is Nursing School HARDER than Medical School?


Whether is it from a Nursing Instructor or classmate, I keep hearing that Nursing School is HARD, HARD, HARD!!! This is no big surprise to me that is hard, but it seems strange that this is emphasized so much; it seems like people are trying to scare people away from Nursing, or maybe there are other reasons. I've never heard people emphasize this aspect of Medical School to the extent that I hear it about Nursing School. I think medical students know they are doing something hard, and I never hear anyone emphasizing again and again how hard medical school is. Why is Nursing School treated like the most difficult thing to do on the planet? OK, sure it is hard, but to keep emphasizing this makes it almost sound like the person saying it maybe didn't get any respect for how hard they worked, so they want everyone else to be impressed with how smart they are to have made it through. I just never hear Doctors going around saying how hard Medical School was, and I think it because everyone knows it is a hard thing to do. It sounds like Nurses have an inferiority complex. What gives?

Anne36, LPN

1,360 Posts

Im glad someone else has brought this up. Everyone makes NS sound like it is so hard you have to be a genius to pass. Im scared out of my wits and so afraid that I am going to fail! Im not super smart and cant figure out how students who otherwise pull straight A in the pre-req end up failing out. I have heard other people say about pre-req's "If I can do it anyone can do it". Then when it comes to NS they are all like "So hard you are never gonna believe it".


337 Posts

Specializes in Gyn/STD clinic tech.

here is the low down.

i did have a 4.0 in pre req's, i also have a 4.0 in nursing school.

nursing school is difficult in the sense that it is a lot of info in a short amount of time. tests are on numerous chapters, not just one. you really have to study every day. yes, it is challenging to stay organized, but i have my methods that for work for me.

almost every student i have seen flunk out had a job they worked more than 12-16 hours a week. you will often spend at least that many hours a week studying, depending on how well you retain info and your individual needs.

Anne36, LPN

1,360 Posts

Thanks Junebug. Can you compare any of your classes to A&P? So far this is my hardest class.

Specializes in Psych, Med/Surg, LTC. Has 23 years experience.

I never went to medical school so I can't compare... But... I assume that many who go to medical school don't also hold jobs beyond the undergrad degree. I asume most go before starting a family. Most people in nursing school also seem to have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. It is a LOT of info crammed into a short period of time. You can be an RN in just 3 years, including general studies and prereq's. I was a 4.0 nursing student. I worked minimal and chose to go before having a family. So I didn't have it nearly as hard as those who also had to work full-time and deal with babies waking up at night, toddlers crying and clinging while trying to study, toddlers getting into things they shouldn't, figuring out child care arrangements while in work/school/clinical and still having to be the one to do the cleaning and shopping/laundry etc. It was hard, not in the sense that the material was hard, it was difficult b/c there was SO MUCH INFO to learn in such a short amount of time. Then throw in the stress of clinicals! There is just so much info crammed into that 2 years it is crazy!


215 Posts

Thanks Junebug. Can you compare any of your classes to A&P? So far this is my hardest class.

First Junebug is correct - it's difficult because of amount of material. There's not one single thing that if dissected on its own, can be construed as difficult. Somethings are more challenging than others and you don't have a lot of time to spend focused solely on anyone one thing.

To answer your question, they are too different to compare. A lot of A & P is memory based while nursing applies a critical thinking concept to their teaching and testing methods. You have to learn to 'read between the lines' for example. If all we had to learn was term definitions in nursing, we'd all fly through it with flying colors. For example, in skin care, if you learned that dehiscence is a partial reopening of a wound, that's all happy and good...but what are you going to do with that information? There are probably 6 different questions they can ask on that topic without asking you what the definition of the word is (in fact, I picked that example because they 'gave' us the definition as part of the question i.e 'Dehiscence, which is a partial reopening of a wound...' memorizing definitions is necessary in one sense, but not because they're going to ask you these types of questions on a test. You have to ask yourself, when may this happen - perhaps after a surgery. Why may it happen, patient moves around too much??? Inappropriate nursing interventions that cause the patient to move and cause this condition to occur - what protocol should you follow if you notice this...should you apply a saline soaked dressing, leave it open, ask the patient to get up, lie still, the doctor??? There are many ways that one topic could be addressed and when they ask the question, they assume you already know what it means, even if you never seen the word ever before you read the chapter.

Occasionally, you'll get a 'gimme' where it may be triage related (i.e in an ER, who would you treat first, someone with difficulty breathing or someone who's depressed because their girlfriend just broke up with them). But don't count on many of those.


376 Posts

Specializes in Psych. Has 6 years experience.

My theory is that the emphasis on "hard" comes from those students who don't normally struggle to comprehend. We are perpetually surprised by the level of work it takes to manage nursing school. Working my hardest and getting a B is a whole new experience and I try not to gripe too much.

One thing that will help you is to retain your A&P knowledge. Those science pre-reqs are key to reasoning through your nursing interventions, so don't just learn it and forget it once the exam's over.

FWIW, I do not think nursing school is harder than medical school. But it is shorter and we cram a lot in!


337 Posts

Specializes in Gyn/STD clinic tech.

a&p is a lot of memorization, as well as a good bit of chemical balances, etc..

i found it to be easy, mainly because i have a good memory, and i am very very nerdy, very science minded.

a few things in nursing school are memorization, like drugs but most if it is true understanding, critical thinking, and the ability to answer questions quickly in a clinical setting.

it is one thing to memorize a drug, it's class, etc.. it's knowing the contraindications, side effects, doses, etc, that can cause some students problems. this requires real comprehension.

a&p is nothing like nursing school, it is super difficult to compare. it is much harder though, in a different way, if it makes sense.

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

164 Articles; 21,189 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

You are comparing apples to oranges.

I haven't done med school but have completed an LPN program, bridge to ADN, BSN, MSN and one post-MSN certificate (soon to be two in July).

Its a lot of material and at least for me, it was a completely different subject matter - I was in the military prior to NS.

I also worked full time throughout all my schooling so that added to the fun and games.

NS is perfectly doable though and I'm no genius.


375 Posts

I just finished reading, Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs the making of a surgeon by Michael Collins MD. It's a GREAT book written in a novel form. The author writes about himself becoming a doctor. He LIVED and BREATHED pre-med and medical school. He admits it was 'hard' and required ALL of his time. He had no life outside of school. Sound familiar?

sunny d

24 Posts

Thank you to all who responded to my post. I guess I should've clarified that the only reason I asked if NS was harder than Medical School is not because I thought they were both "oranges" or both "apples" (I understand they are very different in their approach), but because Medical School was the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about what other kinds of schooling are considered very hard.

My point is, I do believe NS is hard, and that it takes tons of effort and time, JUST LIKE Medical School - BUT, to constantly hear that NS is SO VERY HARD implies that the person these remarks are being said to either doesn't know that NS is hard, or isn't capable of succeeding at NS. It seems that many Nursing Instructors spend a lot of energy on their first year students trying to convince them how hard NS is, and that seems strange. Is this just being said to intimidate? I mean, the students are clearly experiencing the difficulty of NS already, so is this some kind of mind game to weed out only those who are "brave" enough to dare to try to succeed in NS?!?

I also don't understand why so many people seem to assume that the only kind of schooling that was obtained previous to NS required memorization without understanding or "critical thinking". Plenty of people that I know with college degress and advanced degrees in a variety of subjects were required in their schooling and on the job to use "critical thinking", to look at the whole picture, think quickly, and choose the best of several possible right approaches.

I don't want to offend anyone. I just don't understand the motivation behind some the things that are said about NS.


72 Posts

I think perhaps some people under estimate nursing school because after all, it's not medical school (which every know and expects to be hard). So they go in expecting less and getting a lot more than they thought. Therefore they are not prepared for the workload. I still believe that medical school is harder, just because it is spread out over four years doesn't mean they have it easier. Med students are still doing more work/year for a longer period of time. I also don't think that a lot of pre-nursing are early nursing students understand what is truely involved in nursing, I didn't. I thought we performed only the very basic functions, the more I looked into it, the more I came to understand that it is this whole other world of involved. Now I am better informed and prepared. I think some people may also think that because it is a 2 year program (w/reference to the associates program) that it couldn't be that hard or the program won't be so short. Anyway my :twocents:

Me :nurse: