Nursing Education

6 Ways to Teach Nursing Skills Faster

6 Ways to Teach Nursing Skills Faster

So you’re a nursing educator. You’ve watched hundreds of bright young students pass through the program, and you’ve had the pleasure of watching them become amazing healthcare professionals ready to do no harm. Chances are you already have awesome teaching methods, but are there proven ways to train great nurses faster? Can nursing skills be taught quickly and well?

Try these 6 ways of teaching nursing skills faster Click To Tweet

There are in fact several ways to speed up the process. Any veteran of nursing education has their own unique teaching style that works, but it never hurts to hear new ideas from other professionals in the field and national nursing organizations.

To get your creativity flowing, here are six surefire ways to speed up your students’ learning curve early in the program:

1. Figure Out What Students Know

Lots of nursing instructors assume they’re working with blank slates. Their students know nothing, so you start from the beginning and teach them everything, right? Well . . . often that’s not the case.

Many students enter a nursing program with bits and pieces of knowledge in areas where they’ve had experience—and sometimes what they think they know is completely wrong. But there’s no way to know which myths students have picked up over the years unless we ask. Nurse Elspeth Raisbeck from the UK describes it this way:

What about the student on a respiratory ward placement who has had asthma since childhood? She may know all about living with the disease . . . but her inhaler technique needs improvement. So in teaching adults, always ask about what they’ve read (in books, magazines, journals, press), seen on TV, or had experience with on the topic under discussion.

Raisbeck recommends asking open-ended questions about what students already know or inviting a student to demonstrate their current knowledge. This is a great jump-off point to know where students are at and what corrections they need. And it will sort out many questions that would come up later and waste class time.

2. Nail the Basics

Starting from ground zero is overwhelming for most new nursing students. It’s often slow going at the beginning of a program until they’ve built some confidence in themselves and have a strong foundation of the basics. What better way to build that confidence faster than providing a visual representation of everything they’ll be learning?

On day one, give your students a simple list of all the skills they need to learn so they can track their progress and know exactly what to expect. Once they’re rock solid in the basic principles of nursing, they’ll naturally excel as their coursework grows more demanding.

To help you out, we’ve created a basic CNA skills list for your students and a step-by-step nursing skills rubric for the seven most common procedures. You can download the free PDF here.

3. Encourage Immersion

Why should students wait to learn more about nursing on their own? They may not be ready for formal internships and practicum experiences, but why not get out in the field now to learn as much as they can?

Each of your students has the ability to tour various work environments. Urge them to shadow real professionals, learn which areas of nursing fascinate them the most, and which aspects of nursing they find the most nerve-racking and confusing. This is valuable information for students to bring back to class. Not only will it direct class to a useful place for everyone, it can also reaffirm to students that they’re in the right line of work and inspire them to excel in the program.

On the flip side, immersive nursing experience can also tell someone this isn’t the right career for them. It’s far better to know that now instead of years down the road.

4. Make Learning Hands On

Can anyone learn to be a proficient nurse without doing the procedures themselves? The research says no. In fact, most individuals who choose the nursing field are practical or experiential learners, which means they struggle learning concepts straight from the book or from abstract theories. The best way to help them learn efficiently is to get hands on.

According to research, most people who become nurses are practical, experiential learners. We learn hands on—not from the book. Click To Tweet

Whenever possible, try to involve your students in demonstrations, get them into the simulation lab, and encourage them to practice as many times as possible. Here are some specific ways to give your students hands-on experiences:

  • Role play in class. Have students act as patients, nurses, family members, and technicians to show them how to communicate and proceed in various scenarios.
  • Allow students to handle equipment, try the procedure, practice in groups, etc.
  • Don’t hesitate to correct mistakes. Help them learn it correctly before hours of practice.
  • Break down demonstrations into pieces that students can practice. Never complete an entire demonstration without pausing for students to get involved.
  • Don’t expect them to get it after one or two tries. Repetition is key.
  • Use practice, real-life scenarios, and real examples to illustrate theories.
  • Use visual media like videos, pictures, and diagrams to bring concepts to life.
  • Always follow up later to provide ongoing feedback and make sure a skill sticks.

5. Introduce the Soft Skills

Proficiency at nursing skills isn’t the only thing students need. In fact, some of the most important skills for success can’t be taught in the classroom at all.

Let’s take a look at some of the soft skills every nurse must develop and how you can encourage students to pursue these characteristics sooner rather than later. Here are some ideas from AMN Healthcare:

Cultural awareness

Cultural beliefs and values greatly influence healthcare preferences. Accommodating patients’ unique needs all starts with a nurse identifying their own biases, increasing awareness, and learning how to ask patients the right questions. The Transcultural Nursing Society is a great place for your students to learn more about this.


Being professional isn’t a one-time decision. It’s something every nurse has to choose every day. Characteristics like responsibility, respect, integrity, showing up on time, and having a positive attitude aren’t something your students will learn overnight. But you can encourage them to keep these ideas in mind as they role play and set goals for their future career.

Attention to detail

Not letting details slip between the cracks can save all nurses from costly medical mistakes in their careers. Encourage students to be thorough and meticulous in their work now and always double check the steps that could harm a patient if done incorrectly.

Critical thinking

Nurses are problem-solvers. It’s our job to identify problems, communicate them to supervisors, track down relevant information, and do everything we can to create plans and solutions for the patients. Encourage your students now to be open about reporting problems and to get involved in their facility’s quality improvement processes. Here are more ideas on how to foster critical thinking.


Having compassion for patients is absolutely vital for a nurse, but the biggest obstacle that prevents a compassionate outlook is nurse fatigue. Make sure your students know the perils of burnout in the profession so they can start learning coping mechanisms now. Exercise, meditation, volunteer work—whatever they need to manage stress will help them remain compassionate for years to come.

Time management

Staying organized is a must for nurses with tight schedules and many different responsibilities to juggle. Important skills like multi-tasking, creating checklists, planning ahead, and delegating will all help your students thrive in their future careers. Encourage them to practice these skills now and seek out a mentor in the field who can help them get the most out of their day.


Nurses must be expert communicators to succeed with their team and provide excellent care. This is not an easily learned skill, but your students can start now by being concise, staying calm, and learning effective communication strategies. Active listening is also a great communication tool to read patients’ body language as well as their words.

AMN Healthcare identifies seven vital nursing skills you can't learn in the classroom. Click To Tweet

6. Try Video

Last but certainly not least, you can supercharge your students’ learning by incorporating video in your courses. The fastest way for students to improve is through targeted, immediate feedback. But how can instructors provide that without sitting in the simulation lab for hours every week? Or taking complicated handwritten notes as they’re watching footage of procedures?

Thankfully GoReact provides a way to give incredible feedback and save time as a nursing instructor. The secret is the cloud. Students can film themselves performing procedures, and instructors can watch the footage and add comments and tags directly to the video. Everything you type gets timestamped at that exact moment in the video so students can see instantly what you’re talking about. The result is highly effective feedback that doesn’t take hours of review to pass on.

To find out more about GoReact in nursing, download our free guide: GoReact for Nursing Education