Student nurse tips

Ask Questions

Don’t show up to work with a know-it-all attitude. Don’t act like you know everything. Because you don’t. As a new grad nurse, other nurses are going to expect you to ask questions. Honestly, it would be weird if you didn’t. You’re not going to look dumb. The opposite is actually going to happen. By asking questions, your fellow nurses will think you’re smart (source). Part of that is because you’re seeking wisdom and advice from those who know it. The other reason is that people, in general, are flattered when other people are asking them for advice.

Learn About Common Med Surg Nursing Practices and Terminology

Like any area of nursing, you’re going to hear and see terminology you might not see anywhere else. Many med-surg floors are general floors where you’re going to be seeing patients with all sorts of different illnesses and conditions. You don’t need to know everything. But just become familiar with some of the more common occurrences you’re going to see as a med-surge nurse. You don’t really need to pay for anything you can just search online and find some helpful resources. If you’re wanting some resources with the information all in the same spot here are some useful books you can buy off Amazon

  • MedSurg Notes: Nurse’s Clinical Pocket Guide
  • Lippincott Pocket Drug Guide for Nurses I prefer a drug app on the phone myself. But I know many still prefer a physical book.
  • RNotes®: Nurse’s Clinical Pocket Guide If you decide to get them let us know what you think in the comments below.

Make Sure You Have a Teachable Mentality

Above I mentioned the importance of a good preceptor. Well, a good preceptor is only half the battle. You’re the other half. If you come to work an arrogant know-it-all and are not teachable, then you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. Instead, show up with an open mind to learn from your preceptor and other experienced nurses

Learn the Mechanics of Starting an IV

I used to not be very good at starting IVs. I’m still not the very best, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the years. There are two reasons for this. The first is repetition. If you’re not very good at IVs, you’re going to want to pass this off to somebody else if you can. Don’t. At least try first before passing it off. Repetition will make you better with time. The second reason I’ve gotten better is I’ve watched a lot of other nurses start IVs, and I’ve asked a lot of questions. The main reason you should get better at starting an IV is that you can’t always depend on other nurses for this. Another nurse might not be immediately available to get an IV started for you, and that would only slow you down.

Learn to Prioritize

Everything is important, and everything needs to be done. But it doesn’t mean everything needs to be done right this very second. Prioritization is the key to a successful nursing career as a med surg nurse. A patient pressing the call light because they want their pillow fluffed doesn’t take precedence over a decompensating patient or a post-op patient. This is another area where seeking the wisdom and guidance of more seasoned nurses are very beneficial to your growth. An experienced nurse can help show you how to prioritize tasks. (In case if you were wondering. “Do they know they put prioritization twice on here.” The answer to that questions is yes. Yes we do. It’s that important. )

Make Sure You Have a Good Preceptor

Many experienced nurses might not agree with this, but I cannot stress enough the value of a good nursing preceptor. Your preceptor as a new grad nurse is going to make or break your career in the med surg. Actually, not just that but they really are going to make or break your career as a nurse. Here’s what I mean your preceptor is going to give you advice on what you should or shouldn’t do in a given situation. More than that a good preceptor should be somebody you can rely on or seek their advice on things long after your orientation ends. In a lot of ways, they are helping you lay your foundations in nursing. But unfortunately, many preceptors are not going to be that for various reasons some preceptors just aren’t going to be very good. If you start seeing signs that your preceptor is not going to help you succeed, then it might be time to have a conversation with your manager to see where the problem might be.

Prepare for Exam Day

  • Be sure to sleep well the week before the exam.
  • Bring snacks to the center to keep in your locker in case you choose to take a break during the exam.
  • Arrive early to the testing center, prepared with necessary documents for testing.
  • Put gas in your car the night before.
  • Set a reliable alarm.
  • Bring clothes you can layer in case you tend to get cold. If you try to control your environment as much as possible, it will help you to feel comfortable and prepared for the exam itself.
  • Schedule your exam time with your usual preference for testing. If you are a morning person, schedule a morning test. If you enjoy slow mornings and sleeping in, then schedule an afternoon exam.

Go Beyond the Practice Questions

Practice exams are absolutely the best and most important way to prepare – HOWEVER – simply taking the practice exam questions is only half of the process. It is just as important to:

  • Look up questions that you answered incorrectly. Practice question banks provide explanations as to why each answer choice is correct or incorrect, as well as outlining the particular content topic it falls under.
  • Jot down notes of which concepts you want to revisit, so with your next study session, you can focus on problem areas.
  • Practice, practice, practice. It is especially useful to take at least 1 or 2 full online mock NCLEX exams so you are used to the experience of computer testing. Go through as much of the question bank as you can before exam day and you will be miles ahead.

Invest in Test Prep Resources

It is definitely worthwhile to invest in practice exam books or enroll in a classroom review course. Some examples are Kaplan, UWorld, and* Usually, people choose their study material based on reviews, peer references, or personal preference. All exam resource companies produce exceptional guides to prepare you for the NCLEX exam, so spend some time browsing reviews to see which guidebook style fits you best. *Affiliate link. If you decide to use, may receive a commission.

Related: Top 5 NCLEX Review Courses (With Cost)

Hone Your Test-Taking Skills

The NCLEX is just as much about knowing how the test is written as it is knowing the right answers. Utilize test-taking strategies to eliminate wrong answers, avoid “extremes” like ALL or NONE answers, and remember to always put patient safety first. With practice, you will notice some themes in answers:

  • Always assess the patient first, calling the doctor right away isn’t usually the best first step
  • Use Airway-Breathing-Circulation approach, etc.
  • Use deductive reasoning even if you have no idea about the concepts behind the topic
  • If all else fails, rely on that budding feeling that we like to call “nurse intuition” You will no doubt encounter the dreaded select-all-that-apply questions. Use the same, systematic approach to eliminate incorrect answer choices based on knowledge and wording of answers.