Nursing fundamentalsūüėí¬†

Where do I even start? 

During your time as a pre-nursing student, I’m positive that all your friends and even strangers you met in random places told you just how hard nursing school is. You know this (or at least you think you do), but you still walk into your first day of fundamentals thinking that nothing could be more challenging than organic chemistry or Anatomy and physiology.¬†

How wrong you were. 

And after a week of classes, you begin to feel like a fish out of water, one that has no clue what is happening or how you got here. 

Don’t let the word “fundamentals” fool you. Learning and practicing to think like a nurse is difficult. There is no way to ease into this mindset. In this class, it’s either sink or swim.¬†


Here are a few methods that can serve as floaties and help you stay afloat during this difficult time. 

1. Figure out your study style

Dear god, this one will save you in the long run! In nursing school, there is no one correct way to study. Teachers will expect you to learn/understand different material for different classes, so your study style is continuously changing. You can not use the same method of studying for every class in nursing school! The study method you use for a nurse ethics class is most definitely not the same method you will use for intro pathophysiology. Make sure you know your learning style and different studying methods that can benefit you. Don’t get stuck in one method because you will quickly get frustrated and overwhelmed when you realize it doesn’t apply to all your courses.

2. Figure out teachers teaching style

Just like you have your own way of learning, your teacher has their own unique way of teaching. Take time to figure out how the teacher delivers the information and what they expect you to pick up. Every teacher will assign you massive chunks of reading. But think, is this a teacher that provides all the information from the textbook in a PowerPoint? Is this teacher that never tests on what is in the book?

Honestly, this isn’t an answer you can get from just attending one lecture. You probably won’t discover the answer until after the first test, when you see what kind of questions are being asked. Once you get an idea of the resources you’re offered and the teacher’s testing method, use that to adjust your studying method.

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3. Make use of resources

Teachers love to tell you that the textbook is your #1 resource while in nursing school. And yes, that may be true depending on the teacher and how often they reference it. Just know that it is not your only resource! This is what makes Fundamentals the most frustrating nursing class. It’s your first “real” nursing class, and for most people, it’s a different style of learning and teaching that they aren’t used to. I remember the first semester; I was so excited to start school! Not even 2 weeks later, my stress levels were through the roof because I had no clue how to retain all the information thrown at me. Make it easier on yourself. Look at ways others do it and use alternative resources that will help make studying more manageable and less stressful.

4. Understand, don’t memorize

Cue dramatic music! Do you want to know why nursing fundamentals is so hard for new nursing students? Drum roll, please…. it’s because nursing school focuses on understanding, not memorizing the material.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “But Kia, in A&P and microbiology, I had to understand body functions to get a good grade.” Well, here’s my question for you, “Did you?”¬†

A&P focuses on you memorizing where something is in the body. Memorizing processes that happened within, and so forth. When you took a test for that class, you probably had multiple-choice questions that looked like: Which organ is NOT in the right upper quadrant? Or “Acetylcholine is released by the…”¬†

Of course, you had to understand the material to know the answer, but if the teacher told you it was an open book test, no doubt the answer would be written in the book word for word.

Nursing school is not like that.

The answer will never be given. Heck, most of the time, there are multiple correct answers! If you are given a case study discussing a patient that is complaining of right upper quadrant pain, nowhere in the textbook will you find “A patient complaining of right upper quadrant pain has gallstones.” Instead, it requires you to know what organs are in that quadrant, their function, possible problems, and ways to discover your answer. It requires you to understand!

It’s hard. Hands down, legs down, toes pointed towards the floor; it is one of the hardest things to do. And I’m sorry to say that this switch in thinking styles is why many students either fail or drop out within the first 2 semesters. Thankfully it does get easier with time and practice! That’s why…

  1. You have to know your learning style! Your study method from A&P won’t be too helpful in fundamentals. But if you know how you learn best, you’ll know how to study efficiently!¬†
  2. You have to understand the teacher’s teaching style! Are they trying to get you to pay attention to the actual disease process, the pharmacological treatment, the nursing interventions, or the patient teaching?
  3. Use your resources! You’re not going to be thinking like a nurse within the first month of nursing school. But using different tools will help guide and teach you how to slowly change your way of thinking! I have a whole page dedicated to excellent nursing resources that I recommend. Please use it!

Honestly, nursing school won’t get any easier once you finish nursing fundamentals. Still, you will be able to study and learn more efficiently. Once you get your footing, you can truly begin the climb.

What are some of your best tips for surviving nursing fundamentals? Share your tips below!

Have any questions? Leave a comment below!

Until next time!