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What is Nursing School Like? ABSN Students Share Their Experiences

What is Nursing School LikeAs part of your decision to become a nurse, you’re probably curious about the answer to the question, “What is nursing school like?” Students enrolled in the Marian University Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program will be among the first to tell you: While nursing school can get intense, it becomes easier to manage if you know what to expect.

The Marian University ABSN program compresses the traditional nursing school experience into 16 months using a blended curriculum model. It comprises online nursing theory courses, skills and simulation labs at our ABSN program site in either Indianapolis or Nashville and clinical rotations within either St. Vincent or Saint Thomas Health.

Interested in learning more? Marian University ABSN students and alumni share key takeaways for success in our program.

Online Learning

As a Marian University ABSN student, you’ll complete online courses focused on nursing fundamentals and theories via our dynamic online learning platform. It features modules with assigned activities such as reading assignments, audio lectures, interactive and simulated activities, online discussions, chat opportunities, and more.

Many students tell us they love the flexibility the online learning component of our ABSN program grants them. But it’s also important to note you still must meet specified deadlines and take scheduled proctored exams at our ABSN program site. For that reason, Kristen Walker, ABSN Class of May 2019, says staying focused and organized is key to achieving success in our program.

“There has to be a lot of self-motivation to get things done. Especially first and second semester, I scheduled my time to complete specific course requirements,” she says.

ABSN student, Allysia, working on online coursework

Students new to online learning often express concern over the limited face time they can expect to have with online instructors. But, as Allysia Campbell, ABSN Class of August 2019, puts it, you’ll find they’re here to help you succeed. Our online instructors make themselves available by emailing, posting announcements, and hosting virtual review sessions on our online learning platform.

“My critical care professor, for example, emails us every other day, giving us updates and making sure we’re staying up to date,” Allysia says. “She helps us stay organized and wants us to learn the material.”

Nursing Skills Labs

While our online learning platform adds flexibility to when and where you complete nursing theory coursework, nursing skills labs require you to come to our program site at least three to four days a week.

Here, you’ll apply the knowledge that you learned in your online courses in a safe, contextual learning environment. Alongside clinical instructors and classmates, you’ll hone certain basic skills ranging from head-to-toe assessments to nasogastric tube insertion on realistic medical manikins.

“Skills lab is helpful because it introduces you to a specific procedure or skill that is important for your nursing career not only as a student but for your future as an RN as well,” Kristen says.

Nursing Simulation Labs

Once you have the basics down, you’ll participate in mock clinical simulations at the ABSN program site in Indianapolis or at the ABSN program site located within Saint Thomas West in Nashville. At these sites, you’ll develop your clinical judgment and problem-solving skills while getting as close as possible to real-life clinical situations without the fear of putting an individual’s safety at risk.

Working alongside classmates, you’ll “treat” computerized manikins that can ask questions and replicate bodily responses to procedures, such as blood administration, newborn assessments, and code situations. You’ll then debrief with faculty and classmates.

Our faculty design these mock emergency scenarios to improve your critical thinking skills for when you interact with real-life patients.

“Getting those initial butterflies or nerves out of your system in a simulation is also helpful in making you more confident in walking into a patient’s room for the first time during clinicals,” Kristen says.

Clinical Rotations

In tandem with your online nursing theory courses and lab experiences, you’ll complete more than 700 hours of clinical rotations within either Saint Thomas Health in Nashville or St. Vincent in Indianapolis. Unlike many nursing programs, you’ll start this critical part of your nursing education during your first semester.

Real-world clinical experience

Don’t worry — you won’t start with advanced clinical patient cases on your first day. Early on, clinicals cover the basics, such as patient safety and physical assessment. As you advance through the ABSN curriculum, so do the rotations.

Hannah McNabb, ABSN Class of May 2019, admits her first clinical experience seemed overwhelming, especially since she had no prior experience interacting with and giving medications to patients.

Student working with sim manikin

“Now I’m confident walking on to the unit knowing that I know the right questions to ask, how to assess a patient, and how to chart,” Hannah says. “I definitely feel prepared upon graduation to walk onto a new unit and say, ‘OK, let’s start this day.’”

Unprecedented nursing networking opportunities

The primary purpose of clinical rotations is to give you first-hand experience of how nursing skills and knowledge apply in diverse real-life patient care situations. While this is true, Marian University ABSN students say clinicals offer so much more.

“The clinical instructors are willing to go above and beyond to help you gain clinical and skills experience with true patients. They’re also willing to sit down with you to discuss what you can improve on, what you’re great at, and provide you with a great experience throughout,” Kristen says.

The required leadership and management course that matches students with leaders within St. Vincent or Saint Thomas Health during the fourth semester also gives ABSN students a fresh perspective on nursing that goes beyond the bedside. Many students in our program say this course specifically and clinical rotations, in general, make great networking opportunities. Some even compare them to a 16-month job interview.

“If you want to work there, it’s very easy to find a unit you like and voice, ‘I would like to work here.’ Usually, most managers are like, ‘OK, let’s make it happen,’” Hannah says. “There’s career advancement opportunities from this program for sure.”

Now that you know a little bit more about what nursing school is like, are you ready to put the wheels in motion to become a nurse? Start by contacting our admissions team today to find out if you and our ABSN program are a good match!

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