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Is Nursing School Hard to Pass?

Summary: Nursing school is known for being difficult, but that’s no reason not to apply. If you have a passion for the profession and are dedicated to your education, you should be able to earn your BSN without fail. This post explains why nursing school is hard to pass and shares valuable insight into how it’s possible to survive nursing school, particularly when you choose the ABSN program at Felician University.

Rise to the challenge - nurse with glasses looking at clipboard

When it comes to earning an undergraduate degree, every college major has its challenges. However, one area of study known for being among the most difficult is nursing. Why is nursing school hard to pass? For starters, nurses save lives. Would you want an inadequately prepared nurse taking care of you or a loved one? Probably not. So while earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is difficult, it’s possible with the right level of dedication—and it can be done in as few as 16 months.

Before we get into the details of why nursing school is so hard, it’s important to go over some basic housekeeping issues. As you probably know, nursing is one of the most rewarding, high-paying, and in-demand professions available today.

Yet, while as enticing as the pay and job security might be, you’re not going be a happy, successful nurse if your heart isn’t into it. You need a selfless mindset and a sincere passion for helping others. This, however, isn’t to say that caring and compassion are the only qualities you need to be a good nurse. To provide exceptional care, you must have a solid understanding of math and science and be able to think critically in stressful situations.

Now having stepped off our soapbox, we’re going to take a comprehensive look at the rigors of nursing school, from beginning to end, and what you need to do to make it through successfully.

Getting Into Nursing School

Your first nursing school challenge starts well before you learn your first concept. As nationwide demand for nurses increases, so does the number of individuals applying to nursing school. And unfortunately, schools can’t handle this influx of students. It takes a lot of time, money, and resources to graduate practice-ready nurses—three things the majority of schools lack.

Felician University, however, isn’t like most schools. Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program can enroll a high number of qualified students annually. In fact, our ABSN program is the only one in New Jersey to offer four start dates a year—three for the 16-month hybrid option and one for the 24-month on-ground option.

Also, we believe more students should have a shot at becoming a nurse, especially since our country needs more of these healthcare heroes. Therefore, we consider applicants who have a minimum of 60 non-nursing college credits with a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all undergraduate coursework; most schools won’t let you start the admissions process without a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

Preparing for the First Semester of Nursing School

The first semester of nursing school tends to be the most difficult for students. It’s mainly because they don’t know what to expect. While you may have an idea, it’s impossible to have a complete picture until you’ve completed a series of firsts—the first assignment, the first lab, the first clinical, the first exam, and so on. Even so, there are several things you can do to prepare and help ease your transition into nursing school.

Invest in the Right Supplies

Before you start nursing school, you’ll need to purchase several items as part of your clinical attire, which includes scrubs and shoes as well as a badge clip, penlight, stethoscope, and watch. However, you probably shouldn’t purchase these items until you have a full understanding of our uniform guidelines.

daily planner and pen

You also don’t want to skimp on supplies that will help keep you organized and on task, including a student planner. While some students rely on their online calendars to keep track of their schedules and assignment deadlines, a surprising number of students prefer an old-school planner with time-blocking abilities. Also, you have access to the Felician Center of Academic Success, a place that helps students explore different organizational techniques to find what works best for them.

Identify Efficient Study Habits

As an accelerated nursing student, you have to absorb massive amounts of information in a short period of time. Thus, before school starts, you need to identify efficient study habits that coincide with how you learn best. It helps to think about how you’re able to connect the dots when presented with a complex concept. Is it through diagrams, lectures, hand-outs, trial and error, or all of the above?

If you’re an auditory learner, you could record yourself reading your notes out loud for later listening while driving in the car or going for a walk. Perhaps, you’re a visual learner. You could create notecards that use mnemonics to help you remember nursing terms or concepts.

Not sure how you learn best? Take the VARK, a questionnaire that helps recommend study strategies based on your learning style(s).

Establish a Support Network

Giving and receiving support is a basic human need. It’s important to have people in your life who will listen to you as well as support you in good times and bad. So before you start nursing school, you’ll want to have a solid support network in place. Your dream team of supporters might include family members, friends, and even your nursing school admissions counselor.

Sit down with your inner circle and explain to them that to be a successful nursing student, you’ll need their understanding and support. If you have a spouse and kids at home, for example, prepare them for all of the changes that lie ahead. Routines will change. Household responsibilities will change. And sacrifices will be made. It’s tough for a family to adjust to a new routine, so be patient. Just keep reminding yourself and your family that you’ll earn your BSN before you know it.

Jumping Into Professional Nursing Study

As an accelerated nursing student, you’ll jump right into professional nursing study on the first day of class. How’s that possible? It’s because we leverage your existing non-nursing college credits, so you don’t have to start your education over from scratch. After all, what’s the point of having you retake those liberal arts courses you did so well in?

Plus, the seven ABSN prerequisites you must complete before nursing school provide the preliminary knowledge required to undertake professional nursing study. You must earn a C+ grade or higher in each of the following courses:

  • Microbiology + Lab
  • Anatomy and Physiology I + Lab
  • Anatomy and Physiology II + Lab
  • Pathophysiology
  • Principles of Chemistry
  • Statistics I
  • Lifespan Development

You can complete these prerequisites online through our university. Take note that your previous area of study can influence the number of prerequisites you need to complete. For example, if you studied biology, there’s a good chance you’ve completed most, if not all, of the prerequisites.

Felician ABSN Program Overview

Generally speaking, our full-time ABSN program builds on your non-nursing college education, making it possible to accelerate into the nursing profession. To graduate, you must complete a total of 73 credit hours, which requires devoting between 40 and 60 hours a week to your education. Now, let’s get into the specifics of these two program options.

Hybrid ABSN Program Option

Our 16-month Hybrid ABSN program in Parsippany, New Jersey, spans four 16-weeks semesters. It offers three start dates a year in January, May, and August. The program comprises online fundamental coursework, hands-on nursing labs, and in-person clinical rotations in diverse practice settings.

On-Ground ABSN Program Option

Our 24-month On-Ground ABSN program in Rutherford, New Jersey, consists of six 12-week sessions. It offers one start date a year in May. The program comprises face-to-face fundamental coursework, hands-on nursing labs, and in-person clinical rotations in diverse practice settings.

Hybrid vs. On-Ground Curriculum

Despite their differences in terms of length, locations, start dates, and course delivery modes, our Hybrid and On-Ground ABSN programs have students complete the same accredited nursing curriculum.

When trying to decide between these two options, it helps to think about your learning style and study habits. Nursing school, in general, requires you to take in massive amounts of content. So consider how you best collect, organize, and retain information.

When it comes to the Hybrid ABSN program, all of your course content is organized and easy to access via our online learning platform, which is available to you 24/7. Online learning, however, requires a lot of self-discipline to be successful. So if you’re a student who does better with structure and face-to-face accountability, then our On-Ground ABSN program might be a better option for you.

Comprehension Is Key

Nursing school is less about memorizing facts and more about synthesizing concepts. For example, when you memorize the term “renal failure,” you don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside the body. Instead, you need to understand how the kidneys work and how they influence the rest of the body.

Felician simulation lab
Barbara J. Toscano Nursing Resource and Simulation Center at Felician University

Fundamental Coursework

Whether completed online or in the classroom, our ABSN courses teach the fundamentals and theories of nursing practice. Covering everything from nursing modalities to public health and disaster management, these courses establish the foundation for your education and the applied skills you’ll develop during labs and clinicals.

Hands-On Labs

Nursing skills and simulation labs are the bridge between your coursework and clinical rotations. You might say they are a safe haven for practicing your applied skills and clinical judgment without consequence. Overall, there are eight labs connected to the didactic (coursework) portion of the program. Hybrid students complete their labs at our ABSN Learning site in Parsippany, while on-ground students do so at our Rutherford campus.

Nursing Skills Labs

During these lab exercises, you’ll learn the safe, effective application of core clinical skills, such as catheterization, nasogastric tube insertions, intramuscular injections, and wound care. Our skills lab features the type of hospital equipment and nursing supplies you would use in a real clinical setting. Not to mention, our task trainers and full-body medical manikins allow you to practice various psychomotor skills without the fear of making a mistake.

Not sure what a task trainer is? It’s a learning tool that focuses on a specific anatomic landmark of the human body. For instance, an airway management trainer, as seen here, simulates an adult airway so students can practice intubation, ventilation, and suction techniques. Plus, task trainers allow instructors to validate a student’s skills before performing them on a real person.

Laerdal Airway Management Trainer
Airway Management Trainer
Courtesy of Laerdal

Practice Makes Perfect

Before you can apply a specific nursing skill during clinicals, we need to verify your competency with that skill. For instance, you can’t take the blood pressure of a real patient until we’ve done a skills check-off.

As you learn new skills during the program, we recommend taking advantage of our open lab hours so you can get as much practice as possible. Also, if you can effectively perform a skill but tend to become nervous in front of your instructor, you should roleplay with a friend or classmate before a skills check-off.

Nursing Simulation Labs

These advanced labs take your skills to the next level of clinical competency. These exercises require you to integrate theory with practice while making decisions in real-time. Our labs provide a contextual platform for you to problem-solve and think critically across the continuum of care. Simulations help you build mental models of a particular situation, developing your capacity to think on your feet.

Each simulation exercise supports a specific learning objective chosen by your instructor. Depending on the objective, an actor or a high fidelity manikin will carry out the patient role. For instance, we typically use actors for our mental health simulations and manikins for complex, high-pressure simulations, such as cardiac arrest and childbirth.

What is a high-fidelity manikin capable of? You’ll find that high-fidelity manikins, also referred to as patient simulators, come in the form of adults, children, and babies. The most advanced manikins can reproduce most every type of human physiological response, from pupil reactions to heart sounds.

Full-body simulator manikin
Realistic, full-body simulator for pediatric emergencies
Courtesy of Laerdal

Clinical Rotations

Clinicals provide real-world experience across the healthcare continuum. Your rotations start in the second semester of the program, focusing on the areas of medical-surgical care and behavioral health. As you progress in the ABSN program, other areas of clinical practicum will include maternity care, pediatrics, and public health.

As you enter a new clinical setting, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable until you become familiar with your surroundings. Just remember, you’re not alone. You and a select number of classmates will be going through the motions together—all under the watchful eye of a clinical instructor.

During your fourth semester in the program, you’ll participate in what we call clinical immersion. It’s where you work one-on-one with a preceptor (an experienced registered nurse) in a concentrated area of practice. You’ll work the same 12-hour shifts as your preceptor, taking care of one to two patients then gradually increasing your patient load until you reach a full assignment.

By the time you graduate from the program, you’ll have more than 860 hours of clinical experience under your belt. Clinical rotations don’t just give you real-life practice, either. They also provide you with valuable networking opportunities. Many of our nursing graduates will tell you that making a good impression with employers doesn’t start during your job search; it starts during your clinical rotations.

Quality Clinicals

You’ll find that our ABSN students have access to quality clinical placements at top hospitals and healthcare facilities across northern New Jersey, including those within the Atlantic Health System. Keep in mind, however, we can’t guarantee your placement in a specific facility.

Student-Preceptor Relationship

When it comes to the clinical immersion portion of our ABSN program, it’s up to you to make sure the experience is successful. And it starts by understanding your preceptor’s role and establishing a strong working relationship with them from the very beginning.

Your preceptor, for example, can’t always tell when you don’t understand a concept or if you feel uncomfortable. Ask your preceptor a lot of questions, so they can gauge where your mind is at. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your preceptor for feedback on your performance following each shift. Then on the flip side, giving your preceptor feedback is as equally as important because it can help them be a better mentor.

And last but not least, you need to respect your preceptor’s time because they can’t take a vacation or go on standby while mentoring you. Not to mention, your preceptor reports back to your clinical instructor and the healthcare facility on your performance, so always put your best foot forward.

Take Care of You

It’s easy to let self-care fall by the wayside when you’re in the throes of nursing school—but don’t. Regularly taking time away from your studies to relax and recharge is vital to your success. Think of self-care as being just as important as brushing your teeth every day. And remember, nurses can’t keep giving to others if they don’t give to themselves first.

NCLEX Preparation

Whether you graduate from our Hybrid ABSN program or On-Ground ABSN program, you’ll be able to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN®) with confidence. For the first quarter of 2020, our BSN graduates had a first-time NCLEX pass rate of 100%.

This exam is unlike any test you’ve taken before, and it’s not something you can start studying for a few weeks ahead of test day. That’s why we reinforce NCLEX-type content throughout your nursing school experience.

Nursing student studying online

Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX helps ensure that every nursing school graduate across the country can deliver safe, effective patient care before entering the profession.

NCLEX Format

The NCLEX isn’t about recognizing facts. Rather, it focuses on thinking through a problem or situation. Much of the exam comprises complex multiple-choice questions. You’ll encounter questions where several of the answer choices are correct, and you have to choose the one that’s the most correct based on the scenario at hand. Throughout nursing school, we’ll coach you on test-taking strategies, including how to break these complex questions down to get the right answer.

After Graduating from Nursing School

After you graduate from our ABSN program, you must submit a licensure application to the Board of Nursing in the state for which you plan to practice. Concurrently, you’ll also have to register to take the NCLEX exam. Testing is available all year long, but it’s best not to wait too long to take the exam. You’ll want to take it when your mind is still fresh from nursing school.

Once you pass the NCLEX and receive your RN license, you’re ready to enter the profession as a practice-ready nurse. You can choose to pursue employment in any number of practice areas and healthcare settings.

Ready to Get Through Nursing School Successfully?

If you have at least 60 non-nursing college credits with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, you can set your accelerated nursing education in motion at Felician University. While nursing school is hard to pass, our faculty and staff will be there to help see you through graduation. Contact our admissions team today to get started on your future in nursing.

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