Why Is Nursing School Hard? ABSN Students Give Answers & Advice

Nursing school is hard, but it’s worth it. Before you begin nursing school, though, you must first get into a nursing program, which itself can be challenging. Then, once in, you’ll have many priorities. In this post, Misericordia ABSN students offer advice on thriving through these common nursing school challenges.

Why is nursing school so hard? There are major challenges, but also major rewards.

There are no two ways around it: nursing school is hard. It involves countless hours of studying complex nursing topics for exams, completing assignments, preparing for skills and simulation labs and participating in clinical rotations. So it’s no surprise many former Misericordia University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) students say nursing school is a lot to handle.

But those same students will also tell you that all the hard work and concentrated commitment to their nursing education was well worth it and will pay off for them sooner rather than later. After all, Misericordia’s 16-month ABSN program is designed for dedicated students with at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a bachelor’s degree to graduate and enter the profession sooner.

To give you even more of an idea of why nursing school is hard — and why it’s nothing you can’t handle if you’re dedicated to your education — we gathered all the best advice from former Misericordia ABSN students. We’ll also share tips for how to succeed through the toughest parts of any program, starting with getting into nursing school.

Is Nursing School Hard to Get Into?

If you’ve done any research into getting into nursing school, you may have learned that nursing is a competitive field. This is true for the most part — and for good reason. Once you become a nurse you will be responsible for the lives and wellbeing of your patients, so it makes sense that nursing school is a difficult endeavor. That starts with the application process of getting into a quality nursing program.

Just how hard any particular nursing school is to get into of course depends on where you apply and what the school’s academic requirements are. But generally, from meeting a minimum GPA threshold or having to complete prerequisite courses within a minimum grade requirement, nursing schools often set the bar high for aspiring nurses. Some schools also require prospective students to take entrance exams and write a personal statement, adding yet another step to the process of getting into nursing school.

To give you a frame of reference of what to expect when it comes to getting into nursing school, let’s discuss what you’ll need to do — and what you won’t have to do — to get into the Misericordia ABSN program.

Meet minimum GPA requirement

Nursing school admissions are notoriously competitive, so good grades and a higher than average GPA are two ways to increase your odds of getting into nursing school.

GPA requirements vary from school to school, but on average, BSN programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0. Misericordia ABSN requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 (based on all transferable credit).

Increase Your Chances of Getting into Nursing School
While grades are one piece of the admissions puzzle, Misericordia also seeks out motivated individuals who have true compassion for others. Read about other ways to increase your chances of getting into our accelerated nursing program.

Complete prerequisite courses

In addition to meeting a minimum grade requirement, just about any nursing school will require applicants to have completed some prerequisites. Nursing programs require passing these courses prior to enrollment as a way to ensure prospective students have a solid background in nursing-related courses.

Not all nursing school prerequisites are the same, but some of the specific classes you can expect to have to take before becoming eligible to apply to most nursing programs, including the Misericordia ABSN program, are anatomy, physiology, microbiology, psychology, statistics, nutrition and others.

While no prior health care experience is required, prospective Misericordia ABSN students must have completed certain science prerequisites within the past seven years of their enrollment date.

Now that you know what you need to do to get into the Misericordia ABSN program, here are a couple common nursing school requirements prospective students don’t have to meet for potential enrollment in our program:

Take any necessary entrance exams

Most nursing programs will require prospective students to pass an entrance exam, such as the HESI Admission Assessment Exam or ATI TEAS test, to prove they have the skills or potential to complete a nursing program. The Misericordia ABSN program does not require students to take either of these exams as a condition for admission.

Complete other requirements (i.e. personal essay, recommendation letters, admissions interviews)

Part of the Misericordia ABSN admissions process does involve working with an admissions counselor to determine your potential fit with our program and help you create a plan to get into nursing school on your timeline. But to streamline the process of getting into nursing school, Misericordia ABSN does NOT require students to submit a personal essay or letter of recommendation.

Questions to Ask in a Nursing School Interview
If you want to find out if you have what it takes to excel in our program, your first step involves talking to one of our admissions counselors. Learn more about how to prepare for this initial phone appointment.

Hardest Things about Nursing School

While getting into nursing school can itself be a challenge for all the reasons mentioned above, once you start nursing school, you’ll have a completely new set of hurdles to clear. Nursing school is hard, that’s for sure, but it’s all for good reason: All the challenging course material, practice in skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations you experience in nursing school could someday be applied to save a patient’s life.

Of course, the answer to “what is the hardest thing about nursing school?” depends on whom you ask. To give you multiple perspectives, we asked a few Misericordia ABSN graduates about how they overcame some of the most challenging aspects of accelerated nursing school.

Challenging course material

Nursing school involves learning about complicated nursing concepts and practical skills and determining the best ways to apply that information into myriad patient care scenarios, going well beyond just memorizing facts.

That’s not to say nursing school is impossible. The end goal isn’t for you to fail; nursing school is hard because it’s meant to prepare you for the rigors of the profession. As a nurse, you’ll be responsible for your patients’ lives and wellbeing, after all.

On top of comprehending such challenging nursing theories and concepts, for some students who have never experienced online learning, adjusting to learning course material through an e-Learning platform presents an extra hurdle — at least initially.

ABSN student perspective: How did you overcome the challenge of understanding difficult course material through online learning?

Dominique Chadwick
Dominique Chadwick, ABSN student

Dominique Chadwick, ABSN Class of December 2020: “I was quiet in the beginning and just read the textbook, but I wasn’t positive if I was retaining the information and understanding it. Then I started watching YouTube videos, I bought extra books, I got a study group and I would talk through concepts with my boyfriend. When I really started reaching out and asking for help from support resources and adjusting the way I studied, I started to ‘get’ the material and retain it.”

Tracie Rexrode, ABSN Class of December 2020: “If there was an issue that related to content or course material not working, we had great technical support. They were easy to work with and got things fixed quickly, which was nice.”

Accelerated nature of ABSN program

While nursing school course material is challenging because it involves complex concepts, it can also be difficult because there is so much to study, understand and apply. Even in traditional nursing school programs, which generally take 36 months to complete, the prospect of synthesizing that much material in such a short amount of time can seem like a lot.

Add in the fact that in an accelerated nursing program like the Misericordia ABSN you’ll be studying that same amount of material in a 16-month online-based curriculum and it seems like an insurmountable task.

ABSN student perspective: How did you overcome challenges with the accelerated nature of the program?

Tracie: “Make sure when you sign up for an accelerated program that you have a good study plan, that you’re self-motivated and that you’re not going to have an excuse for everything. It will just pass you by if you haven’t really planned for it.

Accelerated nursing school is not like regular school, where if you don’t do well, you can just pick it up later. You only have so many chances to keep moving forward, especially if it’s a transfer or a second-degree program that you chose to go into. You want to make the most out of it for sure.”

Preparing for nursing school labs

As a Misericordia ABSN student, you can expect to complete skills practice and simulations that mimic real-world patient care scenarios in a controlled, mock clinical environment.

This portion of the Misericordia accelerated nursing school curriculum requires you to apply nursing concepts and skills under pressure alongside your peers as your instructors evaluate you, then debrief with them on your performance. While this experience is a great way to hone key nursing skills without putting patients at risk, many students say these simulations often emulate the high stakes of real-life clinical situations.

Instructor watching nursing students practice on sim manikin

ABSN student perspective: How did you overcome challenges with labs?

Tracie: “Labs were nerve-wracking the first time because you really didn’t know what to expect. Even though it’s not a real person, it seems like it could be. The experience did help because from that you did actually go to real patients with real problems in clinicals and have a better sense of how you would handle them.”

Dominique: “My biggest fear with labs was messing up and being more embarrassed by not getting it right. I got over that fear because I realized everyone else in my cohort was in the same position as me. Then I was able to accept that if I made a mistake, I made a mistake. Skills lab then became a stress-free zone because I knew it was OK to make mistakes there.”

Nursing school clinical rotations

Especially for students with no prior health care experience, the mere thought of clinicals can be stress-inducing. Unlike the simulated patient care scenarios you experience in labs, during clinical rotations you’ll be assisting clinical instructors and working nurses with caring for real-life patients facing real-life medical issues.

While we can’t guarantee the exact scenarios you’ll face, know that you won’t be thrown into the deep-end on your first day of clinical rotations through the Misericordia ABSN program. Clinicals start the second semester, with the level of clinical practice gradually increasing from there.

ABSN student perspective: How did you overcome clinical challenges?

Tracie:Talking to a patient for the first time, that’s something that makes a lot of students nervous. Then as you progress through the program you go in and do everything your nurse would do — still always telling the patient you’re a student — but just gaining the confidence to go in and do all the stuff that’s supposed to happen for your patient and not second-guessing yourself. With each week in the program, you get more confidence.”

Dominique: “For me, the biggest thing to overcome with clinicals was putting myself out there and making the best of it. If you don’t step forward, you’re going to fall behind and you’re not going to get the best that you can out of the experience. If you take the initiative, you can build great relationships with your clinical instructors. I built relationships just by doing that just — by taking the initiative and asking how I could help.”

Nursing school exams and passing the NCLEX

Nursing school exams are especially difficult and are unlike any others you’ve likely sat for in prior fields of study. Rather than just prompting you to choose a correct answer based on a set of memorized facts, nursing school exam questions gauge your ability to apply the material you’ve just learned. This questioning style is by design — as a nurse you must think critically and apply what you know to any given patient care scenario.

Besides preparing you to think like a nurse, nursing school exams in the Misericordia ABSN program are meant to prepare you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). This is the licensure exam all nursing students must take before entering the field tests your clinical skills to determine if you have the skills and knowledge to deliver safe patient care.

ABSN student perspective: How did you overcome challenges with nursing school exams?

Tracie: “Don’t wait to read until the week before the exam or the day before the exam. It’s not the same as maybe even for some people who just graduated from their first degree and came right to this program. It’s not as easy as just memorizing the material. With nursing school exams, you have a lot of material you have to think about and apply. Make sure you set aside the time upfront and get used to a routine because nursing school is a lot and it just keeps going and going.”

Truths about Nursing School

In addition to some of the more difficult aspects of nursing school mentioned above, there are a couple more truths about nursing school to keep in mind as you weigh whether you’re up to the challenge.

You’ll be much busier than you expect in nursing school

As a Misericordia ABSN student, you can expect to spend several hours a week split between clinical rotations, on-site lab sessions, exam study sessions and completing assigned coursework. Between all these priorities, many former students have compared our accelerated nursing school to holding a full-time job.

This fact can be overwhelming, but to be successful in the program, it’s important to prioritize your nursing school studies over everything else during this time. That sometimes leaves little time for personal and family obligations. It’s also why we generally recommend not working a full-time job outside nursing school.

However, it’s also vital to remember that while nursing school is a grind, the reason you’re pursuing a nursing degree — no matter what that may be — far outweighs the short-term intense dedication to your studies.

Your nursing school instructors want you to succeed

One thing our students consistently say sets the Misericordia ABSN program apart from other nursing programs is the personalized approach our instructors take to ensuring their success. While instructors may throw a lot of challenging material your way in an abbreviated timeframe, it’s all for good reason.

ABSN student working with instructor

They truly want to help you achieve your goal of accelerating your nursing education, Dominique says.

“Everybody knows your first name. It’s not like other programs where you’re just a number. I really, truly think they cared about our success and what we got on this program. They always kept reminding us of that and always said, ‘I’m teaching you this so you are the best nurse you can be.’”

Misericordia nursing instructors also demonstrate their commitment to your success by:

  • Making themselves available via email, Zoom video conference or phone call if you have any questions.
  • Posting additional study resources, such as YouTube videos, on Canvas or emailing learning resources.

“I built such great relationships with all my professors through my entire 16 months,” Dominique says. “I never had a connection like that in my four-year degree.”

7 Tips for How to Pass Nursing School

While our 16-month ABSN program has its challenges, it’s nothing you can’t handle if you’re dedicated to becoming a nurse. It also helps to consider these seven tips for passing nursing school.

1. Manage time efficiently

You can expect a whirlwind of learning from day one in the Misericordia ABSN program, with a fast-paced blend of online coursework, nursing skills labs, and clinical rotations. That’s why time management is such a vital ingredient in nursing school success.

2. Stay organized

A student planner can help you stay focused on the multiple priorities you’ll have as a nursing student. Visualizing your learning activities on a calendar makes it easier to stick to a nursing school routine.

3. Ask for help when needed

Your instructors and success coaches are here for you throughout the Misericordia ABSN program and want you to succeed. It’s important to take initiative and reach out to them if you ever feel like you’re struggling with a tough concept or need some help with crafting a study strategy that works best for you.

4. Keep a positive attitude

Nursing school is meant to be difficult, so if you’re giving it your all but still find yourself stressed due to the intense nature of the program, know that what you’re feeling is completely normal! Keep reminding yourself why you pursued this path and celebrating victories when you can.

5. Establish a strong support system

No one makes it through nursing school on their own. Having family and friends to vent to about the stresses of nursing school is great, but maintaining close bonds with your instructors and fellow nursing students is key to nursing school success.

“You’re going to need help at times. You’re going to need a break and someone to bounce frustration and success off of. It’s nice when it’s your classmate because they’re going through what you’re going through,” Tracie says.

6. Utilize available resources

Resources are available to you for each component of the Misericordia ABSN program:

  • Online learning: Virtual study sessions with your cohort and instructors, discussion forums and study groups all can help you prepare for exams.
  • Skills and simulation labs: Open lab hours are available outside scheduled class sessions to give you a space to fine-tune skills you’ll need to be checked off on before you can apply them in a clinical setting.
  • Clinical rotations: Clinical instructors are there to help you make the most of this portion of the ABSN program, but it’s up to you to take the initiative if you have any questions.

7. Practice self-care

While in nursing school to learn how to care for others, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself. But taking time away from your studies to recharge is a key component to nursing school success. Block out pockets of time in your planner for self-care rituals. These can be as simple as meditating for 15 minutes every day or getting outside to take a walk.

Misericordia University ABSN student

Is Nursing School Hard? Yes, But You Can Do It!

No doubt about it, accelerated nursing school is hard, but it’s important to remember the end result. Once you graduate from Misericordia’s 16-month ABSN program you’ll be prepared to sit for the NCLEX and enter the profession a confident and competent nurse with a heart of mercy sooner than you’d be able to in a traditional nursing program.

Are you ready to rise to the challenge of nursing school? Contact one of our admissions counselors by completing this form — he or she will reach out to you soon to determine your eligibility for our program.

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