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Why is Nursing School So Hard? 6 Challenges Nursing Students Face

Summary: Why is nursing school so hard? The top 6 challenges of earning a BSN include the rigorous curriculum, fast pace, need for multitasking, time commitment, personal sacrifices, and NCLEX preparation. However, despite these rigors, it’s possible to rise up and master how to succeed in nursing school.

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Nursing is a noble and worthy field, but often the best goals take work to achieve. Why is nursing school so 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 go in with a level head.

Being in an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program like ours at Marian University is a challenge, but have no fear, for 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 ABSN for nursing school, we will be with you every step of the way as you figure out how to study for nursing school and how to succeed in nursing school.

To ease your mind about what to expect in nursing school, this blog will cover what makes nursing school hard. Earning your BSN is challenging, and it can be stressful at times, but it is definitely worth it, for, in the end, you get to spend your days doing life-changing work.

1. Rigorous 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 educates you in 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 the medications you give to the symptoms of heart failure to the strategies of bedside patient care, which all take time and effort to understand and learn.

Marian University - ABSN students studying with books and laptops

2. Accelerated Learning Pace

The next challenge of accelerated nursing school is the fast nature of the curriculum. In traditional four-year BSN programs, students spend two or more years taking their nursing courses.

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

3. Three Learning Environments to Balance

In an ABSN program like ours at Marian, we educate our nursing students in three ways: online coursework, simulation labs, and clinical rotations. Managing the study schedules and material for three diverse settings can require multitasking. Students need to put time and effort into each of these environments to truly succeed.

Online Learning

Online courses in the Marian ABSN program consist of interactive videos, practice problems, and exercises to help you learn your foundational nursing knowledge. At Marian University, you can work through the material at the time of day and place of your choosing, but the cohort of students moves through the material at the same pace. The exams occur in person at the ABSN site in Indianapolis, Nashville, or Oklahoma City.

How Online Education Works in Marian University’s ABSN Program

Want a deep dive into how online learning works at Marian University ABSN? See how online courses help our students learn better.

Online learning is adaptable and allows students to learn more efficiently. Also, by presenting the courses in an online format, Marian University’s ABSN program can offer three start dates each year, in January, May, and August. It’s important to remember that it can take some time to adjust to studying for online courses, so this can be a challenge at the beginning of nursing school.

Hands-On Labs

The next piece of the ABSN curriculum is in-person simulation and skills labs. These labs provide the ideal environment for students to learn tactile skills 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 real-world nursing. These labs pose another form of challenge, however. You should plan to prepare ahead of each lab and then practice specific skills repeatedly until you become confident.

“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, 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.”

Kristen - ABSN student class of 2019

Clinical Rotations

Clinical rotations are often an enjoyable but intimidating part of 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.

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

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

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.

4. 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. Students need to maintain their focus for long periods of time 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.

5. Limited Personal Activities

When in nursing school, your classes become the number one priority, which means everything else sits on the back burner. It can be challenging to say no to social events, hobbies, and free time. Instead of spending an evening out at dinner, you’ll likely need to study for an upcoming exam. On weekends, you should also plan to set aside time for learning — often a challenging life adjustment for students.

While you’ll have less personal time, we do want to emphasize that even amid the busy days of nursing school, it’s key to also take time for self-care. What do you value most in your life? Choose the top few activities or people, and intentionally plan time for them; this will help you stay mentally well during the rigors of accelerated nursing school.

6. Preparation for the NCLEX

The last key piece of why 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. This challenges your skills and problem-solving as a nurse, and it takes time and effort to master this method of test-taking.

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

Kristen Walker - Marian University ABSN

“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 Laura Williamson, ABSN graduate. “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. The great encouragement amid these challenges is that though the journey is tough, you can succeed.

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. You can also experience what it’s like when all the hard work pays off. We are committed to our students’ success 100 percent, and our faculty, instructors, and success coaches will be with you to help you succeed.

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

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 lead successful nursing careers.

A nursing student filling out an application with the text - Is getting into nursing school hard?

Interested in knowing more about how hard it is to get into nursing school? Learn more about what schools look for in applicants and how to give yourself the best chance.

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

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