Medical Education

Nursing School Is More Challenging Than Many Graduates Realize

3 Mins read


Nursing school offers incredible opportunities, for career, salary, and life experiences. The extreme satisfaction of helping others and making a difference makes it one of the most rewarding careers around.

However, this expertise comes at a price, and you don’t want to underestimate the challenges of nursing school. There are countless hours of study as nurses are required to memorize bones, muscles, neural routes, and so much more. There are also lengthy clinical hours where nurses learn from mistakes and strive for perfection.

Parents should be very proud of their children who graduate from such a prestigious and difficult process. Students and their families should also be aware of the work that goes into it.

Be Prepared for Rigorous Coursework

The difficulty level of coursework for every student is hard to measure. Some students find the coursework very manageable, while others are extremely challenged. Most will say that it poses somewhat of a challenge at the very least.

Nursing programs are designed to challenge students. Nobody wants a barely trained nurse to take their blood or attend them during surgery, so the coursework must be rigorous in order to achieve perfection.

One registered nurse who graduated with a BSN shared his story of going into nursing school and the difficulties he faced. He spoke about being a naturally good student with a 4.0 GPA and very little study required.

When he began the nursing program, however, all that changed. He shared this tidbit while in the midst of his studies.

“I quit my $20 an hour job, spent 12 hours a day studying, and gave up all notion of having a life/girlfriend/friends/fun/food not from McDonald’s,” he lamented on “And I am still barely passing. It’s not a great feeling getting 79% on everything when you have to have a 77% or higher on pretty much everything in order to proceed. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was able to feel like I was going to make it. And I know I am going to have to continue studying 12 hours a day and basically not have a life for another 16 months.”

This may not be the case for everyone who enters the nursing program, but it is a reality many nursing students face and should be prepared for.

What Makes Nursing Programs So Difficult?

Most students will tell you that nursing programs are more difficult than many other programs at their chosen school. They tend to spend longer hours studying and in clinicals than others. Why is this the case?

There are many factors that influence the difficulty of the program, including the following:

  • There’s a lot to learn in a small amount of time. Nurses must be exceptionally proficient in their field, even though the programs are relatively short. You have to learn a high volume of new facts, practical skills, and concepts, all to be recalled at a moment’s notice.
  • Time management is challenging. Students who want to succeed have to put some aspects of their personal lives on hold in order to focus on their studies. This is very difficult for many students, and their grades reflect their lack of time management.
  • The competition is close and ever-present. It’s hard to escape the competitiveness of the program because you work so closely with others in your program. When they succeed, you can’t help but feel inadequate until you perform as good as or better than your classmates.
  • The stress of making mistakes weighs on you. When people in other careers make mistakes, it usually means lost money. Mistakes in nursing could mean lost lives. That kind of stress can weigh anyone down.
  • You have to be exceptional at problem-solving. There are rarely yes/no or absolute questions. Each problem requires a unique solution, and while there may be several correct solutions, you have to choose the one that’s most This requires a different kind of intelligence than book learning, which is challenging for some students.

Nursing Students Are Among the Most Dedicated

Despite the challenges, those who complete nursing programs appear to be very dedicated. Most students who enter RN programs stick with it. About 88 percent stay in the Bachelor’s degree program, and 80 percent stay in their chosen Associate’s degree program.

Further research shows that 85 percent of those who take the NCLEX-RN test pass along with 84 percent who take the NCLEX-PN test. Together, these statistics show that most who enter the nursing program tend to be successful.

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