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How Hard Is Nursing School (What You Need To Know)

How hard is nursing school? Is it difficult? Why is it so hard? What you need to expect when applying for nursing school and getting through nursing school!

How Hard is Nursing School?

Is nursing school really as difficult as everyone says it is? Well the simple answer is yes. It is definitely difficult. But, it can definitely get more complicated than that.

The difficulty of nursing school will definitely depend on who you talk to. It isn’t always black and white because there are different programs, different students and different content. Also, there are some students that might have thought it was easier than others. But I would be willing to bet that most students who graduate will have struggled at some point.

It is filled with many difficult classes, long clinical hours and countless hours of studying. Regardless of how difficult nursing school is, the more you study, the more successful you will be. In my experience, I found that the difficulty of it depended on how much effort you put in. And if you are willing to work hard, you can get through it!

Is Medical School Harder than Nursing School?

The age-old question: which is harder, med school or nursing school? Now I cannot say from first hand accounts, but I have talked to several nurses who have gone back to become physicians.

I have talked to several nurses that have gone on to medical school and they have some interesting comparisons between the two. One nurse who is currently in medical school said that it was different from nursing school.

At first, the same classes might be taken, such as; anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. However, medical students will go into further detail, as they take these classes over a longer time periods than nursing students. In addition, medical students will always have another degree before going through med school, so they will have a more in-depth knowledge of some topics. Med students also will take a wider range of classes such as physics, that nursing students typically don’t take.

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Medical school can most likely be more challenging as far as content is concerned. However, medical students take classes over a longer period of time than nursing students do. It is difficult to say if med school is harder than nursing school because there are several differences between the two.

As I mentioned before, I have not personally been to medical school. So, I cannot say with first-hand experience what the difference is. However, I do think that some people definitely underestimate how difficult both schools can be.

What’s the Difference Between Med School and Nursing School?

The biggest differences between nursing school and medical school come when nursing students start clinical courses. After taking all of the prerequisites to apply for nursing school, students will then begin taking clinical courses. These clinical courses are what nurses, who have gone to med school, say helped them the most. Having a clinical background experience is something that most medical students won’t have and that gives nursing students a potential advantage.

Why is Nursing School So Hard?

Nursing school is hard because of the classes you take, the amount of time required, and the clinical rotations you go through. A lot of students applying for it will ask why does everyone say it’s so hard?

It is also meant to be challenging. However, that doesn’t mean impossible. These courses are designed to weed students out who don’t have the work ethic or mindset to be a nurse.

Think about if you were in the ICU on a ventilator with 5 vasoactive drips running, who would you rather take care of you? Someone who got all D’s or someone who got all A’s? I think the answer is easy. It is important for nurses to be competent in their practice. They can literally save lives.

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Time Commitment

Firstly, nursing school is hard because it’s a time commitment. The amount of studying you need to do during it will most likely be more than you have ever needed before. You will need to learn how to memorize hundreds of flash cards and terms. Nursing students are also required to memorize several medications (dosages, effects, uses), anatomical data, and important clinical assessments. You will also be learning all new terms and language spoken in the hospital setting.

Clinical Rotations

Secondly, the clinical rotations you will experience during nursing school are difficult. The clinical experiences are typically comprised of med-surg, critical care, obstetrics, pediatrics and other areas of study. These rotations will each have their own nuance. Although clinicals are generally time consuming, they are also new. When you are new to the hospital culture and style it can be difficult to adapt. I would highly recommend getting a job as a nurse tech or nursing aid to help ease this transition.

What are the Hardest Classes in Nursing School?

Finally, it is hard because of the classes. The hardest classes in nursing school (for me) were pathophysiology, pharmacology and critical care (ICU). They are each difficult for separate reasons.

Pathophysiology is a difficult class because it was the first class you take that is a “nursing course”. It is the first class where you really need to learn how to study for nursing and perfect it. This course in particular is a mixture of memorization and difficult content. Which is why it is one of the most difficult classes nurses will take.

Pharmacology is difficult because of the sheer amount of memorization. Memorizing hundreds of medications that you have never heard of before is hard. My recommendation is make flashcards. Make many many flashcards.

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Critical care (complex situations, ICU) is a difficult course due to the sheer complexity of the information. Critical care is a hard unit to get into for many reasons, but it was my first job after graduating. There is a lot to memorize and a lot to understand. You will build on many anatomical and pharmacologic topics that you have learned already and it is quite difficult.

We also have some great tips on getting through some of these difficult nursing school classes!

How Hard is it to Get Into Nursing School?

So, is it hard to get into nursing school? A short answer: it is moderately difficult to get in, because applications are very competitive depending on where you apply. We go through how difficult it can be to get into nursing school in the Ultimate Guide to Applying for Nursing School.

But, I will go over some of the basics. The difficulty of getting in depends on a few factors including your GPA, where you’re applying and your application strength. There are some great ways to improve your chances of getting into nursing school.

For example, my program required at least a 3.0 GPA to even apply, but recommended a 3.5 or higher. It also only had 175 seats for almost 350 applicants. 155 seats went towards basic applications, 10 went to military applications and 10 went to special circumstance applications.

The Final Verdict

While it definitely is challenging, it isn’t impossible. They are thousands of nursing students who graduate each year and become very successful. If you’re considering applying, you should. Evaluate your chances of getting in and if they’re lower than you’d like, improve them. It doesn’t hurt to get some help.

Talk to nurses who have gone through it before. It can be very helpful to hear first-hand accounts from nurses who have been through all of the classes.

Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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