Nursing Student
New Grad

04.01 Outline Question Method (Note taking)

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You will have few opportunities in life to feel as inundated as you will during nursing school. Sometimes it feels like the entire object of nursing school is to see how many students they can stress out of the program.

There is no situation where the old adage applies more realistically; “drinking from a firehose

drinking from fire hose

In all seriousness, nursing school is intense. You are learning how to care for a human being in the most complex of situations both physically and emotionally and there is so much to be learned.

On top of this you are only given a few months to cover the 1,875 pages of a MedSurg textbook before switching to an entirely new topic.

We all understand the problem . . . I’ll move on.


How to Take Notes in Nursing School

At the risk of sounding highly oversimplified, I want to provide you with a note taking method that leads to deep understanding of complex material in accelerated periods of time. Not only did I use this exact method in nursing school, but I have also shared it with nursing students around the globe with much success.

I love processes (as you have probably already guessed), they provide you with a replicable method you can use in your own studies, so I am going to give you a 10 step method for reading and taking notes in nursing school.

Use this same method as you work through the courses within NRSNG Academy.

  1. Read the chapter quickly
  2. Re-read, turning key points into questions
    1. Write questions
    2. Write answers
  3. Read through question/answer document twice
  4. Create another document and remove answers
  5. Hand write in answers for each question
  6. Re-read sections on questions you are unable to answer
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 three times
  8. Condense document to key 50-100 items
  9. Repeat steps 5-6 three times
  10. Randomize questions and answer them three times

10 Steps

Many students that read these ten steps will immediately say, “that seems like a lot of work, I’m just gonna read the chapter and highlight every word”.

Don’t be one of those students. This is a lot of work, but it will pay you back in dividends throughout your career as a nurse and you will be hooked after doing this just once.

  • Read the chapter quickly
    • In order to obtain a base knowledge of the information and to be introduced to key concepts it is important that you skim through the chapter quickly. While doing this initial reading you should be paying attention to key concepts (bold words and nursing care and interventions). Do not worry about taking any side notes, making flashcards, or highlighting. During this initial pass you are simply trying to wrap your mind about the general concepts being covered.
  • Re-read, turning key points into questions
    • Be careful during this step, this is the most important aspect of the ten steps. Read back through the chapter again focusing your attention on key aspects and important concepts. As you do this you need to turn each key concept into an answerable question. Do not create yes or no questions. You should create short answer questions (refer to the example at the bottom of this page).
  • Read through question/answer document twice
    • Now that you have your document, you need to work through the document, answering the questions several times. This will also allow you a couple of chances to amend the document, adding and subtracting as needed.
  • Create another document and remove answers
    • Create a document that contains just the questions with no answers.
  • Hand write in answers for each question
    • Now work through the document adding your answers in for each question. When you are unable to answer a question, just go back to your text, NRSNG Academy, and ppts to find the answers. This is when the real learning occurs. Not only are you discovering what areas you are weak in, but you are rediscovering what material is most important.
  • Re-read sections on questions you are unable to answer
  • Keep note of those areas in which you are struggling to answer. You should go back into the text and resources and really dive into this information until you are able to make complete sense of it.
  • Repeat steps 5-6 three times
  • Condense document to key 50-100 items
    • By this time you should have a good grasp on what REALLY matters . . . the LINCHPINS. Armed with this information, condense your document down to the linchpins, removing the less important and complex information.
  • Repeat steps 5-6 three times
  • With your newly condensed document you should work through the questions again. At this point, feel free to add new and additional details as you expound on the key components.
  • Randomize questions and answer them three times
    • Print off another copy of your document without the answers. Cut up each question and place them all in a bag. Pull out one question at a time and answer them one by one. The reason you need to do this step is that as you work through your document in the same order so many times your brain will just become accustomed to answering questions in a certain order. You need to do this step to mix it up a bit and determine areas where additional study is needed.



I’m not going to lie, this is an arduous task and requires a tremendous amount of dedication and focus. However, those students that dedicate themselves to this process will see their understanding skyrocket in complex subjects. If you marry this process with everything else you’ve learned in this course and the content contained within NRSNG Academy you will surprise yourself with the level of understanding you are able to obtain.

Download this example worksheet. This is an ACTUAL worksheet I used in nursing school (way back in the day) to learn cardiac disorders. As you will see (and as I’ve stated ad nauseum), this is not an easy task. Creating the document alone will take a good amount of time and answering each question will take even that much longer.


DownloadCardiac Example Outline

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