The Secret of Homeostasis: The Key to Every Disease Process in Nursing School

This topic is not just important, but should be considered a foundational principle in nursing school. I’m talking about a “secret” concept that sits at the heart every single disease process you’ll ever study in nursing school. It’s so obvious, that its importance gets overlooked by nursing students and nursing instructors alike. But when you take the time to recognize it, you’ll make studying a LOT easier because you won’t have to memorize as much…you’ll simply understand it.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Homeostasis: The Big Deal in Nursing School

So, what’s the big secret? It’s homeostasis. Now, I know you’ve probably heard of it, because homeostasis is usually one of the first vocabulary words you learn about in nursing school. Unfortunately, it usually stays that way: as a vocabulary word. And nobody ever explains to you how important this concept is to apply to all your future nursing studies.

A Simple Definition of Homeostasis

Let’s break down the root words. ‘Homeo’ means same or similar. “Stasis means static, or staying still. Kind of like equilibrium. Put them together, and you’ve got a body who’s goal is to stay in the same state of equilibrium. Picture a perfectly balanced seesaw in the playground – neither side is too high or too low (even though it still wobbles a bit…more on that later!)

That’s how your body operates under normal circumstances, with all the internal parts and systems working together to keep things within their normal parameters, so that everything runs smoothly.

Why ‘Normal’ is a Big Deal

You might be thinking, “Why do I need to know normal stuff? I’m studying a disease!” Here’s the thing: before you can understand what goes wrong in the body (aka trying to memorize all those confusing and overlapping symptoms…), you’ve got to know what ‘normal’ looks like first. I always tell my tutoring students, you HAVE to start with normal.

That’s the reason that “normal” is Step 1 of my Silver Bullet Study System.

So how does this help make studying easier in nursing school?

An Example of Homeostasis

Imagine you’re driving a car. What would happen if you held the steering wheel perfectly straight?

If you said you would CRASH…you’re right!

(FYI, I don’t ask trick questions around here…)

Even when you’re driving straight for a long time, you would never hold the steering wheel perfectly straight. Instead, you’re always making tiny adjustments back and forth, left and right, to adapt to the terrain and keep your car on track.

That’s how homeostasis, works, too! It’s not about everything in the body perfectly still all the time; it’s all those gajillion (okay not quite that many, but a lot!) little systems throughout your body that all work together to keep things in balance.

How to “Connect the Dots” in Nursing School

When you get this concept, it makes it easier to understand how to study because you finally have a framework to “connect the dots” to get all those symptoms to make sense. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about understanding that the body is always trying to get back to a balanced state, whether it’s dealing with ABGs, fluids, electrolytes, kidney failure, heart failure, or anything else.

How to Study Nursing Content

That’s great, but how does it change the way you study?

First, you have to recognize that your nursing school exams are NOT testing you on the content. They’re testing you on how to think ABOUT that content. That’s the biggest difference between nursing school tests and tests you took prior to nursing school.

In this case, the best way to approach concepts is to start by studying them in isolation. Take one small process in the body to make sure you understand how and why it works, and what kind of influence it has on the body.

Then once you’re confident that you understand that topic in isolation, then you “zoom out” and take time to understand how it works in relation to all the other little topics you’ve taken the time to understand.

(I like to call this process “Mental Gymnastics”, because that’s what it feels like to my brain sometimes, lol!)

But really, this is what it means to think like a nurse. This is how you develop your clinical judgment, which is the #1 thing you’re being tested on in nursing school. And this is how you get solidly passing grades on your nursing school exams, too.

Because ALL of those little, individual topics that you take the time to understand are all working together to maintain homeostasis inside the body. Some of them are pushing the body in this direction, while others are pushing the body in that direction. And at the end of the day, which ever direction has the stronger forces, will win!

But most days, if the individual is healthy, then it will be like a well-matched game of tug-a-war, and the body will easily maintain homeostasis.

The Best Way to Study in Nursing School: the Silver Bullet Study System

If you’re looking for the best way to study that makes all this stick for the long-term, check out the Silver Bullet Study System. I’ve got a free, 10-min overview video where I teach all 4-steps, and explain how it helps you immediately identify the most important information to study and improve your retention at the same time.

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