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I remember walking into my first semester of nursing school like it was yesterday. The excitement, the fear, the panic. The unrelenting feelings of the unknown surrounding you like a thick fog.
With all of this going on, I still only had one thing on my mind: graduate. Whatever it takes, graduate. Of course I heard the horror stories about nursing school as well…
“Just be happy with getting a C from here on out.”
“Nobody ever makes an A in nursing school.”
“Just wait until you have to decipher those nursing school exam questions.”
“You have to pass a dosage calculation exam every semester and you only get three tries or you’re out of the program!”
And the list went on and on…
I decided that these “warnings” or whatever you want to call them are things I would use as motivation. After all, I am all about proving people wrong. And I did. I graduated nursing school with distinction, aced almost all of my exams, and never really struggled with learning content.
Why? Because I had help. And not the help you’d traditionally seek out. In fact, my professors were the last resort for me. I depended on the many resources I found on my own. If you knew me, you’d know that I am a firm believer in resources and not using your textbook as the end all be all for what you need to learn in nursing school. Not only did I use my textbook, but I purchased several other books that helped me nail down certain content.
These books were literally my bread and butter. They were how I was able to figure out how to answer nursing school exam questions like a pro before my first exam. And guess what, I aced my first exam. I was shocked. What I did had worked and I am ready to share those resources with you.
Think of this book as the cliff notes for nursing school. This book was phenomenal when it came down to getting through the textbook fluff and to the information you really need to know for the exam.
It is broken down into categories such as Fundamentals, Maternity Nursing, Pediatric Nursing, and Med-Surg which includes Respiratory Disorders, Cardiovascular Disorders, Renal Disorders, and so on. The most common disorders you will learn about in school are most likely in this book.
Each disorder is broken down into:
Signs and symptoms
Medications used to treat the condition and more!
I would take notes from my textbook but have Saunders Comprehensive Review for NCLEX-RN open right next to me to make sure I wasn’t focusing on information that truly was not important. This book helped me narrow my notes down to the absolute most important information I needed so I wasn’t studying unnecessary information.
The book itself has over 5,000 practice questions within the text and even more if you connect to the free online resources that comes with the book. Practice questions are key. And in the beginning, I missed a lot of them. But practice makes perfect and over time, I learned how to answer questions like a pro.
This book is definitely one you must have in your stash and I firmly believe I wouldn’t have made it through nursing school without it.
I compare this book to pure gold when it came to mastering nursing content after studying the information I was required to know for upcoming exams. This book was especially important for training my brain on how to think through and answer nursing-style questions successfully.
The chapters are broken up into body systems, similarly to Saunders Comprehensive Review with a few noticeable differences:
This book is ALL practice questions; over 2,000 in fact
Each practice question provides the correct answer and the rationales for not only the correct answer but the incorrect answers as well (FYI: this is super helpful when you’re trying to learn how to answer nursing-style exam questions)
Test taking tips for EACH question, so if you selected an incorrect answer, you will know why and how to avoid making the same mistake twice
Med-Surg Success also comes with an online question bank (for FREE) that you can use as well and you only have to make one account that you can use for all of the books in the Success series.
Getting the most out of this book was an important contributor to my success in nursing school. Once I had studied a particular section of content and felt like I had a good grasp on it, I would then flip to that same section in Med-Surg Success and test my knowledge by doing practice questions.
I would read all rationales, even for the questions I answered correctly and for the ones I missed. Doing this helped me figure out where I went wrong. If I missed the question because I just didn’t know the answer, I would go back to my notes and study that section. Did I miss the question because I read it too fast? Easy fix. Slow down, girl!
This book not only showed my were I excelled with my test-taking, but also where I fell short. And trust me, I fell short a lot! I also missed a ton of questions in the beginning because like anything new, it takes time to master. My advice is this: don’t get discouraged by how many questions you get right or wrong when starting out with this book. This is the time to make mistakes so you can avoid making them when it really counts: EXAM DAYS!
Oh, pharm. Dreaded pharmacology. Fortunately, our pharmacology was mixed into our classes and wasn’t a class by itself. However, this didn’t make me any less terrified of learning all of those drugs.
Pharmacology Success, similar to Med-Surg Success is a book of ONLY practice questions on medications most commonly used to treat specific patient conditions. Categories include Respiratory Disorders, Cardiovascular Disorders, GI Disorders and so on.
I don’t know why but studying for pharmacology stressed me out. Maybe because most of the information had to be memorized and I don’t do well with memorization. That is why I LOVE this book! The practice questions allowed me to somehow relate the content to what we were learning in class, which made it easier to pull this information from my long-term memory during test days.
What should the nurse do FIRST? Questions like this are the bread and butter of nursing school. Trust me when I say that instructors WILL specifically put questions on exams that deals with what a nurse should do FIRST because in the real world, your first intervention could be the difference between life and death for your patient.
I struggled (hard!) with these questions early on during my first semester of nursing school because I didn’t have a true base of knowledge quite yet on exactly which interventions mattered most and WHY. That is where Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment came into play.
This book features over 60 pages of questions dealing with prioritizing patient care, delegating tasks to the appropriate personnel, and which tasks can be assigned to an LPN vs. an RN. I even have a sample question for you!
Which description by a client reporting vertigo is cause for greatest concern?
Dizziness with hearing loss
Vertigo without hearing loss
Do you know the answer? If not, then you probably need this book. In fact, the NCLEX focuses HEAVILY on prioritization and delegation questions because they not only want to know if you can practice safely, but if you know what to do and when.
The answer to the question above is a: dizziness with hearing loss because the client reporting vertigo with hearing loss should be further assessed for non-vestibular causes, such as cardiovascular or metabolic. The other descriptions are more commonly associated with inner ear or labyrinthine causes.
There are TONS more questions like this along with the rationales (which you should totally read). This book not only made test-taking a breeze when these types of questions were asked on my exams, but I never missed a prioritization or delegation question EVER!
Cardiac nursing is notoriously one of the hardest and most in-depth parts of nursing school I have ever experienced. So, when it came time to seek out resources, I immediately picked up Cardiovascular Care Made Incredibly Easy.
The number one rule I had before diving into diseases and disorders of the heart was to learn how the heart was supposed to work normally. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t know how a normally functioning heart works, how will you determine when something is wrong when you’re answering test questions?
Ding, ding, ding! You are right, Susan! You won’t have a clue. That is why I love this book! Cardiovascular Care Made Incredibly Easy starts from the very beginning by going over the anatomy and physiology of a normal functioning heart complete with SUPER easy-to-read text and descriptions.
This books breaks down the walls of the heart (epicardium, myocardium, and endocardium), the chambers and valves of the heart, and how the blood flows through the heart.
Additionally, this book features content that is PURE GOLD, such as:
Practice questions at the end of the chapters to test your knowledge
Diagnostic tests (e.g., cardiac enzymes and proteins which are typically elevated in a patient who experienced some sort of cardiac damage)
Common cardiac rhythms
Inflammatory and valvular disorders
Overall, this book is a must-have if you want to master all things cardiac. I even used this book as a resource for when I started my first nursing job and boy did it come in handy!
These books are some of my absolute favorite resources and I still crack a few of them open to this day when I need a refresher. Remember, nursing school is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a deep breath, take your time, and know that you have more than one place you can go to for answers!