Why Is Nursing School So Hard? 6 Challenges of Nursing School

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UIW student typing on laptop

Nursing school is known for being challenging, and an accelerated nursing curriculum only amplifies the challenge. Knowing this, many people who are beginning the journey to becoming a registered nurse might be wondering: Why is nursing school so hard? Before you begin a nursing program, it is important to know what to expect. You can take comfort in the fact that many have gone before you, and success is within reach with hard work and determination.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas, helps students earn their BSN degree in as few as 16 months. As you consider what it will be like to navigate an accelerated program, know that learning how to manage stress and study efficiently is key.

We will discuss six challenges nursing students tend to face so you can understand what makes nursing school hard, particularly in an accelerated BSN track like the one at UIW. This will help you answer the question: Why is nursing school so hard?

1. Demanding Schedule

The first challenge inherent in an accelerated nursing program is the significant time commitment that is required. While an ABSN track like the one at UIW can be completed in as few as 16 months, those 16 months are very busy. You will need to devote most of your time to studying, which means you will have less time available for other areas of your life.

Between studying for online classes, attending skills and simulation labs, and participating in clinical rotations, your days will be filled from sun-up to sundown. It will take some time to adjust to the new normal of the school-focused life of a busy nursing student.

UIW student practicing on manikin

As a nursing student, your schedule will primarily consist of these three school components:

  • Online classes: You study fundamental nursing concepts through our e-Learning platform, which allows students to customize their learning methods and study schedules.
  • Skills and simulation labs: Our interactive nursing labs will help you develop your nursing skills in a supportive environment. In labs students practice skills like IV placement and wound care, while simulation labs give students a chance to practice nursing scenarios with high-fidelity manikins.
  • Clinical rotations: During these experiences, students spend time at various healthcare settings in and around San Antonio. Students gain clinical knowledge and practice skills under the supervision of clinical faculty. Clinicals provide exposure to diverse patient populations and clinical environments.

The UIW ABSN track offers online didactic learning, allowing students to study at the place and time that works best for them. This provides more accessibility and flexibility than programs that require students to attend in-person nursing classes.

2. Complex Nursing Curriculum

In addition to a demanding accelerated nursing student schedule, you will also need to manage a complex and fast-paced nursing curriculum consisting of 62 credit hours. Registered nurses have patients’ lives in their care — so it is crucial to take that responsibility seriously by building a strong knowledge base.

In nursing school, you will need to know a variety of topics relevant to patient care, such as:

  • Health assessment
  • Health promotion
  • Disease prevention
  • Nursing leadership
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical surgical nursing
  • Mental health
  • Nursing for children and families
  • Community health

3. Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Another reason that nursing school is challenging is that it requires students to move beyond their comfort zones. You will be personally challenged to grow as a person, a learner and a care provider.

In nursing school, you will be exposed to new situations frequently, and these situations may take you outside your comfort zone. While this experience is not a guarantee, you are likely to confront many “firsts” in nursing school: The first time you place an IV, the first time you have a clinical rotation shift, and the first time you see a baby delivered are just a few examples.

These experiences provide excitement and opportunity, but they can also create some anxiety and nervousness. It is normal to experience discomfort when learning new things, so we encourage you to embrace this experience and have patience with yourself. As you progress in your nursing education, you will become more confident in your skills and continue to expand your comfort zone.

4. NCLEX Studying Alongside School

During nursing school, there is a lot of content to master. On top of that, you will also need to keep the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) in mind. Passing the NCLEX is a requirement to become licensed as a registered nurse. Students generally take the exam a month or two after graduating from nursing school but often choose to begin studying months before graduation.

The information you learn in nursing school prepares you well for the NCLEX. At the University of the Incarnate Word, your nursing school exams are written in a way that mirrors the style of NCLEX questions. This is because learning how to answer NCLEX questions takes a lot of practice.

5. Personal Stress

Another area of difficulty for nursing students is managing the stress and anxiety that can occur while navigating the expectations of school. Nursing students are busy, and they spend the majority of their time studying and focusing on school. During your time in an ABSN program, you’ll be expected to meet deadlines and pass upcoming exams, which can add pressure to your full schedule. Having personal performance standards and high goals for yourself will make these exams feel even more stressful.

University of the Incarnate Word ABSN learning in classroom

However, it is important to remember that as you begin the ABSN track and become comfortable with your study methods, your stress level will decrease. You will develop more trust in your level of preparation, which will help you gain confidence in your ability to succeed. You may also find that stress can be relieved by having a supportive community made up of family, friends, and peers.

6. Limited Free Time

While in the nursing program, your studies will need to be a top priority, which means many other interests and priorities will come second. With such a busy schedule, you will need to choose wisely how to spend your personal time. You may only have an hour or two in a day away from schoolwork, so you will not have time for all your previous hobbies. You may find it necessary to turn down social invitations when you need to spend time on coursework.

This new reality can be a challenge for many students; however, keep in mind that UIW’s ABSN track lasts only 16 months, so this challenge will be short-lived. Putting in the hard work now will allow you to reap the benefits for the rest of your career.

How to Succeed and Conquer the Challenges

UIW nursing student in red scrubs and backpack

Now, you can answer the question: Why is nursing school so hard? While nursing school comes with some challenges, with persistent work and smart strategies, it is possible to get through it and achieve your goal of becoming a nurse in as few as 16 months. Here are some strategies that will help you complete nursing school successfully:

  • Create a study schedule
  • Find study strategies that are ideal for your learning style
  • Incorporate group study sessions
  • Ask questions early
  • Prioritize personal health and wellness
  • Create a strong support system

Launch Your Nursing School Journey

Are you ready to take your nursing journey to the next level and conquer nursing school? You have what it takes to succeed, and the faculty at the University of the Incarnate Word will be here to help you every step of the way.

To learn more about how to make your nursing dreams a reality at UIW, fill out our online form, and our admissions counselors will connect with you.