What Is Accelerated Nursing School Like?

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What to expect in an accelerated BSN track - UIW nursing students

If you want to become a nurse and already have a non-nursing college degree, an Accelerated BSN track — like offered by University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio — could be your quickest path to this life-changing profession.

With the Accelerated BSN track at UIW, it’s possible to graduate ready to sit for the NCLEX in as few as 16 months; and because we offer three starts each year, you can start your journey much sooner.

To help you decide whether an ABSN track is right for you, we’ll be answering one of the most commonly asked questions: What is accelerated nursing school like? That begins with a discussion about how these accelerated offerings work.

How an ABSN Works

Accelerated nursing tracks work by accepting previous college credits so that you can focus solely on nursing-specific coursework. So in terms of a traditional, four-year nursing path, you can think of your prior education as counting for the first two years of nursing school, during which you focus on general education and elective requirements before entering the nursing portion of your studies in years three and four. With an accelerated nursing track, you’re jumping straight into the nursing-specific portion of your education — only in a more condensed format.

Because of this accelerated curriculum, clinical rotations start during the first semester, unlike with traditional nursing schools. Many accelerated nursing tracks also blend online and in-person experiences, offering the convenience and flexibility adult learners want, along with the hands-on training needed to learn critical nursing skills.

This mix of online and experiential learning allows the UIW ABSN track to offer three starts each year, rather than the typical one yearly start offered by traditional programs. That’s because the nursing shortage affecting so many hospitals around the country is also having an impact on nursing schools, making it difficult to find enough qualified nursing instructors. This, in turn, perpetuates the nursing shortage by forcing schools to restrict the number of students admitted each year. By moving the nursing theory portion into an online learning space, accelerated nursing tracks are able to accept more students and offer more starts each year — all while giving you the personalized attention you need.

UIW’s Accelerated BSN Track Explained

As mentioned, our 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing track consists of three components: online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. Let’s take a closer look at the role each component plays in your nursing education.

Online Coursework

In the online portion of our ABSN track, you’ll learn about the concepts and theories foundational to the work of nurses, including:

  • Basic hygiene and safety considerations
  • Conducting health assessments
  • Disease prevention
  • Pharmacology and the safe administration of medicine
  • Psychiatric and mental health issues
  • Evidence-based care
  • Treating the needs of a diverse patient population
  • Good communication practices

Through our innovative Canvas learning management system (LMS), you’ll engage with interactive activities, participate in forum discussions about assigned readings, attend virtual review sessions and submit assignments.

The LMS also allows you to connect with your instructors and classmates directly via the built-in chat functions. However, there are other ways to get a hold of your instructors, including by phone, email and often text messages, in addition to in-person office hours at our ABSN site.

Skills and Simulation Labs

Several times a week, you’ll travel to our ABSN learning site, where you’ll attend skills and simulation labs designed to build on the concepts and theories you’re learning in your online coursework.

UIW professor with two nursing students during a simulation lab

In skills lab, you’ll get practice applying essential nursing skills such as checking vital signs, inserting IVs and treating wounds. But don’t worry, you won’t be practicing injections or wound care on other people. Patient simulators and task trainers exist for that very reason, so you can learn from your mistakes without living in fear of them. We even offer open lab hours so that you can get additional practice outside scheduled labs.

Simulation lab takes hands-on learning to the next level. Utilizing high-tech medical manikins and advanced medical equipment to provide as realistic an experience as possible, simulation lab feels a lot like working in a real hospital. Controlled by your simulation instructor in another room, these medical manikins can display symptoms, react to treatments, talk and even bleed — and it’s your job to treat them. Following sim lab, you and your cohort will review the scenario in a special debrief session, giving you the opportunity to ask questions, discuss what went well and what didn’t, and learn from your mistakes in a safe, risk-free setting.

Clinical Rotations

No nursing education is complete without actual experience in a clinical setting, and for UIW ABSN students that starts in your first semester. At first, your clinicals will be mostly observational. As you get more comfortable and learn more, you’ll take an increasingly active role, and by the end of your time in nursing school, you’ll be the one providing care to patients — under the expert guidance of your clinical instructor, of course!

male nursing student in UIW scrubs examining syringe

Through these clinical rotations at CHRISTUS Health System and Methodist Healthcare System, among other San Antonio-area providers, you’ll gain experience in a variety of settings. Clinicals also provide a terrific opportunity to find your place in nursing and to network with working nurses.

How to Be Successful in an Accelerated Nursing Track

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what accelerated nursing school is like, we should talk about the things you need to do to be successful.

Here are seven tips to help you succeed in nursing school:

You have to make the time.

Nursing school is time-intensive by any standard. In addition to completing online assignments and attending labs, clinicals and exams, you’re going to be doing a lot of reading. So plan on allocating around 40 hours a week for your nursing studies. For this reason, we recommend that students who must work while in school limit their job hours

Be prepared to make sacrifices with your time.

Earning a BSN in as few as 16 months is very doable; however, it may take some sacrifices. Be upfront with friends and family that you may be absent from social events and other gatherings during this time. Speaking of…

Have a strong support network in place.

Remember that everyone in your cohort is in the same place as you, so use it to your advantage. Get to know your classmates and lean on each other for support. For example, you might consider holding a weekly meet-up to study or talk over challenging assignments or concepts.

If you have children, make sure your partner understands that you’re likely going to need more help than normal. You might even ask family members or friends if they’d be willing to help so you can devote more time to studying.

Keep a detailed calendar (or two).

With so much on your plate, it’s easy to miss something. Avoid this by keeping an up-to-date calendar of assignment due dates, lab and clinical sessions, exams, and anything else you have going on in your life. Some ABSN students even keep multiple calendars. For example, you might have a calendar in your main study space in addition to keeping all of that information on your phone’s calendar.

Get organized.

You may take copious notes, but they’re only so helpful if you can’t find them or they’re not well-organized. Consider keeping all of your notes and printouts in one place, such as a binder, so they don’t get lost. In addition to highlighting important passages, it can also be very helpful to use different colored tabs to aid you in quickly finding the information you need.

girl wearing nursing lab coat and taking notes - University of the Incarnate Word

Develop a routine.

Anyone who works out regularly knows that developing a routine leads to consistency. The same applies to nursing school. Many successful students plan out their week (and even semester) in advance so studying becomes a habit. Keep in mind that while the wait-and-cram method of test preparation might have worked for you in your previous studies, it will not in nursing school. There’s simply too much to cover. Making study a regular habit will benefit you immensely, not just in nursing school but also when you go to take the NCLEX.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

We’ve all had moments where we’re afraid to ask a question. That’s just not going to work in nursing school. If you don’t understand something or need help, speak up. Your instructors are here for you.

Ready to Start Your Nursing Journey?

Give us a call today to find out if our Accelerated BSN track in San Antonio is right for you.