Top Ten Things You Need To Survive Nursing School

There are so many things I wish I had known before I started nursing school that would have made life so much easier. At the beginning, I studied every little detail and focused on memorizing rather than understanding. I had always crammed for tests and then seemed to forget everything the moment the test was over but in nursing school you can’t do that. You have to focus on the big picture and understanding the concepts. This is going to be your career, it’s not just another general education class which, let’s be serious, are just a waste of valuable study time. So below are my top 10 things you need to survive nursing school.

1) A comprehensive review book… If you stopped here and didn’t look any further, you would be fine. I’m serious! This is the hands down best investment you can make in nursing school. It really highlights what the need to know and even some of the nice to know things are so you can truly grasp what you’re studying without getting bogged down by all the extra fluff.

My favorite: Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN examination

You can find it here…

2) A class specific review book that has nclex style questions. While the comprehensive review book is great to study with, it doesn’t go into all the details that a class specific review book does. Bonus: It’s a great way to learn what an NCLEX question is like and how to answer them. There are usually 2 or more right answers in each question but there is always one that is the priority (hint, hint: pick the most right answer). If you can learn to prioritize early on, you’re set for the rest of your nursing school career!
The Davis Success Series
Pearson’s Reviews and Rationales Series
Prentice Hall’s Reviews and Rationales

All of these are great! I started with the Davis Success Series but later switched to Pearson’s and Prentice Hall

3) If you’re a visual learner, The Memory Notebook of Nursing is amazing! If you want to save some money, go in on the CD version with some classmates and print them out as you need them.

I’m also a huge fan of Mosby’s Memory Notecards especially pharmacology
and Fluids and Electrolytes These are little spiral bound books the size of flash cards so they’re great for throwing into your purse or book bag.

4) You definitely need a nursing diagnosis book! I don’t have a specific favorite but this is a huge lifesaver when it comes to care plans!

5) Another great care plan resource is an actual care plan book. It doesn’t include every disease ever but it includes the most common and will help you start thinking about priorities when it comes to your care plans.

6) A great planner. Personally, I’m a fan of the Lilly Pulitzer agenda or Erin Condren life planners but this is one of those things you can totally make your own! Just pick what works for you. I personally like to color code my planners. Big events in red, social in pink, meetings in blue, etc. that way I can take one look at my calendar and know exactly what I need to be focusing on.

7) Study Tools… I personally like blank sheets of printer paper so I can condense my notes down as much as possible. By the end of nursing school, I was able to condense my notes to 3-4 pages per exam which usually meant only 20 pages to study for the final. Notecards are great for memorizing but they also can be used to help piece things together. I love being able to have study tools I can just throw into my bag and pull out whenever I have down time. It’s not about studying harder, just smarter so figure out what works for you.

8) A digital recorder… Always check with your teacher before recording a lecture but this is a great way to figure out what you missed BONUS: plug it into your car and you can study on the go

9) A great drug book! You’re school will have one they want you to use but you can always get one that suits you better if that doesn’t work for you

10) Lastly, but int opinion most importantly, An Amazing Study Group
I cannot begin to even describe how much I loved my study group because not only were they there for those late nights and to remind you about big due dates but they become such an amazing group of friends who can support you through nursing school like no one else can. They get your freak outs and need to stress eat and are there to celebrate with you after each test with yummy margaritas or pick you up if you have a really awful clinical day. You teach each other, grow together and succeed together. Nothing bonds you together like nursing school.

11) So you know all of the text books they make you get, spend time to actually read them and do it before you go to lecture. Why? Because instead of seeing a subject for the first time in lecture, you’ll only have to fill in the holes that you missed and can focus on what the teacher is trying to point out is important.

Don’t feel pressured to spend a ton on study aids. LOTS of people survive without them but they definitely make life easier. Again, if you were to get only one, I would suggest a comprehensive review book. Remember to share your resources with your classmates!

I hope this helps! If y’all have any questions or want to add to this, post a comment below or email me at


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