Is Nursing School Hard?

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Is nursing school hard? Nursing school involves complex concepts that can be challenging to learn and understand. In addition, you must practice and refine your skills to treat real patients and pass all the nursing school exams and the NCLEX. While it is hard, nursing school is not impossible.

two Mercer ABSN students sitting in class

No matter the field of study, undergraduate degree programs can be challenging. It is normal to feel unsure about returning to school to pursue a nursing degree, and with this important decision in mind you might wonder, “Is nursing school hard?”

While earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is challenging, with the right level of dedication and support, it is possible to earn your degree in as few as 12 months through Mercer University’s Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track.

For some, nursing school may be challenging because pursuing a nursing degree involves studying an advanced nursing curriculum, completing assignments, preparing for skills and simulation labs, and participating in clinical rotations. While challenging, this rigorous academic and practical preparation is designed to prepare you for the challenges of the profession. Nurses save lives and are on the front lines of patient care.

Keep reading to learn why is nursing school may be hard, along with some tips to succeed as a nursing student.

What Makes Nursing School Hard?

When considering the next step in your education, you might ask yourself, “How hard is nursing school?” We asked Mercer ABSN graduates how they worked through some of the more challenging aspects of an accelerated nursing track, including the course material, the accelerated nature of the program, and studying for nursing school exams.

students assessing patient in hospital

Challenging Course Material

The main reason people ask, “is nursing school hard?” is because of the course material. Nursing school involves learning complicated concepts and practical skills, then applying that information to diverse patient care scenarios — going well beyond memorizing facts. Nursing school is challenging because it is intended to prepare you for the profession and equip you to deliver the best possible care to your future patients.

For Taylor, a Mercer ABSN graduate, excelling in understanding complex nursing topics meant adjusting how she studied. “I had to learn to recognize what is most important, what is going to help with the framework of the entire system, whether it is a drug interaction or a disease process, and really focus on those key details rather than the entire picture at once,” she says. “I found that focusing on those key details actually helped me understand the picture better than trying to memorize everything as a whole.”

Tip: Ask Questions

Because concepts in nursing school build upon each other, do not hesitate to reach out if you need help or do not understand something. As a nurse, staying curious and taking the initiative will also help you provide better care for patients. Students in Mercer’s ABSN track complete coursework online, and the same level of in-person support and resources are available to stay connected. Remember, your nursing school instructors are here to help you succeed.

Accelerated Nature of ABSN Program

Nursing school involves complex concepts that can be challenging to learn, synthesize, and apply to real-world situations. Even in traditional nursing school programs, which generally require 36 months to complete, processing that breadth of information can seem like a challenging undertaking.

Add in the fact that in an accelerated nursing program like Mercer’s ABSN, you will be studying that same amount of material in a 12-month timeline, and it may seem especially challenging.

Taylor says while she chose the Mercer ABSN program due to its accelerated nature, she underestimated how quickly her studies would progress once she started.

“You truly hit the ground running. The faculty were so excellent at communicating and making things clear that even though you felt like you started at a sprint, you had such clear guidance and structure on what was going to happen, that I never really felt like I was getting out of breath, or it was unmanageable."

Tip: Form a Study Group

Because the program is accelerated, it will be beneficial to make studying a daily habit. While independent study sessions work well for some, many students find it helpful to meet up with members of their cohort to review course materials.

three Mercer nursing students sitting in skills lab

Preparing for Nursing School Labs

As a Mercer ABSN student, you can expect to complete skills practice and participate in simulated patient care scenarios in our ABSN Learning Site labs, which are designed to mimic a real-world clinical setting.

This portion of Mercer’s accelerated nursing school curriculum requires you to demonstrate mastery of nursing skills, then apply those skills and nursing concepts alongside your peers as your instructors evaluate you.

After each simulated clinical scenario, you will debrief with your instructors and classmates on your performance. This experience is a great way to practice nursing skills without putting patients at risk, and many students share that these simulations often emulate the high stakes of real-life clinical situations.

“I gained competence quickly in this program because the staff were wonderful at constructive criticism. Sometimes they would even film you so you can see how you were acting. I learned very quickly how to manage at the same time how to be safe and how to be personable with your patients,” Taylor says.

Mercer ABSN student standing in hallway

8 Nursing School Tips for Success

Nursing School Clinical Rotations

Clinical rotations can seem challenging, especially for students who may not have prior experience in a healthcare setting. Unlike the simulated patient care scenarios you will participate in during labs, clinical rotations will have you working with clinical instructors and practicing nurses to learn about caring for patients facing real medical issues. In Mercer’s ABSN track, you can expect to complete clinical rotation hours at top healthcare facilities throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Clinical scenarios you will face will vary during your rotations, and you can expect to learn about various specialty areas such as pediatrics, intensive care, and mental health. The level of clinical practice you experience will gradually increase as you progress through the program.

For Mercer ABSN alumnus Nicholas, while clinical rotations seemed intimidating at first, “What you get out of them is what you put in.”

I made it a point to seek out experiences I wanted to learn about. I did not wait for people to come to me and offer something. I would ask physicians when they would come into the room what they were doing and if I could watch. Many said, ‘of course.’

Nursing School Exams and Passing the NCLEX

Nursing school exams are likely different from exams in prior fields of study, which many students say requires some adjustment.

Rather than asking you to select a correct answer based on a set of memorized facts, nursing school exam questions test whether you can apply the material you have learned. This questioning style is not meant to trick you. It is by design — as a nurse, you must think critically and apply what you know to deliver the most appropriate patient care.

Nursing school exams in Mercer’s ABSN track are also written to prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) — the exam all nursing students must pass before they may practice the profession.

“I felt that a lot of our test questions were also very similar in content or purpose to the NCLEX,” says Nicholas, who passed the NCLEX on his first attempt.

With the online coursework, you are responsible for setting your own study schedule for the given area of information your instructors want you to focus on. So, when I graduated, that made studying for the NCLEX a little bit easier for me than some of my other friends who did traditional undergraduate programs, because I was used to setting my own goals.

Tip: Maintain a Positive Attitude

Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. If you enter a test believing you will not succeed, you may very well second-guess yourself or be less motivated. On the other hand, a test-taker with a more positive outlook is more likely to go into the exam with confidence.

Nursing School Offers Immense Opportunity

Mercer ABSN student holding backpack by lockers

While it is challenging, nursing school is not impossible. Learning about the online coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations, will hopefully inspire you to take that first step toward becoming a nurse.

If you want to learn more about Mercer’s ABSN track and how to become a nurse, connect with us today to speak with an admissions counselor.