1. REMEMBER THE BASICS.
Airway, Breathing and Circulation...remember the basics! Your ABC’s will save you most times. Developing awesome test taking skills is vital. I was one of many that failed Med Surg, yes, I failed a class—OMG. But what I gained during that moment was better test taking skills and I killed it after that! When answering questions, always think “what can I do first before calling the doctor?” That’s super important during school and even once you begin your career as a nurse. Doctors will always ask, “Well did you do this or that?” and you should always be able to tell them what interventions you tried prior to calling. As you start examining pathologies, know 1-2 characteristics of each. For example: What makes Osteoarthritis different from Rheumatoid Arthritis? Also, try not to cram. I would record lectures and listen to them at home. Taking notes on my own time helped me really understand the information and dissect the small details my instructor went over that I may have missed while in class. Everyone is quick to memorize and forget (my mistake in patho) but TRUST me, it will come to haunt you once you get to Med Surg/Critical care.
2. FLASHCARDS ARE EVERYTHING.
I swear by using flashcards for any kind of memorization. And let's be real, pharm requires some serious memorization. But there are tricks: Group those medications in their classes. For example: beta-blockers almost always end in -olol, and benzos almost always end in -zam or -pam. So before you make a flashcard for each beta blocker, make a flashcard for beta blockers in general, and include their general side effects: slower HR, fatigue, dizziness, etc.
Although you can simply buy flashcards these days, I highly recommend making your own. Writing information with your own handwriting secures that information in your brain. Sometimes the easy way out is not the most beneficial. I used flashcards for patho and med surg as well for each disease process. I literally look through my old folders/binders and still find a ton of flashcards. Those were my saving grace. Plus, you can take them everywhere with you— the nail salon, hair salon or even when visiting family. I never felt like I was slacking even while enjoying “me” time.
3. REALIZE THAT YOU CAN'T MEMORIZE EVERYTHING.
I think it's easy to panic at first. You feel like you have to memorize all the drugs known to man, OMG! You don't have to memorize everything. Because you can't. Not you personally, but it’s just not possible. This goes back to tip #2. Group those medications together. What are narcotics mainly used for? What are the main side effects? Who mainly needs it? Once you get the hang of that, you'll start thinking like a nurse!
4. REWRITE. REWRITE. REWRITE.
This is why I highly recommend that you get a whiteboard. My roommate brought her white board into our living room and we used it to the fullest. We would even write out our study schedule on it for the week and follow it to the T. No excuses. No whiteboard? No problem. Write it out on paper. Over and over again. Until you’re so sick of the material and you see it in your sleep! The beauty of writing something out is that you remember this action. My classmates/friends would think that I’d lost my mind color coding my notes and re-writing things over and over again. But guess what?! It worked for me! Still to this day I am still the color coding queen, even at work, and I always get the job done! When you’re caring for 6 patients, high acuity especially, it can be difficult to remember every single detail or task you need to complete so color coding comes in handy once again.
Pinterest is my #1 source for cute pictures or diagrams. You can almost find anything you could imagine. Lol. The best part is that there are a ton more options online. If you want to make it fun, make your own!
Here are some great ones —> http://studentnurses3.blogspot.com/p/medical-surgical-nursing-mnemonics.html?m=1