What to Expect in Nursing School

by Staff Writers

Nursing is projected to be one of the most in-demand careers over the next 10 years. As a result, more and more students are drawn to the idea of nursing school as a means of preparing themselves for a secure and rewarding job. But what is nursing school really like?

If you are going to nursing school as part of a bachelor's degree program, you can generally expect your nursing major courses to be significantly more difficult than your pre-major courses. Nursing students have said the reason for this increased difficulty is because test questions in your major courses emphasize critical thinking more than memorization of knowledge, which most college students are better at. While taking your prerequisites, you will usually take science sections, such as biology, that are specially tailored for nursing majors.

Your education in nursing school is broken into two separate but related portions — classroom instruction and clinical rotations. Class instruction is what you would typically expect of a college class — you receive lectures from your professor, write papers, take exams and participate in group projects. All nursing students take courses in anatomy & physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology and other behavior sciences, as well as classes in nursing theory and evidence-based nursing techniques. Students also participate in learning labs. Those earning bachelor's or associate degrees in nursing will also take basic liberal arts courses for a well-rounded education. Students may study generally as a nurse, or specialize in a certain area, such as gerontology, pediatrics or oncology.

Clinical rotations, however, help nursing students put what they learn into action. During clinicals, nursing students practice the various nursing tasks they learned in labs in nursing school under the supervision of a clinical instructor. Most clinical education takes place in hospitals, but many programs place nursing students in nursing homes, home health care services, outpatient clinics and other health care facilities. Nursing students have opportunities to keep patient charts, take vital signs, start IVs, turn and bathe patients, administer medications and observe registered nurses in action. They also observe a great many patients with various illnesses and injuries.

In nursing school, you can expect to rely heavily on study groups with your classmates to help you through the difficult material. After you have taken enough classes together, your fellow nursing students will almost begin to feel like a second family!