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Is Nursing School more difficult than working?


Greetings all,

A little more than half a year, and I'm done with nursing school. Nurses often tell me, "Don't worry, school is much much harder than working." Is this true? Please tell me your experiences. Nursing school is one of the most challenging things I've ever done.


At least you can leave work at work and come home for a relaxing evening. Except when one of your patients takes a turn for the worst, a family member screams at you, you reealize how quickly you could make an error in any given day if you aren't careful, you leave work and know you forgot something but you just can't place it, or you feel like you just didn't do enough for someones pain/nausea/depression/overall health.

Okay, so most days you don't have to go home and think about nursing. I still found the first half of orientation to be pretty tiring. You have to be on top of everything at first b/c it's all new and it's a lot to learn. You have to transition form being task-oriented to managing care. School uses your brain to memorize and teach you the routines. Now you have to multitask more than they could ever have you do in school and you're expected to already know how to do all of the tasks and understand all of the patho. A good orientation will prepare you well, though.

I think it's impossible to know what it's like until you do it, though. It feels exhilirating and exciting, but can be overwhelming.

It is depends on the job.


Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 22 years experience.

I have been a nurse for 8 months now and to me personally nursing school was a peice of cake compared to the "real" working world!! If I could get paid my nursing salary to go back to school I would be there tomorrow!!

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 28 years experience.

Read the threads in our forum "First Year Of Nursing" and decide for yourself. https://allnurses.com/forums/f224/

For me, I would say the sheltered world of nursing school was way easier than the real world responsiblity of nursing.

I agree that in a large part it depends on the job. Nursing School is just an introduction into the world of Nursing.

I think the difference is in the critique. In Nursing School it is your instructors role to provide leadership, teaching, experience, guidance and critique. As you actually work as a licensed Nurse you must internalize and take on all of these responsibilites yourself.

So few words for such a difficult task!

nursemike, ASN, RN

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

Tweety's advice was probably best, but all through orientation, one of my classmates and I used to laugh, "Hey--remember when we thought nursing school was hard?" But, as others have noted, much less homework, and even when you're stupid, you still get paid (everyone is stupid at times.)

Coming out of orientation to practice on your own is also tough, and scary.

Try hard to find a workplace that nurtures newbies. A new nurse needs a lot of back-up. Always be ready to return the favor any chance you get. Even very experienced, super-sharp nurses need an extra pair of hands, from time to time, so if you're there when they need lifting help, they may be more accesssible when you have an IV you just can't get. Be as independent as you reasonably can, but ask lots of questions and don't be afraid to call for help.

As horrifying as it is to do all the stuff you're already doing in school without an instructor breathing down your neck, it's also great fun. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love...I love my stupid job!


Has 11 years experience.

Nursing school is much easier than working as a Registered Nurse.


Specializes in med/surg, ortho, rehab, ltc.

I agree, it probably depends on the job but for me working is a thousand times harder.


Specializes in Neuro ICU, Neuro/Trauma stepdown.

I just graduated in june. And my first thought when i read the OP was 'heck yeah, and not only that, i wish somebody had told me that when i was in school.'

but i attribute that to a couple of things

1.) having been a nurse aide breaking my back an dripping in sweat in the nursing homes, and therefore oh-so-much more appreciative of my new job

2.) having allnurses and being prepared for starting out in the real world (ie. less harsh reality shock)

3.) nursing school is not enjoyable....it's 24/7, you're broke, and you're constantly worried about being kicked out (or failed out) of a program that i had to sign my name on the line to get money to attend.

nursing is really fun, i learn so much everyday...and there's no test at the end of the week.

texas2007, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 2 years experience.

I think some of it also depends not only on your job, but also how well your nursing school prepared you. Although nursing school is generally difficult/time consuming, not all programs are alike so some programs will prepare you better than others. Every new grad from my school has told me that nursing school was the worst but they did feel well prepared as a new nurse.

Yep, school was much easier, even with the homework.

BeccaznRN, RN

Specializes in NICU, High-Risk L&D, IBCLC. Has 13 years experience.

Oh man.....after all this talk about how I can't wait to get the heck out of school and become a nurse, I just had to read this thread. Now I'm really depressed! :lol_hitti


Specializes in ICU, ER, HH, NICU, now FNP. Has 23 years experience.

I think the first year in nursing is harder than nursing school on a relative scale. All the rest is not in my book.


Specializes in ED.

Can somone expand on why working is harder than school?? I am interested in this topic as I am a new nursing student and really look forward to graduation and making money and starting my new career. School is such a constant business, and I can see that the job is very challenging as well, stressful etc.. I don't see how it is harder than school. With a job, you can go home and not have to study, write papers, work on presentations, worry about upcoming tests etc. So, I'd like to hear some examples of why the working world is so much worse than school. I think the posts that just say working is so much harder need to expand on why, for us that are really hoping to enjoy our careers as nurses. Thanks!

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 14 years experience.

In my experience, school was many times harder than working.

In school I often dealt with petty, immaturely competitive classmates and scumbag instructors. At clinical rotation sites the nurses were frequently rude to students. Nursing is many times better now that I am a nurse because I have more autonomy and am surrounded by higher-quality coworkers. Also, I love my patients! :)

Then again, I work in a laid-back nursing home.

Nursing school was so much easier than working as an RN.


Specializes in ICU, ER, HH, NICU, now FNP. Has 23 years experience.

You guys who are saying school is easier need to say how long you have been working.

The first year out of nursing school *IS* harder, maybe even the first two years. And of course anytime you move to a new unit or new specialty it's hard all over again.

But you at least get to have a life outside of work when you are working - it doesn't consume every hour of every day and every moment of your family life.

Yes you have to think and make decisions, but you have the tools to do it - you aren't having to dig as deep or as far to connect the dots, even if you are having to do it more often.

Ok - so it is physically more demanding. 12 hour shifts are longer, you have more patients to lift and turn and run around for. More trips to the supply room and the med room...

I don't know - kind of a wash - but just different, I found working easier once I got through that first year or so.

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