What makes Nursing school so hard?

by PopeJane3rd PopeJane3rd (Member)

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Jules A

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner. 8,863 Posts

Nursing school for me wasn't hard. There isn't a lot of math. What made it difficult for me was the sheer volume of work....lots of reading, paperwork, clinical hours, etc. I had to work full time as well, which made for some very long days.

Nursing school takes discipline, will power and determination. :)

I agree it wasn't the difficulty of the work but the volume. My biggest adjustment was learning how to deal with all the politics. Imo the whole "critical thinking" thing is over-rated. As an adult I've been critically thinking for years now...its called common sense. :nuke:



Specializes in Cardiac. Has 2 years experience. 180 Posts

I do not find that there is a lot of math at all for Nursing. Pharmacology has some, but it is basic such as conversions and multiplication.

What I find difficult about nursing school is that it is a whole new way of thinking and test taking, sure you can try and memorize everything you have read over 10 chapters, but you still have to learn how to apply it with the nursing process, which I think is so different. Nursing school is teaching you to learn and think in a COMPLETELY different way than most any other class, you have to learn how to think like a a nurse.

Another thing I find difficult is the things that I feel have little to nothing to do with nursing that take ups o much of our precious time! We had to do three community service projects, Meals on Wheels, DAy care, and A soup Kitchen and they had to be specifc places all ofcourse an hour away, things like that, that do not relate directly to nursing drive me nuts, when they should be teaching us about time management or working on our skills more.

newtress, LPN

Specializes in med surg ltc psych. Has 3 years experience. 1 Article; 431 Posts

The Instructors.

Kat Mandu, BSN, RN

Specializes in Author, Psych, Palliative, Wound Care. Has 45 years experience. 18 Posts

I agree with almost everyone here regarding why nursing school is so hard.

There's so many hurdles to jump ---- beginning with the pre-reqs.

Some of it has to do with the pre-reqs, such as algebra and chemistry. Those two alone keep more otherwise good potential nurses out of the programs. I realize those two subjects in some way are helpful in nearly any line of work, but during most types of nursing, the courses I took (and realize these can vary from school to school) were way too much - information overload. I've never found the need for algebra or a deep knowledge of chemistry in my practice. The chemistry we need to know was covered in the nursing classes (eg. respiratory vs metabolic alkolosis/acidosis.) The drug math we use, even the dimensional analysis method, doesn't come close to any of the algebra I had to learn. Drug math was covered in nursing classes each semester and as someone mentioned, we had to pass with a near 100% score and only got 2 shots at it.

Some of it has to do with draconian instructors who haven't been seen in or practiced in a clinical setting in 30 years. Some will mark points off an otherwise meticulously researched paper for a few spelling errors. Some have the old-school mentality of separating the wheat from the chaff. That's one reason why so many students drop out during the first semester.

Tests or grades can't fall below 80% in most schools. That's a "B" in most other majors!

As some mentioned, the critical thinking (new buzz phrase for logic and reasoning) is tough. Answers are not spoon-fed as they are in other types of professions.

I do disagree that memorization is not required. Many things need to be committed to memory --- conversions, lab norms, symptom lists; there are sites devoted to mnemonic devices to help students remember many things related to nursing, pathology, etc.

Also the time invested...clinicals are not just something you show up at a few times a week. The night before each clinical, you drag your butt to the hospital and research the patient(s) you're to care for more thoroughly than any practicing nurse ever has the time to do (wish we did!) Then comes the clinical, the care plan, etc., you may even find yourself writing a process paper on one of those patients.

Then there are research projects, studying alone or with a group...all very time consuming. I usually tell aspiring nursing students to prepare to have no life for the next few years.

Is it worth it? Yes. Definitely! I also tell them, "Nursing is the toughest job you'll ever love!" A very rewarding profession whatever your specialty.


Thoughts become things - choose the good ones! Mike Dooley

Flightline, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience. 213 Posts

On an off topic-

Flightline...I love your avatar! I have 2 doxies at home! :)

Oh! Very good.

We actually don't have any now. The one in the photo died a little over a month ago. My wife is working on an oil portrait from that particular photo as a memorial. It was a terrible loss to us and it really shook my foundation and outlook on things (God, life, existence, mortality, etc.).

We had another red-smoothie that died a little over a year ago. Both are burried on our property and we actualy have a headstone for the one who died a year ago. In about a year, we'll get a headstone for this one as well.

The one in the photo is named Ludwig and the one who died a year ago was named Wolfgang.

In both cases, within a couple of weeks we rescued another dog from the Humane Society. If we have a slot open for a dog we get one as soon as possible. The best possible life; the best possible death: That's our motto for our pets. The dogs we have now are a perfect black labrador retriever named, Spirit, and a black and tan terrier mix named, Morticia. We also have a black cat named, Muerto.

So, that's the long version you didn't ask for, but thanks for commenting on Ludwig, and it's great to hear you own two of the smallest of the hound group. They are good dogs.



15 Posts

I think nursing school is so hard because of the critical thinking, fast pace and also all of the clinical hours you have to put in. Just a combination of everything while you feel like you are learning a different language1!



Specializes in acute care. 1,237 Posts

the hardest thing for me is being confident in my first gut answers. I have a problem second guessing myself and changing answers. I am in my first semester and just finished half of it. While I do feel that some things needed to be memorized, such as steps in procedures, I don't feel NS is all about memorization. You really have to understand what you are reading and get help of you don't. If you fail the first exam, GET HELP. My school actual requires that you meet with your professor within a week after failing any exams, but people don't do that.

I just took a final in one of my classes. I studied a great deal of the book, but also did 600+ NCLEX questions. When I got the exam, I realized all the studying I did wouldn't help because it wasn't fact based. You needed to be able to figure out what the question was asking and from there, answer. Doing the NCLEX questions helped more than studying the book did.


jeepgirl, LPN, NP

Specializes in Pediatrics, Nursing Education. Has 4 years experience. 851 Posts

i think it is the pressure to perform - and the expectation of perfection that many nursing instructors require. plain and simple.



181 Posts

Care plans!!!


Bree124, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D. 200 Posts

I personally so far do not find the material very hard. I don't want to sound rude or condescending, since I know that a LOT of people struggle with it - but I have taken much harder classes (content wise) in my other degree. I think the challenge for me so far has been the volume of material and the amount of time we have to complete it. But I am adapting to it, and it's not as overwhelming as it was when I started.

Also, don't let a yucky math history deter you. I hated math in high school and college (especially calc/trig). This is not the type of math you do in nursing. Nursing is a lot of applied math - multiplication, division, basic algebra. If you can do those things (or learn to do them with some brush up), you'll be fine!


Bree124, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D. 200 Posts

I also have to add that so far I've only had two of "those" instructors... Nursing students know exactly the kind I am talking about. :chair: I am sure that has helped me out a lot!


Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Medsurge. 1,174 Posts

I can still remember those dreaded 3rd semester nights, typing up my care plan for my patient's the night before. Following a curt look through the charts at the hospital of my assigned patients, a full night of typing lay ahead, betwixt resting on hard office carpet floor every now and then and back to resume typing.

I am grateful however that I did not have to write my careplans by hand or typewriter, unlike earlier generations.

One time I can recall, 30 minutes before having to ready myself for a day of clinical (comb hair and pray I didn't forget anything critical, like my stethoscope!), I found myself feverishly typing out my med sheets and asking myself, "Is it worth it? Is it worth it?" And replying, "Yes it is worth it!"

Now I know it was worth it!

PS. And there is nothing more embarrassing than to run out to your trusted fellow student's car in your PJs, explaining how you'll have your spouse drive you...you just couldn't get ready on time. grrr

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