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Have you ever had trouble finding the kind of nursing school help that you want?
Maybe that’s because the type of help that you want, is not the type of help that you need.
And that can be really frustrating for nursing students, nursing professors…and sometimes even for nursing tutors like me! If professors get the impression that you want THEM to do the hard work for you, they will probably not want to give you very much help.
Now, since most nursing students are not lazy (including you!), I know that you’re not asking your profs for help simply to irritate them. So how can you get the nursing school help that you need?
Here are the 3 “Rights” that will maximize the chance that you’ll get exactly the kind of help and support you need to succeed in nursing school!
The “Right” Kind of Prep
Although it seems like it would be easier if someone just explained all the nursing concepts to you, the truth is that it wouldn’t be easier! And it only seems easier for the short term…you still wouldn’t have the kind of in-depth knowledge needed to learn to think like a nurse.
But here’s the dangerous part: when someone explains the material to you, you will feel like you know enough to think like a nurse, even though you really don’t. And you won’t discover your error until the end of nursing school when you can’t pass exit exams…or NCLEX.
Prepping properly is like learning to climb a mountain…
Let’s pretend that nursing school was a mountain climbing competition, except that you’ve never climbed a mountain before. If the prize was something that you’ve always wanted, then how would you prepare?
One way to prepare is to talk to someone who’s climbed that mountain before. But that’s only one way. Other methods would be to read a book about mountain climbing, watch some YouTube videos about it, you could even take a helicopter ride up to the top of the mountain to get an overview of what you’re going to do. But if you never try to climb the mountain for yourself, do you really think you’ll feel prepared on the day of the mountain climbing competition?
How to Prep in nursing school before asking for help
You’ve got to at least try “climbing the mountain” before you ask anybody else for help. And the best way to try is by knowing the best way to study in nursing school. Here’s a hint…listening to lecture and reading the textbook are not good enough. You really need to use active learning techniques like the 4-Step Study Method (sign-up for a mini-course about what it is and how to use it!).
Once you’ve put in the effort to properly study the nursing material, if you still need help then it’s time to decide where to find it.
Ask the “Right” Person
When you’re confused about your nursing classes, you would think that the most logical person to ask for help would be one of your professors. Unfortunately, that’s not always going to be the case! You need to think about the type of help you’ll need before you choose the proper person to ask for nursing school help.
Your (free) Nursing Professor
Despite what you may think, you do NOT pay your professor’s paycheck with your nursing school tuition. Yes, your professor is there to teach the class and provide office hours…but they are not your private tutor. Believe me, they don’t get paid nearly enough to teach every student in your class individually!
Your professors are overworked (and sometimes overwhelmed!) with the responsibilities that go with teaching a classroom full of future healthcare providers. It’s no wonder that they sometimes get frustrated when you go up to them after class and ask what will be on the exam…after they just spent an hour lecturing on topics that will be on the exam!
Professional Nursing Tutor
When you approach a professional tutor for help, however, it’s a different story. A nursing tutor can more easily adapt their teaching style to suit your learning style, and will have more time to cover the topics that you have the most difficulty understanding. Since they are more likely to work with you one-on-one (or in a small group setting), they will be able to assess your true level of knowledge more frequently as they are teaching.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a tutor for free if your school has a tutoring center available. Otherwise, you might have to invest in a paid tutor. But trust me on this one…a good tutor is worth every penny you pay! Wyzant is a great resource for finding a nursing tutor, either online or locally.
How to Decide Whether to Go to Your Professor or Hire a Tutor
If you have a quick question (and make sure that it’s actually quick…see the next section for more info!), then go to your professor. Or, depending on the question, you could even ask a classmate! Also, if you have a question related to your exam or to the structure of your class, then your professor is probably the best person to talk to.
If you’re struggling to pass your class, if you’ve realized that you have a lot of knowledge gaps that you need to go back and review, or if you don’t even know where to start…then hiring a professional tutor is going to be your best bet. Even if it’s only for 1-2 sessions to get you back on track, they are more likely to be able to provide you with the extra support you need.
Ask the “Right” way
If you’ve done the “right” kind of prep, and you know the “right” kind of nursing educator to get help from, then you’re more than halfway done! Here’s the last “right” to get the help you need when you ask for it.
Be Respectful of Their Time
If you’re getting help from a professor, try to stick to their office hours. If it’s a quick question, you can ask immediately after class…but make sure you ask your professor if they have a few minutes, first! Don’t assume that they are available, they might have another commitment that they need to get to.
If you’re hiring a tutor, then make sure to save most of your questions for your scheduled meetings. Many tutors will tell you that it’s fine to email/text/call with questions in between scheduled meetings…if they tell you that, then by all means feel free to do so! However, if the question you are asking doesn’t have a quick answer, then a good tutor will be able to tell you that it’s a good topic to save for your next meeting. Understand that their time is valuable, too!
Be Patient with Email
Email is awesome. But it’s also easy to forget that when you send off a “quick” question to your professor or tutor, that does not always mean it will be a quick answer. Nursing information is often complicated, and takes a lot of explanation to unpack what may seem like a simple answer.
So be patient with email. Hopefully, your nurse educators are not on their computers 24/7, so it might be a while before they see and have time to respond. In addition, the question you are asking might take a full 30-minutes (or more!) to type out an answer via email! For a tutor, that is unpaid time that they will be spending on you…is that fair? For a professor, that is not viable if they have 10 or more students in their class…do that math on how long that could take everyday!
Show Them That You Prepared
Unfortunately, there are many students who ask teachers to do something that they could have done or looked up for themselves. As you might imagine, this is very frustrating for professors, especially! So whenever you ask for nursing school help, make sure you always let them know that you’ve already done some work to prepare.
For example, if you email to ask a question about the class requirements, make sure you mention that you already double checked the syllabus and didn’t see the answer. Make sure that you don’t sound defensive or combative when you do this…you don’t want to come across as blaming the professor that the info wasn’t clear about something.
Here’s an example of how you can approach a professor or tutor for nursing school help on a specific topic. If you go into the meeting and say “I don’t understand Cardiac,” that is super frustrating to the educator! Because they have probably put in a lot of time and effort into your lecture, assignments, or other resources to help you learn…and you are basically telling them that none of it was helpful, and you want them to reteach all of that information in a single meeting.
Instead, put in the study time on your own, first (remember to use the 4-Step Study Method!). Then you will know exactly what to ask to maximize both your time AND your professor’s time. For example, you could ask “I’m having trouble understanding the difference between Atrial Fibrillation and Ventricular Fibrillation.” That is a much more focused and useful question. Most instructors will be more than happy to help you answer as many specific questions as you need.
Follow-up and Do What Is Asked of You
This one may seem obvious, but it isn’t always. When you seek out help, implement the suggestions that your professor (or tutor) suggests! And do it in a timely manner. It’s very frustrating when a student asks for help, the professor tells them what to do…and then the student never does it, but comes back to get more help.
Why in the world would any educator want to help a student like that? From their perspective, the student is being lazy and want the nursing educator to do all of the hard work for them. Which obviously doesn’t work in nursing school, anyway 😉
I learned this lesson early in my tutoring career. I had one student who needed help with cardiac disorders, but it was clear that she did not know her cardiac A&P. So after our first session, I gave her the assignment to memorize her cardiac A&P…I even showed her exactly how to do it! When she came back for our next meeting, she obviously had not even tried. When she came back for our third meeting, she still did not know her cardiac A&P at all. At that point, I told her not to come back until she had memorized what I asked her to work on…and I never saw her again at tutoring.
Caveat: Sometimes a professor might not know what is causing your problems in nursing school, and so they might give misguided advice. For example, I’ve heard some professors recommend that students should do 100 NCLEX practice questions everyday!!! That is simply not sustainable, and it really won’t help the deeper study problems. If you find yourself in that situation, then it’s time to hire a private nursing tutor.
Bonus Tip: NEVER ask this question…
Please don’t ask your Professor what is going to be on the test! That’s the wrong attitude to have in nursing school, and they definitely will not appreciate the fact that you just ignored weeks worth of lectures and assignments to ask that.
If you want clarification on what will be on the exam, do your “right” prep work first to come up with a list of topics you predict will be on the test. If you need more guidance on exactly how to do that, then the PASS Program shows you step-by-step how to accurately predict what will be on every nursing exam . When you’re done, go to your professor with your list (during office hours, of course!). Then ask them if you could quickly review your list with them. Chances are, they will be much more willing to give you suggestions if you forgot to include anything important. ?
If you want nursing school help, you need to do the 3 “Right’s”:
- “Right” kind of prep work
- Find the “Right” kind of nurse educator
- Ask your questions the “Right” way
If you do these three “Rights” every time you have questions or want nursing school help, you will find it so much easier to get exactly the type of help you need.
Any personal stories or suggestions about ways that have worked for YOU to get nursing school help?
Nicole Whitworth is the founder of Your Nursing Tutor. She has a BSN and an MA in Clinical Psychology, and has been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years. Nicole specializes in getting nursing students through school confidently and calmly so that everything finally “clicks”. She is also the creator of the Silver Bullet Study System, an easy-to-follow study method that automatically trains your brain to become a nurse at the same time that you study for your normal nursing classes.