Tips for Surviving Nursing School: Expectations, Requirements, and Challenges
Nurses play a vital role in ensuring the success of the healthcare team as well as the wellbeing of their patients. They are selfless individuals who strive to help others improve their health and overall quality of life. Every nurse started their journey by earning a degree. Whether you’re pursuing your dream of becoming a nurse through a diploma or degree program, nursing school can be a very challenging and difficult experience for students.
However, that doesn’t mean your dream isn’t worth pursuing! Many have described the nursing profession as one of the most important and fulfilling careers in the medical field. In order to help you jumpstart your goals, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide that will give you all the tips, tricks, and resources you’ll need to enter nursing school with confidence.
Nurses who already hold a BSN degree can also apply to our Master’s Entry Program (MEPN) in Nursing.
Why Become a Nurse?
Many would argue that few careers offer as many advantages as nursing. Not only do nurses have significant financial benefits and job stability, but their work is both exciting and fulfilling. Nurses quite literally hold their patients’ lives in their hands. In addition to making a difference, nurses are needed everywhere. This means that you likely won’t struggle to find a job after graduation.
Nurses can also enter the workforce relatively fast when compared to other medical professions. Of course, picking the right program that fits your schedule, timing, and availability is vital.
Find the Right Nursing Program for You
Once you’ve decided to pursue nursing, the next step is to find the program that’s best for you. There are several questions to consider, such as the program’s length, location, and curriculum.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to decide the type of nurse you’d like to become: a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). This decision will dictate whether you obtain a nursing diploma or an actual degree. If you’d like to become an RN, you’ll also need to choose between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree.
(Learn more about the field of nursing by exploring our list of Highest-Paid Nursing Jobs)
It’s important to note that not all nursing programs are the same. Some programs may be held in a traditional classroom setting at a college or university, while others are held entirely online or in a hybrid format. Virtual platforms help create flexibility for working professionals or full-time caretakers. This is why it’s so critical that you discover your strengths, limitations, and needs.
While searching for the right program, remember to investigate each one on your list thoroughly. You can usually do so by studying each institution’s website or contacting the program directors. Here are some sample questions that you might want to ask:
+ What are the tuition costs and financial aid options?
+ What are the academic prerequisites?
+ How long does it take to complete the program?
+ What specific topics are covered?
+ What clinical rotations or externships are included?
+ What percent of the program’s students/graduates pass the NCLEX exam?
How to Get Into Nursing School?
Each nursing program will have its own requirements and prerequisites. Be sure to check the school’s website or speak with an admissions representative.
Nursing programs usually feature courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences. In addition, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program typically takes 3-4 years to complete. They focus primarily on science technologies, biology, communications, and critical thinking. Employers usually require a bachelor’s or higher degree for management positions or leadership roles.
An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is another great option for aspiring nurses working on a shorter timetable. While an ADN requires less time to obtain than a BSN degree, it takes more time to complete than a Vocational or Practical Nursing program. If aspiring RNs pursue an associate degree, they will complete about two years of study at a community college or a vocational school.
ADN courses typically include basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, emergency care, nutrition, and more. As with many healthcare degrees, an ADN program tends to blend hands-on training with classwork.
In the absence of any previous training or professional experience, aspiring Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) must complete a practical nursing program to become licensed professionals.
These formal programs may differ from one state to another, but they generally include hands-on exercises and clinical experience. Program lengths often hover around one year, making them an ideal choice for those who want to enter the workforce as soon as possible.
What Are the Nursing School Prerequisites?
All nursing programs have some form of prerequisites that must be completed prior to beginning your education. Some places might have stricter nursing school requirements, while others have more lenient or accepting prerequisites. Make sure you pick the program that is right for you and suits your situation. To give you a better idea, here are some general nursing program requirements that you may come across:
- Career planning session and admissions interview
- Submit proof of high school education or equivalent
- Entrance assessment test
- Admissions application
- Enrollment agreement
- Financing arrangements and, if applicable, all documents needed to obtain an official award letter for Federal Student Aid
The TEAS Exam
Keep in mind that you may need to complete a Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). It typically includes the following subtests:
- The math subtest covers whole numbers, metric conversions, fractions and decimals, algebraic equations, percentages, and ratio/proportion.
- The reading subtest covers paragraph comprehension, passage comprehension, and inferences/conclusions.
- The English subtest measures knowledge of punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and contextual words.
- The science portion of the exam covers science reasoning, science knowledge, biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, basic physical principles, and general science.
Applicants of the BSN program at Provo College must pass the TEAS exam. They have three chances to complete the test successfully:
First TEAS attempt
- Applicants scoring 58.7 or higher may be admitted to the BSN program.
- Applicants scoring 58.6 or below are not admitted to the program but may retake the exam after seven days.
Second TEAS attempt
- Applicants scoring 58.7 or higher may be admitted to the BSN program.
- Applicants scoring from 47.0 to 58.6 may be admitted to the BSN program but will be required to take ATI’s SmartPrep online course during Semester 1 of the program.
- The ATI SmartPrep course is designed to strengthen Reading, Math, Science, and English skills to better prepare the student for Semester 2 of the program.
- Applicants scoring 46.9 or below are not admitted to the program but may retake the TEAS exam three months or more from their first attempt.
- These applicants are encouraged but not required to take the SmartPrep course or engage in similar preparation before their next attempt.
Third TEAS attempt
- A third attempt of the TEAS is required to complete the ATI SmartPrep® course successfully. Students that reattempt the TEAS following ATI SmartPrep® must achieve a minimum composite score of 58.7% to remain enrolled in the BSN program.
- Students who achieve a TEAS composite score below 58.7% are administratively withdrawn from the program.
At Provo College, the clinical and immunization requirements for the BSN program help lower risks and ensure the safety of your instructors and peers. More specifically, students will rotate at a clinical site that requires documentation of certain immunizations.
Below are just some of the required vaccinations.
- TdaP within the past 10 years.
- MMR (two vaccines at least one month apart) or titers showing immunity;
- Twinrix or Hepatitis B completed series or titer within the last 10 years. Documentation that the Hepatitis B vaccinations series has been started must be provided before starting documentation that the Hepatitis B series has been completed must be provided within eight months following the first injection.
- Negative Two Step TB (PPD) within the last year. If previously tested positive, negative chest x-ray within past 2 years, or QuntiFERONGold Test. TB test, chest x-rays, and QuantiFERON tests must be renewed annually.
- Varicella Titer showing immunity or vaccination (2 doses if given after age 13).
Is Nursing School Hard?
You may be wondering: Just how hard is nursing school compared to other degrees? First, consider your natural gifts as well as your personality type, interests, and motivations. If you have a strong desire to serve individuals in your community, maintain a basic aptitude in the sciences, and possess the ability to work in fast-paced environments, you will likely thrive in nursing school AND a nursing career.
Try to remember that failing a test or even a class isn’t the end of the world. You can always try again. Success isn’t measured by failure but your ability to get back up. Although exams or clinical simulations may be intense, keep in mind that your program is designed to prepare you for the field.
So, how hard is nursing school or how difficult is nursing school? It depends on who you ask. Some find it difficult, while others find it very manageable. All nursing students face challenges in their programs, but it’s the ones who don’t give up that succeed.
Of course, some tips and tricks help, too!
Nursing School Tips
When it comes to surviving nursing school, try to remember that thousands of students complete their training every year. We have full confidence that you can be one of them, too! Although there’s a lot of information to process, many nursing school study tips are at your disposal.
Here are just some study tips for nursing students.
- Organization is Key –Organization does NOT mean perfection. Anyone can be organized if they put in a little time and effort. Establish order with your notes, routine, calendar, and workspace. You’ll appreciate it later!
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help –If you’re struggling, one of your classmates may be able to help you with the assignment. Later, when they get stuck, you can return the favor. You could also put a study group together to help one another get through coursework.
- Take Regular Breaks –It may sound counterproductive, but you will likely do more harm than good without regular breaks. You must let your brain recharge and learn at peak energy levels. To do this, take one scheduled break every hour or so.
- Aim for Comprehension, Not Memorization –Although it may help you pass an exam, memorization won’t always help you in real life. To succeed as a nurse, you must also comprehend the material that you study. Practice by explaining concepts in your own words rather than just regurgitating formal definitions.
- Set Realistic Goals –You know yourself better than anyone else does. Because of this, you know your study limits, preferred style of learning, etc. Also, it’s better to aim for gradual progress, not perfection. This is a marathon, so pace yourself.
- Remember to Reward Yourself –This one is essential! Rewards can help your mental state as well as your workflow. Once you’ve set your study goals, enjoy some time off guilt-free.
Lastly, take advantage of the resources at your campus. If you’re struggling with your studies, several experienced people, study aids, labs, and other tools are available to you.
How to Study for the NCLEX-RN Exam
What Is the NCLEX Exam?
The NCLEX-RN stands for “National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses.” This one-day exam will draw on your nursing classes and training. Ultimately, it will determine whether you’re ready to start working as a licensed nurse.
(Those who would like to become Licensed Practical Nurses take another version of the exam: the NCLEX-PN. You can learn more about it here.)
(You can also visit our comprehensive NCLEX-RN Study Guide)
The NCLEX-RN consists mainly of multiple-choice questions that measure how you respond to different medical situations. In addition, there may also be questions that include graphics, fill-in-the-blank questions, “hot spots,” and drag-and-drop questions.
Below are some of the featured topics in the NCLEX-RN:
- Physiological adaptation
- Management of care
- Reduction of Risk Potential
- Safety and Infection Control
- Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
- Basic Care and Comfort
- Psychosocial Integrity
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
Tips to Pass the NCLEX Exam
Wondering how to pass nursing school exams or just how to study for nursing school? Good news: we’ve compiled some more tips for you.
- Early Bird Gets the Worm – This is a common saying for a reason. Like nursing school, preparing for the NCLEX exam is a marathon—not a sprint. Study early, study often, and study in advance. Take advantage of practice tests and other resources at your school.
- Schedule Your Test Sooner Than Later – It may sound obvious but, the longer you wait, the more likely you will forget what you’ve learned. Some have said that two to three weeks after graduation may be enough time to prepare.
- Complete Practice Exams – One of the best ways to prepare for what’s ahead is to experience the exam through practice tests. Check out the NCSBN’s practice exams to give yourself a head start.
- Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep – Resist the urge to study last minute. Trust us: Getting seven to eight hours of sleep will help your brain operate at peak performance. Besides, some studies have shown that cramming for a test doesn’t even work.
- Look for Logical Choices in the Exam – Pay close attention to the wording of each question. For instance, if you see absolute words like “always, never, none, only,” then carefully examine those answers. Just because an answer might apply to some or even most situations doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to all situations.
Start Your Nursing Journey Today
Various reputable nursing schools offer high-quality programs, so fulfilling your educational needs is relatively easy. These vocational nursing schools are designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their future profession.
Once you enroll in a nursing program, you will only be one step away from earning your license and building a satisfying career in the healthcare field. With hard work, you can obtain your license and pursue your dream job.