How to Study Health Assessment in Nursing School

Assessment is one of the skills that set you apart from a lot of other medical careers. CNA’s, MA’s, Techs, and other UAP’s do not have the assessment skills that registered nurses have. It is one of those skills that is pounded in nursing school, but never truly mastered until years and years of practice. This guide will hopefully give you a better idea of how to study Assessment in Nursing School and answer HESI and NCLEX style questions.

Your textbook may be different, but we used Jarvis’s Physical Examination and Health Assessment, 7th ed.💎

Anatomy & Physiology

Most programs in the United States require A&P I and II. I’ve rarely seen some programs squish all of that in one class. You need to be a master at your anatomy and physiology. Review cardiopulmonary, abdomen, and neuro anatomy before school starts. You will need to be able to pretty much label and/or draw from memory most of your body systems. A lot of people in my class had trouble with Assessment most likely because they were weak in anatomy. I personally had trouble with the cardiovascular system for this very reason.

Vocabulary

There will be a lot of big medical terms that you’ll need to know! Hopefully you’ve picked up a lot from A&P, Patho, and your other Biology classes. When you study, make flashcards of all of the terms you do not know and study them every single day. These words WILL be on your exams, HESI, and NCLEX. Learn them now.

Normal vs. Abnormal

Assessment is all about knowing what you are supposed to be seeing, hearing, and feeling (namely inspecting, auscultating, and palpating). Establishing this foundation is very important! I took notes in two columns. One side was “normal” findings, and the other side was “abnormal” findings.

In your practice, you should be able to tell when something is wrong. You may not know 100% what is going on, but you should be able to tell your doctor over the phone what your findings are.

Study Habits + Repetition

Assessment is a tough subject. It is a lot to chew, especially with your other classes. You need to establish excellent study habits. This means no more going out every weekend, no more binge watching TV. You gotta get up earlier and go to bed later. Check out my Top 10 Study Tips to get some more tips on how to establish excellent study habits!⬇️

Repetition is key with Assessment. I probably studied each set of material more than ten times. I rewrote notes, drew pictures, and answered plenty of practice questions. I made it a goal to know the material inside and out. I probably spent the most amount of time studying for the class during my first semester.

Practice

As much fun reading out of a book is, nursing isn’t all about reading a patient’s chart. You need to practice! Practice on everyone that will let you. Friends, family, strangers (JK, that might be weird). Get used to going through your full head to toe on different people. Talk through your assessment, even if the other person has no idea what you’re saying!

Patience

These skills will come to you. Like I said in the beginning, you will not master these skills until you’ve been in practice for a long time. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be afraid to seek help! As always, I am here to answer your questions!



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Top 10 Study Tips!

1. Make a study schedule and stick to it.

2. Pace yourself. Study every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

3. If you don’t understand something, find a different resource (ask a friend, find a YouTube video, email the instructor, etc.).

4. Study for 50 minutes at a time and take a 10-15 minute break in between.

5. During those breaks, don’t just be on your phone or computer. Get up. Move around. Get your blood flowing!

6. Make time for yourself. If you like to read leisurely, do it. If you work out, do it.

7. SLEEP. for the love of God. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

8. Find a method that works for you. Flashcards, outlines, Quizlet, recording yourself, drawing pictures, etc. It’s all trial and error.

My less than artistic attempt at understanding the cardiac system.

9. DON’T CRAM. If you don’t know the material the night before the test, chances are you won’t know it for the test.

10. Studies show that you need to review material 7 times to retain 90% of the information.


Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep!💎

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Nursing Student Summer Tips!

Off for the summer? Here are some productive things you can do! ⛱🌻

1. Do practice NCLEX questions. Yawn. Who wants to do work over the summer? Start by setting a small goal such as 10 questions/day. You’ll find that it won’t take up too much of your time! By the time summer is over, you’ll have done hundreds of questions. I use Saunder’s NCLEX-RN Comprehensive Review for every class and it works wonders! Get a copy of it here💎!

You can also use Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep!💎, which is an online interactive experience to prep you for the NCLEX!

2. Update your resume. This can be difficult during the busy school year! Take some time to really go through your resume and send it to a few trusty people for advice.

3. Look for internships and jobs. Set aside some time to gather up information about internships and jobs. Apply for what you can and get your name out there! What is your ideal unit? What is your ideal salary? 

4. Review tough topics. Did you have a hard time with the endocrine system? Cardiac? Psych? You’re not alone. Look over some of these topics in a stress-free environment. No pressure, no due dates, no exams! You may remember more material this way. Go with 20 minutes a few times a week.

5. Relaxxxxxx. You’ve been working so hard. Plan time to treat yo self! 

Happy Summer!⭐️⛱



This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Nursing School!

Congratulations for getting into nursing school! I put together a list of supplies you may need. There are also a few tips for surviving that no one else will really tell you until you’ve been through it. Keep in mind that every one’s experience is different. What applies to me may not apply to you.

MUST HAVES:

  • Blood pressure cuff (was provided to me through school via lab fees)
  • Compression stockings/socks
  • Bandage/dressing scissors
  • Drug handbook (pocket size – Lippincott💎 is a great way to go!)
  • Lab coat (ordered through the school)
  • NCLEX-RN Study guide (Saunders💎 or Kaplan💎)
  • Tote bag for clinical/hospital/lab (separate from your lecture backpack!)
  • Nursing shoes
  • Watch – simple, waterproof, inexpensive!
  • Penlight (was provided to me through school via lab fees, but I purchased extra)
  • Scrubs (ordered through the school)
  • Stethoscope
  • Retractable badge holder
  • Nursing care plan book (we were given a specific one to order, this one saved me time and time again!💎)
  • Clipboard and BLACK pens
  • Extra hair clips/bobby pins, hair ties
  • Medical dictionary💎

Lecture Supplies!

  • Binders
  • Looseleaf notebook paper
  • Black pens (or colored if you are the type to color-code notes)
  • Highlighters
  • Drug guide (App available if lecturer allows electronic devices)
  • Textbook (IF you need it)

Tips for Surviving LECTURE:

  • Read the assigned text BEFORE class. I don’t mean skim. Understand it. Make this mandatory in your homework routine.
  • Come to class with questions. Mark down the answers as the lecture goes on. If there are unanswered ones, get them answered before class ends. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask. Chances are that there is someone else with the same question.
  • Star, highlight, underline, circle, etc. any topic that the professor repeats. I usually put a star down for each time it is said. I can’t tell you how many times they put this information on exams.
  • Avoid using electronic devices. I always use pen and paper. I have e-textbooks, but I only pull my tablet out when I absolutely need to. Silence your cellphone and only use it during breaks or emergencies.
  • Keep your energy up. Eat a high-protein breakfast and drink plenty of water. Snack on nuts or other nutrient dense food. I usually eat almonds and/or apples with peanut butter.
  • Be courteous to your neighbors. Avoid opening loud snack packaging, using your phone, talking, or doing another classes’ work during lecture. Anything abnormal that you do during lecture is a distraction to others around you. Don’t be afraid to move seats during break if you can’t concentrate.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Nursing school is not a fashion show. I wear sweats most days because I am sitting for 6+ hours at a time. I usually have a jacket because I get cold very easily.
  • If you are given a break, USE IT! Go walk around, go outside, walk up and down some stairs, etc. Just get your blood flowing.


Tips for Surviving LAB:

  • Lab is for PRACTICING skills, not learning. Usually you will be assigned a video or reading assignment that explains how to perform the skill. The professor will demonstrate the skill, but you are more than likely expected to already know the steps. Don’t make a fool out of yourself by not preparing. We were given step by step instructions for most skills. If your school doesn’t provide these, then make your own.
  • Come to lab in uniform and with all of your supplies. Make sure you wash your hands before beginning.
  • Try performing the skill on your own before asking too many questions. You will learn more by making mistakes than by avoiding them.
  • Don’t overthink anything. You are practicing skills to perform them on a human being. Put yourself in their shoes. Practice compassion. Talk to your mannequin as if it were a real person. It will feel silly at first, but it will help you in clinical.
  • Explain every step out loud in lab. This will not only help you, but it will help your lab partner and others around you. It is also easier to catch mistakes this way.
  • Take advantage of open lab hours if your school provides it. Get together with a study buddy and spend an extra hour or so each week practicing.

Tips for Surviving CLINICAL:

  • Congrats, you’ve made it to clinical! You will probably be nervous, but that’s okay. I was nervous AND excited. That is normal. Take some deep breaths and go with it!
  • Eat a high-protein breakfast. You will probably have to wake up at an hour you’ve never been awake for. If you’re like me, I can barely eat in the mornings to begin with. Force yourself to eat. Don’t go for a high-carb breakfast. You will crash before 9am. Bring snacks for the commute. I usually eat egg/bacon/potato breakfast burritos and I bring an apple to eat on the way.
  • Be prepared. Your school will have different requirements for pre-clinical. If you are assigned a patient the day before, make sure you know which drugs they are getting and WHY.
  • Stay busy. If there is a lull in the day, ask your nurse if there is anything you can do. If he/she says no, then that’s the perfect time to go talk to your patients.
  • Ask to perform skills you have already learned. Already learned how to put in a Foley? Ask your nurse if you can do the next one. Injections? IV starts? ASK!!! You will never learn if you don’t ask. The worst they can say is no.
  • Talk to your patients. You will learn more about them through conversation than by reading a chart.
  • Don’t think of yourself as a shadow. You are a student nurse who is there to help, not follow. Although you will be “shadowing” a nurse, your confidence will give your nurse more confidence in letting you take the reign!
  • When it’s time for lunch, eat something healthy. You already know how high-carb/high-fat meals make you feel. Plan accordingly. Take the full break. If you get 30 minutes, try to sit and rest for that full amount of time. Make sure you wash your hands before and after, and use the restroom before going back.
  • Enjoy yourself! This is what you’ve been working hard towards, right??
  • We always had a debrief with our instructor after clinical. It was an open “round-table” discussion about our day. Be honest about how your day went. Not every clinical day is unicorns and rainbows. Other students will appreciate your honesty.

Tips for READING your textbooks (BEFORE lecture):

  • Turn off your phone, TV, etc. I have a classical music station that I listen to when I study.
  • Skim the chapter and pay attention to titles/subtitles. Count how many pages you have to read and allow yourself enough time accordingly.
  • Start reading from the beginning. Look up any words that you don’t know. Read slowly and carefully.
  • Take breaks every 30-50 minutes.
  • Write down any questions or unclear topics.

Tips for STUDYING material (after lecture):

  • Review the lecture notes from each class when you get home that day. Make sure everything is organized to make studying easier.
  • Go through the assigned reading again and highlight or underline the main topic/sentence of each section. This will make it easier to find information.
  • If you have a homework assignment for this chapter, do it now.
  • The next day, review your notes and skim through the book again. Look for different sources of information for main topics. I like to find YouTube videos that explain topics.
  • Rewrite important information on notecards or in a notebook.
  • If you can, on a different day, get together with a study buddy or group to discuss the information. Don’t do the homework together unless there’s a question that you couldn’t answer on your own. Study groups are not for learning, they are for discussing and solidifying concepts.
  • Notice that now you have reviewed/heard the material 5 times.

Tips for studying for an EXAM:

  • Although I study every day, I usually start my “exam” studying a week before the test.
  • Practice NCLEX-style questions.💎
  • Answer the questions at the back of the chapter.
  • Get any unclear topic resolved at least 48 hours before an exam.

I hope that this information is useful! Feel free to reblog and add anything I may have missed. Also feel free to message me with any questions!


Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep!💎

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This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!