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So You Want to Be a Nurse?
Are you cut out to be a nurse? Wondering how hard nursing school is? What are the nursing school prerequisites, and do they matter?
If you are asking yourself these questions, we can help! NURSING.com is a team of nurses that have been there and know the pain.
How Hard is Nursing School . . . REALLY?
Being a nursing major is a little different than other majors. I’m not saying the other majors are a walk in the park, but.. nursing school is more like having a baby. Nine months of nausea, vomiting, and sleepless nights culminate into one stressful event, and then, in the end, you wonder why the hell you did it in the first place!
Many college courses consist of exams and papers and maybe a lab or two thrown into the mix. Nursing school consists of many different deadlines and exams to keep straight for each course!
Managing your time is essential to being successful in nursing school. You must be very purposeful with your time – including your time off.
Things nursing students have to juggle include:
Large and small exams
Skills check off
Very large reading assignments
Learning how to take nursing school exams (the dreaded “select all that apply” questions and multiple-choice questions with all right answers but you have to select the most correct answer)
Learning about nursing research and understanding evidence-based practice
Learning how to write in APA format
Learning medical terminology all while trying to understand the flow and culture of various health care facilities
As you can see, there is a lot to try and keep straight. This is easier for some than others. Some people go into nursing as a second career and have many other life commitments and the aforementioned items.
Others are solely focused on school. Others have some life commitments but are able to focus mainly on nursing. Dealing with all of the demands of nursing school will look different for everyone.
NURSING.com Resources for all Learning Styles
To fill the gap in learning styles we have created free resources that address nearly every learning style. While nursing school may still be hard, we are on the mission to make it easier to learn by creating resources that match your needs:
Here are a few of our resources (click to learn more):
Which nursing school you attend is a personal choice for everyone. There are things to consider that will direct your decision.
Some examples of things to consider:
Money. Not all nursing schools cost the same. You need to look at trending tuition increases and credits per hour.
LPN vs. RN and ADN vs. BSN: This is a personal preference. Sometimes people choose one over the other for money purposes. Taking the LPN to RN route can cost you less upfront but more over time, same with ADN to BSN route. It just depends on what you can do now.
Accreditation: Is this school accredited. A school can lose its accreditation, so you should know if it has ever lost its accreditation.
One of the biggest things to consider, however, is NCLEX pass rates! Each school tracks this information, and they have a pass rate. This is very important. I wouldn’t even consider a nursing school with low pass rates.
Nursing students do not need to have the best of the best stethoscope. However, this could be looked at as an investment. A stethoscope is something you will likely use for the rest of your nursing career, so if you can afford it, get a better stethoscope.
The first semester by far is the hardest. This is because you are learning all the nuances of nursing school and studying and taking nursing-style tests.
It is different than any other type of schooling you have done so far. Each semester will give new challenges, but the first semester is the most shocking to endure.
The sheer amount of reading alone is overwhelming every semester. Still, like any good nursing student, you don’t know what is important and what is not in the first semester, so you attempt to read everything, and you end up successful. Still, you can’t remember everything, or you are unsuccessful and only know some of it.
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) will review multiple factors to determine if a school should be accredited. Check out their mission, purpose and goals page here: ACEN Mission, Purpose and Goals/
The thing about nursing school is unnecessarily stressful. Having that said, the stress comes from a few things:
Too much information. You are given thousands of pages to read for assignment before you come to a lecture. Then they test you on about 10-20% of what you hopefully could read, plus the lecture. Every day assignments are basically to find the needle in the haystack.
This is hands-on learning in addition to lecture learning. Clinicals are a major part of nursing school. It can be stressful to be assigned a patient where you need to make sure you accomplish your assignment to-do list while balancing a pleasing act between your clinical instructor and the nurse who actually has the patient. There was often disagreement between the two in my experience.
Nurses eat their young. It is catty and unnecessary but very much so a part of nursing school culture.
OPINIONS. The reality is that many of the ways that nursing is practiced are a preference. I’m not saying all things, but I am saying that many, many, many of the things are. Instructors/professors believe staunchly that their opinion is the only way. You could take an exam question to all of your professors and ask them to answer it, and chances are you will get multiple answers with different rationales as to why they are choosing that answer for the same question… Now you have to take an exam and think, “What would this professor do or think about this?”.See the dilemma? It’s real, and it’s really stressful.
Those are just a few reasons, but millions of nursing students don’t think this way for a few reasons. Check out our post that elaborates on how hard nursing school is and the stressors that can get in the way:
Nursing school is HARD. You are about to be responsible for people’s lives, and you better be prepared! However, it can be too hard for no reason at all. It is almost a strange school of thought where you have to work hard for answers, and in the end, you learn the answer the same way you would have if you didn’t have to sludge through piles of mud to get it.
I want to be very clear here: I am not advocating that we do everything the easy way. I am advocating for a reason to do it the hard way. For example, Little Suzy asks, “ What is the name of the wrap you put on a patient’s broken arm that isn’t a cast yet?” and the teacher tells you to “look it up.” (eye roll hardddddd) Really? Yes, I have been told this with a rationale that I would be able to find things quicker and more efficiently on my own if I practice looking it up… OR we could try an alternative ending: The teacher replies, “Oh, yes, in chapter 20 we discussed splints that we place on extremities with broken bones to allow for swelling before placing a cast. Does anyone have an idea what we would be worried about if a cast were placed first and major swelling occurred?” Boom. Answer plus a resource to look up the answer if you would like and an exercise in critical thinking.
Another reason nursing school is hard is that you are being molded and shaped for taking one big, huge test that is very hard itself… And it is a test written by the people cut from the same cloth as your professors.
Check out more information on the NRSNG.com teams thoughts on how hard nursing school is:
Because you need to have the equipment to practice nursing, such as a stethoscope, and you need to have books written by people who would also like to get paid for their time writing the millions of billions of pages in their books. You should belong to the student nurses association and pay for a prep course because the schooling itself wasn’t satisfactory enough to boost the school’s pass rates.
It is expensive because it takes a lot of your time. In my opinion, time is money, so taking a lot of my time is costly to me.
And lastly, it is expensive because of many of the surprise fees that they throw at you. Like “Surprise! You will need the simulation package to participate in class tomorrow. It is only $40, please have purchased this and signed in, as well as taken the 20 intro quizzes by tomorrow. Thank you.” You go home; it is indeed $40… if you are a member, the non-member fee is $60, Oh and they didn’t tell you about it before signing up for nursing school, it was added last night and needs to be purchased by tomorrow, or you get a zero for points in class… and trust me, you need every point because A’s are now a thing of the past. You are now a proud passing 75% student who will be at 73% (AKA not passing) without those class participation points.
You can try to avoid surprise expenses by checking out our ultimate list of things you must have for nursing school:
This is a loaded question, on the one hand, it helps to weed out people who are less serious or not cut out for the academic aspect of nursing; on the other hand, it makes very little sense having people who are supposed to be strongly suited in passion/caring AND intelligence to learn disease pathways and pharmacology be only judged on their ability to perform as an academic.
I don’t personally know what the right way to go about the selection process is. I feel like the measurements didn’t really equate to good nursing abilities…
Anyway, the reality of having an academically strong nurse has proven to provide safer patient care with fewer negative outcomes (as evidenced by some of the following articles: Here and here). This means that having more education is correlated with nursing care and makes a difference. So I, for one, am thankful for having nursing school be tough to get into.
If you are reading this because you did not get into nursing school, check out our post here:
Nursing school is not only hard to complete, but it is also hard to get into. The difficulty of getting into nursing school allows for nursing schools to pick from the top applicants. You need to be both great academically AND be unique enough to draw attention to your application.
Once you are in nursing school, the bar is set higher. Some classes are curved, so even if you did well, you have to do better than enough people to pass. This isn’t always the case.
The other thing that you have to keep in mind is that people who have worked their tail off to get into nursing school are likely high-performing, competitive, type-A personalities anyway, so to cluster a bunch of these people together makes for a very competitive environment.
This can be hard, especially if you are not a competitive person. And even if you are a competitive person, burning the candle at both ends is hard on anyone so if you are getting frazzled, read our post on making it through: Before You Think About Quitting Nursing School
Pride, a sense of accomplishment, the ability to make a difference, you touch people’s lives on a whole new level… I could go on. Really. I LOVE what I do for a living.
Let’s be real with each other, you can make a solid income with benefits and vacation days, which you can count on. I lived in a touristy area where I was given 4-5 months out of the year to make enough income to last me the rest of the year. I also love being able not to live paycheck to paycheck. You will not get rich being a nurse, but you will be able to support yourself, and to me, that is all I need.
Depends on the program you are doing, the time frame you have selected, and what type of obstacles are present along the way. Most people don’t realize that you need to do prerequisites before you even get into nursing school. So that 3-year nursing program just became 5 years when you count the 2 years of prerequisites you need to take. This all depends on the path you choose. Deciding which path to take can be difficult.
This is school dependant. But mostly, it is scheduled just like a course in your school classes with the location TBA. They usually aren’t able to provide a placement until the first week of school.
Once you have received your placement, you go will meet with your clinical instructor and other classmates in that clinical (usually 6-8 total classmates). The instructor will go over the type of floor and patients you will be having, the syllabus, and get any special paperwork filled out that the hospital is requesting or badges that they need you to have. Check out this post on things you must bring to clinical: 7 Things to Always Bring to Nursing School
Each day you go to clinical, you will be assigned a patient load, usually starting with one and moving to two later on in nursing school. As you learn things in your skills labs, you are given more to do with the patients. It usually starts as bed baths and vital signs, progressing to passing medications and inserting foleys. The level of paperwork progresses, too… which brings me to care plans.
The ever-dreaded care plans. You will write many of these—more than you care ever to write. You will hate them more than burning the roof of your mouth on pizza cheese and painfully eating for the following 3 days. But guess what? We got you covered. Check out the post we created that is us checking the temperature of your pizza before you tragically burn your mouth: Writing a Nursing care Plan.
It isn’t just nursing school that changes you, it’s being a nurse too. Seriously, the world is not the same afterward. I will click on someone’s Facebook article they have posted that is supposed to sway my opinion on something very intense and look at the article’s author before reading it. I want to know what qualifications they have, what resources they used, and if I would consider placing them in my APA paper.
Everyone is different. If you want me to be completely honest, I was fired up about the nonsense nursing school brought. I looked at other nursing students with compassion and sympathy afterward. I wanted to change nursing education to practice what they preach. If you preach compassion, teach it through example.
The largest component that I think changes in your ability to study. Nursing school is a completely different animal than any other school. I truly believe that the nature of surviving nursing school gives you the ability to excel in other areas of study.
Making nursing school your number one priority is a great way to get through nursing school… However, I challenge you to consider working as a patient care tech or nurse’s aide because the stuff you learn in school is easier when experiencing it in real life. Having that said, I didn’t have a job for most of my nursing school experience and made it through just fine.
Loans will be a bit heavier, and your budget will be a bit tighter (unless money isn’t a problem. If so, send some my way!). I had a girl in my cohort who did odd jobs to make money while in school. She did many research projects, especially for people trying to get their Ph.D.; they can budget to pay people to participate in their research. She also picked up jobs such as babysitting and walking dogs. There are plenty of ways to make a small amount to keep your head above water while you devote your life to nursing school.
You will still need to keep a schedule to accomplish everything, and you will still need to have relaxation time. So don’t think because you can focus solely on the school that you should just study all day.
You can work for a hospital with tuition reimbursement. Most hospitals require you to put in a year before they give you access to the reimbursement programs. You also may have to sign a contract that you will work for them for a period of time. Make sure you look into the rules of these reimbursement programs.
You can save money and pay for it that way. Duh. Sounds easy, right? I think this is the hardest option because something ALWAYS comes up. You total your car, and a tree falls on your house, you break your leg. Life happens all the time, and saving money can be hard. Get a financial advisor who can look at your finances and make a plan for you. You may be able to invest some of the money in a government bond or if you are good at investing, there are lots of options.
You can stretch out the schooling over a period of time to make it less money upfront. This can be painful because the end goal becomes really, really, far away. But it can be helpful because you are less stressed. Say maybe you take 2 classes a semester rather than 5, you could work during the school year to pay for it as you go.
You can apply for scholarships (I personally found these hard to obtain, but it is possible!). The reality is that there are so many scholarships out there it is hard NOT to find one you are eligible for… But this can sometimes take a lot of dedication. You may need to write papers or participate in certain activities to obtain these scholarships. One of the girls in my cohort paid for most of her school this way, so I know it can be done.
This is not a thing. You will use algebra in your nursing practice every day. If you can’t do algebra, what makes you want to give medication without making sure it is the right dosage? I double-check my dosages on every single patient. Because this is the safest thing to do. I personally don’t like respiratory secretions, but I have to deal with them, learn about them, and treat them every day. Get comfortable with math. Hire a tutor, make games out of it. Just don’t shut down and say you can’t do the math. You can. Check out our course on Mathematics for help with Nursing Math.
This can be difficult because you will likely need to travel to get to the clinicals. Carpooling is one option. Uber, Lyft, or Zipcar could also be an option. Depending on where you live, a bicycle could be an option.
Nursing school is overwhelming. I’m not saying most people feel that way. I am saying all people feel that way. So you can take the edge off a little by preparing for nursing school. Check out this post on prepping for nursing school: Prepare for Nursing Clinical
But if you have already started nursing school and think that the information is too much, you will never know all of this. You need to know the absolute must-know stuff… check out our academy, it is legit the no fluff, to the point information. I’m not biased or anything 😉 but I think it is the most efficient way to supplement your education and get what you need to know.
Dory says it best when she sings, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Because this is what you need to do to survive, plan ahead as much as you can and let some things go. By this I mean, you studied 8/10 topics for your exam and can either stay up all night trying to study the other 2 topics, or you can sleep… The answer is to sleep and let the other 2 topics go. I do not mean to say to plan only to study 8/10 topics. I mean to say that if you only get 8/10 studied, respect your boundaries and give yourself some room to be human.
Plan your study times. Play to your strengths. For example, if you are better at learning in a group, get a group of people together for studying. Make the best of your time; for example, carry flashcards to the DMV, load podcasts to play when driving, type your notes, and use color-coding to keep topics separate.
Reading for nursing school is a large undertaking. Sometimes the best thing to do for this is to read by heading and stop to summarize what you just read and highlight as little as possible. If possible, create a typed outline of what you are reading and put bare-bones information in it, then when you go to a lecture, you can add to it.
Here is our compilation of blog posts on study hacks:
Depending on the school that you are going to, you may have to take TEAS, or you may have to take HESI. Find out which one is required for the school you are going to apply for. Each test has study guides out there. I highly recommend this as you will be tested on things that you forgot you knew and need to brush up on.
Many nursing schools require you to pass with a certain percentage, and you may have to wait a certain time period to retake the test if you didn’t do so well plus, that will be another expense.
ATI is the company that administers the TEAS test. Here is their website: TEAS
The HESI is another test, here is information about their test: HESI
The first thing I want to point out is you will always write better, more compelling essays if you write about things you know about. The second part of writing better essays is to be passionate about what you are writing about. Some topics include:
Why I want to become a nurse
A time I experienced being in a hospital and the impact nurses had
A family member being cared for by nursing and how the nurse made a difference
I come from a family of health care providers, here is my personal experience
Nursing school personal statements are similar to an entrance essay. However, it needs to include more direct information in a shorter amount of words. It needs to include why you want to become a nurse, what has influenced you, what about you is unique, and your experience.
With any writing, create an outline first, fill in areas of the outline with stuff you want to say, work on the transitions of each area, then edit it down to the meat and bones. Also, a major resource for writing is Purdue OWL. I love this site and use it every time I write.
As long as you pass your classes, the grade you receive doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many questions you get on the NCLEX either. Passing is passing, and as Vin Diesel says, “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning.”
Once you pass the NCLEX and have those two letters after your name, nothing else matters. The school you attended, the grades you received, the class you had to retake… Does not matter. It will not affect the type of job you can get; it will not change the positions you can apply for or work in. It legitimately does not matter.
The reason is that the state you live in may not register you as a nurse with a criminal charge; thus, the nursing school would be doing you a great disservice if they let you spend your money on a useless degree. The first thing to do is to read up on your state’s nurse practice act. Then check with the school you are applying to. And most importantly, stay out of trouble!
No. I actually started with a girl who got pregnant, and she went to school right up till her delivery, then took a year off, starting back where she left off in school. It is possible, but it depends on your school and its rules as well as personal preference. Another girl I was in school with, who was also pregnant, gave birth to her baby right after taking an exam and was back at clinical the following week.
Make sure that you plan ahead and talk to the school of nursing administration. They need to know your plans to give birth and return to school and potential other situations such as the baby coming early or putting on bed rest.
Being pregnant in nursing school is not ideal, but it is not the end of the world, and it is possible to get through it.
This is a deep question. First, I would like to take the time to say that depression is caused by changes in brain chemistry and is usually not a result of one particular event. Depression is an illness and needs to be treated medically, both physically and mentally.
Events that happen in nursing school can lead to one feeling depressed. There is a lot of lateral violence, bullying, and a general feeling of inadequacy during nursing school. It is hard not to let it get you down. If you are prone to depression, you should keep your family and friends on the lookout and keep your counselor in the loop. If you do not have a counselor, you need to get one. Mental health is super important and can cause you bigger issues, especially when trying to make it through nursing school.
If you don’t keep your mind healthy, you won’t have the capacity to run it ragged, learning everything you need to for nursing school.
It is a possibility, it just depends on the rules of the school you are attending and their admission process.
I do caution this, though. If you have a hard time with anatomy and physiology, you will have a hard time with nursing school. They expect you to know the anatomy and physiology already, so if you don’t, you will struggle.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Maybe you get A&P, but the teacher was a nutty professor… I get it. You could have a C for many reasons; be sure that you are ready for the topics in nursing where they don’t review the basics; they jump into the next level.
No. It really doesn’t. In some professions, it matters, but in nursing, it does not matter when it comes to getting a job. Now it might matter when considering the quality of education you would like to receive. But the main thing to consider when choosing a nursing school is their pass rate for the NCLEX. If they have a poor pass rate, that doesn’t do you much good to have a degree in nursing without a license to practice it.
It doesn’t have to. But many people do gain weight. I gained 45 pounds. I will repeat the because it sounds fabricated… I gained FORTY-FIVE pounds. Yup. Don’t do what I did.
It is important to focus on mental and physical health while in nursing school. You can take the time to walk on the treadmill while doing flashcards. You can study with a partner while lifting weights. You can listen to podcasts, lectures, or recorded reading of your textbook while taking a jog.
Pack healthy meals, meal prep, be conscious of your calorie intake. Get a friend to do this with.
Make it a priority because gaining weight is too easy, and you will be fighting to lose the weight afterward for a while (unless you are a dude in his early 20’s).
Why Be a Nurse?
There are many reasons you may want to become a nurse. Whether you have a family member who is a nurse or you like the pay, it is safe to say that all walks of life congregate in the nursing field.
Not surprisingly, these questions will become a theme throughout your nursing school experience and career. Answers can vary, and there really isn’t a “wrong” answer. The most common reason why someone wants to become a nurse usually results from an encounter with another nurse who has touched their life. (link to a nurse is there)
But no matter if you like the medical field or want to feel like you made a difference, the reason is only part of your decision. Considering the nursing school, the prerequisites, the lifestyle, etc., can become overwhelming. NRSNG is here to help break this down for you.
What is Your Path to Nursing?
Which path is for me?
You might think that after deciding that you want to become a nurse, it’s as easy as just picking a school. However, there are quite a few different paths to actually becoming a nurse. How hard is nursing school? That will depend on many different things. There are different degrees you can obtain to get those two beautiful RN letters after your name.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN): An LPN is not a registered nurse but is similar. As an LPN, you provide more basic care to patients (bathing, vitals, administering meds, and so forth). You can obtain this degree in as little as 12 months, and then you must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to obtain your license. LPN’s report to RN’s and physicians. Many LPN’s work in the outpatient or nursing home setting as most hospitals do not routinely employ LPN’s to provide the majority of direct patient care.
Associates Degree in Nursing/Associates of Science in Nursing (ADN/ASN): This is a 2-year degree in nursing obtained at a community college. After completing this vigorous course work, you must pass the NCLEX examination to practice. After graduating with your ADN/ASN and passing the NCLEX, you are a Registered Nurse (RN). If done full time, this takes approximately 2 full years. This is the fastest and cheapest way to become an RN.
In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report recommending that 80% of the profession of nursing be bachelor’s prepared. Read the full report here. Research shows that hospitals that employ more BSN-prepared nurses have better outcomes. Read the studies that support that here. Therefore, if you’re an ADN/ASN-prepared nurse, it’s going to be harder to get a job than if you were a BSN-prepared nurse as many hospitals and health care systems are trying to comply with these recommendations.
Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN): This is a 4-year degree obtained at a college or university. You still take the same NCLEX board examination that the ADN/ASN graduate takes, but you would have BSN, RN after your name instead of ADN/ASN, RN. The BSN degree will enable you to graduate school immediately and be more marketable, as many hospitals are looking at hiring mostly BSN-prepared nurses.
RN to BSN bridge programs: These programs are offered to people that have their ADN/ASN and want to obtain their BSN. Some of these programs are offered completely online, some in class, and some are online and in class. The length of these programs can vary. You can obtain your ADN/ASN, start working as an RN, then complete an RN to BSN program while working. Some employers may offer tuition reimbursement, so if you plan appropriately, this can be the most cost-effective avenue to obtaining a BSN.
Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (ABSN): This is an option for someone who already has a bachelor’s degree in any field. You just need to have the appropriate nursing prerequisite courses. They are roughly 18 months long and incredibly intense. The only courses in this program are the nursing core courses.
Direct-Entry Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Accelerated MSN: This degree is for someone who already has a bachelor’s degree in another field. Upon completing the program, they will have both their RN licensure and their Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). It is a long and rigorous course schedule, and many programs require you to choose a specialty upon application, which can be difficult to do if you’re not sure which area of nursing you’d like to go into.
What is the NCLEX?
The NCLEX is your nursing board exam. It is a comprehensive computerized exam. It’s anywhere from 75-265 questions, and you have up to 6 hours to take the exam.
You take the test and a few days later will find out if you passed or not. Once you pass this exam, you are officially a registered nurse! If you do not pass, you must wait 45 days before you can test again and test no more than 8 times a year (unless your specific state indicates otherwise).
To sit for this exam, you must graduate from a nursing school, register with the appropriate state board of nursing (wherever you plan to practice as a nurse), and register for the exam.
Which school is for me? Many factors come into play when deciding which nursing school is best for you. These factors include cost, location, the timing of schedule, degree, current educational level, first-time NCLEX pass rates, and accreditation.
What do you mean by first-time NCLEX pass rate?
The NCLEX pass rate is the percent of program graduates that pass boards on the first try. This is important to know! You want to know what percent of each graduating class is passing boards the first time around because if their graduates pass boards on the first try, that means they were adequately prepared. (ADD PASS RATES BLOG POST) You can find this information on the state board of nursing website (just Google ____________ board of nursing to find their websites).
What do you mean by accreditation? Basically, your nursing school must be accredited by the appropriate accrediting body to say, “Yes, this school provides education under a nationwide standard for nursing.”
If you ever want to go to graduate school, you must graduate from an accredited nursing school. Many employers will only hire nurses that have graduated from an accredited program.
The two accrediting bodies for ADN/BSN programs in the United States are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
When choosing a program, it’s important to know if the school is accredited and when their accreditation expires. (Will the accreditation expire / will they be going through the renewal process during your time there?) You never know what the future may hold, so it’s a good idea to go to an already accredited school, so you don’t have to worry about it in the future.
Nursing School Prerequisites
At NURSING.com our goal is to develop an army of nurses capable and knowledgeable enough to care for the most complex patients in any setting.
There are a handful of nursing school prerequisites that nearly every nursing program in the country is going to require you to take. These include:
Microbiology (1 semester with lab)
Anatomy(1 semester with lab)
Physiology (1 semester with lab)
Chemistry (1 or 2 semesters with lab)
Life Span Development (Developmental Psychology) (1 semester)
Statistics (1 semester)
Many schools will also require TEAS and HESI exams as a requirement for entrance.
While different schools will have minor differences in other prerequisites, these are the ones that are generally common across all programs and the ones that you should focus your energy on and ensure that you perform well in.
Recently, a nursing professor told us that her program would not even consider students with a C in any of the above classes.
Do Nursing Prerequisites Matter?
A common question we are often asked by pre-nursing students is . . . “Why do I have to take all these classes . . . what do they have to do with nursing?”
Before becoming a nurse, I asked myself the same question . . . “Why should I care about Chemistry to be a nurse?”
Let me give you two reasons why you should focus on your nursing school prerequisites and strive to learn all you can from them.
Your acceptance into nursing school depends on it
They are the foundation of everything you do as a nurse
First of all, you will have a hard time getting into ANY nursing school if you don’t do well in the above classes.
One of my pet peeves is hearing nurses tell pre-nursing students that they don’t REALLY need to know anything from their prereq courses or that they just need to pass them and forget them . . . or worse yet . . . C’s get degrees.
So let’s discuss WHY each of these classes is vital to your career as a nurse.
(I am going to list each course and discuss how it applies to nursing.)
Did you know that some antibiotics only work on gram-negative bacteria?
Do you know what a gram-negative bacteria is?
Did you know that the phospholipid bilayer of the cell plays a critical role in cellular structure?
Does the word “Kreb’s Cycle” make you Kreb your pants a little bit? Just a little?
I will be the first to admit that I did NOT enjoy taking Microbiology as a prerequisite to nursing school . . . either time (yes, I had to take it twice after getting a D the first time).
However, understanding the cell, its structure, and its vital role in the body is central to understanding how the human body works.
Now that I have been a nurse for several years, I honestly wish I could rewind the clock and take Micro one more time . . . in fact, I am currently reading a book on Cellular Biology . . . for FUN!
Please take this class seriously. It will pay enormous dividends in the long run.
Anatomy and Physiology
Seriously . . . this is possibly one of the most important courses you will take during your nursing education.
Once you take A&P in your nursing prereqs you will never cover human anatomy again in as much depth. Most nursing schools require pathophysiology, and it’s hard to understand the abnormal human anatomy and physiology if you don’t understand normal human anatomy and physiology.
By the time you take MedSurg in nursing school, you will be expected to know what an osteoclast is and why it matters to a patient with osteoporosis.
Understanding the functions of the liver well before you learn how to care for a cirrhosis patient or learn to interpret a BUN (yes, BUN on a liver patient) will pay massive dividends in the long run.
Chem plays a key role in pharm and general physiology within the body.
Did you know that Acid-Base Balance is driven largely by hydrogen?
If you understand the properties of hydrogen and how it functions with the body, your ability to understand what is really happening with your patient multiplies exponentially.
This applies to general chem principles . . .in the end, the human body, is just a heap of atoms.
Make Chemistry a major focus in your nursing school prerequisites.
This course can be an easy one to gloss over.
It seems irrelevant when you look at what a nurse does all day.
However, if a manager suggests that every nurse needs to start wearing polkadot scrubs because she saw an article about it . . . how would you respond?
This is a ridiculous example, but understanding Statistics helps you learn how to look at data and draw APPROPRIATE conclusions analytically.
Not only does this play a key role in looking at and analyzing nursing research, but it helps you on the path to critical thinking . . . which is so important in nursing.
Are you able to draw relevant conclusions when looking at mounds of data?
What I want to point out to you is that nursing schools nationwide haven’t just tossed a bunch of difficult classes at the wall and said . . . “everybody takes these” . . .
The prerequisites required for nursing school are carefully selected, and each one plays an important part in your knowledge base as a nurse.
Don’t brush these courses off . . . focus on gaining all the information you can from each one and draw the connections you can to real-life nursing.
Nursing school is hard, and these courses will help you in preparing for the gauntlet.
Set Yourself Apart
The truth is that you and EVERYONE else will be vying for an acceptance letter to nursing school. So what can you do to stand out?
Filling prerequisites is the basic part of getting into nursing school. People who go above and beyond stand out, but they are also more prepared for nursing school and transition better into nurses.
Start with getting your Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. Anyone can get this, and it is such a key part in getting to the next step.
So what is the next step?
Getting a medically-based certification.
For example, you can get certified as a nurse assistant (CNA), patient care technician (PCT), or emergency medical technician (EMT). Many EMTs end up getting their paramedic’s license, which is a great way to get more comfortable with autonomy.
Have you already applied for nursing school?
This is where you need to get involved and start to network. Start with the student nurses association (SNA) at your prospective school. E-mail the President of the SNA and ask for any opportunities to volunteer or participate in community service.
Introduce yourself to the people who make the acceptance decisions. Including…
The dean of nursing
The director of the school of nursing
The associate directors of the school of nursing
You can do this through social media such as LinkedIn, e-mailing them, or by just going to their offices and saying, “Hi, my name is….”
Are you still in high school?
Take college courses (like the prerequisites listed above), or get AP credit through your high school. AP credits show that you are a motivated individual and can handle learning at a higher level because, let’s face it, nursing school is HARD.
Alrighty . . . so really, how hard is nursing school? Each of us at NRSNG had different things going on in our lives when we went through nursing school.
Nursing NEVER crossed my mind until I was 26 years old. I debated between Medical School and Physician Assistant School when a buddy of mine (who was in Medical School) introduced me to CRNA.
After some research, I was intrigued by the schedule and salary of CRNA. After being accepted into an ADN program, I decided not to pursue nursing after all and completed a degree in Business Management instead.
One week into my first job in the “business world,” I discovered that I was NOT cut out for it.
I later applied and was accepted into a private Accelerated BSN program for people with a previous bachelor’s degree.
When the 18 month BSN program started, my wife was 7 months pregnant, I was 29 years old, we had moved 1,300 miles away from family to attend, we knew no one in town, and I was sure I would fail out!
Nursing school was tough and stressful at the time. We had no money, and I kept seeing the student loans climbing higher and higher.
When I wasn’t home with our newborn child, I was at the school studying my butt off to reach my goal. Classes were crammed into short semesters, I kept seeing members of my classes dropping or failing out, and we had several professors who didn’t seem to care about teaching us.
By the time I finished school, we were over $60,000 in debt, and I had no job. Yes, nursing school is hard and stressful, but I am glad I did it.
I had my Associate’s degree in applied art and science from a community college, which allowed me to skip most of the prerequisites. I still had to take microbiology, organic chemistry, A&P, and other classes, but I could get general education out of the way.
I was married without children while going through nursing school, and honestly, my husband was my rock for so much of what I needed. Most times, nursing school advice says that you will be non-existent to your family, and even though that is true, I still had someone to pick me up, cheer me on, and push me to the finish line.
At first, I was able to do school full time and not work during school. I am thankful that while I learned how to be a nursing student, I wasn’t working. However, I was strongly encouraged to get a job as a patient care technician (PCT) and in the pediatric emergency department at the local hospital. This made a difference for me. I learned more than the books or professors could ever teach me, and things started to make more sense.
Despite not having children, a job, or financial concerns, I found nursing school hard. I struggled with concepts and I was constantly overwhelmed. What made me really mad is that it did not need to be this way. I felt like the nursing instructors made concepts confusing and tried to scare you. They would assign unbelievable amounts of reading and paperwork and then be smug if you got a question wrong that was hidden in the pile of information they gave you.
I was 19 when I started my pre-nursing courses. I was in a relationship with my now-husband (John), but I didn’t have any other major life commitments outside of college athletics. I took the pre-nursing coursework at community college while I played basketball there at the same time. I obtained my Associate’s in Applied Science and then transferred to a BSN program about 3.5 hours away from home. I attempted to do my nursing coursework and play basketball at my BSN program at the same time. That only lasted a semester. I was totally overwhelmed with the constant workouts and traveling to games hours away with early clinicals the next morning. I quit basketball to focus on nursing. John and I broke up around that time as well. I obtained my CNA license, got a part-time job at a local nursing home, and worked for a semester doing nursing school. That ended up being just as stressful as playing basketball and nursing school, and I only did that for a semester. During the last two years of nursing school, I focused on my coursework and volunteered as a tutor for pre-nursing students and at the local middle school. By the time I got around to my senior year nursing school commitments, John had proposed, and we were planning a wedding and a marriage, maintaining our long-distance relationship, and trying to finish up nursing school and land a job. I interviewed for jobs in April, graduated from school in May, tested in June, got married in July, and started my first nursing job in August.
It was quite the whirlwind.
While I didn’t have kids, a mortgage, or a marriage to try to balance during school, I still had quite a few commitments/stressors going on in my life. I was your traditional college-aged student in my nursing class. About half of us were traditional students, and the other half were not. I felt like the professors, clinical instructors, and patients took the non-traditional students more seriously because they were older and experienced life a bit more than myself and some of my classmates. I tried not to take on more than I could handle but made some mistakes along the way. Nursing school was very stressful itself, and it was hard to learn the balance between what was manageable to take on and my schooling. Looking back, I would have made some different decisions to try to alleviate as much life stress as possible during school because the nursing school itself was very overwhelming without all of the other distractions.
Tips to Make Nursing School Less Hard
Is nursing school hard? – YES.
But is it worth it? – HELL YES!
The fact that the journey to RN is so hard should not deter you. In fact, it should motivate you to accomplish your goal.
At NURSING.com, we are here to help you on the path.
Self Confidence – on the first day of nursing school (or maybe before the program even starts), all the students that will be attending with you (your “COHORTS”) will gather in a room. Nursing professors and possibly the Dean of the program will stand up and tell you horror stories about how hard the program is, how many people will fail out, and how you will have to give up your entire life. While this may all be true, I want you to do one thing for me . . . look around the room and realize that you were accepted into the program. It is NOT an accident that you are sitting in that seat. As humans, we oftentimes like to think poorly of ourselves . . . that somehow everyone else in the room is more prepared for nursing school. Don’t do this!
How Do You Learn – everybody learns differently? Are you a visual or an auditory learner? Understanding HOW you learn is just as or possibly MORE important than studying material. You can begin to focus your energy on studying via your optimal learning method. To help you uncover how you learn take the VARK Questionnaire HERE.
– It’s never too early to start learning how to be a master of your time. One of my pet peeves is hearing people say, “I didn’t have time to get to it.” You ALWAYS have enough time to do what is important to you. Learning how to identify where you should focus your time will make your life a nurse easy peezy lemon squeezy. Here is what the process looks like for me. . . . I have a notebook where I write out EVERYTHING that I want to get done . . . and I mean EVERYTHING no matter how big or small. From there, I go into Google Calendar and start to plug those tasks into actual time slots. This ensures that rather than just having a general list of things to do, I have them plugged into space where I know I will have the time to take care of the task. Separating your tasks into “NOW,” “SOON,” and “SOMEDAY” tasks will also help you to keep your priorities focused. Also, understand that some assignments are just not as important as others . . . they aren’t. Anatomy and Physiology homework is more important than your assignment for your Underwater Basket Weaving course . . . one course will put you closer to becoming a nurse . . . and the other won’t!
Chill Out – One of the biggest strengths to a strong nurse is learning when to freak out . . . and most situations don’t require a freakout. Those nurses who learn how to put everything into perspective can calm an entire unit during a long and stressful 12-hour shift. This applies to nursing school too . . . I like to tell nurses that although it doesn’t feel like it, nursing school eventually ends, and you will become a nurse. Learning how to take a step back and look at the bigger picture will take you a long way in nursing.
One Point Isn’t Gonna Matter – There is something about nursing school that brings the grade grubber out of all of us. It is a highly competitive environment full of superior students, and it’s hard not to want that 1 extra point on a test or assignment. It’s important to learn how to pick your battles. In the end, what matters the most in nursing school is that you learn how to care for the patient . . . not whether or not you agree with a professor’s rationale in every instance. This may seem ridiculous right now, but trust me . . . when the time comes, you are going to have to bite your tongue to avoid fighting with a professor over semantics.
Turn Off – One of my favorite sayings is . . . . “A bow strung too tight will eventually break” . . . by this, I mean that if you do not allow yourself to relax and take your mind off nursing school . . . you will eventually snap. It would help if you found ways, friends, hobbies, etc . . . that allow you to forget about nursing at times completely. I was NOT good at this while in nursing school. In fact, I became so consumed by one professor that I eventually withdrew from my nursing program; you can read my story here.
Our entire mission with NURSING.com is to provide you with the confidence and tools that you need to succeed in nursing school, on the NCLEX®, and in your life as a nurse.