Med-Surg Success

by Nicole Whitworth on August 13, 2012

Students frequently email me to ask me what the best way to study Medical Surgical Nursing is, and I always give the same answer.  So I thought I’d finally share my advice publicly so that everyone can take advantage of it!

The best way to succeed in Med-Surg is to have a solid understanding of Anatomy and Physiology.  A lot of nursing students don’t want to hear that :)

But there really are no shortcuts.  One of the strategies I recommend in the PASS Program is to spend a little bit of time reviewing A&P every time you sit down to study.  Just go over whichever A&P system you’re currently learning in Med Surg.  For example, if you’re studying Heart Failure, then you would spend 15-20 minutes at the beginning of each study session to review the parts of the heart, and to understand how the blood flows through the hearts and lungs.  Don’t worry about remembering every single A&P detail, because you know you’re going to review it again at your next study session.  The trick is to review a little bit at a time, but review frequently!  You’ll start to remember a little bit more each time you look at the material.  Plus, since you’re reviewing the A&P system immediately before studying the disease processes that affect that system, then you will start to gain a better understanding about what’s really going wrong in the disorder, and why that problem causes the common symptoms you see.

Just think of it this way.  Studying A&P is learning what is normal in the body.  Studying the disease is learning what’s broken in the body.  So if you know how “normal” works, then identifying what “broke” will allow you to start making educated guesses about all kinds of useful information you need in nursing school, such as what symptoms you will see, what medical treatments will be helpful, and the type of nursing care you will need to provide.  This is a very useful skill in learning to think like a nurse, because it is impossible to memorize every detail you will ever encounter in nursing practice (or even on exams!).  Often, you’ll find that you need to use the knowledge you already have and apply it to a new situation.  If you have a thorough knowledge of A&P, then you’ll be in great shape to accomplish that!