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Note-taking Tips for Nurses

How Nursing Students Can Take Better Notes


A well-organized notebook — paper or digital — is a thing of beauty. Nursing students who have a great system of note-taking often find it translates to the rest of their life, improving their study habits, writing skills, and even the organization of their thoughts and communication.

Have you given much thought to your personal system of organization? Whether you’ve been in school for a while or you’re just starting out, take time to consider how you’re organizing your class notes.

You’ll probably refer to your notes for a long time, so it’s best if they’re accurate, detailed, and well organized from the start. Your notes will become the basis of your studies throughout nursing school.

A note-taking system makes school, and life, easier.

Related resource: Start Strong: 4 Tips for a Great Semester

Study with your squad

Nursing school provides so much information that one person might not be able to absorb it all! The pro student in the popular vlog above emphasizes the importance of finding a reliable, like-minded study group. She suggests the following:

  • The group should include 3-4 students.
  • Make sure your group prioritizes information the same way.
  • Decide how to divide the workload in advance.
  • Review study materials and take notes before the lecture.

Of course, a study group often goes beyond note-taking. Invite people into the group judiciously, create a routine, and try to find a quiet, welcoming space to meet and study.

Related resource: 5 Things to Know Before Your First Semester at Nursing School

Include an index

One major element of any organized writing system is the index. We know it’s not the most exciting part of taking notes (and definitely not the most exciting part of reading about taking notes!) but it’s important.

Good news: It’s easy!

indexWhether you organize by date, subject, or some other method, you’ll want the following information in your index:

  • Name of class
  • Subject
  • Date

Include this information in the same place, such as the upper lefthand corner, on every page of your notes.

Use a bullet journal

A bullet journal is a great way to organize and remember events from a day, month, or year. We like this method because it’s so easy to customize. Here’s a detailed process for creating the journal, but the point is it should be simple. Start with a blank or lined journal and create the following pages:

  • Index (We told you this was important!): Note where other sections can be found.
  • Future log: This is for events coming up throughout the year: clinicals, tests, etc.
  • Monthly log: Try a numbered, vertical list of dates in the month, with goals, tasks, and events.
  • Monthly task list: Note your goals for the month, such as study goals.
  • Daily log: Include to-dos here, as well as the events and thoughts on your day. This can function as a daily journal in addition to just a to-do list.

Another helpful element of the bullet journal is signifiers — circles for tasks, squares for items to purchase, and hearts for personal events, for example.

Feel free to add collections, such as lists of books to read, interesting things to research, or places you want to travel. Pictures, colors, and colorful tabs are all fair game in the bullet journal.

Related resource: When Deadlines Attack: Time Management Tips

One easy way nursing students can remember all that information? Draw pictures. Whether you’re using a bullet journal, taking notes on a tablet, or using old-fashioned paper, studies have shown that illustrating your subject helps you better memorize it.

Organize notes with a 1-3-5 list


a nursing student takes good notes

It’s not the magic of odd numbers. The 1-3-5 list is a way of prioritizing your tasks.

It’s simple: Plan to accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. In this way, your to-do list is limited to nine items, not a million. (You are in nursing school, after all.)

Consider naming a large, multi-step task as your one “big thing”; your medium and small things can be the supporting to-dos that facilitate your priority, like a pyramid.

Most of us can put “complete nursing school” at the top of a very large pyramid!

To learn more about our award-winning nursing, RN-BSN, or other programs, visit our programs page or follow us on Facebook.

Note-taking Tips for Nurses