Playing Basketball at College while Studying to be a Nurse, Good or Bad Idea?


I want to play basketball in college and I am being looked at by some lower DI, DII, and DIII schools. I also want to study to be an RN and plan to have a family after college. I've been in the hospital for some parts of my life and I really like the nursing perspective of it. I know how it feels from the patients point of view since I've had three brain surgeries and I can relate to the patients I work with.

I was wondering how hard it would be majoring in nursing and playing basketball in college? My school counselor said that the clinicals will be hard to make up and theres alot of reading. I don't plan on playing past college, I want to be a nurse and have a family.

What would it be like?

Specializes in Nursing Education. Has 15 years experience.

Well, if it involves "making up" clincials...then I would say pretty difficult to do both. In many areas, it's hard enough for nursing schools to arrange for enough clinical times at a hospital without having to do an alternate time for a single student. Plus, as a student nurse you usually can't just show up and practice at the hospital, your instructor usually needs to be available to supervise you.

That being said...I still think it would be a great idea to do both, you might just need to be creative with how you do it!! Although exercise can literally make you a better student (more energy, need less sleep, focus better, feel better), nursing students usually feel like they don't have time to spend exercising. It's unfortunate. But being on the basketball team would be a built-in exercise program for you.

Plus, if they're offering a scholarship, that would be great! And from your post, even though you don't expect to 'go pro,' it sounds like you enjoy playing.

My advice would be to talk to the basketball coaches, nursing faculty, whoever seems like they could help, and come up with a plan to address it and make it work. Maybe the coaches can excuse you from practice so as not to miss clinicals, or maybe you could find an instructor who WOULD be willing to supervise you at a different time from the rest of the class, or a preceptor at the hospital...there are a lot of ideas if you keep an open mind.

Let me know how it turns out and what you decide!

Will traveling to games and having practice every day affect my studying? What are these clinicals? I read that they are usually twice a week and are about 10 hours, but I would have practice and maybe a game. Would I need to reschedule it? Can it be?

What would life be like playing basketball in college while studying to become an RN?

Thanks for any advice.

allnurses Guide

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

2 Articles; 6,840 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 12 years experience.

I was never an athlete in college, so it is a little hard to answer, but I will try.

Clinicals is where you spend a day or two a week working with actual patients in an actual hospital with the guidance of your instructor and sometimes also the nurses who work that floor every day.

Most schools have very strict policies regarding all school attendance, including clinicals. Graduation will require you to have spent so many hours in clinical in order to earn a passing grade and be qualified to graduate and sit for your licensing exam. I cannot imagine (and honestly hope not) that the school would make excuses because you are an athlete. I also can't imagine being able to excel in nursing school with that kind of a schedule and requirements. However, many people have done the harder way of getting to a nursing degree and chances are you are a very determined person.

I suggest you talk to the director of the nursing program about your career aspirations and your athletic status and see what they recommend. Good luck!

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Silverdragon102, BSN

1 Article; 39,477 Posts

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC. Has 35 years experience.

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Clinicals are sort of like hospital internships, for 1-2 days a week and can be anywhere from 6 to 12 hours in a day depending on what school you go to. They're based on what you learn in the attached lecture classes. I don't think it would be difficult to play basketball while taking your pre-reqs, however, when you get to the nursing phase of your program, I think you'll find it difficult, your nursing program might even have a policy against it because everything in nursing school is usually on a set schedule, clinicals, exams, lab times. They're not going to let you reschedule clinicals because that would be an inconvienence on your professor and possibly the nurses at the hospital sites. Also most nursing students are in class all day. My schedule for next semester is 9-4 Mon-Thurs, would you personally feel like practicing after being in class all day or being at the hospital on your feet for 8-12 hours?

My friend is on our school's Division I bowling team and this was her last semester because she's starting nursing courses in the fall. They have a grueling practice schedule which includes running laps for about an hour or two a day..FOR BOWLING! Our clinicals are always from 8-4 and 8-2 so she knows it would overlap some of the practice times. Not to mention cut into major studying time. She wouldn't dare try to carry around those gigantic books when they're travelling on the road.

Most of our athletes have average majors such as business, computer science and some are majoring in sports sciences and athletic training obviously because it's related so you may not find any sympathy amongst your coach or teammates when you're trying to study for exams or prepare care plans.

tokyoROSE, BSN, RN

1 Article; 526 Posts

Specializes in Operating Room. Has 2 years experience.

This is a tough one. While getting the opportunity to play sports in college seems great, I don't know if you can do nursing along with that. Here's why.

I've known a couple of football players and their schedules are hectic. You are up at 5am for weight training, go to class, then go to practice. Every weekend you have a game or sometimes its a wednesday or thursday game. Sunday is your only day off where you're probably watching film clips and learning plays. Hands down there is not enough hours in the day to be that dedicated to the sport and study adequately. The games and traveling are the hardest part I believe. Clinicals are a huge part of nursing and they are hard to rearrange if you can't make the times.

However I encourage you to contact your nursing department and your athletic office. The schedule I described is from a top 5 NCAA football team so it is very demanding. Nursing school is a lot of hoops to jump through, and if you want something to happen bad enough, surely you can arrange something. Good luck!


357 Posts

What would it be like?

I think your biggest issue will be with scheduling. Labs, Lab Checkoffs, Clinicals, Synthesis, Simulation, exams....

I have no idea how the practice, game, and travel demands of college basketball could work with a nursing program.

The thing to really consider here is that many of the demands of a nursing program require you to be in a certain place for a certain amount of time with specific other individuals (your classmates, your instructors, your clinical site staff).

In my opinion you could no more "make up" that time in a nursing program than you could "make up" a missed basketball game to your coaches and teammates.


357 Posts

What would it be like?

I neglected to mention in my reply that you would probably be able to complete your prerequisites while playing basketball, before you are formally accepted into the Nursing program. At a four year school, you might have two good years of hoops.

One caveat: you still need to maintain a very high GPA.

UVA Grad Nursing

1,068 Posts

We've had some DI soccer, lacrosse, track, and volleyball athletes in our BSN program at the University of Virginia. It has been doable, but these sports may have less travel requirements than does basketball. Definitely talk to the NCAA representative at the college you are considering attending.

One of the NCAA regulations is that no extensions or changes in schedule can be granted to athletes that are not available to everyone else --- so special coddling or schedules for athletes is permited. Do not count on 'making up' clinical assignments. In our program, missing a clinical (or coming late) counts as a failure for that day and students cannot make up the experience.

Another option might be to plan on 5 years for the BSN (using 4 years of NCAA eligibility, and paying for the 5th year of tuition yourself.


10 Posts

Specializes in Phlebotomy.

Im very curious.. where did you go with this? I have high skill in basketball and that is my natural gift .. however I love the idea of helping people I've tried teaching and its just not it .. all roads keep leading to nursing  but they don't go together or am I wrong? 


4,123 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 8 years experience.

Schools will accommodate student athletes in the classroom. The issue is clinicals. Schools have to negotiate clinical slots for their students. There may be 3 nursing schools having clinicals at a hospital and each school needs to get several clinical slots for each class. State BONs regulate the maximum number of students per instructor (my state was 10:1). The BONs also require you to complete a certain amount of clinical hours in order to get a license. Practices and games (especially out of state games) will make it difficult to make up clinical time. They are set days and times of the week. You can't go to the hospital on your own and have clinical with a staff nurse without a clinical instructor to supervise you. There is very little flexibility in clinicals.