Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Reading in Nursing

by Dr. Nancyruth Leibold

Students can develop their reading skills within the discipline of nursing in a number of ways. Writing apprehension by nursing students is a topic of study by Newton and Moore (2010). In their descriptive study, a correlation was found between reading and English aptitude to formal writing ability. Senior nursing students scored higher than pre-nursing students in reading comprehension, but it was unclear if this was due to higher levels of education or attrition (Lajoie, 2013). Further study is essential related to writing apprehension, reading, and writing in nurses.

Nursing majors are expected to read a large volume of material each week. There simply is a lot to know within the discipline of nursing.  It is not possible to know everything in nursing. All nurses should know some key areas, such as safe medication administration. However, the baccalaureate nursing degree is a generalist preparation in nursing. After graduation, nurses further develop their specialty knowledge and practice through lifelong learning. By developing skills of skimming and speed-reading, students can cultivate reading skills that promote the general knowledge of what every registered nurse should know. Looking detailed information up should be a frequent habit of the registered nurse. Start reading by glancing through the assigned reading and note the main overall topics by reading the headings and subheadings (Mikhailov, 2016). Next, read the information for overall points. Pay special attention to the bolded words and to any tables or images, as these are usually the most important points. Instead of focusing on memorizing details, focus on comprehending the main points of the reading. It helps to think of the information in the context of any previous nursing experience. One resource about skim reading is by Mikhailov (2016) at

Nurses should select several journals that they read every month. It is not necessary to read the journals from cover to cover, but instead skim through the journals and read what is relevant and interesting. The more a nurse reads nursing journals, the more they develop their reading skills while staying abreast of the latest discoveries and news in nursing. Speed develops with persistence of this practice. In a study by Skinner and Miller (1989) 93% of nurses reported that reading nursing journals is important for updating nursing practice. Time was the main barrier that nurses reported for not reading nursing journals (Skinner & Miller, 1989). Nurses often organize journal clubs in their place of work and colleagues share the highlights of an article they read with others to increase the exposure a nurse has to journal publications. Some nurses make mini-posters about articles and post them in the workplace to disseminate what they have read. Frame and Kelly (2003) reported lack of knowledge about interpreting research articles as a main barrier for nurses to read journals. In the upper division nursing courses, students learn how to interpret research articles. However, the consistent practice of reading research articles so the skill is applied and developed is critical and the responsibility of the nurse. 

Resources for reading

Students should use resources to develop themselves and save time. Some helpful resources about reading in nursing are available.  Students should also be consumers of multimodal publications, such as videos. Multimodal publications use two or more formats, such as written word, audio, images, video, etc. (add source here, year). Students must assess multimodal sources for credibility as discussed earlier. Most U.S. government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have credible sources for nurses to use. One example of a credible multimodal publication is a video by the Department of Health and Human Services (2012) entitled Preparing for the next decade: A 2020 vision for healthy people at


View a video on reading in the field of nursing here

Nursing: Disciplinary Perspective

Writing in Nursing

Documentation in Nursing

Research in Nursing