top of page

A Practical Guide to Nursing Fundamentals

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

What you will learn in Nursing Fundamentals can be slightly overwhelming and scary. But don't worry, this guide will help prepare you for what's to come. This is the first part of a two-part blog post. First, what you’ll learn in Fundamentals. Second, how to ace the class.

I was really curious about what material would be covered in my first nursing class. I attempted to Google and YouTube nursing fundamental class material (I always get excited to study in the summer), but I didn’t really come up with much.  My best friend was a quarter ahead of me in her nursing program (taking summer classes) and so she would show me what they learned that week. Looking through her binder, I was shocked at the amount and difficulty of the material. I wanted her to teach me everything so I could be prepared for the next semester!  So if you are like me and are very curious as to what the first semester of nursing school holds, I’ve come up with a basic outline of the material we learned in Fundamentals. Take into consideration that every nursing program varies material, but most fundamental courses teach the basics of being a nurse. 

Fundamentals is a blend of lecture, lab (skills), and self-study/practice. I personally had class one day a week, 1-5pm. I had never had a four-hour class before then, and it was honestly miserable sitting still for that long. They gave us plenty of breaks, but my body was just not used to sitting in a desk all day. I had lab one day a week as well, from 8am-noon. As much as I hate morning classes, I actually looked forward to our skills lab. Our course was only 8 weeks long (half a semester), but this also varies school by school. 

You'll have exams in lecture and check-off's in lab. How You Can Prepare

Pre-Nursing students can really benefit if you go ahead and Google/Pinterest/Youtube each of these topics to get a broad overview of what’s to come! I did this and it helped me get a basic understanding before school even started. Then when you’re actually in class learning, you can think back “oh yeah, I remember this!” And it will help you remember long-term! AKA, better exam scores. A resource that I used last summer (and still use) is Sarah with Registered Nurse, RN. She has a great website as well as super helpful videos on YouTube! She has videos for each of these topics that I highly recommend anyone watch. 


Topics Covered in Lecture:

Med Math - Calculate dosages 

The Nursing Process

Vital Signs and Assessment

Asepsis - Sterile Technique versus Clean Technique

Personal Care of patients (Bathing, Mobility, Urinary Elimination and Bowel Elimination)

Medication Administration - Parental and Non-Parental

Nutrition and Hydration



Skills Learned in Lab:

This is the fun part, learning how to do skills. I recommend nursing students to watch reliable videos and get a basic understanding of how these things are done. You'll be learning and demonstrating these skills for your instructor, so a basic understanding is great!

Vital Signs (Manual Blood Pressure, Pulse, Respirations, Temperature)

PPE - Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Care (bathing, transferring, positioning)

Sterile Dressing Change

Foley Catheter Placement

Medication Administration


IV catheter placement

NG Tube placement

Tracheostomy Care


How Check-Off's Work

Each week, usually at the beginning of lab, we would have check-off's. Basically, you're demonstrating that week's skill in front of your instructor. It's really intimidating, but often easier than students expect.

You'll go back two at a time to a simulation room--Erika and I always went together. You are each given a manikin patient to perform your skill on. You start with your introduction and act out the entire process, pretending your manikin is a real patient. Yes, you talk to them and pretend they are responding! I promise it gets less weird the more you do it.

Both students perform their skill at the same time and your instructor watches. Often, you are required to talk through the entire skill so the instructor can understand your thought process and actions.

If you mess up or miss a step, you can usually state what you did wrong and what you would have done differently. Sometimes they'll accept it.

When you're finished demonstrating your skill, your instructor will sign that you've passed the skill or sign that you need to redo it. They always give feedback and advice, which is really helpful even if you passed.


I hope future nursing students will read this guide before taking Fundamentals and have an understanding of what the class looks like! There is a lot of material covered, so prepare! If you study and practice, the class is very doable.

Be on the lookout for the second part of this blog post, How to Ace Fundamentals. This will include tips, tricks, and advice to get through the class!

Much Love,


53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page