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What to Review BEFORE Starting Nursing School

*Original post released on 08/16/2022

Preparing for entrance into a nursing school program can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. Where do you start? Should you get a jump start on reading those textbooks? Should you take a break and wait until the semester officially starts? In this article, I want to address this topic and give you some of my best tips for how to prepare BEFORE starting nursing school.

If you actually held on to your anatomy and physiology notes and/or textbook, I would absolutely recommend reviewing those major A&P concepts from each bodily system. Know every body system’s functions, hormones produced (if any), different types of tissues within the system, special receptors and their functions, etc. Also make sure you study and completely understand the concepts of negative and positive feedback mechanisms. These positive and negative feedback pathways play a major role in many disease processes and medication mechanisms within the body. The sooner you understand the basis of these mechanisms, the easier it will be to grasp nursing concepts.

An example of a negative feedback pathway is found within the body in regards to insulin and blood glucose levels. For instance, high blood sugar stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin stimulates the reuptake of glucose from the blood as well as glycogen formation. As a result, blood glucose levels decrease and the production/release of insulin decreases. In terms of positive feedback mechanisms, a perfect example occurs with breastfeeding/milk production. The infant’s sucking triggers the pituitary gland to release oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates the milk producing cells within the milk ducts to make and release milk. Milk is then released from the nipple and the infant continues to suckle, thus further stimulating this pathway.

Another way you can help yourself prepare for nursing school ahead of time is to review basic math concepts up to the algebra equivalent level. Doing this will help you prepare for the dosage calculations you’ll encounter in pharmacology and beyond. Plus, many programs, including the one I graduated from, will likely require you to take semesterly dosage calculation exams. If you want direct practice with the exact type of math you’ll need to know, you can check out this link. I’ve created a dosage calculation study guide that will walk you through understanding dimensional analysis as it pertains to nursing pharmacology. Also included are sample problems already worked out for you AND sample problems for you to practice on (don’t worry, there’s a key at the end of the guide).

On a similar note, if you’re preparing to take a course in pharmacology, you can invest time in learning common medical terminologies, prefixes, suffixes, abbreviations, and endings for specific medication classes. For example: ACE inhibitors will share the common ending of -“pril,” beta blockers will share the ending of “-olol,” and angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs will share the common ending of “-artan.” Knowing this can help you enhance your deductive reasoning skills later on for exams when they provide you with an unfamiliar drug name that shares a common ending. You may have studied the prototype drug Losartan for an exam but see the drug name Olmesartan referred to on an exam. Instead of freaking out and choosing a random answer, you can at least deduce that they are medications within the same class. This can help you make generalizations about its likely classification, indications, contraindications, potential side effects, etc.

My last suggestion, and least favorite to make, is to look over the introductory chapters for the classes you’ll be taking. My reason for suggesting this method for nursing school preparation as a last resort is because professors do not always begin their curriculum for the semester at the beginning of the textbook. The scenario in which I would definitely encourage this method of preparation would be if the professor provided you with the syllabus for the course in advance, so you knew exactly what would be covered in the first week or two. If no syllabus is provided to you in advance, which is often the case, you don’t want to be wasting your precious and valuable time investing it where it doesn’t belong. It also never hurts to reach out to your professors and ask them how you can best prepare for the first week or two of their class.

Keep in mind that once your program begins, you’ll hit the floor running full speed ahead. It may also be a wise decision to take a short respite, especially if you’re transitioning from a summer semester into a fall semester and only have a week or so of downtime. In that instance, my best advice to you would be to rest your mind and body to prepare it for the heavy lifting ahead. You may even utilize your free time browsing through some of our other articles to look at other tips and tricks to make your life easier during nursing school. Try not to worry your mind or freak out. You’ve got this! I know you want to try and get ahead, but make sure your time is being invested in the right things before you spend it doing something that may or may not benefit you.

Until next time, happy studying!


Andra Alyse

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