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Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure: 3 Tips to Bounce Back

4 minMarch, 08 2024

Nursing school is tough. The tests are tougher. Failure happens. Even though you know all this, it doesn’t make it easier when it happens to you.

Failing a test in nursing school does not make YOU a failure. It’s feedback, much like a dashboard warning light telling you it’s time for an oil change.

Here are 3 tips on how to study in nursing school that will help you turn failure on its head

1. Forgive yourself.

This is hard, but it’s important. Forgiving yourself resets your subconscious mind. Blaming yourself is a waste of energy. When you forgive yourself, all that power can be directed toward smarter study, growth, and self-care. Talking to a good friend, a caring professor, or a therapist can help you with self-forgiveness.

2. Improve your approach.

  • Find your weak spots. If possible, look over your nursing school test. What kind of mistakes you are making? Is it lack of knowledge, rushing, or misreading questions? Use this information to develop a game plan for slaying the next exam.
  • Make a study plan. Review the syllabus ahead of time and grab any study guides or practice exams your professors provide. Focus on key concepts versus small details. For example, don’t try to memorize every cardiac drug. Instead, learn how the heart functions, then memorize the major drug classes, what they do, major side effects, and nursing indicators.
  • Always ask WHY. Remember, you are studying to understand and apply, not to cram dozens of factoids into your brain!
  • Schedule your study. Add regular study and nursing lab practice times into your schedule and treat them as you would a shift at work—no excuses!
  • Leverage your learning style. If it’s visual, use pictures and diagrams. If it’s kinesthetic, draw your own diagrams or watch videos for tough concepts. If you learn by listening, record the lectures (ask permission first).
  • Employ the Pareto principle. 80 percent of your effectiveness comes from 20 percent of the work. Do shorter bursts of high intensity studying instead of all-nighters.
  • Use study groups. Or not. For most people, studying with a buddy helps them retain up to 80 percent more than reading a textbook alone. But if you’re an introvert, you might do better to study solo.
  • Take advantage of tutors, office hours, and nursing lab times. Ask about things you don’t understand.


3. Sharpen the saw. Your body and brain are your best tools. Take care of them.

  • Get plenty of sleep. This is hard for stressed-out nursing students, but it’s SO important! An extra hour of sleep will help you more than an extra hour of studying.
  • Drink water. A well-hydrated brain functions much better than a dehydrated one.
  • Eat real food. Vending machine fare doesn’t count! Pack a healthy lunch and snacks to stay energized all day.
  • Have fun. Schedule time for family and friends, relaxation, and connection.

Finad additional resources for mental health, physical activity, nutrition, rest, and quality of life at Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation.

Failure isn’t the end of the road. Pick yourself up, learn from it, and go on to be a better nurse.

If you are preparing for your NCLEX exam, check out these Tips for Passing the NCLEX Exam. If you are planning to get your certification, learn more about ANA Education & Resources Certification Prep Products to help you prepare for your exam.

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