What to Expect First Semester of Nursing School and Beyond

What to Expect First Semester of Nursing School and Beyond - Be prepared for your first semester

Prerequisites: Check. Paperwork: Check. Health screenings and immunizations: Check.

You completed all the necessary steps and have been accepted into the Misericordia University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Congrats! Now what?

You have a general idea of what to expect from talking with your admissions counselor. Now the reality is finally starting to set in: First semester is fast approaching. You’re going to start nursing school soon!

The first semester of nursing school lays the groundwork for your nursing education, providing the knowledge and skills necessary for a smooth transition into later semesters — and ultimately your nursing career. Below, we delve into what to expect from your first semester as a Misericordia University ABSN student.

Your first semester of nursing school: Online courses and labs

When we say our program is accelerated, we mean it. The Misericordia ABSN program condenses 36 months’ worth of content into a 16-month curriculum. But just because our program is shorter in duration doesn’t mean we skimp on teaching you valuable nursing theory and skills. During the first of four full-time semesters, you’ll complete the following theory courses online and skills-based courses at our nursing education center in Pittsburgh:

  • NSG 201 Foundations Essential to Professional Nursing Practice (3 credits)
  • NSG 305 Physical Assessment (3 credits)
  • NSG 300 Conceptual Basis of Nursing Practice (2 credits)
  • NSG 320 Principles of Pharmacology (3 credits)
  • RLS 104 World Religions/Core Course Requirement for Transfer Students* (3 credits)

*The RLS 104 World Religions course is a placeholder for any core course requirement a transfer student still needs. We require this credit to remain at full-time status for the semester.

Online courses

Compared to a traditional classroom-based BSN program, our ABSN program covers much of the same material that will ready you to become a caring, competent nurse. That’s where the similarities end. What sets our ABSN program apart from these programs, besides speed, is course delivery.

Instead of driving to a campus to attend class, you’ll log into Canvas, an interactive e-Learning platform, to complete a majority of your nursing theory courses. Among other things, this online learning environment allows you to:

  • Read and listen to nursing coursework material.
  • Watch videos about nursing concepts.
  • Take part in simulated learning activities.
  • Complete course assignments.
  • Interact with instructors and other students via discussion forums and scheduled chat sessions.

Online learning gives you the option to learn whenever and wherever is best for you — whether that’s 3 a.m. at home before the kids wake up or 3 p.m. at a coffee shop. This learning format affords you scheduling flexibility, but be ready to dedicate a lot of time to your studies each week.

Success tips:

  • Stay focused: The best way to describe our ABSN program is by comparing it to a full-time job. For that reason, we recommend holding off on extended vacations or taking on a full-time job during the 16 months you’re enrolled in the program.
  • Learn how you study: Your success in nursing school hinges on your ability to understand, not just memorize, material. Taking a VARK learning style assessment early in nursing school can help you identify your ideal studying method. Doing so can help you not only retain material but apply it in patient care scenarios.
  • Stay organized: The ABSN program compresses so much material into an abbreviated timeframe, making it extra important to stay on top of your online coursework. Invest in a planner to map out your daily schedule, blocking off more than enough time to study.
  • Utilize faculty: Just because your nursing theory coursework is online doesn’t mean you’re going through it alone! As soon as you feel you might need help, reach out to your instructor for clarification. It’s also a good idea to form a study group with your classmates to share and compare notes.


Nursing student practicing on sim manikin

Completed simultaneously with the online nursing theory coursework, the lab portion of your nursing education comprises two components: skills and simulations.

Both take place inside our ABSN nursing education center in Pittsburgh. We designed this space to replicate a clinical setting for you to put theory and nursing interventions into practice under the guidance of faculty.

During first-semester skills labs, you’ll start to feel like a nurse, just without the risk. That’s because you’ll practice core nursing skills ranging from catheterization to wound care on a clinical task trainer or full-body manikin.

Then, as part of nursing simulation labs, you’ll apply your skills and knowledge into the context of a realistic patient care scenario. Here you’ll also hone valuable problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking skills and debrief with faculty and classmates.

While simulated, these scenarios can still get intense. Don’t worry — we won’t throw you into the deep end on the first day. During your first semester, expect these labs to focus on nursing basics.

Success tips:

  • Take advantage of onsite resources: We make the labs in our nursing learning center available to you outside of scheduled course times — use them! Our computer labs and the student lounge are also here to help you succeed.
  • Ask questions: Now is your time to speak up! Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from your instructors during simulation debriefings and skills lab sessions.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: It’s unlikely you’ll master all the key nursing skills you’ll need to excel in the field right away. That’s why our simulation manikins exist — for you to practice and learn without fear of putting anyone’s safety at risk.

Later semesters: Add in clinical rotations

You’ll still continue your lab- and online-based courses during later semesters in the program, but prepare to add on an element vital to your future nursing career: clinical experiences.

Misericordia University ABSN - Nursing Student

Clinical placements at top health care facilities and clinical agencies in and around Pittsburgh help you understand how vital providing ethical, compassionate and safe patient care is to nursing. Starting your second semester, your first clinical rotation will focus on applying the theories, principles, and concepts you learned first semester.

Throughout our 16-month ABSN program, expect to complete 675 hours of clinical practice in diverse specialty areas including:

  • Community health
  • Mental health
  • Obstetrics
  • Pediatrics

Success tips:

  • Arrive early: You’ll be working alongside a clinical instructor or preceptor who is a working nurse caring for real patients, so it’s important to respect their time. Arrive early for your shift if possible. To ensure you’re not late, plan ahead the night before and set extra alarms.
  • Take notes: For the most part, we try to relate your clinical experiences to what you’re learning in class. Due to the unpredictable nature of health care, that’s not always possible. Whenever something unfamiliar happens during a clinical shift, be proactive and research it when you get home.

Are you ready to see if you qualify for our ABSN program and make your dream of becoming a nurse a reality? Reach out to one of our admissions counselors today to get the ball rolling!

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