September 10, 2020

5 Study Tips To Studying Smarter, Not Harder

Note: I was compensated for my review of this product / #Sponsored 

Studying can be an overwhelming concept. Between notebooks, highlighters, audiobooks, and group sessions… studying can be exhausting even before you start. There is so much riding on your ability to understand complex processes, with each exam testing your comprehension of the course content. I get it, stressful much?! But I'm going to give you five tips that will help you understand complex concepts and create an environment that will allow you to understand the presented material. 

Start With Why. 
When I sit down to study any disease process, I focus on one word. Why. Why is this happening? I remember my husband resting after his CABG surgery. The nurse practitioner walked in for morning grand-rounds and I asked her a very layered question of “Why did this happen?” She sat down and went over coronary blood flow, his occlusions, physical presentations related to said occlusions, and the subsequent events. After she answered the why component, everything else fell into place for me. I no longer had to ask about statins or how inflammation and diabetes affected his cardiac tissue. It was a continuum and revolved around understanding the disease process in its entirety, rather than lists of information without links or connections. The why is a simple phrase, but it comes with layers and layers of understanding. 

As a person who is still in school, answering why has helped me to pass exams and grow as a nurse. For example, everyone knows what tachycardia is but do you know why it occurs, in relation to hypovolemia? Yes, it is an elevation in heart rate but why is the heart responding in this manner? What told the body to react in this fashion? Well, tachycardia is a compensatory mechanism the body uses to maintain cardiac output when stroke volume is low. Once you understand the compensatory mechanisms of the body, you will then understand the why in many disease processes. When a patient has a gunshot wound and is losing blood, tachycardia occurs because the body is attempting to assist in maintaining cardiac output in a time of crisis. These concepts aren't concrete. What other ways does the body try to assist itself? The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is one. Don't focus on lists and random facts, focus on understanding how our body truly functions and maintains itself. 

Do Not Take Shortcuts. 
Stop with the shortcuts and dedicate yourself to the study plan. You might have a crappy instructor, you might be swamped at work, but the course content is important. It is there so you understand and build on. You can't go backward. Focusing on statin drug names and cholesterol levels are pointless if you have no idea where hyperlipidemia stems from. The human body is a complex machine, but this isn't rocket science. Stop shortchanging yourself and sit down and dig deep. Once you have that level of understanding, you rinse and repeat. Meaning, use your foundations to understand the disease processes, rather than being able to ramble off signs and symptoms with no real understanding of why they are happening in the first place. In the end, you must study with intention and not merely go through the motions. Be smart with your time and use it wisely. We all know those students, the students that can list all the beta-blockers with their generic and brand names. They know all the labels backward and forwards, but they lack understanding of when a beta-blocker would be administered (hypertension, tachycardia) or what side effects could occur (hypoglycemia). Data is meaningless with information links. List, graphs, charts… they mean nothing if you can apply the information in the proper settings. 

Reinforce & Reading.
When studying, try to link things together like a chain and begin with answering why. I have many books, but I get most of my why questions answered from pathophysiology textbooks. They aren't the most exciting reads, but boy do things click after reading them. Also, stop looking for multiple sources of information (initially) and start with the required reading in your course. Too often, students will YouTube something rather than reading the required course material. You'd be surprised how many students will be failing, and I'll ask them if they've done the necessary reading and they say no. No reading, no full grasp of the content and you are surprised you are having issues? Supplemental material is excellent, but it's supplemental and based on your full understanding of basic fundamentals. If you don't have those fundamentals, you will be lost. Listen, I'm on YouTube, I appreciate and am honored by people watching my videos, BUT I'm not you. I'm not in your course, and I'm not your teacher. Do the required reading, then come on over if you have additional questions. Don't blow off reading though. It unlocks things you could otherwise be missing. I'll skim a chapter here or there, YouTube for hours and my professor brings up something I ignored when reading and BAM, it all clicks! I get it, YouTube is exciting and you can turn it on and do other things. But some topics require your undivided attention initially. 

Still Don’t Understand. 
Speaking of reinforcement, check out additional sources other than YouTube such as Picmonic. Sometimes I need more than a conversational video, more than someone talking - I need an interactive experience. Cheat sheets and stories are awesome resources and Picmonic is a great platform that includes these options and much more. One feature Picmonic offers is the education mode. The style is viewing-based and has various topics from basic ECG to electrolytes made easy. The point of the education mode is to take a complex, distracting topic and break the content down, so you can absorb and understand the material. You ever purchase a book and read the first few pages and realized it doesn't 'speak' to you? The information is there, but there is a disconnect. There is no one size fits all regarding education. You have to find what works for you, and the education mode is for learners who enjoy a presentation of information and want a passive learning experience. It's great because you can write notes, pause the video and rewind. You can even replay the video over and over. The education goes at your pace and is always available to you. I saw a video on electrolytes and after watching it for the third time, I truly understood the intricate details of electrolyte imbalances. 

Your Environment Matters.
Now, we’ve covered what you need to focus on, how you need to focus and what resources you can use, it is now time to men the environmental factors, in terms of stress. As I stated before, studying is stressful but take each assignment and each chapter one spoonful at a time. Don’t focus on the act of studying, focus on maturing your knowledge base. Each reading assignment, each interactive learning experience is how you grow as a student. Find a space and place to make this process a seamless, polite one. Don’t start studying, then check in on Instagram, then Tic Tok, then check your inbox. Put your phone away and be present in your study experience. Put in some music (if this assist you in focusing), get your favorite drink or snack and set a tone for calm and concentration. There are many distractions and roads that will lead you to ignore knowledge procurement. In the end, it remains up to you to invest in yourself and respect yourself enough to pass that class, pass that exam the first time around.

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