Is Nursing School Hard? 6 Challenges Nursing Students Face

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Is nursing school hard and what does nursing school consist of? Yes, nursing school is definitely challenging, given the difficult coursework and skills and simulation labs. Clinical rotations can also be hard, particularly during your first few shifts. However, choosing a supportive nursing program can help.

nursing students looking at a professor

Nursing is a meaningful profession, but becoming a registered nurse (RN) takes a strong work ethic. Is nursing school hard? What does nursing school consist of? Is the NCLEX hard? These questions are common for those interested in pursuing a nursing degree. We’ll talk you through the challenging components of nursing school so you can approach it knowing what to expect and how to succeed.

Accelerated nursing programs, such as Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, can feel incredibly challenging because of the condensed timeframe; have no fear, it is surmountable.

With hard work and good study habits, our students can thrive and go on to become excellent registered nurses. If you choose Marian University’s ABSN program, we will be with you every step of the way as you learn how to succeed in nursing school and earn your BSN in as little as 16 months.

So, how hard is nursing school, and what does nursing school consist of? Earning your BSN is challenging and can be stressful at times, but it is worth it. As a nurse, you will be able to spend your days doing life-changing work. Below is an explanation of the challenging aspects of nursing school.

1. Nursing Curriculum

In nursing school, you’ll discover that the material is the first reason why nursing school is so hard. Nursing education combines science and health knowledge with patient treatment and care. The nursing school curriculum teaches a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Health assessment
  • Community health
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Nutrition
  • Adult health
  • Mental health
  • Nursing research and informatics

These are some hefty topics, so it’s no surprise that nursing students find the adjustment to these courses challenging. There is a lot to know: from the side effects of medications and the symptoms of heart failure to the strategies of bedside patient care, which all take time and effort to understand and learn.

Marian University students sitting at desks studying

To facilitate your transition to nursing school, follow these nine things to do before you start.

2. Accelerated Learning Pace

If you enroll in an accelerated BSN program, the accelerated learning pace can make nursing school feel challenging. In traditional four-year BSN programs, students spend two or more years taking their nursing courses before diving into clinical rotations.

However, in accelerated BSN programs like the one at Marian University, that same amount of content and clinical experience is consolidated into 16 months. The classes move quickly, and keeping up with the pace is vital. The accelerated program also takes advantage of the summer semester, so you can expect to have classes year-round.

Although the accelerated timeline may leave you feeling a bit breathless at times, you might discover that it’s preferable. Compared to a four-year program, a 16-month program allows you to graduate far more quickly, sit for the NCLEX, and interview for your first nursing job in less time than a traditional nursing degree program.

This can also have a desirable effect on your finances, as you’ll likely be unable to work as a full-time nursing student.

Marian ABSN student using a laptop

3. Nursing School’s Skills Labs

Simulation and skills labs are an integral part of nursing school. These labs provide the ideal environment for students to develop tactile and patient care skills. You’ll practice assessing patients, taking vitals, inserting IVs and catheters, performing CPR, giving medications, and much more.

The labs are interactive and beneficial for preparing students for clinical practice. However, these labs pose another challenge.

You should prepare ahead of each lab and then practice specific skills repeatedly until you become confident. It’s important to be receptive to feedback from your instructors, as learning from your mistakes is a significant part of the nursing education process.

“At first, I worried I’d get there and not know how to change a bed or run an NG tube, but it’s not like that at all. You get practice,” says Amy Puckett, a Marian University ABSN graduate. “The skills labs are hands-on, plus the instructors are there with you. At first, they walk you through the scenario, but then it’s up to you to make sure you know how to apply the material.”

Marian ABSN students working with simulation manikin

Read more to learn why nursing simulation labs are important and what to expect.

4. Nursing Clinicals

Clinical rotations are often an enjoyable but intimidating part of nursing school and the ABSN curriculum. Students appreciate getting involved in nursing and learning in person alongside their preceptor.

However, gaining confidence within the ever-evolving, complicated world of healthcare can be challenging. You still have so much to learn, and being in clinicals can illuminate how much you don’t know.

This is one reason why the answer to the question, “Are nursing clinicals hard?” can be “Yes,” particularly when you’re doing your first or second rotation. However, you’ll likely feel more confident in your nursing skills with each passing day.

“The first clinical was overwhelming, but you have nurses who are working as your clinical instructors who are extremely supportive,” says Marian University ABSN graduate, Amy Harmon. “They want you to succeed and are always setting you up for success. They are never setting you up for failure.”

At Marian University’s ABSN, you will start clinicals partway through your first semester, so you will have time to get settled in. Then, once you start, you’ll get ample time to practice and become more comfortable with nursing responsibilities.

You’ll complete more than 700 hours of clinical rotations at either St. Vincent (for those enrolled in the Indianapolis program) or Saint Thomas Health (for those enrolled in the Nashville, Tennessee, program)—your first clinical focuses on the fundamentals of nursing.

Does nursing school prepare you? - Marian ABSN student working with sim manikin

Learn more about the value of clinical experiences for preparing you for the real world of nursing.

5. Time-Consuming Study Schedule

One of the more challenging aspects of nursing school is not the material itself but simply the time and energy it takes. Be patient with yourself as you figure out how to study for nursing school, as it’s unique to each student.

Studying for an ABSN program is a challenge and a full-time commitment. You will need to maintain your focus for long periods and get used to a full schedule of studying and attending school activities. This is why students generally do not work during nursing school, as most of their time is spent hitting the books.

After a few months of having the rhythm of daily studying, you will get accustomed to it, and you’ll even become more efficient as you go. You can also take advantage of more enjoyable ways to study, such as by meeting with a study group of peers or studying in a coffee shop over a steaming latte.

6. The NCLEX

The last reason nursing school is so hard is that the studying doesn’t end when you graduate. During the last semester of nursing school, you’ll start spending more time studying for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

This exam is a requirement for becoming licensed as a nurse, and you’ll take it after nursing school finishes. Students generally plan to spend a month or two studying between graduation and test day.

The NCLEX is challenging because it not only tests an expansive range of nursing information but it also asks questions in a unique way. Instead of asking for the correct answer amid several incorrect answer choices, the exam asks for the best answer amid many possible correct answers.

marian student studying

This challenges your analytical reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving abilities, and it takes time and effort to master this test-taking method.

At Marian University, we are committed to helping our students learn to master the NCLEX throughout nursing school.

“It’s hard to realize how much the program is helping you when you are going through it because nursing school is very stressful,” says ABSN graduate, Laura Williamson. “But the whole time we were taking these Kaplan practice tests, they were preparing us for the big win.”

How to Succeed in Nursing School and Overcome the Challenges

How can students get through nursing school if it’s so hard? Nursing school can seem overwhelming for prospective nursing students because there is so much involved. However, though the journey is tough, you can succeed, especially when you choose a supportive nursing program.

When Marian University’s ABSN students show up each day with determination and passion, we see them overcome these challenges and reach their goal of earning a BSN.

To facilitate your success, our faculty, instructors, and Academic Success Coaches offer comprehensive student support. Below is a look at some of the support resources available to our ABSN students.

smiling Marian University ABSN student in sim lab

E-Learning Platform

Canvas, the e-learning platform you’ll use throughout the ABSN program, offers convenience and flexibility for your coursework. The platform features interactive resources designed to help you succeed. In addition, you can access the material 24/7, use the discussion forum, and practice with online simulations.

Faculty and Instructors

Before you stress out too much about doing well in your simulation and skills labs, know this: We don’t throw you into the deep end of the pool on the first day. We sequence nursing simulations to follow a natural learning progression; as the ABSN curriculum advances, so do the scenarios. Your instructors are always on hand to provide guidance and feedback.

Clinical Instructors

You’ll be eased into the clinical environment, so don’t worry—you won’t be delivering babies or assisting with a blood transfusion on your first shift. Instead, you’ll likely start by observing other nurses and getting the basics of interacting with patients, making beds, and charting.

As your education progresses, so do the clinical tasks. Besides, you won’t be going through your shift alone—you’ll have a clinical instructor to consult with the whole time.

Academic Success Coaches

Whether it’s a bad grade or the stress of spending less time with your friends and family that has you on edge, your success coach is there for you if you need to chat, vent, or take a quick break from studying. Your coach is also a great sounding board and can help you brainstorm solutions to any issues you encounter in nursing school.

Kaplan Test Prep

three nursing students sitting in room studying

You’ll have access to Kaplan Test Prep right from the start to help you prepare for the NCLEX. Throughout the nursing program, you can expect to take timed, proctored NCLEX-style tests, exposing you to the types of questions, format, and timing of the actual test.

Post-graduation, you’ll return to take a four-day review course, which teaches strategies specific to analyzing and answering NCLEX-style questions.

At the finish line lies a rewarding and valuable career. As a nurse, you’ll be able to meet people in their times of need and provide comfort and hope. That makes all the hard work worth it.

Great Challenge, Great Reward. Get Started Today!

At Marian University, we are excited to lead our students on the journey of earning a BSN. Our accelerated BSN program is available for those with a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree. With our ABSN program, students can graduate in as few as 16 months and go on to pursue successful nursing careers.

Are you ready to begin your nursing journey? At Marian University, we are here to help you overcome obstacles and reach your nursing career goals. Reach out to one of our admission advisors to learn more.