NSS Ep9: How to Read in Nursing School

Today’s Question:

“Teacher says we need to read entire book but there is absolutely no questions from the book. How do we suppose to study”

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Podcast Transcription

Jon: Welcome to the Nursing School Struggle Show. My name is Jon Haws, RN CCRN with nrsng.com, and I’m joined with my co-host Ashley Adkins, RN BSN with ashleyadkins.org. In each episode we answer your questions about nursing school. For more tips and nursing school freebies head over to nrsng.com/freebies. We’re all in this together. Now let the show begin.


Today our question is another question from Instagram. What this person is struggling with is they say, “Teacher says we need to read the entire book, but there’s absolutely no questions from the book. How are we supposed to study?” What are your thoughts, Ashley?


Ashley: I think there are two approaches to this scenario. The first thing that I always did at the beginning of the semester is I straight up asked the teacher, “What do you focus on as far as the tests,” and “Do you focus mostly on the lecture or the PowerPoints, or do you focus on the study guide, or do you focus on what’s from the book?” That way I could get the idea. My whole approach to reading the textbook really changed depending on the teacher. Then again you don’t want to limit yourself to just studying for a test …


Jon: For a test, [inaudible 00:01:22].


Ashley: … because that’s not going to really benefit you all that much in the end. What I did is I would … I’ll be honest. I didn’t read the entire book for any class. Some of them I read more than others, but I would supplement the book as additional study.


I would go off what the teacher said in class, the lectures, the PowerPoints, the handouts that they gave, and then I would utilize the book to expand on things that maybe I wasn’t super clear on. That benefited me more towards my tests and I guess my nursing job now. Some classes I maybe read a tiny little bit from the book, and some of them I spent a great deal of time reading from the book. It really depended on the teacher and how much they lectured versus how much they wanted you to supplement from the book.


Jon: Absolutely. We have a blog post on our blog somewhere. I don’t remember where it’s at. When you were talking it made me think of it because we get this question a lot from people. It’s like the teacher gives you 4,000 pages to read by tomorrow and then none of the questions even come from that book in the first place. I would strongly suggest to everyone like Ashley said is go and talk to the teacher because every teacher is different and different things are more important to different teachers based on their preferences, based on their experience, etc. I would strongly suggest go and talk to the teacher, sit down with them and have a professional conversation. Because I think what teachers get tired of are nursing students coming in and trying to fight with them about “Well, there were no questions from the book.”


Go with the teacher and have a really honest conversation with them and say, “I tried to read the assigned reading, but I’m not feeling like the test was based on this. Is there something else I should be reading or somewhere else I should be focusing?” You’ll get a lot of insight, and that’s going to help you tremendously I think.


Ashley: Yeah. I think teachers don’t like the question like, “Well, what’s going to be on the test?”


Jon: Yes.


Ashley: If you approach it differently like, “What has benefited students in the past? The students that did well, what was their approach to studying for the exams?” Ideally you’re pretty much asking the same thing like what are you testing on but in a different approach. You’re making it sound like you’re more open to learning and doing the best that you can. Teachers really appreciate that when they have a student who’s willing to do anything to do well and succeed.


Jon: Absolutely. I was going to say Nurse Nacole actually has a video up on YouTube too about how to read a book. I haven’t watched the whole thing because I found it after I was already out of school and everything, but I know that a lot of people have found a lot of help there. It’s Nurse Nacole over on YouTube, and she talks about how to read a nursing book because you’re not going to be able to read everything. It’s just impossible.


Another thing I’d recommend too is hopefully you have a strong base of anatomy and physiology. I’m focusing on MedSearch here because that’s my favorite subject. Make sure you have a strong base of anatomy and physiology, and then when you’re reading your nursing book you don’t need to read the entire chapter about heart failure or whatever. Read the basic overview of what heart failure is. You can do that in two paragraphs, and then really focus on nursing interventions and nursing care plans and stuff [inaudible 00:04:41] that because that what we need to know as a nurse. We need to know what the nurse needs to do built upon that base of anatomy and physiology that you already have, hopefully.


Ashley: Yeah, I agree. The think I liked about textbooks is they always start with that basic stuff, but then they dive into the application part of it. That’s really what brings the picture together. Once you understand anatomy and physiology and signs and symptoms, I like when they give scenarios or examples where you can really apply it because that’s usually what teachers test on.


Jon: Mm-hmm.


Ashley: They’re not going to typically ask you the signs and symptoms of heart failure, but “What are we going to do about it; what medications are we going to give; and what do you look for when you give those medications?” That’s what I like about the textbooks or that section so to speak is what I think really benefited me as far as studying for tests.


Jon: Yes. If you Google dissecting NCLEX questions, I think we’re one of the top results there, and we have a blog post there about how to dissect NCLEX questions. What it really comes down to, like Ashley’s saying, is what’s called the Bloom’s taxonomy, and we get into this deeper at some point. Basically what the Bloom’s taxonomy says … it ranks questions by their difficulty level. Where the NCLEX lives and where the NCLEX thrives is on analysis and application, just like Ashley’s saying.


You have that base of anatomy and physiology, but all that is, is facts. You’ve memorized how many bones are in the body. Where we go beyond that in nursing and where all your tests are going to be and where students get frustrated is you have to then take that, “Okay, how does memorizing every bone in the body help me with a patient who has osteoarthritis?” Bridging that gap is the analysis, and that’s where you really need to be spending your energy with your reading is finding what that gap is and bridging that.


Ashley: Yeah, I agree.


Jon: This has been another episode of the Nursing School Struggle Show with Jon Haws and Ashley Adkins. To get free cheat sheets and reference sheets to help you on your journey in nursing school, be sure to visit nrsng.com/freebies. To learn more about Jon, head over to nrsng.com. To learn a little more about Ashley, head over to ashleyadkins.org. We’re all in this together guys. We appreciate you guys being a part of this.


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