7+ Tips for Successful Notetaking in Nursing School

Finding an effective strategy for notetaking is essential to success in nursing school – allowing you to effectively absorb and review lecture materials. We quizzed professional nurse tutors, managers of our Center for Academic Success (CAS), students and our Facebook community to bring you 7+ ways you can improve your notetaking skills this term.

1. Record Lectures 

If allowed by your professor, you may want to record lectures so you can focus and absorb the lesson. You then have the option to listen back to the most current lecture – in the car, while you work out or even in the shower.

“I record lectures and during the class I will just jot down a few main points about whatever the professor is teaching,” said Roshani, an Addison campus student. “Then I go over the PowerPoint and take more detailed notes after class, as well as listen to the recording. So when you’re in class, you don’t have to worry about rushing to take every single word down and then you can take your time in taking your actual notes.”

2. Use Different Colors 


Color coding can help nursing students organize their notes. Some students will use different colors for medications, side effects, complications and so on.


“I always suggest notes in colors,” said Kathryn Murto, MSN, RN, CMSRN, the CAS manager on Chamberlain’s Troy campus. “It breaks up the sections and it is easier to read. If something is going to be on the test, I put it in red.”



"Simplified my acid/ base lecture into notes that are easy to follow and fun to study."

3. Pick up on Professor Cues 

When we asked our Facebook community about notetaking, we heard about how lectures often align with tests – and how you can pick up on those important cues from your instructor. If your professor tells you something is important, take note.

“Write down everything that was mentioned more than once by the instructor,” said Krisinda F. “It will be on the exam.”

4. Ask Yourself the Important Questions 

While preparing for tests is important, what really matters is to understand how you will use the information once you’re working as a registered nurse. Put the concepts in the framework of the nursing process, says Angela Beck RN, MSN-Ed, a CAS Manager on Chamberlain’s Las Vegas campus.

“Keeping these processes in mind while reading chapters is a way to actively read and study,” she said. “This will help you establish concrete memories of the standards for patient care and critically think about the concepts being taught.”

5. Visual Learners: Try Concept Mapping 

If you are a visual learner, try concept/mind mapping, says Tyrhonda King, MSN, RN, a professional nurse tutor at Chamberlain’s Arlington campus. Examples might include drawing a picture or creating a table or chart.

To create a concept map, place the topic in the center of the page within a circle, for example. Each key point should have its own box, while supportive information will have its own shape and branch from the key point.

“Be fun and creative,” said King. “Add different colors and change the shape of the key point and data as your map grows.”

King also advises to keep the supportive data short and to the point and to summarize in your own words to make the information meaningful to you. 

6. Auditory Learners: Try the Cornell Notes System 

If you’re an auditory learner, you may benefit from listening to lectures and writing down key concepts or words. These simple notes can jog your memory, and you can go back to fill in information when reading the chapters, says Beck. She suggests trying the Cornell Notes system.

“It is a great way to divide information into categories for organization,” she said. “Divide your paper into three sections, use the first column to define topics and the second column to write a few key words, leaving space to go back and fill in later with ideas and summaries of the topics. The last column is for questions needing further explanation at the next class.”

7. Find What Works for You 

Ultimately, every learner is different – and you will need to find the notetaking strategy that works best for you. Here are some other suggestions from our Facebook community – those who have been there and done that:

“I loved the SuperNote app when I was in nursing school.” – Lisa F.

“I wrote everything down. Then starred important things, then made note cards on those important things.” – Angela D.

“Rewrite your notes. Repetition! I graduate Friday!!” – Dionne L.

“Record and take notes as much as you can. Look at your notes as you listen to your recording.” – Lee B.

“I wrote everything… only way I really learned.” – Lynn A.

Tell us in the comments – what is your best notetaking strategy?             

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