Do I have what it takes? Am I cut out for nursing?


I am currently in a Chemistry class, and it is the last thing I need to apply to a nursing program. I think my chances of getting in are pretty good but I am struggling with the Chem class. While math is not one of my strong points, I am willing to do the work and put in the extra time to learn the material. I would rather know why I am doing something than just get by and be able to regurgitate it on a test. The thing that scares me most however, is that my Chem professor took some drug problems off of our school's nursing quizzes and I don't know how to do them. (mostly dilution/concentration stuff) He never really taught us how to do these type of problems so I've been visiting the tutor and while he is helping me get the right answer I still don't "understand". (I'm sure if he taught them I'd be doing somewhat better, but we are running behind and so he's rushing through things)

All this combined with the fact that I am now questioning my decision to become a nurse is really freaking me out. My original reasons for becoming a nurse were that I really like interacting with patients, and there is a lot of different avenues for me to find something I truly love or at least, can stand. (I'm thinking pediatrics,psych, or public health) I took a CNA course and found that I didn't mind patient care and LOVED the patient education side of things. While I was disappointed that even as a CNA I didn't have more time to hold the hands of residents, rub backs and listen to their stories at least that bubble has been popped now and I know I will be much more busy as a nurse. Should I instead go into an LVN course since it is shorter and I can see if the field is for me? Should I change my major to counseling or social work? I am by no means a quitter but I will be dealing with lives and I take this all very seriously.

Specializes in pulm/cardiology pcu, surgical onc.

You will certainly learn much more before you're expected to be responsible for a human life. Not all things you learn in pre-reqs will be used but a lot of the knowledge is used to be built upon by your nursing courses.

I've needed to recall mostly from A & P, especially the physiology to help understand whats going on with my pts. I don't know which chem you took but I only needed the 1st class and do use some principles. I'm thinking of taking the rest of the series to learn more (and for BSN) but I think the majority will be hard for you to understand until you begin working as a nurse to actually see how the principles of what your learning correlates in real life.

I've heard from others too that chem is used to weed out the non-nurses. It's really up to you to decide as everyone will give you varied and their view of things (not necessarily right info). If you have enjoyed what you're doing until now I wouldn't sweat it, don't get too far ahead of yourself because you will definitely learn more before you're turned loose on the live, breathing pts!

ETA: FWIW I practically lived at the tutoring center to be able to pass math and chemistry but never needed help in nursing courses because I 'got it'.

nursemike, ASN, RN

1 Article; 2,362 Posts

Specializes in Rodeo Nursing (Neuro). Has 12 years experience.

This is a question we've nearly all asked, but it's almost impossible to answer for someone else. Frankly, I tend to think anyone who enters nursing without doubts probably has unrealistic expectations. It's a hard way to make a living, and often not nearly as uplifting as it may appear in fiction. More than a few patients can seem downright unappreciative, and some of those who touch your heart go and die on you, although I don't think they mean to be rude. I do spend a fair portion of some nights holding hands, but it's always time I'm stealing from something else. Fortunately, there's lots of time charting, so you can steal time from that without killing anybody--although you may feel like killing yourself when the shift is over and you're still charting.

That's the grim side. The good news is, don't worry if you have to work at math and chem. Truth is, you probably won't use either, much, at the bedside. If you have a 25mg tablet and need to give a 12.5mg dose, you don't really need a calculator. Not every calculation is that simple, but most are, and none require more than high school math. As for chemistry, you won't be making the drugs. Most likely, you won't even be doing more than basic dilutions. You can, and should, look up compatibilities. Even pharmacists don't have them all memorized. You'll need to learn a lot about a lot of meds in school, but on the job you'll need to know what you need to know about 25 or so, and within a year they'll be old friends. The rest you'll look up.

There is a fair amount of science. Pathophysiology and anatomy will have actual application at the bedside. But a nurse isn't a doctor. You aren't working alone, and you'll pick up loads of practical knowledge from those around you. You'll also learn things in school that you forget after NCLEX, but magically remember a couple of years later, when you need them. On the other hand, you'll ask questions any first-year student should know and feel like a dope from time to time.

I've thought for a while that getting an LVN/LPN, then bridging to RN, was a good route into nursing. I haven't completely changed my mind. Getting the practical aspects of nursing down, then doing the theoretical, makes some sense, and seems to me to mirror the early phases of bedside practice. As a new RN, it's hard to do a lot of critical thinking when you're struggling just to get your meds passed. But I got my ASN five years ago and have been stalling incorrigibly on completing my BSN, and I've seen LPN coworkers busting their tails to juggle work, family, and getting their RN. So, if you can, I'd say there is a ton to be said for going straight for your BSN.

If you think nursing isn't for you, there are other areas with some of the same benefits. Respiratory Therapy looks like an interesting field. X-ray techs make just a little less per hour and don't seem to have nearly as much stress, but the good ones do make a difference. Lab work typically doesn't pay great, but looks like a decent job. Personally, if I had it to do over again, I'd do pretty much exactly what I did--2yr ASN, then bedside nursing. But I may not be entirely well, mentally.

Good luck, whatever you decide. I hope this advice was sufficiently vague that you won't be able to come back in a few years and blame me for ruining your life. But from what you've posted, I see no reason to doubt you can be a nurse, if you want to.


17 Posts

See, I loved anatomy and physiology. Specifically physiology, I liked learning how and why things work and how the the different systems affect each other. I know I will make a good nurse and am prepared for some crying and hard times but it is discouraging that even as a pre-nursing student there is already a high level of cattiness. No kids yet, just engaged to the most wonderful supportive man on the planet.


902 Posts

Has 6 years experience.

As others have said, I think that most of us asked ourselves the same question prior to getting into nursing. You can partially answer your question by working with nurses as a CNA or tech. Another useful thing you can do, is to shadow a nurse for a day or two. Some nursing programs actually have a 1 unit class that prospective nursing students can take, that allows you to shadow nurses in various nursing venues.

But, OP, you will have these doubts throughout nursing school and even after becoming a nurse. The great thing about nursing is that there are many different types of nursing and if one area doesn't suit you, you can always try a change of scenery. Best of luck to you.

Testa Rosa, RN

333 Posts

Specializes in Tele Step Down, Oncology, ICU, Med/Surg. Has 6 years experience.

I always felt weak at math and science--turns out I loved anatomy and physio and things started to really click for me from that point forward. I especially loved patho and still read thru my text book when I can't sleep at night (yes, I am a dork).

Pre-reqs are just feeder classes into nursing classes. Don't take it too seriously if you don't understand one small part. You will be hit with the parts you really need to know so much in the course of nursing school that you will know what you need to know before you graduate.

Then you will get out on the floor and realize how little you actually know and how much you have yet to learn. It never ends. But that's one of the things I love about nursing

Blessings on your journey.


138 Posts

i cant answer the title of your post. only you can.

dont let the chem class calibrate your chances for success in the nursing program.

nursing programs are a totally different animal.


44 Posts

To be completely honest you will not find out if you are 'cut out' for nursing until you have graduated and are working on the floor! However you have seen a glimpse of nursing with your CNA experience and seem to have enjoyed it. I would encourage you to just survive this chemistry class. Over christmas break get your hands on a dosage calculations for nurses book (I learned from 'dosage calculations' by gloria d. pickar) however any book that teaches you the basics step by step will do. If you can find out which one your desired school uses that would be ideal....could be one less book to buy in the future ;) You could also buy an older edition...the math doesn't change! Work through the first couple chapters.

After you chem class is behind you and drug problems don't seem impossible...then make the final decision on attending nursing school!

Chem is the only prereq that I am scared to take. I took advanced Chem in high school and struggled so I went down to the basic level and did well but still I am worried. Math is not my strong point but science always has been. To conquer this fear, I will take it with AP1 when I start in the Spring. I have also enlisted the help of a friend who rocked inorganic and organic chem and my lovely boyfriend to help tutor me if I need it. If you need more help with the course, then ask for it tutors, friends, your school may have a counseling center, etc.

In terms of do you have what it takes, I ask myself that too but in my gut I know that I do. I am scared but I think that this is the right path for me and closer to the type of career I want. Good luck and go with your gut.


1 Post

My experience at becoming a nurse at age 48, 3yrs ago, is one of disallusionment. I decided to go into nursing after being with my dad in hospice and really wanted to give the kind of care that was given to him. After struggling through school (LPN) and getting licensed, I've worked in long term care and now for a clinic. Nursing as a job is waaay different than school. What I've found is that being an INSF personality type has made the transition very difficult. Nursing is very much a technical job, one that demands speed and instant response. I'm a reflective person that needs time to assess, weigh options, and connect personally with the patient. I am so caught up in the technical tasks of performing the job, and handling 10 hours of work in 8, at least in LTC, that I can't spend time with the patient.

If I had had information on what personality type makes a better nurse, I would have chosen social work or pastoral care which I did consider. I firmly believe schools should either test for, or give information, to critically think about our personality and fit within the profession. Of course some people can reconcile the business and the spiritual sides of nursing better than others. I'm not one of them. I need to take a new direction that may not even be in nursing.

It is a personal decision for you to make. I'd encourage you to seek advice from a social worker or pastor in the healthcare field to better understand what your role may look like. That is what I'm currently doing.

Hope I've been of help to you...


2 Posts

Specializes in MedSurg.

I hated Chemistry! made me second guess my goals too. But remember this that badge is going to say RN NOT RN made a "C" in chemistry. Great advice to get the dosage calculation book. And really when you are practicing as a RN you will have books, calculator sometimes a pharmacist and other nurses there to help with those drug calculations. Hang in there and dont get too discouraged. We all get down and second guess ourselves-even after 20 years i do it! LOL and then go to work tomorrow!


17 Posts

Thanks, everyone for the encouargement. The drop date has come and gone and I'm still here. Hopefully, it was a wise descion. I have studied so much I don't know if I finally "get it" or if I just have the problems memorized.