How to Study in Nursing School

Do you have problems studying in nursing school?

Nursing students face a challenge when it comes to studying for exams because of nursing concepts are different from other courses. Therefore, I would like to share some tips on how to read, retain and reproduce nursing concepts.

A nursing student spends several nights studying for an exam, but he/she still feels unprepared because there is too much information to recall. Nursing students can identify with such experience and ask the popular question of how do I study nursing textbooks? Nursing textbooks are filled with a lot of vital information but unfortunately, many nursing students find it difficult to differentiate required information from knowledge content. When studying nursing textbooks look for keywords, retain information by asking questions, take summary notes and understand the pathophysiology of a disease.

Look for keywords

When studying your nursing textbooks look for keywords like critical, important, vital, main, common, goals, etc to help you understand the critical content that needs to be retained for exams and clinical purposes. These keywords would bring out the important points in a chapter that every nursing student needs to understand and apply. You can find keywords at the beginning or end of a paragraph, while the middle expands on the main point.

Ask or create questions

Another important step is retaining information by asking or creating questions from the content you have studied. Nursing content is different from the pre-requisite courses that were learned before nursing school because it cannot be memorized. Nursing content presents the disease process, medication, interventions, management and patient education that have to be linked to create a proper understanding. For instance, when studying about administering fibrinolytic therapy to a patient with acute stroke, the nursing student needs to understand what is happening (pathophysiology) and what complications need to be prevented. It is important to understand what factors can aggravate the patient’s condition. If the HCP prescribes administration of Recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), what does the nurse need to consider?

Some questions to ask in this scenario include, but are not limited to:

  1. Does the patient have a history of recent head trauma, major surgery, recent or active bleeding, GI bleeding, etc?
  2. Would the nurse administer treatment before diagnostic tests are acquired and reviewed?
  3. Why is it important to review the labs before administering treatment?
  4. Would the nurse administer tPA to a patient who is complaining of severe headache that is unrelieved by medication?
  5. Why is a CT scan important after a patient has presented with stroke symptoms?
  6. How soon should tPA be administered after an acute ischemic stroke and why?
  7. What assessments and vital signs are crucial when administering tPA?

These and many other questions that nursing students need to consider when studying. As you read the chapter ask yourself various questions that are related to the disease process. The questions would help your brain create links that would be useful when answering exam questions. From the above example, you can see that one disease process links to other comorbidities, so it is vital to understand these relationships when studying.

Take notes

More so, you should take notes with a pen and paper when reading each chapter. Some students underestimate the power of the eyes and hands when it comes to recalling information. The brain is good at remembering information that is performed with multiple senses I.e vision and touch. However, do not get tempted to copy every word in your textbook because that would be a fruitless effort. The proper way to take notes is by summarizing the content in your own words after you have read through twice. Creating a summary helps to pinpoint if there are any gaps in your knowledge. To identify gaps, compare your summary to the content and ensure that both are related and accurate.

Do not just skim through …

Further, when studying your nursing textbook, do not skim through pathophysiology because it gives a whole picture of a disease. When you understand what, why, where, when, how (pathophysiology), then you can confidently answer questions that are related to medication, interventions, nursing management, and patient education. Pay attention to the images, tables and highlighted words in pathophysiology.

Enhance your critical thinking skills

Understanding and applying nursing content gives you an avenue to enhance your critical thinking skills. However, do not think that someone can teach you how to think critically because it is a skill that you develop with time. Enhancing your critical thinking skills requires time, effort and diligence. Therefore, create a schedule and start studying for an exam early because you need enough time to apply the above tips. If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me. I wish you the best in nursing school and am here to help you!

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