Summary: Nursing school is like nothing you have ever done before, especially if you enroll in Mercer University’s Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. It compresses the traditional nursing school experience into 12 months using a blended curriculum model and is therefore challenging. You should take steps to prepare yourself and choose a nursing school that fits your needs.
Right now, it is hard to miss the selfless contributions of nurses. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, nightly news broadcasts and social media posts continue to shine a light on this essential profession. Nurses are so much more than just essential workers, though.
In good times and in bad, in times of joy and times of tragedy, nurses are there to provide compassion, care, and comfort — to celebrate the miracle of birth and to mourn the loss of a loved one, and at every stage of life in between.
Truly, few careers exist that touch as many lives as nursing. And for those seeking more than just a career, nursing is a vocation, a calling.
However, even if you are considering a return to school to become a nurse, you are likely wondering, “What is nursing school like as a second-degree student?”
If you have ever asked yourself that question, you have come to the right place! Mercer University offers a 12-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track specifically for students who already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Based in Atlanta, this intensive three-semester ABSN track builds upon your previous education so you can focus exclusively on your nursing studies.
Before we dive into the specifics of our accelerated nursing track, though, we will be discussing a handful of topics around how to prepare for nursing school, including the importance of nursing school requirements and how to prepare for the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test. We will also discuss what to expect in nursing school and provide some helpful tips for success in nursing school.
How to Prepare for Nursing School as a Second-Degree Student
You already have a bachelor’s degree and know how much work it took to accomplish it. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will take every bit as much effort, likely more — especially if you choose an accelerated nursing track.
So, you are right to wonder “How do I prepare for nursing school?” Adequate preparation is a must, as is having a plan, which all begins with a little self-reflection.
1. Determine Your Nursing School Needs.
First, you need to consider your preferences. Are you more of a traditional, lecture-based learner, or do you enjoy the variety of learning opportunities and flexibility provided by online coursework? Do you have the appetite for spending another few years in school earning a second degree, or would you rather put in the extra effort and earn your BSN in as few as 12 months?
If you prefer the structure of an on-campus BSN route an accelerated nursing track is probably not for you. If that is the case and your desired study style is more deliberate, you may consider looking into Mercer’s traditional prelicensure BSN track. If, however, you want to get started in your new life-changing career as soon as possible, an accelerated nursing track — such as the one Mercer University offers — is your best course.
You also need to consider your finances and schedule. Do you plan to work while going back to school to become a nurse? Do you need to apply for student loans? If you have children, can your spouse, a significant other, a family member, or a friend help watch them while you are studying or attending labs or clinicals? It is possible to go back to school with children; it just requires planning on your end — and makes a good case for a nursing track that offers online coursework you can complete at any hour of the day or night.
Before You Weigh Your Options, Consider Your Needs
Your situation is unique to you. Try writing out a list of nursing school needs before beginning your search. This will help you to determine the options that will be a better fit.
2. Find a Nursing School That Meets Your Needs.
Where you choose to study nursing is an important decision. Reputation and accreditation are certainly two factors you want to consider when selecting a nursing school. A school that has consistently led the way in nursing education — such as Mercer, whose Georgia Baptist College of Nursing was the first in the state to offer a dedicated nursing program — will provide you with a quality nursing education that will prepare you to enter the workforce with confidence.
It is also imperative that you choose a nursing program that is properly accredited. Otherwise, you might not be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) — the test every nursing graduate must pass in order to earn registered nurse (RN) licensure — or further your education via a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.
However, you also need to consider personal needs discussed previously. For example, if you want to earn your nursing degree as soon as possible and you already have a previous degree, a traditional, four-year BSN track is not the best option for you. An ABSN track, however, might be exactly what you are seeking.
Once you find options that appeal to you, look at your previous education to determine whether you meet certain nursing school requirements. After all, you need to be sure nursing school is a viable option while also keeping in mind that high admissions standards are often a sign of a quality nursing program. When you speak with an enrollment counselor, he or she will be able to explain the requirements in detail, as well as provide guidance on whether and how you can meet any outstanding requirements.
And that brings us to the next step…
3. Talk to an Enrollment Counselor to Determine Your Fit.
Nursing school is a big commitment, and so is going back to school to earn a second degree. Whether you exceed the nursing school requirements and are ready to enroll ASAP or are unsure whether a previous course will transfer, speak with an enrollment counselor to chart your path toward success.
Think of your enrollment counselor as your personal guide through the entire admissions and enrollment process. During the first conversation you will discuss why you want to become a nurse as well as your education history to determine program eligibility. This will lay the groundwork for creating a plan for meeting any outstanding requirements.
But the conversation does not end there. Your assigned enrollment counselor will also help you stay on track during the admissions and application processes and continues through to your first day of classes. That level of support from the start is important for students deciding to embark on the rigorous educational endeavor that is accelerated nursing school.
4. Develop an Enrollment Plan.
The true planning begins when you submit your unofficial transcripts. You might have had these available at the time of your initial enrollment call, giving yourself an advantage; however, if not, your enrollment counselor gave you instructions on providing your unofficial transcripts and told you what to expect next.
For example, if you have not taken one of the prerequisite courses, he or she will be able to help you enroll in an online offering from Mercer — using the same online learning management system Mercer ABSN students use to complete their coursework.
Official vs. Unofficial Transcripts: What Is the Difference?
When a university provides you a copy of your transcript, such as a PDF file, and you pass it along to an enrollment counselor, it is considered unofficial. For a transcript to be considered official, it must be sent directly from the school you attended to the school you hope to attend, or if from you, in an envelope that was officially sealed by your alma mater.
Along the way, your counselor will check in regularly to find out how everything is going, offer advice, and remind you of any key deadlines — like for submitting the admissions essay or taking the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). Later on, we will discuss tips and strategies for how to prepare for the TEAS test.
5. Fulfill the Admissions Requirements and Follow the Steps to Apply.
Once you have a plan, you can begin fulfilling any outstanding prerequisites. Keep in mind these courses are not merely boxes to check off. Courses such as Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan, and Statistics provide foundational knowledge that is crucial to your success in nursing school and as a professional RN.
“So why are these not included in the core nursing curriculum?” Because as a second-degree BSN student, we recognize that you may have already taken some or all of these courses — in which case you deserve credit.
Additional requirements, such as achieving a minimum composite score of 76% on the TEAS, are to ensure you are prepared to study a health science field.
Once you have completed any prerequisites, your enrollment counselor will help you submit a competitive nursing school application. This includes guiding you through the process of requesting and submitting any required official transcripts.
6. Get Set for Success.
Once you have been accepted and know your official start date, it is time to finalize any plans for childcare or working — taking into account that lab and clinical schedules will vary over your three semesters.
You also want to consider the best learning environment for you and your situation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is uncertainty about various public spaces, making it more important than ever that you make space for studying. Some people are able to learn in their living room or kitchen; others need a dedicated space, such as an office. If you are among the latter, now is the time to get situated. That way, it is ready to go the first week of nursing school.
Now is also a good time to buy any supplies you will need such as notebooks, binders, and flashcards. If you have an older laptop or desktop computer, you might confirm with your enrollment counselor any system requirements for Mercer’s online coursework.
Luckily, you are not alone at any time in the process. Your enrollment counselor will check in with you regularly until you start classes to ensure you are set for success.
Now that we have discussed the six steps to prepare for nursing school, we need to take a closer look at the relationship between nursing school admissions requirements and the quality of education you can expect to receive.
What Nursing School Requirements Say about the Quality of a School
Earlier we mentioned how some nursing school admissions requirements can be an indicator of the level of education you will receive.
No doubt that if you are serious about becoming a nurse, you have already researched enough to know that nursing school is challenging — as it should be. After all, nurses need to be able to apply critical thinking skills in fast-paced, high-pressure situations.
It is for this same reason that nursing school requirements must be challenging. Not only would you not want to receive care from a nurse who studied at a school that admits just anyone, it would not be fair of the school. Keep in mind that a nursing degree alone does not permit you to practice as a registered nurse. To become an RN, you must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
By setting strict nursing school requirements, a nursing school is protecting your interests, their reputation, and the well-being of every patient.
So, what do these requirements look like? We will use Mercer’s Accelerated BSN track requirements as an example. To be considered for this accelerated nursing track, you must:
- Complete any outstanding prerequisite courses prior to enrollment.
- Hold a 3.0 cumulative GPA or above (with a 3.0 GPA minimum in all science courses).
- Submit your resume and an admission essay.
- Score a minimum of 76% (composite) on the TEAS.
- Complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a satisfactory score, if applicable.
Before you submit your resume or nursing school admission essay, have a trusted friend or family member read over them for you to make certain there are no typos or other errors.
Now that we have discussed Mercer’s ABSN requirements, let’s talk about a requirement that can seem challenging.
How to Prepare for the TEAS Exam
The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test is a predictor of how well students might do in nursing school, much like the SAT or ACT for general college admissions.
Mercer requires that all prospective ABSN students achieve a minimum composite score of 76% on the TEAS to be eligible for this 12-month accelerated nursing degree track. What does “composite” mean? The TEAS tests prospective students on four key areas:
- English and Language Usage
While each area is tested separately, the four sets of questions amount to 170 multiple-choice questions, spanning 209 minutes. Each area has a different number of questions and time limit, broken down as follows:
|Topic||# of Questions||Time Limit||Content Covered|
|Reading||53||64 minutes||• Key ideas and details|
• Craft and structure
• Integration of knowledge and ideas
|Math||36||54 minutes||• Numbers and algebra|
• Measurement and data
|Science||53||63 minutes||• Human anatomy and physiology|
• Life and physical sciences
• Scientific reasoning
|English and Language Usage||28||28 minutes||• Standard English language conventions|
• Knowledge and comprehension of language
One mistake many prospective nursing students make is not spending adequate time preparing for the TEAS. It’s common to think because they have a previous degree, minimal studying is required.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of the breadth of content covered that prospective Mercer ABSN students devote more than enough time to preparing and studying for the TEAS.
To boost your odds of success on the TEAS, we recommend blocking out at least an hour per day over the course of four to six weeks to study for the exam.
While how you perform on the exam is ultimately up to you, the Mercer ABSN team wants to set you up for success, just like we do with every other facet of our program.That is why we offer a weekly TEAS preparation workshop, where our success coaches discuss what to expect on the TEAS and suggest practice tests prospective students should take to gauge where they have knowledge gaps. The latter help our success coaches create individualized four- to six-week study plans. During this workshop prospective students also learn how to register for the exam.
In addition to these weekly workshops and individual TEAS prep plans, Mercer loans prospective students a free TEAS study guide to help them prepare for the exam.
Still, there are a number of free online TEAS study resources available from the following sites:
No matter how you choose to prepare for the TEAS test, what is important is that you take it seriously. While you may be able to take the TEAS up to three times, retaking the exam may set you back in terms of when you can begin in our ABSN track — not to mention, the cost associated with retaking the exam.
At this point, we have discussed a lot about preparing for nursing school, and you are probably wondering “what can I expect from nursing school?” Keep reading to find out!
What Nursing School Is Like
We have talked at length about what it takes to get into nursing school — including what you can do to increase your chances of getting in. Now, we will turn our attention to what it is like in nursing school. To start, we will break down how our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing track works.
How Mercer’s Accelerated BSN Track Works
Mercer University’s ABSN track in Atlanta is comprised of three key components: online coursework, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations. Each plays an important role in your nursing education.
In the online coursework, you will learn the foundational theories behind modern nursing practice and evidence-based care. You will do so through a variety of instructional methods, some traditional (like assigned textbook readings and written assignments) and some much more innovative (such as via three-dimensional illustrations and models, interactive case studies, and activities utilizing audio and video). This variety of coursework provides people of all learning preferences options to learn how they do best.
Our skills and simulation labs are where you will begin to apply your new knowledge in a hands-on setting. In skills lab, you will practice everything from checking vitals and conducting nursing assessments on your fellow students, while using task trainers and medical manikins to practice nursing skills such as intubations, injections, and more. This way you get to practice these essential skills without putting anyone at risk.
Simulation lab takes the concept much further, placing you in a realistic hospital-like setting where you will interact with high-tech medical manikins that can talk and display a variety of behaviors and symptoms, as well as real-life actors. These experiences are designed to develop and test your critical-thinking skills and provide you the opportunity to encounter medical situations you might not during your clinical rotations — because as you will find out, as with working in a hospital, you never know quite what to expect in nursing clinicals.
Finally, clinical rotations round out your nursing school experience. Over the course of this intensive, 12-month, three-semester track, you will set foot in a variety of healthcare settings where your role will range from observational to that of the nurse delivering patients’ care — albeit overseen by professional nurses and clinical educators. Not only do clinical rotations allow you to gain valuable experience, they provide a window into myriad settings you might like to explore in your career.
What Is It Like in Nursing School?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “What is nursing school like?” We mentioned it earlier, and it is worth repeating: nursing school is challenging. That said, it is possible to succeed.
Your success ultimately depends on the effort you put in. Yes, Mercer’s Accelerated BSN track is intensive, given the very short timeframe in which you will study. You will need to make sacrifices with your time. You also need to advocate for yourself. Sure, you will be in regular contact with your instructors and classmates via the built-in chat and discussion features of our online coursework, in-person labs, and clinicals. However, if you feel yourself falling behind or failing to understand a concept, it is ultimately up to you to reach out for help. It is also a great idea to form study groups with members of your cohort, as you can help each other understand challenging concepts and even provide emotional support.
It may also be helpful to set an expectation with family and friends that you may be absent from outings or events for a while, as you will spend most of your time studying, attending classes, and taking tests. While things may seem busy at times, it is important to remain focused on your goal of becoming a nurse, because it will be worth it in the end.
Speaking of managing many priorities, creating a routine can do wonders for your peace of mind (for example, setting a weekly schedule for when you will read, study, etc.). And do not neglect the importance of self-care, in the form of daily walks, morning yoga, an afternoon run, or whatever that may look like for you.
What Every Nursing School Student Needs to Know
In this post, we detail eight nursing school success tips you need to know.
Hopefully this has helped you to gain a better idea of what it takes to prepare for and succeed in nursing school. However, if you have any questions, a Mercer ABSN enrollment counselor would be happy to assist you.
Ready to Earn Your Nursing Degree in as Few as 12 Months?
If like so many right now, you feel the time is right to go back to school to become a nurse, Mercer University may be able to help you get there sooner. Our 12-month Accelerated BSN track offers three start dates throughout the year, meaning we have a spot for you as soon as you are ready. Give us a call today to learn more, or complete the form to have an enrollment counselor reach out to you.