What to review before nursing school starts

review before nursing school

First of all…congratulations!!! You have worked SO HARD to get where you are and you deserve a HUGE pat on the back! I remember the feeling when I learned I’d been accepted into the program…a HUGE relief and SO much stress was lifted. But then….I started to get nervous…I’d heard rumors about how hard nursing school is, so I did what I do best. Study! Here’s a short list of useful topics to review before nursing school starts so you can keep your brain sharp and ensure you have the basic foundation knowledge you need to absolutely, positively, ROCK your program!

Here’s what to review before nursing school

Fluids, pressure gradients, osmosis
Make sure you understand the different fluid compartments in the body as this will come in to play¬†a LOT when patients start “third spacing.” Review oncotic pressure, osmolarity and pressure gradients as well…this way you’ll understand WHY 3% NaCl is used to treat cerebral edema. Is your patient’s albumin low? What will this do to their ability to retain fluid in the vascular space? Reviewing these key components will help you understand the rationale behind different IV fluids are used.

Renal system
The kidneys play an important role even when your patient isn’t in actual renal failure. Make sure you review the physiology of the renal system so you can understand how it relates to hemodynamics, fluid balance, infection and tissue perfusion. Also, don’t forget to review the tubules and their role in the balance of electrolyte levels (hint: some diuretics affect this in a BIG way!).

Electrolytes are a big deal and in the acute setting we try to keep them in perfect harmony. The biggest ones we follow are Na, K, Mg…then Ca, Phosphorus and Bicarbonate. Review them all and understand their functions in the body. Want a handy reference sheet? Check this one out…it’s so purty!

Dimensional analysis
Did you learn dimensional analysis in chemistry class? If you had a good teacher, then you probably did! If you thought you would never use it again, guess what? You get to put those skills to work! Dimensional analysis is one way to do dosage calculations absolutely accurately 100% of the time…it works on EVERY kind of dosage calculation, without fail! So, you’ll definitely want to review it. Lucky for you, we’ve got a handy little tutorial right here.

Cardiovascular physiology
Do you “heart” the heart? Then you’ll love reviewing cardiac physiology (I promise!). You’ll want to look over the flow of blood through the heart (helps you understand the pathophysiology of murmurs and valve disorders), basic anatomy (especially which coronary arteries provide oxygen to various parts of the heart…this helps you understand ischemia/infarction) and the whole balance between stroke volume, heart rate and cardiac output.

Respiratory physiology/ gas exchange
Before you put away the books, take a gander at respiratory physiology. You are especially interested in gas exchange, the mechanism of respiration and anatomy of the airways.

Acid/Base Balance
As you are reviewing the kidneys and the lungs, pay particular attention to how these organs participate in the important role of keeping the body’s pH in that happy zone of 7.35-7.45. How does the body compensate for metabolic acidosis? How about respiratory alkalosis? What happens if the patient is in renal failure? Fun things to ponder!

In addition to reviewing key subjects, you also might want to get yourself TOTALLY and COMPLETELY organized before classes start. For tips on how to do this, check out my book…it’s all in there plus TONS more information to help you thrive in nursing school. You got this!

review before nursing school


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