Dear Loved Ones of Nursing Students: What it Feels Like Going Through Nursing School

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Dear Loved Ones of Nursing Students…

What it Feels Like Going Through Nursing School

So your loved one has decided to go to nursing school. “Wonderful!” you think… as you’re excited for them to go on this journey and get this amazing job afterwards. They tell you it’s tough and spend a lot of time studying.. but it really is hard to understand-when you’re not the one physically going to nursing school-exactly how hard nursing school really is .

Feelings of inadequacy abound

Whether or not they were experienced with patient care before going into nursing school, suddenly they are in an environment where they are constantly being told they’re wrong.

You are being introduced to procedure after procedure, concept after concept, and skill after skill so quickly that you really don’t fully understand something before you move on to the next section.  You really just learn enough to get through the test and then continue. You’re constantly being asked questions in class and clinical and are frequently corrected, because honestly… who gets this stuff right the first time?

The clinical environment is intimidating enough; suddenly you’re thrown into an environment where you feel a need to prove yourself and perform constantly just to maintain some sense of confidence.   You want your clinical instructors, patients and their loved ones to trust you and have confidence in you.. but that’s pretty tough when information is being thrown so fast at you that it feels like you’re trying to drink from a water hose and you’re in a constant state of information overload trying to sort out what matters and what doesn’t at that particular instant.

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Prepare for Nursing School: 4 Quick Tips

Constant deadlines, many of which overlap

Research papers, math exams, med quizzes, skills labs, clinicals, small/medium/large exams, clinical care plans, reading assignments, and general homework are just the tip of the iceberg… of one class.  Routinely, full time nursing students are taking at least two, more likely 3-4 courses at once.  Many times, the instructors of these courses don’t touch base to ensure students don’t have multiple deadlines or exams that fall on one day.

I remember having an 8 hour clinical every Thursday, a major exam every Friday morning, and discussing the next section immediately after the exam – which meant we had to read it beforehand.  We had to study for the exam (which was over 200-400 pages of material) and then read the next section (another 200-400 pages) to be prepared for every Friday class… on a normal week.

Oh, and those major exams over 200-400 pages worth of material?  They were 25 questions.  If you just get a few wrong, you’re already down to a B.

And don’t forget, in most nursing schools 80% is passing… not 70% like other majors.

RELATED ARTICLE: So You Want to Be a Nurse? (How Hard is Nursing School . . . Really) [plus free download]

It’s not over when it’s over

Senior year is usually a time when college students are somewhat winding down… however this is the worst time for nursing students. Not only are they worried about passing their finals to graduate from nursing school ( again, with 80% or higher!), they also have to pass their nursing boards, write cover letters and submit resumes, and hopefully go on job interviews.

And I won’t even go into the headache of the process of being able to sit for boards, taking it, and physically getting your license in-hand…

After they conquer all of this, first year of learning how to be a real nurse at the bedside is also really scary. You’d think you would feel prepared to be a nurse after all of that, but nursing orientation as a new grad is a rude awakening.  It takes months (like 6-8) to feel like you know what you’re doing every time you clock in.

So if you think about being in a very intense, high stress environment for the entire nursing school experience, and then throw them into a job as a nurse…

The stakes are now higher … new nurses are working 12 hour shifts with patients that have the same expectations from them as the next nurse who has 19 years of experience.  You’re dealing with patient’s lives… performing procedures, giving medications, monitoring very ill people and trying to interpret intricate clinical pictures.

Needless to say, nursing students are very stressed for a long period of time.  Saying, “I had a bad day,” or “I’m just really overwhelmed right now” barely even begins to articulate what they’re feeling and experiencing. I hope this gave you a little glimpse into the demands and expectations of the normal nursing student, and really helps you understanding truly how hard nursing school is.

Don’t forget to check out our NRSNG Academy, full of resources for nursing students to ease this process and bring those incredibly in-depth concepts  to life in various formats. You can check it out at

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