Inside Scoop | Study Tips

How to Pass the Fundamentals of Nursing

  • Outline the core subjects in the Fundamentals of Nursing as well as the underlying foundation of theory, practice, and critical thinking skills that prepared nursing students for their careers.
  • Learn Bloom’s Taxonomy as a methodology of applying the knowledge that you learn in the Fundamentals of Nursing to really life circumstances that you will encounter as a nurse.
  • Build productive habits and explore online resources that target your preferred style of learning to ensure you’re ensuring your best chance at success.

Tracey Long


August 04, 2023
Simmons University

So, you’re in nursing school and feeling a bit frustrated? The first step towards reaching your goal of becoming a nurse, and adding RN behind your name, begins with passing nursing fundamentals. If all it takes to be a nurse is sitting mindlessly in a nursing lecture while scrolling through your social media feed then anyone could be a nurse, but it takes much more than that! This blog will give you a checklist for success so that you can evaluate your own behavior and create your plan for passing.





What do I Need to Know to Pass Fundamentals of Nursing?

The first thing to know is that you are smart enough to pass. As a nursing professor, I have seen very smart nursing students fail nursing fundamentals because they didn’t realize they needed to actually study, or even show up to class. Often what makes the difference is dedication and learning to study effectively. There is often attrition from nursing school in the first semester, as some students don’t realize nursing school is going to be hard and that being a nurse is more than the dramatized love affairs seen in Grey’s Anatomy. They don’t realize that nurses have to clean up poop and vomit. These students were smart enough to become nurses, but they came to the realization that nursing is not for them, and that’s ok. If you’re the kind of student who really wants to be a nurse and you’re ready to work hard, then you are smart enough to become a nurse. Being smart doesn’t automatically mean you know how to study effectively, and this post will help you understand the skills necessary to succeed not just in passing the fundamentals of nursing but also in succeeding in your future studies.

Some nursing schools will call the first core class of a nursing program Nursing Fundamentals, or the Fundamentals of Nursing. A Fundamentals of Nursing class typically covers a wide range of essential knowledge and skills necessary for beginning a nursing career. The specific content may vary depending on the curriculum and institution, but here are some common topics that are typically included in nursing fundamentals that you must learn.

  • Introduction to Nursing: Understanding the history, roles, and scope of nursing practice, as well as the ethical and legal responsibilities of nurses.
  • Nursing Process: Learning the steps of the nursing process, which include assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation of patient care.
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Developing effective communication skills to establish therapeutic relationships with patients, families, and the healthcare team.
  • Vital Signs Assessment: Learning to measure and interpret vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration rate, blood pressure, and pain assessment.
  • Infection Control: Understanding principles of infection control, hand hygiene, standard precautions, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Medication Administration: Learning the fundamentals of medication administration, including dosage calculation, routes of administration, and safe medication practices.
  • Basic Nursing Skills: Mastering foundational nursing skills such as bed baths, positioning and transferring patients, feeding assistance, and wound care.
  • Health Assessment: Learning to perform a comprehensive health assessment, including physical examination techniques, documentation, and health history taking.
  • Patient Safety: Understanding principles of patient safety, fall prevention, infection prevention, and risk assessment.
  • Documentation and Electronic Health Records (EHR): Developing skills in accurate and timely documentation, including the use of electronic health records (EHR) systems.
  • Professionalism and Ethical Practice: Understanding professional nursing standards, ethical principles, cultural competence, and the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality.
  • Basic Anatomy and Physiology: Gaining knowledge of basic human anatomy and physiology, including body systems, organs, and their functions.
  • Patient Education: Learning to provide patient education and health promotion strategies to empower patients in managing their health.
  • Emergency and Disaster Preparedness: Understanding emergency response protocols, recognizing, and responding to common emergencies, and disaster preparedness.
  • Introduction to Nursing Research: Developing an understanding of the research process, evidence-based practice, and the importance of using current research findings in nursing care.

These are some of the core topics typically covered in a nursing fundamentals class. The course aims to provide students with a strong foundation in nursing theory, practice, and critical thinking skills to prepare them for more advanced nursing courses and clinical experiences. Having, or creating a study guide for these topics can be helpful. Better yet, ask your instructor if one is already available. If not, create your own using the instructor’s notes, PowerPoint slides, and textbook.

But How do I Pass the Tests?

You may feel like you know the content but applying it to a patient scenario on an exam is a new level in nursing school. Knowledge isn’t enough- but being able to apply that knowledge to patient care is what matters. Bloom’s taxonomy can be a helpful visual aid to understand the different applications of learned information. Dr. Bloom wondered why some students didn’t do well on exams when they seemed to know the information. He concluded in his pyramid model that if you are only studying at the knowledge level but being tested at the higher application and analysis model you won’t do well. Studying with the goal of being able to apply it to patient care to achieve positive outcomes can make a difference. Practicing higher-level questions with patient scenarios is helpful.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchical framework that categorizes different levels of cognitive learning and understanding. It was developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues in the 1950s. The taxonomy is often used as a guide to design educational objectives, assessments, and instructional strategies. Bloom’s taxonomy consists of six levels, listed in ascending order of complexity:

Knowledge: This level involves recalling or recognizing facts, information, or concepts. It includes remembering specific details, definitions, or simple explanations.

Comprehension: Comprehension focuses on understanding and interpreting information. It involves grasping the meaning of ideas, concepts, or principles and being able to explain them in one’s own words.

Application: At the application level, learners demonstrate their ability to use knowledge and concepts in new situations. This includes applying learned principles, methods, or theories to solve problems or complete tasks.

Analysis: The analysis level involves breaking down complex information into its constituent parts and examining the relationships between them. It requires identifying patterns, organizing information, and making inferences or drawing conclusions.

Synthesis: Synthesis refers to the ability to integrate or combine information from different sources or ideas to create something new. This level involves generating original solutions, designing projects, or creating new perspectives or interpretations.

Evaluation: The highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy, evaluation, focuses on critical thinking and making judgments about the value or worth of information, ideas, or methods. It involves assessing evidence, comparing viewpoints, and making informed decisions based on criteria or standards.

How Bloom’s taxonomy can help a student when preparing for exams is to focus on higher-order thinking skills rather than just memorization. By integrating Bloom’s taxonomy into your study approach, you can deepen your understanding of course material, enhance critical thinking skills, and better align your preparation with the cognitive demands of the test. The NCLEX is written above the comprehension level so learning to study at the higher levels will help you prepare to pass the national certification exam as well. No more rote memorization. Healthcare doesn’t need robots, but rather higher-level thinking nurses!





What Should I Do to Pass Nursing Fundamentals?

To successfully pass a nursing fundamentals class, it’s important to approach it with dedication, organization, and a proactive mindset. Here are some tips to help you excel in your nursing fundamentals class:

Attend Classes and Be Actively Engaged: Regularly attend all class sessions and actively participate in discussions, group activities, and hands-on demonstrations. Pay attention to the instructor’s explanations and ask questions when you need clarification.

Review Course Material: Consistently review the course material, including textbooks, lecture notes, and assigned readings. Take thorough notes during class and review them regularly to reinforce your understanding of the concepts.

Create a Study Plan: Develop a study plan that includes dedicated study time for nursing fundamentals. Break down the topics into manageable sections and allocate specific study time for each. Set realistic goals and stick to your schedule to ensure you cover all the necessary material.

Utilize Additional Resources: Supplement your learning with additional resources such as nursing fundamentals textbooks, online tutorials, videos, and practice quizzes. These resources can provide different perspectives and explanations that complement your class materials.

Actively Participate in Clinical Practice: Nursing fundamentals often involve practical clinical experiences. Take full advantage of these opportunities to apply what you have learned in class. Actively engage with patients, follow proper procedures, and seek feedback from your clinical instructors to enhance your skills.

Practice Critical Thinking: Nursing fundamentals class focuses on developing critical thinking skills. Practice applying these skills by analyzing case studies, patient scenarios, and practice questions. Think critically about the information, prioritize care, and consider potential nursing interventions.

Form Study Groups: Collaborate with classmates to form study groups. Discuss concepts, share study notes, and quiz each other to reinforce learning. Explaining concepts to others can solidify your understanding and help identify any gaps in your knowledge. Be careful not to waste time in a study group as your study time is precious. Take breaks and have some fun snacks but set a realistic timeframe and goal with your peers in the group to maximize your time together. Ideally, study with people who are doing well in the class and not those that are also struggling, so it’s not the blind leading the blind.

Seek Assistance When Needed: If you encounter challenges or have difficulty understanding specific topics, don’t hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your instructor, classmates, or tutoring services provided by your institution for additional support.

Utilize Practice Questions and Exams: Familiarize yourself with the types of questions that may appear on exams. Complete practice questions and take advantage of any practice exams provided by your instructor or available resources. This can help you identify areas of weakness and strengthen your test-taking skills.

Take Care of Yourself: Maintain a healthy lifestyle during your nursing fundamentals class. Get sufficient sleep, eat well-balanced meals, and engage in physical activity to keep yourself energized and focused. Taking care of your well-being will contribute to your overall success in the course. We need healthy nurses.

Remember that nursing fundamentals is the foundational knowledge for your nursing career, so it’s crucial to grasp the concepts and skills taught in this class. By approaching the class with dedication, consistent effort, and utilizing effective study strategies, you can increase your chances of passing

What Online Resources Can Help Me Pass Nursing School?

There are numerous online resources available to support nursing students in passing nursing fundamentals. These resources provide a wide range of study materials, practice questions, interactive modules, and helpful tips. Often, students say they know the material but then struggle on an exam. Test-taking is a skill in itself and will improve with lots of practice. There are many free sample nursing test questions available and it’s worth your time practicing. Soon, you’ll begin to identify patterns and trends and conquer test-taking anxiety because your confidence to pass practice tests will increase.


Here are some examples of online resources:

Nursing Websites and Forums:

AllNurses: An online community and forum for nursing students and professionals. It offers discussion boards, study tips, and resources specific to nursing fundamentals.

RegisteredNurseRN: A website with free video tutorials, practice quizzes, and study guides covering various nursing topics, including nursing fundamentals. Provides a comprehensive collection of nursing practice questions and quizzes to reinforce knowledge and test readiness.


Open Educational Resources (OER):

OpenStax: Offers free, peer-reviewed textbooks and resources for nursing education. Their “Anatomy and Physiology” textbook can be beneficial for understanding the foundational knowledge needed for nursing fundamentals.

Khan Academy: Provides video lessons and interactive modules on various healthcare and science topics that may be relevant to nursing fundamentals.


YouTube Channels:

Simple Nursing: A YouTube channel with video lessons covering nursing fundamentals and other nursing topics in an engaging and simplified manner.

Level Up RN: Offers animated video tutorials, mnemonics, and tips for nursing students, including content related to nursing fundamentals.


Mobile Apps:

NCLEX RN Mastery: A mobile app that offers practice questions, quizzes, flashcards, and detailed rationales for nursing fundamentals and other nursing topics.

Pocket Prep Nursing: Provides a variety of nursing practice questions, flashcards, and study materials to help reinforce nursing fundamentals knowledge.


Online Learning Platforms:

Coursera: Offers online courses related to nursing fundamentals and other healthcare topics from reputable institutions. These courses can provide additional resources and in-depth understanding.


Educational Institutions’ Websites:

Many nursing schools and programs provide online resources, study guides, practice questions, and lecture notes specific to their nursing fundamentals curriculum. Check your institution’s website or online learning platforms for resources tailored to your program.

Remember to utilize these online resources in conjunction with your nursing fundamentals textbooks, class notes, and guidance from your instructors. Developing a well-rounded study approach that includes a combination of resources and consistent practice will enhance your understanding and help you succeed in nursing fundamentals.





How to Fail Nursing School

Your nursing school may have already outlined behaviors that will cause you to fail. Although this blog is focusing on helping you succeed in your nursing fundamentals class, it is still worth clarifying to help you avoid making dumb mistakes.

It is always advisable to seek support and resources to overcome any difficulties you may encounter. As a nursing instructor of Nursing Fundamentals classes for many years, I have seen smart students fail because they neglected these basics. Here are some avoidable actions that can contribute to academic failure in nursing school.

Lack of Attendance and Engagement: Consistently skipping classes, clinicals, or not actively participating in discussions and activities can hinder your understanding of the material and lead to falling behind. Some schools have attendance policies where a no-call, no-show to clinical will cause you to fail. Just show up!

Poor Time Management: Inadequate time management skills can result in procrastination, cramming, and an inability to keep up with coursework and study effectively. I remember failing a paper because I chose to get a 3-hour perm for my hair (yes, it was the 80s) instead of working on a paper. I couldn’t fool my instructor when I showed up with a new perm and no paper. No excuse.

Inadequate Preparation: Failing to adequately prepare for exams and assignments can result in poor performance and lower grades. It’s crucial to allocate sufficient study time and review materials regularly. I had a student who had to repeat nursing fundamentals who finally learned to crack open the book and tell me “Wow the answers really are in the textbook!”

Insufficient Study Strategies: Using ineffective study strategies, such as passive reading or memorization without understanding, can limit your ability to retain and apply the information effectively. Nurses need to understand the pathophysiology and not just robotically pass out medications.

Lack of Organization: Disorganization can lead to missed deadlines, incomplete assignments, and difficulty prioritizing tasks. Developing organizational skills is essential to stay on top of coursework.

Inadequate Utilization of Resources: Failing to seek help when needed, such as not utilizing tutoring services, academic advisors, or faculty support, can hinder your ability to overcome challenges and understand difficult concepts.

Poor Self-Care: Neglecting self-care, such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and high-stress levels, can impact your overall well-being and academic performance. Nursing school is a marathon so feed it and rest it. Don’t feed yourself plastic food and expect your body to make a body of steel out of junk.

Ineffective Communication: Struggling to communicate with instructors or clinical preceptors about your challenges or seeking clarification when needed can contribute to academic difficulties. A student failed nursing school during the last semester because she didn’t show up for a mandatory clinical. She never called her instructor and only notified the instructor when she got the failed class notice. She admitted she wasn’t even sick, but just tired. Not a good choice.

Lack of Collaboration: Avoiding collaboration with classmates for group study sessions, sharing resources, or seeking peer support can limit your learning opportunities.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity Violations: Engaging in academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism or cheating, can result in severe consequences and potentially lead to academic failure or dismissal. Another student turned in not one but two papers that were completely copied and pasted from the internet. She failed.

If you find yourself facing challenges or feeling overwhelmed, it is important to seek support from your instructors, classmates, or academic support services provided by your school. They can offer guidance, resources, and strategies to help you navigate difficulties and improve your academic performance.

The Bottom Line

You are smart enough to pass nursing fundamentals. The question is are you dedicated and self-disciplined enough?

Becoming a nurse doesn’t just happen as you walk across a stage to collect your diploma. It is a process that takes time throughout nursing school as you begin to think like a nurse. Understanding the fundamentals of nursing will help you as you advance to subsequent classes because the nursing process (yes, ADPIE, or SOAPIER) will help you become a critical thinker.

Knowledge isn’t enough, but rather learning to be a higher level thinker from knowledge, to comprehension, to assessment, analysis, and evaluation will help you pass nursing exams. Regurgitation of content from a textbook isn’t enough. When you’ve done all of these positive habits, nothing will hold you back from passing Nursing Fundamentals. Good luck! You’ve got this!

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