Need tips on passing medical-surgical nursing? Wonder why students struggle in med-surg nursing?
Medical-surgical nursing is one of the first classes that nursing students’ encounter where it requires them to apply everything they’ve learned in pharmacology, pathophysiology, and health assessment together.
This class deals with disease processes and how a nurse provides care to that specific patient. In addition, medical- surgical exams contain critical-thinking, NCLEX style type questions. Whereas, exams in other classes were made-up of predominately “fact” based questions.
Lastly, medical-surgical nursing requires the student to fully understand the material, and memorizing material does not help on exams. For example, a student must know the pathophysiology about why a patient with congestive heart failure is having shortness of breath and edema.
Then take it a step further by applying pharmacological concepts by understanding why the patient is started on Lasix, and why monitoring potassium levels with this drug is important. This class is all about critical thinking!
Don’t Make these Common Mistakes in Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Wasting your time reading every chapter word-for-word! This doesn’t work because most medical-surgical books are huge and contain way to much material to comprehend. You need to know the key concepts!
- Not knowing how to answer NCLEX study questions (Watch my video on How to Answer NCLEX Questions)!
- Memorizing material rather than understanding it. A student can memorize dates or important events, but for medical-surgical you have to understand how that disease process affects the body. Once you have done this, you will be able to see why the patient is presenting with those specific symptoms and why the nurse is providing those specific nursing interventions.
- Not setting aside enough time to study! Learning how to stay organized in nursing school will help you develop time to study. Medical-surgical nursing is one of those classes that require extra study time!
How to Study and understand Key Concepts in Medical Surgical Nursing
Before you start studying, you have to know how you learn best. In other words, what type of learner are you?
- Are you a visualize learner? If so, watch YouTube videos on the disease processes you are covering in med-surg and what the nurse’s role is with this disease.
- Are you an auditory learner (make sure you record lectures or take notes)? If you prefer to take notes, go home and read them aloud.
- Are you a tactile learner (form study groups), or read-write learner (take detailed notes in class and go home and rewrite them….re-read concepts you don’t understand and re-rewrite them in your own words)
After you figure out what type of learner you are, tailor your study plan to best reflect how you study best.
The Keys to Success in Medical-Surgical Nursing
Before an exam, some professors will give you a study guide the covers important key concepts that will be on the exam. Do not disregard this information because they are usually very helpful. Develop a study plan on how to study ever topic on the study guide and use a study guide book to help break down the key concepts (more information about this below).
Practice lots of NCLEX-style questions prior to the exam! For example, if the exam will be covering diabetes insipidus, Addison disease, and Cushing’s syndrome, practice NCLEX questions that cover the endocrine system and read rationales of what you got right/wrong. You will notice that many of the same concepts will be repeated on your lecture exam.
Buy one of the following Study Guides (not all three):
- Saunders Comprehensive NCLEX Review Guide (*my favorite)
- Medical Surgical Made Incredibly Easy
- Pearson Reviews & Rationales: Medical-Surgical Nursing with “Nursing Reviews & Rationales
The links to the products above take you to Amazon.com and we are an affiliate for Amazon.com. Any purchases you make through Amazon.com, we get a commission and this helps support this website (which is a free resource to students).
Use the study guide wisely by practicing end of the chapter questions, reading rationales, paying close attention to bold words, text-boxes, and diagrams. Then compare this information to your class notes, PowerPoints, and textbook, while looking for repeated key concepts (this is usually test material).
In the video below I show you how to use a study guide and your notes when preparing for a medical-surgical exam. In this example, I will be covering pneumothoraxes: You need to know the following about pneumothoraxes to be prepared for a medical surgical exam.
- Assessment Findings
- Nursing Interventions
- Diagnostic Tests Ordered