Is the first semester really the hardest? - page 3

by leekaye

7,415 Views | 30 Comments

I'm nearing the end of a very rough first semester mentally, emotionally and physically drained (literally sick with pneumonia from trying to push myself when I got bronchitis). I've lost 20+ pounds from stress since this... Read More


  1. 0
    I think Fundamentals tends to be a difficult class for a lot of folks - in many ways. If you're great academically, sometimes you get hung up on the skills (lab and clinicals) portion. Conversely, some of the best students I've seen in lab/clinicals are failing (or have failed) the academic portion of fundamentals. I think it can be difficult for a new student to marry both the fundamental theory with nursing care plans and physical actions. (I speak for myself here as well).

    We also have pharm the 1st semester, and a smaller, but not insignificant portion of students seem to have real difficulty with the dosage cal portion. I think we have lost at least a quarter of the students this first semester due to either performance issues in one or both of those two classes, or due to other situations they are experiencing outside of the program (such as illness or family problems). There doesn't seem to be much (or any) latitude for personal difficulties that may come up. I injured myself at work and I was so busy and stressed (and had so many projects due) that I literally did not have time to go to the doctor. Every moment I am home, I am either sleeping, studying, or working on projects. Other than that, I'm at work or at school. I eat when I remember to do so. I have also lost a good bit of weight this semester. The nursing school diet... ha!

    For me, it has also been disorienting that we use the same labs for all of our classes. There have been times when I have been confused about what is due for whom, when - especially during checkoffs. Heck, I'm still trying to find my way around the building at times!

    Just from these boards, and other sources, I've gotten the idea that L&D (or mother and baby) and med-surge are also very challenging classes for students.

    And its true that different instructors teach different techniques, and you don't usually get checked off by the instructor who taught you. I try to ask several instructors to show me the procedure, and then I use the most conservative example for check-offs.

    Anyway, you're definitely not alone.
    Last edit by Sadala on Nov 11, '12 : Reason: add comment
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    Quote from smatrang001
    My instructor is a drill sgt instructor. At first, I was really irritated with certain things she did and she always put pressure on us. She definitely didn't hold our hand, if we had a problem with something, she'd just ask us, "well, what are you gonna do about it?" it was hard at first because I felt like I didn't get any guidance what so ever. But as the semester went on and the more I complained to my husband (who is in the military) about it, I learned that she was only prepping us for the real world.
    Just as an FYI, we have several individuals in our program who are ex-military, and I have to say that it seems as though they've had an easier time adjusting. They don't seem to take the criticism we frequently receive personally. Many of them have told me they are used to that because it happened all the time in the military. They learned then to just let it roll off of their backs. So I'm trying to learn from them. I think developing a thicker skin may be a necessary component to finishing the program.
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    I am a non-traditional single parent student, with a home schooled child. Your best friend is organization. Do what is due next first. On Sunday don't worry about Thursday's check off if you have a test Tue. This first semester has been easy for me so far. Perhaps this is due to nursing school being my top priority right now, plus at my age I don't have a Plan B. Failure is not an option.

    There are many in my program that are struggling to hang on. Listening to them talk it is not hard to figure out why. Some who are CNA's walked in feeling they were owed a nursing degree. Some just want the title nurse. A few feel their social life, boyfriend, is more important. Some just can't get the hang of the NCLEX style questions.

    As far as an instructor yelling at me. HA!! That would not happen but once, unless I am about to injure someone. Then the word STOP better be the only thing yelled at me. I am prior military and boot camp was long ago. I will be treated with the same courtesy and respect I give my instructors. Usually people will only bully and yell at those that are weak and will take it.
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    No, it's not the hardest. For me the hardest part of it was the shock of how different it is from any other class I'd taken before. Unfortunately, the material and expectations/responsibility only gets tougher. You do get used to the "culture" of nursing school and get used to revolving your whole life around it though.
  5. 1
    I am currently in my second semester. It is harder as the levels go on. It's harder for me just because there is sooooo much paperwork envolved with my clinical. First semester seemed hard because of the culture shock. Everything was so new and we needed to get all of our skills checked off....tiring yes....worth it....yes!! Right now, I am in your boat. Fiance is hating me because clinicals are taking up so much of our "us time" he has threatened to leave...even though we discussed all of the stresses of clinicals before I started...fun huh...and my son is acting out (he is 3) ....i feel like a bad mom....even though im not....joys of clinicals....i wouldnt change it though...i am not giving up on a wonderful future for me and my son....if the guy is in the picture....i guess we will see....sigh....hope you can find solace in knowing that others are struggling with you. All the best!!!
    HM-8404 likes this.
  6. 0
    Speaking as a senior BSN student, in my opinion-NOOOOOO...I mean its a lil hard getting used to a new way of thinking, new rules, and new to be treated very differently then you may have been treated previously in school but otherwise no... I think so far each semester has gottem harder. The one thing that I do feel gets easier is that everythign builds off the each other so I do think I can get away with studying less and still scoring well on exams Senioritis is real too lol and makes your senior year hard hahahaha
  7. 0
    In our program, I would say first semester was the hardest. We had a total of 7 classes, the most in one semester (they were a variety of credit hours) so that was a lot to juggle, plus yeah I would agree that it really is learning a NEW WAY to think. Although the content gets more challenging later, it's easier to manage because you know what to expect and there are fewer classes. Also we had the most papers of any semester so far our first semester.

    Regarding the clinical experience getting better --> it depends on your program and your individual instructor. During our fundamentals clinical first semester I felt like I was learning nothing, but later I came to think that that first semester was really all about getting oriented to the hospital environment and getting comfortable touching/assessing and interviewing patients. (Our program is a BSN that requires you to get general ed & pre-req classes and get a CNA license before starting the 2-year "nursing" program. so we already knew ADLs and vitals.)
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    In our program, I would say first semester was the hardest. We had a total of 7 classes, the most in one semester (they were a variety of credit hours) so that was a lot to juggle, plus yeah I would agree that it really is learning a NEW WAY to think. Although the content gets more challenging later, it's easier to manage because you know what to expect and there are fewer classes. Also we had the most papers of any semester so far our first semester.&nbsp;<br><br>Regarding the clinical experience getting better --&gt; it depends on your program and your individual instructor. During our fundamentals clinical first semester I felt like I was learning nothing, but later I came to think that that first semester was really all about getting oriented to the hospital environment and getting comfortable touching/assessing and interviewing patients. (Our program is a BSN that requires you to get general ed &amp; pre-req classes and get a CNA license before starting the 2-year "nursing" program. so we already knew ADLs and vitals.)
  9. 1
    In the program I went through, each semester had a compelling argument for why it was hardest. In first semester, you are adjusting to a new lifestyle. I had been a paramedic for years, so the knowledge at that point was nothing new, but I was so unaccustomed to having a patient more than maybe an hour at a time. At one point in first semester, I had a talk with my clinical instructor about dropping out because I thought I was completely lost in the hospital setting. Fortunately, she convinced me to at least hang on for the semester. The very next clinical went awesomely and I did a complete 180.

    Second semester was very heavy with pathophysiology. We were warned to pay attention because that semester was going to be the foundation of everything in 4th semester, and they were right. In our program, if you did well in 2nd semester, you were likely to do well in 4th semester, and they were right on about that.

    3rd semester was our specialty rotations. Everyone in my class had at least one of the three that they struggled with. In peds, I was 1 question away from failing the class altogether on my final.

    4th semester was a very high-level of knowledge. This was mostly critical care topics as well as leadership. On top of this, our instructor was a retired Army Colonel who expected a lot. She told everyone that we got 30 seconds of whining for the semester, and she actually kept track of the couple who did whine. But, she was awesome to learn from, so she ended up being my favorite instructor.
    GrnTea likes this.
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    It sounds like you are in the reality of balancing your health with school. If you can make the sacrifices necessary to keep yourself healthy, the next terms may indeed be easier. Prioritize. If your health isn't in the top 5, try again. It's the cornerstone to everything else that you are working to achieve and without it, you'll continue to be in miserable survival mode.


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