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What Is Nursing School Like?

You've decided to take the plunge and go to nursing school. Now what? What can you expect from your first year and beyond? What have you gotten yourself into?

Nursing school is not easy. Far from it. But it can prepare you for an incredibly challenging and rewarding career.

Keep reading for answers to the following questions:

  • What is nursing school like?
  • What classes do you take at nursing school?
  • How hard is nursing school?
  • What can I expect from my first semester at nursing school?

What's It Like to Be In Nursing School?

Nursing programs are not just about memorizing textbooks and going to lectures. You're not expected to be an automaton and must utilize your critical thinking skills.

Those critical thinking skills form a major part of your exam, and the purpose of nursing school is to prepare you for that exam and the career that proceeds it.

Don't just read and memorize, actually understand it. If you're struggling, ask for help; if you can't visualize or actualize, take on some volunteer work.

Nursing school is unlike anything else you have experienced. You probably know how to study. You know how to read, listen, learn, and comprehend. But a nursing program is more intensive than what you might be used to and there is a huge amount of material to learn.

What are Classes Like at Nursing School?

Nursing schools vary when it comes to curriculum and structure. Typically, you'll spend most of your first semester in lectures and the simulation lab/skills lab. The majority of your time will be spent on campus.

Your main areas of study will include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Assessments
  • Practical Work in the Skills Lab

When Do I Start with Clinical Rotations?

Clinical rotations might start during your first semester of nursing school, but some programs leave them until the second semester.

If you do have clinical rotations in the first semester, they will typically be in the latter half.

What are Exams Like?

Nursing exams are very different from what you might be used to.

If you're anticipating simple yes or no questions and straightforward responses, you're going to be in for a surprise.

Exams test your nursing skills and your critical thinking, as well as your knowledge. The goal is not to test your memory but to mold your mind and prepare you for the nursing profession.

What Should I Expect as a Nursing Student?

Nursing school is going to test you and challenge you. As noted above, there are some major academic challenges as it seeks to improve your knowledge and your critical thinking skills. But nursing school is more than an academic test.

There is a major emotional element here and you'll need a strong constitution and a good support system if you want to make it through. You'll be tired. You'll feel overworked. You may even question if you're doing the right thing and if you have what it takes.

Nursing students are prone to burnout as a great strain is placed on their mental and physical health. It's definitely not a walk in the park.

To make it through, be sure to monitor your health, practice self-care, get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and make time for your friends and loved ones.

Is the First Year of Nursing School Hard?

The first year of nursing school is tough for some and easy for others. It depends on how quickly you adapt to the nursing school schedule, one that can involve a lot of work and unique critical thinking skills.

The transition is the hardest part, as you'll be moving from standard education to nursing education, one that is more taxing and focuses less on basic textbook learning.

What Do I Need to Buy to Prepare for Nursing School?

You'll be required to purchase textbooks, a stethoscope, and scrubs. You may also need mobile apps, charting programs, comfortable shoes, and reference materials.

Is Nursing School Hard to Pass?

Most nurses would describe nursing school as being incredibly difficult. Some have said that it's the hardest thing they have ever done. At the same time, however, some nurses have finished their nursing education without much issue.

It all comes down to your mindset, learning style, and your work ethic, as well as how comfortable you are with the work, schedule, and demands of a nursing program.

What is the Hardest Part of Nursing School?

The most challenging part of nursing school is learning how to think like a nurse. As noted above, it's not just about reciting textbooks and following memorized procedures.

The constant study is also something that many nursing students struggle with. You'll get used to pulling all-nighters while studying material that can seem daunting, confusing, and overwhelming.

How Can I Prepare for Nursing School?

To make sure you're adequately prepared for your first semester of nursing school, take a look at the following tips:

Check the Nursing Exam Study Guide

Keep a study guide to hand, as it will help you to form your study around the NCLEX test. It won't tell you everything that you need to know, and you'll still need to pay close attention in your nursing classes, but it'll ensure you're better prepared on the day of your exam.

2. Discover Your Preferred Learning Style

What learning style suits you best? Are you a visual learner or do you prefer audio and text? Find the style that helps you to best understand/retain the material and use it as much as you can.

3. Think About The Why and Not the What

To acquire a nursing degree, you must have a clear understanding of diseases, diagnoses, and treatments. It's not just about "what" action is needed but "why" that action is important.

4. Create a Study Group

It helps to have someone with whom you can trade ideas and study methods, someone who can help you to understand concepts and ideas you haven't fully grasped.

Nursing students learn more and retain more when they join study groups. It could also help with your social life and ensure you have some much-needed support. This is especially important during your first semester of nursing school, which can be the loneliest and most challenging of all.

5. Don't Cram

You think clearer and work better when you're wide awake and alert. If you do all of your studying when you're half-asleep, hungover, hungry, or just incredibly bored after hours of work, you won't digest any of the information.

Spread your study across the week. Do a little every day. That way, you'll maximize your study time and won't feel as overwhelmed.

6. Use Your Downtime To Study

You need some time to work on your personal life and ensure that you rest, play, and socialize. But you could also use this time to further immerse yourself in your studies.

Learn medical terminology by placing flashcards around your room. Watch documentaries on medical conditions. Read books with a medical theme. You'll already be immersed in healthcare, so these topics will probably interest you anyway.

7. Sleep and Rest

There's no point spending 30-straight hours studying only to nap for 2 hours and then start all over again. You need sleep to process what you've learned. Without it, you may as well be writing lines on a chalkboard in that it feels like work, but nothing is retained.

Sleep is also important for your mental health and physical health.

Summary: What is Nursing School Like?

In 2020, there were over 250,000 enrollees to baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States, a small increase on the previous year.

The pandemic inspired some people to make a difference and embark on this honorable career, but it also increased the rate of nursing burnout and saw many experienced practitioners walk away from the profession.

As a result, the United States is still in the midst of a nursing shortage and it's relying on the next generation of nursing students to keep the healthcare system ticking over.

Nursing school is hard. It's stressful, and it will challenge you in new and unique ways. But it's also a rewarding career path with a good salary and lots of opportunities for progression.

It'll all be worth it in the end.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you