helpful to draw into my notes or to refer back to later on during revision.
  • If there are questions after a section, I answer the questions either on the textbook itself or on a post-it.

Again, this isn't my usual style, but in my aim to get A's in all my nursing courses, I'm doing this to ensure that I get the grades I want but also understand what I'm supposed to learn.

For your prerequisite courses, it's your choice if you want to do this. Of course, the sensible advice is to tell you to read anyway, but I think that you can get away with not reading for these prereq courses.

Skim the chapters, so you have a clue, but unless lecture isn't clarifying things for you, then don't worry too much about making time to read your textbooks beforehand.

Lectures

Record, record, record

I know some professors don't allow recording, but I say try to record lectures anyway. It's so helpful to be able to play back the lecture when you're sitting down at your study space even if you don't plan on setting a time to listen to your recorded lectures, having it as a safety. Better safe than sorry.

My classmates and I in our prerequisite courses had a system where we would try to record every lecture so if someone was absent, we could send the recording to them and they could listen to lecture recordings to catch up.

Also, take good notes

Handwrite them. Type them. Doesn't matter how you take those notes, but take good notes. Do not rely on powerpoint printouts to get you through lectures. Write/type your notes and then condense them/rewrite them later on when you have the time because you’re going to study from them.

It is so important that you take the time to take notes rather than just read through the powerpoints. I can't stress it enough that you need to have a notebook or a binder or a laptop/tablet (with clearly marked folders for each semester/class) where you can take notes on because taking notes will help you learn the material. Powerpoints are great to refer back to but don't rely on them. It's so much better when you take notes in class because your brain is processing the information as you try to write/type what the professor is saying, rather than it just being eaten and forgotten straight after class.

I'll make a post about the programs I've used for taking notes, but generally speaking, I stick to OneNote. Because I am always forever terrified of losing notes, I copy&paste the notes from OneNote into Word and then save copies of the files on Google Drive and OneDrive.

I'll also make a post about note-taking or at least how I take notes as well in the future.

Take photos of all diagrams and stuff on the board

If your professor draws something or writes something on the board, take a photo of it. Save space in your notebook and draw it later, so it's prettier (& cleaner). If you're a laptop user, same thing. Draw it later and then scan the image into wherever you have your notes, so it's there with your “straight from lecture” notes.

If you're not allowed to use your phones in class, make sure to do a quick sketch with a pencil on a sheet of paper, clearly labeling the date and what this drawing is so you know. Later on, redraw it and make it look nicer so you can understand it when you're studying.

But you need to draw. If there's something on the board that your professor wrote or drew? Draw/write it because this means that it's important and you have to have it in your notes.

Don't rely on printouts of powerpoints or notes by your professor

I sort of said this above in this section, but I'm going to repeat it anyway.

Don't rely on printouts of powerpoints to get you by during lectures. Take notes. Type them. Write them. I don't care.

But do not have printouts of powerpoints or notes typed up by your professor. While they're helpful to have – especially if you're not a great note taker – it impedes in your ability to learn the material because you're not writing down the information. Yes, powerpoints are meant to be guides and whatever, but you're not embedding the material into your brain unless you put the material into your own words as you take notes.

I've seen it so many times where people will print out their powerpoints (or have the powerpoints in front of them on a laptop or tablet) and then sit there in class. Yes, every so often they'll write something, but all the other information? They're not bothering to write anything down. You could get away with this in certain classes, absolutely. However, for A&P and chem? Write everything down.

Go ahead, have your printouts so you can follow along better. But don't rely on them and skimp out on actually taking notes. It is imperative that you take notes during class. Do however you want and are comfortable with, but take notes.

Post Lectures

Do your homework!

Seriously, do not wait until the hour before next lecture to finish your homework. Start the homework as soon as you can. I know, we all hate homework. But finishing assignments can be what makes or breaks you. They’re practice and practice makes perfect, so just get it done. When you’re in chemistry or any math class, you’ll thank me that I told you to do your homework.

Also? Read through your notes

I know, shocking right? What helpful advice, V. But okay, in all seriousness, you need to read through your notes. It doesn't matter if you do it immediately after class (I know I don't) or if you wait a day or two (which is what I do).

All that matters is that you take the time to read through your notes and maybe listen to lecture notes if needed. This way, you’re reinforcing lessons AND you’re figuring out whether or not you really understand something. This allows you to figure out if you need to go to tutoring before you start revising for exams.

Rewriting Notes?

In terms of rewriting your notes, that's really on you and your decision.

Some of my classmates had what they called their “messy” notes which were their notes that they took in class. When they got home, they would rewrite the information in a much neater fashion into another notebook.

I like rewriting my notes in general, regardless of whether or not the notes I had taken were typed or handwritten. It encodes the information deeper into my brain. It also gives me an opportunity to pause and figure out what I don't understand as well as how to comprehend them. It's usually this time that I'll watch YouTube videos or listen to lecture recordings if needed. I'll even open the dreaded textbook at this time if needed.

Some people say it’s a waste of time, but it has helped me so much more when I rewrite notes than when I just straight up try and study from the notes I took in class. This is because of the fact that the rewritten notes end up being neater, cleaner, and easier to follow whereas the notes from class are often a jumbled mess.

Again, like I said above. Notes are personal. My way of note-taking and rewriting notes may be different from your own. If what you're doing works for you, then keep at it.

Still, if you do decide to rewrite your notes, do it sooner than later. Trust me, rewriting notes from four lectures is not fun and you’ll get hand cramps.

Tutoring

When you don’t get something, the sooner you go to tutoring, the better. When you need help understanding a concept, don’t wait until you have to start studying for an exam to go for tutoring. This is why I say to read through your notes BEFORE it’s time to study for exams because it helps ensure that you know whether or not you can understand something on your own.

Remember that concepts build on each other. If you’re not understanding something and you do nothing to fix that, you will be screwing yourself over in the long run.

Don’t be ashamed if you have to go to tutoring. No one will keep count of how many times you go and hold it against you. What will be held against you is your grades. If you are so desperate to get into a nursing program or any program for that matter, you need to put the time and effort into understanding what you’re supposed to be learning. If you can’t be bothered to make the time to go to tutoring when you don’t understand something, don’t come crying to your professor, advisors, peer advisors, and anyone else who has to learn to your whining.

Schools give you the resources when they have study halls and tutoring labs. Use them.


In the next post, I’ll be talking about studying for exams and dealing with stress.

#howtosurviveprereqs

So you've decided you want to take the leap and become a nurse. Great! Welcome to the frying pan! Now, before you & I jump into the actual fire (I'll be jumping in soon – March is when my nursing classes and clinical practicums start so yay!), let us talk about surviving the prerequisites.

What are the Prerequisite Courses?

First, let me define prerequisite courses.

These are the courses that your school's nursing program requires that you take before they consider you for the program. These are the courses that they focus on and care about the most. They place priority on these courses over the other classes that the college may require. While GPA is, of course, what they look at, the grades you get in these prerequisite courses can be the deciding factor about whether or not you get into your program.

Meaning when the Nursing Department is deciding on who gets the very last available seat in the class, you or another person with the same GPA as you, your grades in your prerequisite courses are the deciding factor. If you get a 4.0/A in a non-prerequisite course, but the other person has a 3.3/B+ in Anatomy and Physiology, the person who has the better grades in A&P will be the one to get into the program. You will either be rejected completely OR placed on a waiting list.

For my school, nursing prerequisites are the following subjects. These subjects are counted TWICE when they’re trying to calculate your GPA: * Anatomy and Physiology I & II (only A&P I is counted twice, but I include A&P II here because you need to take it before you go into the program anyway) * Chemistry * English I * General Psychology

My nursing program also requires the following subjects, but these you can take after entering the program. If you do take these before getting into the program, they will be counted into your GPA. This is helpful to boost up your GPA, but it can lead to trouble if you get a low grade in this class, thus pulling down your GPA, although they won’t do as much damage as getting a low grade in the subjects mentioned above these: * English II * Developmental Psychology * Statistics * Microbiology (which must be completed before the second semester of the nursing program)

Still with me? Yes? Good.

Let's go with the easy stuff first aka general advice.

General Advice

Know yourself.

I know this seems so trivial and simple, but seriously, know yourself.

Maybe, you're like me, and you want to get all your prerequisites done and dusted ASAP. When I was advised, the general advisor had me sign up for all of my requirements in one semester. Meaning that I had signed up for A&P I, chemistry, general psychology, and English for that first semester.

I survived, and aside from my B+ in chemistry, all my other courses worked out. I only got an A- for A&P I (funnily enough, my professor thought he gave me an A but oh well), however, my GPA was pretty good at the end (it was a 3.7). Later in the summer, I also took developmental psychology and statistics which bumped me up to a 3.8 because I had gotten As in both classes.

I was able to handle the course load due to several factions, mainly the fact that I don't have a job and I gave up going out in favor of studying and going to class every day of the week that first semester. Yes, I had classes every day of the week. Monday-Sunday.

Aside from my obligations at home, my focus was on my classes. I hardly hung out with friends, and when I did, it was on weeks when I knew I had a light load in terms of readings and homework. Even then, I was more likely to stay home and play video games than I was to go out. It was a sacrifice I made.

The stress levels were insane. Even worse because I had to take my finals early due to a previously booked trip to Japan I had with my mom which we had booked almost a year in advance. I took my A&P final and chemistry final on the same week, with me taking another A&P test just before my final for that class. So two A&P tests in one day, then the chemistry final five days later which was the same day as my departure.

I slept on that flight. I was knocked out like I just got punched in the face. Worth it though.

Now, I'm sure you don't have to worry about the same thing, but the point still stands.

Realistically, can you do about the same and take two science courses that have labs and two writing/reading intensive courses in the same semester? Can you take these important prereqs in the same semester AND get an A/A- in all of them (or one B+)?

Dig deep because this is your grade on the line. I can say 100% that it's doable, but this is my opinion based on my experience and personality. The fact that I was able to do it doesn’t mean others are going to be able to do the same. It all depends on you and your ability.

If you think that you can handle chem and A&P at the same time, go for it. But if you know that you are someone who struggles to memorize concepts and can only handle so much, don't do it. You need to not only get good grades in these courses, but you especially need to understand the concepts presented in the courses, especially A&P.

Establish Your Study Space and Designate a Study Time

This is another given. However, it is important for you to have your study space. This place can be private, or it can be in a public space. It can be a library or a cafe or your room or somewhere quiet in your house or dorm.

Wherever it is, make sure it's a comfortable place for you to study where you can focus. If this means leaving your home/dorm because it’s too loud, then leave and go somewhere else that you’re comfortable sitting in for a few hours.

You should also have a set study time every day. Obviously, things come up, but establish a time for studying and try to stick with it. Be consistent and have your routines to put yourself in the mind space for studying. If this means going to the gym first, showering, and then studying? Do it. If this means making coffee or tea before going to your study space? Then go!

Have a routine. Make it consistent.

Use a Planner

Buy yourself an academic planner, make a bullet journal, or use a digital calendar. Something. Anything! But make sure to use a planner of some kind to keep track of:

  • Homework
  • Exams
  • Days off
  • Cool Stuff
  • Payday
  • Life in general
  • When things are due

Don’t rely on memory or even your syllabus to tell you when things are due. Write them down in your planners. When you’ve completed whatever it is you need to complete, mark it as completed and move on to the next task.

Set Daily Goals and Reward Yourself When You Complete Them

Have daily goals that are reasonable and doable. This will prevent burnout and cognitive overload. Once you’ve finished your daily goal, reward yourself with a little something!

Of course, this would require that you have good time management which means?

Stop Procrastinating!

Seriously just don’t do it. It’s not worth the trouble or the stress later on. It might seem like a good idea at first, but believe me – trying to finish a semester’s worth of chemistry homework right before finals won’t do you any good. You’ll just end up with a lower grade than what you could have gotten if you had done your assignments on time.

Take Breaks and Have an Alarm that Goes Off at Midnight

Take those breaks. Have those delicious snacks. Go to the gym for a bit. Go for a run. Drink! Go to the bathroom. Take a bubble bath or even just a quick, but relaxing shower. Just take a break every so often.

Also, don’t pull all-nighters. Just don’t do it, especially if you have classes in the morning. This is why I say right above this one to stop procrastinating because if you manage your time well, you should be able to avoid having to pull all-nighters.

I have an alarm that goes off at midnight. Why? That’s my signal to stop studying and go to sleep so that I’m more awake during the day. Sure, I still drink coffee, but coffee + good night’s sleep the night before? It’s good shit, and I highly recommend. I also do it because I’ve found that on days when I’m more awake, I do better on exams and quizzes than when I try to stay up to study. It’s easier for me to dig deeper into my brain when I’m awake than when I’m half asleep.

Electronic or Handwritten Notes?

You’re not confined to one or the other. However, it’s good to keep things consistent and organized. Regardless of what your decide on, make sure to record lectures for playback later on while you’re revising.

If you go electronic, make sure you’re organized by having folders for every semester and class. Whatever program you decide to use for your notes (i.e. Google Docs, OneNote, or Word), make sure that you have backups saved somewhere. If you’re using Word, make sure the file saves automatically and to upload those files to Google Drive as soon as you can. If you’re using OneNote, copy & paste your notes into Word and upload the file to Google Drive. Don’t underestimate technology’s ability to screw you over when you need it the most. Backup, backup, backup.

If you forget your laptop/tablet? Don’t worry. Handwrite your notes and then just type it up later. You could also scan the handwritten notes and just save it into the proper folder.

If you go with handwritten notes, make sure to have separate notebooks and folders for each class. If you’re more of a looseleaf and binder person, just make sure to have the binders organized with tabs if you’re going to use just one binder. Make sure everything is labeled.

If you got too lazy to write and just want to type (which I have done), then just rewrite your notes later on into your notebook/binder or print out the pages and staple them into the notebook/stick them into the binder.

Just don’t rely on printouts of powerpoints and other documents to do the work for you.

Remember that these classes are trying to prepare you for your nursing classes.

You Need to Learn and Understand the Material Well Enough to Teach It

This should be your goal. You need to imagine that you’re going to teach this to someone else. The best way to gauge whether you understand a concept is if you can teach it to someone else and they understand it.

Remember that the most important thing isn’t just getting an A in these classes. You need to learn these concepts. You need to understand them. You need to be able to use your knowledge of these concepts to answer difficult questions. It’s great if you can memorize every muscle in the body, but if you don’t understand how action potential works and how neurotransmitters work, how will you be able to answer clinical questions?

So this brings me to another point!

Don’t Cheat

Don’t cheat. I don’t care if you need a 100 to get a B/B+ in that class. I don’t care if the moon started falling to the earth Legend of Zelda style and you cheating is the only way to save the planet.

Don’t care.

Do you want to become an RN? Do you want to earn that sweet, sweet high salary that RNs get?

Then work for it from the start.

I have no patience for cheaters, and neither do any of your future RN professors. If you get caught cheating? I have no doubt the program will have no issue tossing you out. Cheating does nothing for you and will not do you any good when you’re taking the NCLEX-RN.

Now, if you’re having trouble?

Ask Questions. Go to Tutoring When Needed

Don’t be afraid to ask your professors questions. They’re there to teach you, after all.

Don’t be afraid to use your college/university’s resources such as tutoring or study halls. They are fantastic tools that will help you study in the long run.

You are paying for this education, so you may as well use the resources that your school is providing for you so you can succeed.

Make Friends and Share Notes/Recordings of Lectures

Pretend we’re all in grammar school because it’s time to learn/relearn how to make friends! I can’t stress it enough how important it is to have friends (or at least people you’re friendly with) in all of your courses, but especially in these prereqs.

Form group chats with your classmates. Make friends. Form bonds. Be supportive of each other. Share notes and recordings.

Technically speaking, some of these classmates are your competition for those seats in the nursing program. However, it’s rather harmful to think of them as such. Thus, don’t think of them as competition, but rather as your cohort, potential coworkers. You need to learn how to play nice with people and work together with them because someday, you’re going to be working in an environment that requires cooperation and good relationships to ensure patients get the best care. In a semester or two, you’re going to be in the program with these people and if you want to survive, having friends is a good thing.


In the next post, I’ll talk about surviving lecture. See ya there!

#howtosurviveprereqs

One more week. Just one more week of classes and then a final exam on the 13th. I can do this. I can do this.

If you’re on the same boat as me and you have finals, too? You can do this. We can do this. I believe in you (& hope you believe in me).

Study hard but take those breaks. Drink lots of water, eat regularly, and sleep at a reasonable time. Listen to music if you need to (I know I do). Use the time you have getting to and from classes to review the material.

Learn and study it until you feel comfortable teaching it to someone else. Once you get to that point, then you’ll be 100% okay. And if you don’t? That’s okay, too. As long as you’re comfortable with the material, then you should be okay.

Good luck everyone!

#wordofadvice

For those who have bone practicals coming up, here's a few tips and tricks that helped me for my bone practical. Of course, always make sure to study by going to a study hall that (hopefully) has bones that you can borrow while you're there and study with.

  • Words and Vocabulary:

    • anterior = front
    • posterior = back
    • lateral = away from the middle
    • medial = towards the middle
    • supra = above
    • infra = below
    • epi = above
    • -cyte = mature cells
    • -blast = immature cells
    • foramen = big holes
    • foramina = small holes
    • process = pointy things that sticks out
    • condyles and epicondyles = small bumps * epicondyle = raised boney area above condyle
    • fissure = slits
    • fossa = shallow depression
    • notch = cavity within the bone
    • sinus = cavity within a bone
    • head = knob-like projection for joint
    • facet = flat projection on joint
    • tubercle = small, rounded projection
    • tuberosity = large, rounded projection
  • The Skeleton:

    • Axial Skeleton = head + spine
    • Appendicular Skeleton = everything else.
  • In the eye socket:

    • Ethmoid = behind the eye sockets.
    • Lacrimal = closer to the tearduct, next to the ethmoid.
  • Cranium:

    • Sutures * Coronal suture (front), Sagittal suture (divides parietal bones bones — think of it as the arrow that's getting shot at the coronal suture), Lambdoid suture (the back — the sting of the bow).
    • Fetal Fontanelles * Anterior Fontanelles = at the top of the skull, near the front. * Posterior Fontanelles = in the back near the lambdoid suture.
  • The vertebral column:

    • Cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, coccyx
    • There are 7 cervical bones, 12 thoracic bones, and 5 lumbar bones. * A good way to remember how many bones? “Breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, and dinner at 5” OR “7 cats chased after 12 turtles only to run into 5 lions.”
    • C1 = Atlas * The Atlas has the superior articular facet which articulates with the occipital bone on the skull.
    • C2 = Axis * The Axis has the dens which is the pointy projection that points upwards.
    • Pedicle vs Lamina * pedicle = closer to the body * lamina = closer to the spinous process
  • Humerus, radius (lateral), ulna (medial):

    • Henry ran under.
  • Hand:

    • Carpals, metacarpals, phalanges. * Cats Munched on Paper.
    • Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetral, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate and Hamate * “Some lovers try positions that they can't handle.”
  • Leg

    • Femur = big bone
    • Patella = knee cap
    • Tibia = medial bone beneath femur, medium size. you know you're looking at the anterior side when you see the anterior crest.
    • Fibula = lateral bone beneath femur
  • Foot:

    • Tarsals, metatarsals, phalanges
    • Calcaneous = heel
    • Talus = articulates with tibia (at the medial malleolus) and fibula (at the lateral malleolus)
    • Navicular = rectangular bone between talus and cuneiforms
    • Cuboid = cube like bone on the lateral side
    • Cuneiforms = three smaller bones on the medial side, above navicular
  • Apps:

    • Complete Anatomy = Email customer service with your student email address and ask them about discounts for students. The student discount is 50%, so make sure to take the opportunity!

#anatomyandphysiology

Regardless of your major and future career goals, college can be incredibly difficult. It's stressful journey with highs and lows. No journey looks exactly the same and there's no shame in that. For some, it takes them four years. For others, it takes them a little longer. What matters is getting that education.

This blog is aimed to help students — particularly nursing students — succeed. I'll be filling the posts with tips that have helped me survive school so far (and things that impeded me along the way), my personal notes from class (handwritten), study guides (sometimes typed and most likely handwritten) I make from class notes as well as stuff from my classes' textbooks, advice I can think of, advice that my mom has given me that may help you, advice from my professors and advisors, links to textbooks, or even scans of stuff I get in class.

Admittedly, there's also a bit of selfishness on my part here as I plan to use this blog as a means to study, as well. It gives me a chance to reinforce lectures and labs since I will be rewriting notes for clarity's sake. I am by no means a professor, but I'm hoping that by putting myself in that mindset of helping others understand the material, it will help me. After all, in order to fully say that you understand a concept and can apply it, you need to be able to teach it yourself and do it in simple terms.

At this time, this blog's content will be focused on pre-clinical courses (so things like Anatomy & Physiology, General Chemistry, Public Health, Statistics, General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, English). Later on, depending on how things go, things will shift to those nursing clinical courses. Although, if/when that transition does occur, I will still be posting general study help as well as advice and what not.

If you have any questions or need advice, send them either to ask.fm or to curiouscat.me. Please note that there are certain questions that I can't (and maybe won't) answer. If/when this is the case, make sure to go to your college/university's advisors for your major/program and ask them. Don't be shy, they're there to help you, as are the professors in the department.

Good luck to everyone and happy studying!

#nonstudyrelated