Do not underestimate the difficulty level of nursing school...

by tenjuna

45,070 Views | 77 Comments

It's easy to become complacent about the difficulty level of a nursing program, especially if you have been doing well in your pre-reqs. However, realize that it's not anything like you have ever done in other classes. Do not underestimate it, expect it to be hard, and most importantly, be prepared.

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    Do not underestimate the difficulty level of nursing school...

    As I am almost done with my first year of my ADN nursing program, I decided to write this article with some thoughts about where I was a year ago.

    I know I am being overly dramatic here, but hey what the hell may as well put my Composition II skills to use.

    I started my journey April 2010, after having mulled over my choices for a career change for an extended period of time and deciding I needed to sign up before anything was going to change.

    I spent the first 3 semesters taking classes on another degree I was picking at whilst I tried to finalize what I wanted to be when I grew up. I finally decided my greatest asset was my empathy with people and how much I was willing to give of myself for them. This eventually led me to Nursing.

    I have always been a natural student. 4.0GPA without opening books, first one done with tests a few minutes after they were handed out, finishing homework before I even left class. I prided myself on all of this and eventually just expected it.

    Pride cometh before the fall.

    After signing up for the Pre-Nursing program in 2011, I overloaded my schedule to finish the 40+ hours of pre-reqs as soon as I could. All As, no problem.

    In the Spring of 2012, I added the CNA license course to my schedule as it became a requirement for the nursing program. I don't know that I even paid much attention to the course, but I did find that I had an excellent connection with the patients. It made me feel like I was on the right track. It also made me feel like nursing was not a big deal, thinking being a CNA was pretty much like being a nurse, right? Sigh.

    I bought all of my supplies, uniforms, and books...all ready to go. In my mind taking the courses were merely a formality at this point.

    Then came Fall of 2012.

    Like anyone else, I was nervous and apprehensive about doing something new, but quickly found that Fundamentals was a piece of cake, labs were no problem, quizzes were a joke...why the hell doesn't everyone take this class, right?

    As the instructor handed out our first real exam, it was just another test after the hundreds of other tests I have taken in my life, no problem.

    I got a 56.

    Now you can imagine the utter shock and nausea I felt when I saw that lonely number on the paper. I panicked, big time. I can only imagine the inner voice of my instructor "muwahahahha my plan is working perrrrrfectly."

    I knew then that I was in trouble, and I needed to pull my head out of my place-that-shall-not-be-named and shift my entire paradigm of thinking. It wasn't easy.

    I quit my $20 an hour job, spend 12 hours a day studying, and gave up all notion of having a life/girlfriend/friends/fun/food not from McDonald's. And I am still barely passing. It's not a great feeling getting 79% on everything when you have to have a 77% or higher on pretty much everything in order to proceed. In fact it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I was able to feel like I was going to make it. And I know I am going to have to continue studying 12 hours a day and basically not have a life for another 16 months.

    I worry about what kind of nurse I will be when I can barely pass my classes. But I DO know I will be the best nurse I can.

    ======

    Here are some of the things I wish I had known last year:

    - Commit totally, or find something else to be when you grow up.

    - Nurses heavily use and are tested using critical thinking skills. I cannot stress that enough CRITICAL THINKING. If you do not have that particular skill, go buy a self-help book to figure out how. Do it now, trust me just go get it. Stop reading I will wait.

    - If you have any thought whatsoever that nursing school is going to be a walk in the park, slap yourself as hard as you can and wake up. Talk to some 2nd year students to get a good idea of what being a 1st year student is like. Find your school's nursing club, they will be more than happy to share their horror stories.

    - Go get some books on nurse's stories, there are quite a few but they will give you a great idea of what being a nurse is REALLY like. One of my favorites is a "A Nurse's Story" by Tilda Shalof.

    - Do your research, make sure that being a nurse is really what you want. Based on what I have seen in clinicals, it's hard work, it's gut wrenching, it's sometimes menial thankless tasks that go on for hours. It's NOT Grey's Anatomy, ER, or any medical drama you have ever seen.

    - Continuing with the last point, go shadow a nurse, or volunteer at an LTC or hospital, get educated.

    - When you get actually started in your nursing program READ. ALL. ASSIGNED. CHAPTERS. Then read them again. Once you are done you should probably read them again.

    - Study groups are for everything but studying.

    - Working and kids and family and social life...forget about it. Make sure everyone is on board with what you are about to undertake. You will not be available, you will be studying. When you are available, you will be sleeping. If you are able to have a life and go to nursing school, I salute and secretly hate you.

    - Finally, after all is said and done TRY to relax and enjoy and take it all in...this truly is (at least for me) the most rewarding thing you can do in life. The first time I kept someone from choking to death swept away all of my doubts and fears and all the dumb stuff I did before I got to that point.

    It's worth it, just don't underestimate it.

    See you in the trenches!

    Cain
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 1, '13
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  3. About tenjuna

    tenjuna joined Jun '12 - from 'Davenport, IA, US'. Posts: 135 Likes: 275; Learn more about tenjuna by visiting their allnursesPage

    77 Comments so far...

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    Quote from tenjuna

    - Do your research, make sure that being a nurse is really what you want. Based on what I have seen in clinicals, it's hard work, it's gut wrenching, it's sometimes menial thankless tasks that go on for hours. It's NOT Grey's Anatomy, ER, or any medical drama you have ever seen.

    - Continuing with the last point, go shadow a nurse, or volunteer at an LTC or hospital, get educated.

    - When you get actually started in your nursing program READ. ALL. ASSIGNED. CHAPTERS. Then read them again. Once you are done you should probably read them again.

    - Study groups are everything but studying.

    - Working and kids and family and social life...forget about it. Make sure everyone is on board with what you are about to undertake. You will not be available, you will be studying. When you are available, you will be sleeping. If you are able to have a life and go to nursing school, I salute and secretly hate you.
    Love this post! I especially agree 100% with the points I quoted above. The study group one, maybe not 100% (depends on who is in the group).

    And yes, CRITICAL THINKING is key. Students love to roll their eyes at this phrase, but it is the crux of nursing school. Using your brain, not your memorization skills.
    iwant2b1, angeleyes8501, katrinad, and 2 others like this.
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    Thank you so much for this post!
    tenjuna likes this.
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    Great post, thank you for sharing!
    katrinad and tenjuna like this.
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    Great post, except there are people who manage to work who also have kids...Some people don't have a choice and just have to find a way to make it work.
    pistolfannie, HouTx, theantichick, and 6 others like this.
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    Great post, except there are people who manage to work who also have kids...Some people don't have a choice and just have to find a way to make it work.
    And as I said, I salute them...and I hate them because I wish I could do it. I was doing fine until 5 months ago when it all fell apart. I found that I had to give up absolutely everything or I was going to fail.
    katrinad likes this.
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    Great post.

    Quote from tenjuna
    - Study groups are for everything but studying.
    So true.
    tenjuna, gummi bear, and katrinad like this.
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    This was a great read--this experience has definitely been a humbling one and I imagine it will be for some time. For those who touched upon critical thinking skills, do you have any books or exercises that you felt helped you with that? I wouldn't say I'm a slouch in that area but if boning up on that before starting my program will help, then I'm glad to do the legwork ahead of time.
    tenjuna and emyaj like this.
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    Thank you! Besides the massive amounts of beneficial information in this, you did a great job writing it.
    watotowatano, hopefulRN'17, tenjuna, and 2 others like this.
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    Quote from wordsofmymouth
    Great post.

    So true.
    We must have the most productive study group ever, because we do massive amounts of studying! I don't know if I could do it won't or them.
    tenjuna likes this.


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