How hard is nursing school?

Nursing school is hard.

When I started my nursing classes (the formal part of classes after pre-requirements were filled) about 120 of us were all gathered into one large lecture room for the welcome/orientation to the Nursing school. After some remarks, the department head said “Ok, look to your right and left”. Then, she startled us. “You won’t really believe me today- but, only one out of three of you will make it all the way through the program. I don’t mean to be cruel, or dishearten you- by all means, study, learn, and go for it! All I’m saying is simply what I know from experience”.

Talk about being sobered up quick. There were 40 of us that made it over the finish line. Exactly as “prophesied”.

Nursing school is different.

I had a B.A. in history, an M.Div in theology, GM corporate and organizational training, familiar with 5 languages, yada, yada, yada. That’s a plus, but none of that prepared me for Nursing school.

It’s a science. The word ‘science’ comes from the latin root word ‘scio’ which means “I know.” There’s no BS in this B.S., if you get my meaning. You’re going to have to know.

You will know the exact prescribed procedures for all the nursing ‘skills’ (starting an I.V., placing a catheter, changing a sterile dressing, suctioning a tracheotomy patient, and on and on). And, you will be able to demonstrate that you know all these procedures, exactly and in the proper order with no errors, under the eyes of a nurse who is closely watching everything you do, with no hints or help while doing it.

You will know clinical math skills, how to apply them to drugs and dosages. You will know the names, actions, and side-effects of all the drugs you will use in your practice- and there are a lot. You will know how to completely assess a patient’s condition from head to foot, quickly and efficiently, and how to document that in writing every time. You will know anatomy and physiology. You will know exactly how to write a nursing care plan for every patient.

Oh, there’s more; but I don’t want to carry on- except to say you will know, and you will think like a nurse. What I mean there is: I have known how to think ‘like me’ all my life. But you don’t get through the program until you learn to think with the mind of a nurse’.

Nursing school is hard. You won’t waltz through it. But, if you actually do all the homework/reading- and on time, not catching up- that’s even harder- and you sit attentively through the lectures, listening actively, not passively…..and God willing and the river don’t rise and interrupt your studies….

You will have the mind and knowledge and skills of a nurse. You can make it.

Steven Bobulsky

My history is a bit unusual, but it provided a broad life experience (shorthand for “OMG how did I make it through all that?”)
Here’s a fun list of professions and education without detail: Teen summers walking behind a garbage truck; Three and a half years at Duquesne university, pursuing a BA in History- out of money for my very last semester; Four or so years forging aluminum and titanium in to things from small widgets to Boeing 727 wings; Completed B.A., then went to M.Div. school, ordained an Orthodox priest. Pastored parishes. Shepherding isn’t for the faint of heart, I promise. Sadly, divorce ended that career; went on to work for EDS, and GM recruited me out of there. Went on to manage district dealers as their “factory contact” for Cadillac Motor Division. (As an aside, it was fun getting a new car every six weeks); Took a leap and started a Computer/web service for dealers. Venture capitalists came to meet me in Oregon; Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, surprise uninsured surgery kept me off the beaches of St. Bart’s. Six figure medical bills are no fun; As things got worse, the Dot Com bubble burst. Major depression licked up everything left.
A decision to pursue Nursing and passing my NCLEX (R.N.) opened up the doors in a career that I didn’t know I was looking for. All the experience a person brings with them is unique, and ALL of it can (and will be) put to use in the course of your patient care. Every good thing you go through, every difficulty you bear, knowledge from any field you’ve studied, any hobbies, talents, quirks, whatever makes one unique- will supplement and support the mind of a nurse, and the heart of your practice.
(This answer to "How hard is nursing school?" originally appeared on Quora and is reposted here with permission from the author.)