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Advice on Strategies to Pass Med Surg from Students Who've Been There Before

Students   (1,435 Views | 22 Replies)

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Hello everyone,

I was just wondering if anyone could give me advice on how to pass med surg because I am at a lost for ideas. I am generally a great student and had a 3.8 GPA in my first semester of nursing school, but Med Surg has been a disaster and I just don't know what else to try.

I took it once and came up short by three points and had to repeat it this past semester. On my second attempt, I came up short by 1.7 points even though I completely changed my study methods on advice from fellow students. I bought review books, did tons of practice questions and created review sheets and concept maps for myself. I do exceedingly well on practice questions, and feel confident on exams, but always end up coming short by a couple of questions. In my school a passing grade on a nursing exam is 75 and I keep averaging 70-72. I do fantastic in clinical and get outstanding feedback but when it comes to the exams, I am bewildered by what I'm doing wrong. I am really desperate and want to know if there is anything else I can try. I changed my availability at work to just two days a week and found family members willing to help me with child care, so I was able to invest all of my free time into studying, so it's clear that something in my study method is not working.

I know some advice to try and take the course with another instructor, unfortunately that's not an option with me as there is only a single instructor teaching all the med surg sections. Like most nursing programs, her approach is as she says to facilitate our learning, not actually teach us, and although I have never missed the lectures, I don't feel I get a lot out of them as it's mostly the instructor reading through the textbook slides. I do not have the option of changing schools unfortunately and I really want to figure out what I'm doing wrong. This coming attempt is my third and last per school policy.

Does anyone have any ideas on what I should do? What did you guys use to pass Med Surg?

Thanks.

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3 Posts; 123 Profile Views

My own personal success in my med surg courses has been self-led. I read every page in the required reading, sometimes more than once to make sure that I’m able to answer questions that may come up during my lectures. I feel like having some sort of knowledge and being able to assimilate that knowledge in lecture is the first step. If you’re doing well on practice questions, maybe try different types of practice questions that are more focused on prioritizing and analyzing information compared to just being able to recall what a certain disease process is. I hope this helps! Good luck with everything. 

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Rionoir is a ADN, RN and specializes in Neuro ICU.

591 Posts; 3,336 Profile Views

For a single semester of med surg I usually made about 1500 notecards throughout the semester using Anki.  Spaced repetition is scientifically the best way to remember information.  I copy and paste things straight out of ebooks from the readings into notecards.  It’s not glamorous but I did very well on my exams. 
 

The other thing to remember is that school questions are usually not NCLEX questions and can’t be answered using NCLEX strategies.  They are NCLEX-style questions that involve critical thinking but are based on recalling and applying content that is more specific than what you’ll find in practice question banks.  When you’re selecting an answer look at EACH option and decide if it is correct information and cross off the wrong ones before selecting the right one.

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tacticool has 3 years experience and specializes in BSN, RN-BC, NREMT, EMT-P, TCRN.

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In your quest to be successful, it sounds like you are doing too much with all of the review books, concept maps, review sheets, etc. By going outside the curriculum with these adjuncts, when it comes to passing the Med-Surg tests, you are trying to answer the questions incorporating all of the info you've studied. And the info can at times be complimentary or contradicting. This can create confusion. Do you really need this overkill? I think not. Keep it simple. Good luck!

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E-commerce has 1 years experience as a CNA, LVN and specializes in Psychiatric, Diabetes advocate.

1,650 Posts; 28,658 Profile Views

 

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E-commerce has 1 years experience as a CNA, LVN and specializes in Psychiatric, Diabetes advocate.

1,650 Posts; 28,658 Profile Views

You have a lot of great supplemental study material, but sometimes going old school is best. So while studying with your medsurg book you have your physiology book on one side and pathophysiology book on the other side.  To be honest the only supplemental books to have are ones that teach HOW to answer nclex style questions and not books with just "practice questions." Everything else is in your booms. Focus on whats important in your text books. There's a Saunders test taking strategies book that  teaches how to break down a medsurg question.  When answering questions you ask yourself  what prior knowledge aka nursing fundamentals , nursing concepts, pathophysiology principles, physiology principles do i need to "recall" to answer this question? Review what you learn first semester. Everything builds each semester like a pyramid

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FolksBtrippin is a BSN, RN and specializes in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Public Health.

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I would not recommend using supplemental material this time around. Stick with the assigned course materials.

Does your professor do a test review? If possible, you need to go over your incorrect answers on the tests, learn the correct answers, and the rationales behind them.

Does your school assign practice questions for homework? Take your homework very seriously, if you get it. Find out what you got wrong and why.

My last suggestion is to go to office hours in the first week of school with this professor and ask what you need to do differently to pass this class. 

Good luck. 

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CastiMcNasti specializes in Exercise and Wellness.

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I used Picmonic and NRSNG as extra resources for both sections of my MedSurg, along with reading our book.  I did the daily quiz questions in Picmonic every single day, which varied from about 40 - 300 questions per day.  Picmonic uses spaced repetition (as mentioned above), which as been shown to be very effective for retaining information.

I do not typically take notes, except to jot down a reminder to study a certain topic if the instructor mentions it as being important during lecture.  However, if I do take notes, I take them in an outline format, making sure to only write down the general concept/information and to prevent myself from writing too much.

Lastly, I got together with 2 other students and formed a small study group to cover the various topics for the upcoming exam.  Keeping it small is very important.  We would get together at the library and use a room with a white board to outline each topic.  We also would quiz each other using practice questions from Elsevier Evolve or the text.

I have always been a firm believer in keeping it simple.  Picmonic was my #1 resource.  The rest were sprinkled in as needed.

You may also want to look into test taking strategies, since it seems that is where you are struggling.

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Defibn' has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in SRNA.

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I don't think you should be reading the textbooks more than once. You can use it as a reference to firm up some understanding after that. But, passively rereading page by page does nothing for you except build familiarity, not knowledge. All the supplemental learning tools in the world won't make much difference if you do not understand the material in the first place. Check out the SQ3R method and Ali Abdaal on youtube. 

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283 Posts; 8,717 Profile Views

Wow, your school allows 3 attempts at a nursing course? That’s generous of them since most schools including mine is 2 attempts only. What I do for all my nursing courses is write out your my notes. You need to do this as accurately and as quickly as possible. The faster you write out your notes the faster you can start studying. I find that I only have 4-5 days on average to study after writing everything out and I pass my exams everytime using this method. Something about having everything you need to know in a focused space helps with memorization. Just remember we memorize to apply the knowledge.

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283 Posts; 8,717 Profile Views

On 12/24/2019 at 5:12 PM, Rionoir said:

For a single semester of med surg I usually made about 1500 notecards throughout the semester using Anki.  Spaced repetition is scientifically the best way to remember information.  I copy and paste things straight out of ebooks from the readings into notecards.  It’s not glamorous but I did very well on my exams. 
 

The other thing to remember is that school questions are usually not NCLEX questions and can’t be answered using NCLEX strategies.  They are NCLEX-style questions that involve critical thinking but are based on recalling and applying content that is more specific than what you’ll find in practice question banks.  When you’re selecting an answer look at EACH option and decide if it is correct information and cross off the wrong ones before selecting the right one.

“Spaced repetition”. Exactly what I do when writing my notes along with highlighting the topic(s).

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peanutbutterrunnergirl specializes in childbirth education.

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Hi!  I am not an RN yet, but I am graduating in May and I had the top final grade out of the 80 students in our class both semesters of med-surg, so I am hoping that qualifies me to give advice. 🙂

Everyone’s study technique is a little different, but I concur with previous posters about the danger of adding additional materials.  Yes, you MUST understand the overall concept, especially the patho.  But the material given to you by your professor was given to you to narrow down the plethora of information available online, in textbooks, etc for every disease process (often conflicting information!).  I don’t do nearly as many practice questions as some of my friends simply because they are not specific to the content we were taught in class a significant portion of the time.

Ask yourself how well you are learning your notes/powerpoints from class before the exam.  You need to know them forwards and backwards. If you don’t do that, you are neglecting your most useful resource.  This is unconventional advice, but find some students to study with a few days before each exam, and TEACH them what you’ve learned, ESPECIALLY the patho.  Make a little review session for them.  I do this with every single exam and I think I have probably worked with half the class in one way or another by now.  I learn the material early and “test” myself repeatedly by working with different people.  You will he surprised by how each person helps you to think about the material in a different light.  Teaching is truly the highest form of understanding.  If you can’t teach the material, you are not ready for the exam.  And remember, in order to teach the material you have to understand it more in depth than the person you are teaching it to.  Note: I do NOT learn the material with other students.  I simply review/teach it to them.  Learn the material on your own to maximize your efficiency.

One other thing: when you get too tired to study at night, watch some videos about the topic you are learning from registerednurseRN and simple nursing on YouTube.  This is the only time I do use outside resources.  It helps me get a quick overview of the topic and requires very minimal effort when I feel like my brain is mush.

This is just what worked for me, but maybe it can help you, too.  Best of luck!  

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