Embracing Mistakes: A Nursing Tutor’s Guide to Effective Studying in Nursing School

I want you to get things WRONG in Nursing School.

But…it’s all about the timing. See, I want you to get things wrong during your study time–so that you can get them RIGHT on your exams, in your clinical rotation, and in your future role as nurse!

That being said, it’s super important that you’re making the right kind of mistakes, not the wrong mistakes (and yes…there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to make a mistake, lol!). Which is why in this blog post, I’m sharing my tips for how (and why!) you should be making mistakes in your study time so that you can learn to think like a nurse faster and easier, and get better grades on your nursing exams as a result.

1. Redefine Nursing School ‘Mistakes

A lot of us have grown up with an emphasis on perfectionism, especially when it comes to schoolwork. We used to striving for straight A’s, becoming valedictorian, being top of the class–things like that. And now that you’re in nursing school, the stakes seem even higher than before! After all, now you’re going to be responsible for people’s lives! It’s difficult to simply turn that mindset ‘off’ during nursing school, unless you’re intentional about it.

That’s why it super important to purposefully redefine what it means to make a mistake.

And that means you need to start viewing mistakes as a learning opportunity.

(BTW, we ALL know that you never forget the mistakes you make…so if you have any problems with retention, this will help you remember important info better, too!)

Every time you make a mistake in your study time, that’s one less mistake you’ll make on your exams. So celebrate your mistakes for the learning opportunities that they present!

2. What’s your Real Nursing School Goal?

Is your goal to get good grades in Nursing School?

Because I can prove to you that it’s not with a single question.

Here’s the question: If you got straight A’s all through nursing school, then couldn’t pass NCLEX and become a nurse, would you feel like you had succeeded?

I’ve never had anybody answer yes to that question.

That’s because your REAL goal in nursing school is to become an amazing nurse. That means that while you do need to maintain passing grades (I prefer to help my tutoring students get comfortably passing grades, so they don’t stress as much!), you do NOT need straight A’s. In fact, you don’t even need to get an A.

But you DO need to be developing the skills that will get you those passing classroom grades, and will have you passing NCLEX with ease. The #1 skill to do that is learning to think like a nurse. And before you get made at me because that’s what you’re always told to do, but nobody ever tells you how to do it…you can easily learn to think like a nurse by using the Silver Bullet Study System, which is the best way to study in Nursing School.

So remember to keep your REAL nursing school goals in mind, and then it won’t bother you so much when you “only” got an 81% on your exam…instead, you can celebrate because you’re one step closer to nursing school success.

3. Nursing School is Out-of-Control!

At least, in many way, Nursing School is out of your control. Which is another great reason why you can’t be a perfectionist.

After all, when the required passing score is increased to 75%-80% on average (some are even higher!), that makes it harder than ever to get “straight A’s”. And it’s also something you can’t control.

Know what else you can’t control? How good your instructor is at writing NCLEX-style questions for your exams, what their grading (or teaching!) style is, or even if they give you any study materials or graded feedback in a timely manner.

I literally had a 1:1 tutoring student recently who told me that her and her classmates approached their Dean of Nursing about their instructor’s failure to provide necessary learning materials in a timely manner…and were told to deal with it, that nursing school was a ‘hazing’ experience, and if they couldn’t hack it, then they should switch majors.

For the record, I heartily disagree with that advice, and believe that it illustrates the extreme toxicity still present in some (not all, but some!) nursing programs.

But at the end of the day, my tutoring client needed to decide whether she was going to switch nursing program, or stick it out in the one she had already started–which meant there were going to be a lot of things she couldn’t control, but would have to learn to deal with.

She decided to stick it out. You can do it, too. But not if you keep trying to control the things that are outside of your control–if you do that, it’s like beating your head against a brick wall, and you’re never going to have the chance to meet your true nursing school goals.

4. Making the Right Kind of Mistakes

Making mistakes is all well and good, but you need to be making sure you’re making the right kind of mistakes in order to make progress. Like, if you make the mistake of driving in the wrong direction, but never learn from it (and turn around!), then that mistake is never going to get you where you want to go.

That’s why I teach my tutoring students to use the simple, 4-step Silver bullet Study System. It’s a self-correcting study framework that makes it easy to identify the most important information, and even helps you “catch” yourself if you accidentally miss something.

That way, you never have to worry that you’re making a mistake that will cost you major points on your exam. You never have to worry if you should have stayed up another hour or two studying, instead of going to bed on-time (which is healthy and encouraged!).

Because when you use the structured study approach of the Silver Bullet Study system, you will always feel more confident that you’re covering what you need to know about every topic you study in nursing school–and even more importantly, that you’re practicing how to think like a nurse during your study time, so that by the time you get to your exam you’ll be an expert.

How Mistakes Help You Get Better Grades

When you’re practicing ‘how to think like a nurse’ during your study time, making mistakes during your study time, and learning to improve during your study time, then by the time you get to your exam you’re going to be a pro!

Compare that to how you’ve been studying now–where you always end up studying what’s not on the test, and how your grades never seem to demonstrate how hard you actually worked.

It happens because your focusing on what to know, without practicing how to think during your study time…which means the first time your forced to practice that skill is on your exam. And let’s be honest, we all stink at something the very first time we do it!

So if you’re ready to start making more mistakes in nursing school, so that you can get better grades, feel more confident, and make your study sessions less overwhelming, and you’d like me to help you on that journey then I’d love to tutor with you!

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Feel free to leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation about how we can embrace and learn from your mistakes in nursing school!

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