Is becoming a nurse harder now?

  1. I entered my RN program in 1978, when I was 17. It was a three-year college program with clinical rotations in each semester. While I can't say it was easy, I don't remember it being particularly difficult either. Stress occurred as we waited for evaluations and there was ranting about individual profs. I was failed after my pediatric rotation because I was told I wasn't empathetic enough, I was too task oriented and I'd never make it as a nurse. Feh.

    But, I read the posts from students now and it seems that things have gotten so much tougher. Is this true, or is it my perception as I enter old-fogeyhood? Did I just forget that it was that hard?

    I feel so badly for some of the students who post here and the hard times that they are having.
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  2. 29 Comments

  3. by   TheCommuter
    I attended LVN/LPN school last year. One of my instructors, who earned a diploma in the early 1960s before earning a master of science in nursing, made this statement: "Your LVN program is much harder and more informative than my diploma RN program was in 1963."
  4. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I dont' know if it's really "harder", but a different learning situation or environment than the diploma days. I think the biggest problem may be the lack of qualified instructors, therefore, few slots for people who want to go to nursing school. And once in, the competition keeps going and there is ample opportunity to "wash out", ask any student. It's very tough, yes. But I think "tough" in different ways. I can't imagine it has ever been "easy" to become or be a nurse at any point in time. I have people in my family who were nurses back to the 1920s. It was not easy then; it's not easy now. For very different reasons, because the world is different.
  5. by   S.T.A.C.E.Y
    Well I'm still a student, so I can't make comparisons between my nursing program now and what the old nursing programs used to be like. However, I would think that as our population lives longer, has an increasing number of co-morbidities, new diseases being diagnosed daily, new medication regimens being introduced, more technical surgeries and treatments, tons of labs or diagnostic tests, nursing education must be more complicated than it was thirty years ago.

    A few weeks ago one of my profs showed us an RN exam from the 1930's....it was worth a good laugh. Look at the NCLEX books of today, and there is a huge difference. This couldn't have happened overnight, therefore I would expect that nursing education has increased in its difficulty in the last 70 50 30, even ten years.

    Just my
  6. by   ear
    Harder? Who knows. Everyone decides what their individual difficulties are. I do believe though, that nursing it self has changed. I think at this point, we are learning everything that you did back in 78 and add to it all of the new medications, diseases, treatments, diagnostic procedures. I think it is difficult, and stressful all the same....only the information is a bit more involved. Only my twon cents....


    ~ear
  7. by   llg
    I think it is just different -- harder in some ways, but easier in some ways. Different. We had different problems back then (the mid-1970's for me), but our problems were just as hard.

    For example: NCLEX exams were only given twice a year. If you weren't at your best that day, tough. You had to wait 6 months to try again. If you failed 1 of the 5 tests, tough. You had to wait another 6 months to take the exam again. And they were only given in the state capital. You had to travel to where the test was given on the 2 days they were giving it -- whether that fit into your personal life schedule or not. Then after taking the 5 tests over 2 days, you had to wait about 6 weeks to find out if you passed or not. I wouldn't say that was harder or easier than now, just different.

    We had our share of bad instructors and bad test questions, too. And while there has been a lot of new knowledge developed over the years, there has also been a lot of advancement in teaching methods. We had no learning lab: we had to read the book and then do it for real the next day on a real patient. We rarely had slides in class: we sat through 3 hour lectures with minimal audiovisuals.

    We had no internet. Even xeroxing was not always available. (We had to take notes as we read in the library.) We had to go to the library and look for information on our patients' diagnosis and treatment the night before clinical. Full care plans had to be started before the first clinical day of the week and completed by the end of each clinical week.

    Working a job was next to impossible because of the hours required by clinicals. That meant that we and our parents had to make sacrifices their whole lives to save up a lot of money in advance before we could go to school. Yes, there were grants and loans, but most people made sacrifices and saved up money in advance to cover living expenses as they knew they would not be able to work much while in school.

    There were few preceptorships, externships, internships, etc. My new grad orientation to a level III NICU consisted of 5 weeks with a variety of preceptors and 2 or 3 days of class. I started orienting to Charge after 6 months.

    No ... it wasn't easier ... it was just hard in different ways.
  8. by   clemmm78
    llg, you have a point. Actually several <grin>.

    Internet research wasn't available and I remember writing out all those details from library books or borrowed books. We did have a lab, thank goodness, but we didn't have the simulations and stuff that I have seen in the newer equipped labs.
  9. by   tlhubbard
    I know my aunt who graduated in 1976 (also my inspiration to be a nurse), has a lot of the same complaints as I did in nursing school. Being constantly reminded of how many ways they can find to kick you out, hateful mentors who are cannibals, etc.

    As far as the class, if I had to be a guinea pig for my fellow students, instead of having mannequins I wouldn't be a nurse. So anytime I know someone has been a nurse for years, I really respect the fact they were willing to go through things I wouldn't be.

    Also the NCLEX may have advanced, but I can honestly say I probably lucked out there. I only had 75 questions before the computer shut off. Here in Ohio, the nurses (before the computerized version) had to take the NCLEX in a stiffling old barn on the Ohio State Fair grounds and sat for 2 days taking hand written tests. Then waited for 3-6 months for results ( I waited 11 days).

    So I say hats off (literally, we didn't get those either) to the more experienced nurses. It's still tough, but I believe some of it use to be tougher.
  10. by   anne74
    My Mom and I have this conversation a lot. She got her 3-year diploma in the '60s, I just got my BSN. It certainly wasn't easy for her - but, I think the competition wasn't quite as tough then, and it wasn't quite as technical as it is now. I barely got into nursing school with a 3.8/4.0 GPA - my Mom was a B/C student.

    I also completely agree that there is a serious lack of qualified instructors today. They'll take any warm body to fill a spot - "Have you been a nurse for a while? Great - now you're a professor!" Many of my instructors couldn't communicate, give a lecture, write a test or even put together a cohesive powerpoint presentation. I think many sensed their incompetence, and then got really nasty with students. If we questioned things, we were threatened to get kicked out.

    It was sad actually. Sad for me, because I paid over $50,000 for my BSN. My Mom paid a total of $1000 for 3 years of school. She had no school loans - mine are $400 a month.

    What I think is really interesting is how much better diploma nurses are clinically. When my Mom graduated, she hit the ground running. When I graduated - with a four-year degree - I was totally unprepared, even with experience as a CNA and student intern. So bascially nowadays, we pay more, study more, but are less prepared for the real world. Strange, huh?
  11. by   RNOTODAY
    Of course it is harder. We have new technology now, nurses have more responsibility,and the patients in the hospital are much more acute. Todays med/surg pt would be an ICU pt many years ago. Long gone are the days when you were admitted for "tests" "exhaustion" and, just for a rest....
  12. by   clemmm78
    Quote from RNOTODAY
    Of course it is harder. We have new technology now, nurses have more responsibility,and the patients in the hospital are much more acute. Todays med/surg pt would be an ICU pt many years ago. Long gone are the days when you were admitted for "tests" "exhaustion" and, just for a rest....
    I have to disagree with you there. I never, ever had a patient admitted for just tests, exhaustion or just for a rest.
  13. by   rita359
    Graduated 1968. School was hard. Worked part time on weekends, holidays, vacations. By todays standards school was cheap but at $1.25/hr it was a good thing(don't have a pay stub. May not have been that). Parents were farmers. Not much pay in that then or now. Lot of new information between then and now, new tests, new everything. Hard even to recognize nursing then and now as the same profession. Still had pages and pages of care plans to do. Research in libraries(way before internet). Could not say that school today would be easier just different. However, was more that worth the effort.
  14. by   rita359
    Quote from clemmm78
    I have to disagree with you there. I never, ever had a patient admitted for just tests, exhaustion or just for a rest.

    First 5 years of my nursing career had all kinds of patients admitted for ugi,gb, ba enemas, ivps. Nurses now don't even know how to prep a patient for any of these tests. Many a patient kidded us about coming to the hospital for a rest.

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