How to Study Med-Surg

We’re continuing our study series with a topic that we know you’ll be excited about!  It’s no doubt that Med-Surg is one of the most difficult courses that you’ll take throughout nursing school, and today we are going to walk you through exactly how you can effectively study for it.  Read on to learn the steps you can take to improve your performance in Med-Surg!

Med-Surg is one of the toughest courses you'll take in nursing school, and in this blog post we reveal one of the best ways that you can study for it.  Click through to check out our step-by-step guide for success in Med-Surg. BONUS: Includes a FREE Study printable!

Med-Surg is an intimidating subject because you are expected to learn multiple diseases and not only how they affect the body, but also how to assess and treat those conditions.  A common mistake nursing students make during the study of Med-Surg is spending too much time trying to learn the anatomy and physiology responsible for the course of the disease. While it is important to understand the basics of how a disease develops and what it does to the body, the majority of your studies in Med-Surg should be dedicated to learning what you need to know as a nurse.  This is the key to succeeding in your Med-Surg course.  Don’t fall into the trap of learning every symptom that needs to be present for a diagnosis.  As nurses, our focus is not diagnosis.  Keep in mind that nursing responsibilities include assessment, treating the patient’s symptoms and trying to prevent them from getting worse, and educating patients about their plan of care and how to manage their disease.  (and we have created a tool that will aid you in identifying these things)

Your Med-Surg textbook will most likely feature more information than you could possibly ever read, and it can be difficult identifying what needs to be known as a nurse.  This is the exact reason why we recommend saving your textbook for last point of reference.  To make studying for Med-Surg a far less confusing experience, it is key to have multiple resources and incorporate these into your study routine.

Look up the disease on a website such as Medscape, Mayo Clinic, or WebMd to get a VERY general overview of the disorder. 

The information on these websites is usually written in a way that the general public can easily understand, which will help you grasp the basics.  Bonus: On these websites, there is usually a section that includes questions the patients should ask their healthcare providers.  Check out these questions and prepare brief explanations on how you would educate the patient.

Use your comprehensive NCLEX review book to identify the critical information that you need to know about the disorder.

The comprehensive NCLEX review book is also a great tool to identify the nursing assessment and interventions and any MUST-KNOW information that would serve you well to remember for your class exam and future NCLEX.  It is critical that you use an NCLEX review book to guide your studies each semester so that you can be sure you are studying the most important information about a given topic.  We liked to study with our NCLEX books opened right next to our textbooks to help us identify which sections were worth reading.  You can see which comprehensive review book we recommend in The Top 5 Tools for Nursing Students

Now after two or three exposures to the content it is time to open your textbook.

Waiting to read your textbook until you have gained a basic understanding is the key to saving time and studying more effectively because now you will know which sections of the chapter have the most important information you need to know.  This strategy also eliminates the overwhelm many nursing students face when they try to read an entire chapter first and are unable to identify what is worth their focus.  Make sure you check out Getting the Most Out of Your Nursing Textbook, especially if you've been reading your textbook word for word (which we don't recommend)!

Take the information you have learned and TEACH it.  

Use this mnemonic as a guide while you are studying, as it encompasses all the important things that you need to know as a nurse:

T is for treatment: What therapeutic procedures can the patient undergo with this disorder?  What are some popular medications or med classes that will be used to manage this disorder?
E is for education:  What will you educate your patient about regarding their condition?  Any activities/foods that must be avoided?  When should your patient call 911 or return to the ER?
A is for assessment:  When you assess your patient, how will they present clinically?  What abnormalities will be present?  Both visually and in terms of their labs/vital signs?
C is for complications:  What complications can result from this disorder?  Can it progress to a worsening condition?
H is for help:  How will you as the nurse help this patient?  In other words, what are the nursing interventions that you would perform for this patient?

Answer as many NCLEX style questions about the content as possible.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose the questions featured at the end of the chapter (always a good idea!), an app, or a Q&A book.  The key is that after you have had several exposures to the material and completed the TEACH outline, you commit to answering quality questions of moderate difficulty.  The more questions that you answer, the less test anxiety you’ll have when it’s exam day, and the better prepared you’ll be for that looming NCLEX!

We are confident that if you incorporate these steps into your study routine for Med-Surg, not only will your grades improve, but you’ll find that you have a better understanding of the disorders you’re learning.  Was this post helpful?  How do you plan on adopting these tips into your own study routine?  Let us know in the comments below!