What Is Nursing School Like? A Guide to Your First Semester

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Mercer nursing student sitting outside using laptop

If you have a bachelor’s degree, you know how much hard work it takes to achieve this accomplishment. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will also require hard work— especially if you choose an accelerated nursing track.

So for those who are considering returning to school to become a nurse and wondering “What is nursing school like as a second-degree student?” you may find an answer with Mercer University. Mercer offers a 12-month Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track specifically for students who have a previous 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 and enter the nursing field more quickly.

The admissions process to enroll in an accelerated nursing program (and especially to get into Mercer’s accelerated nursing track) can be rigorous, but enrollment counselors are present throughout the process to provide the support you’ll need. Before you enroll, however, you will need to know how our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing track works and what you can expect in your first semester and beyond.

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, and is administered by experienced instructors invested in your learning. While this track has been crafted to meet the needs of students in the 21st century, it is still based on the tradition of excellence that Mercer has carried forward with the oldest nursing program in the state of Georgia.

Online Coursework

With accelerated 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). Much of what you learn in nursing school comes from readings and assignments, and this variety of coursework provides people of all learning preferences with options to learn in the manner they do best.

Students in class

Skills and Simulation Labs

Our skills and simulation labs are where you will begin to apply your nursing 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 high-fidelity manikins to practice nursing skills such as intubations, injections, and more. This way you get to develop these essential skills in an environment designed for learning and a setting that does not any patients at risk.

Simulation lab takes the concept much further, placing you in a realistic hospital-like setting where you will interact with high-fidelity 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 healthcare facility, you may never know quite what to expect in nursing clinicals.

Clinical Rotations

Finally, clinical rotations round out your accelerated nursing school experience. Throughout this intensive 12-month 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, which will be supervised by nurses and clinical educators. Not only do clinical rotations allow you to gain valuable experience, they provide a window into multiple specialty care settings you might like to explore in your career.

Mercer nursing students working with patient

What to Expect in the First Semester of Nursing School

If you are considering Mercer’s 12-month Accelerated BSN track, you might wonder “How hard is nursing school really?” A truth that you will encounter throughout your first semester and beyond is that nursing school requires plenty of study and application. That said, it is possible to succeed with a supportive learning atmosphere and effort in your studies.

Mercer’s Accelerated BSN track is intensive, given the short timeframe in which you will study. This means that starting in your first semester, it is helpful to know who and where you can go for support.

For starters, 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. Previous students have also found success forming study groups with classmates.

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 especially as you form and settle into a routine during your first semester. For example, setting a weekly schedule for when you will read or study can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to coursework.

Lastly, understand the importance that self-care can have on your education. As you adjust to a new schedule during your first semester of nursing school, making time for daily walks, morning yoga, an afternoon run, or other activities is important to take care of yourself and decompress.

Ready to Earn Your Nursing Degree in as Little as 12 Months?

two Mercer ABSN students smiling in hallway

With more knowledge of what nursing school is like and what it takes to prepare for and succeed in your first semester, you can look forward to your educational experience. Should any questions arise in the future, a Mercer ABSN enrollment counselor will be happy to provide answers.

If you are ready 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, so you can start classes 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.