There’s no sense in sugarcoating it: nursing school is hard. Between the countless hours of studying complex nursing topics for exams to preparing for the rigorous clinical schedule week in and week out, it’s no surprise many former Utica College ABSN students compare the experience to holding a demanding full-time job.
The silver lining? Most students who have already been through our accelerated nursing before will tell you yes, nursing school is hard, but all the stress is well worth it. After all, once you graduate in as few as 16 months and pass the nursing licensure exam, you can call yourself a registered nurse!
To give you even more of an insider’s perspective, we gathered all the best advice from current and former Utica ABSN students about how to succeed through the toughest parts of accelerated nursing school.
Keeping up with the fast pace of the program
From the volumes of information you must synthesize to adjusting how you study, even traditional nursing school programs, which generally take 36 months to complete, can seem overwhelming. Condense that same amount of material into a 16-month online-based curriculum that requires an immense amount of self-motivation and you’re adding on a whole new layer of stress.
What Students Say:
Julia, ABSN Class of December 2019: “You have to commit a lot of time to it and be dedicated. The good thing about online is you can do your work on your own time, but you don’t have anyone holding your hand through it. You have to be dedicated to educating yourself.”
Eddie, ABSN Class of December 2019: “It’s definitely accelerated, so be prepared to accelerate. You hit the books running starting day 1. It can be a little overwhelming at first but you have resources. You can do it; just stay focused and be prepared. Don’t expect to come into this program, an accelerated program, and sit back and take it easy because it’s quite the opposite. … It’s nursing. It’s intense.”
Preparing and participating in skills and simulation labs
As a Utica ABSN student, you can expect to put in approximately 225 hours of lab time between skills practice and simulations that mimic real-world clinical scenarios in a controlled, risk-free environment. This nursing school experience requires you to apply nursing theory coursework and skills under pressure in front of your instructors and peers, then debrief with them on your performance. While you’ll hone key nursing skills without putting patients at risk, many students say the scenarios often feel as high-stakes as real-life clinical situations.
What Students Say:
"In simulation labs, you treat manikins like real patients because that’s how you get the best practice. I definitely took that in stride. You also have to remember that patients’ conditions may change. Just like in a real-life clinical scenario, you can’t go into a simulation lab as a robot and accomplish a specific task; you have to be dynamic and flexible. You have to be ready for that." -Wisdom, ABSN Class of December 2019
Interacting with patients during clinical rotations
Anxiety, jitters, stress — these feelings are common among nursing newbies when you mention the word “clinicals.” Unlike the simulated emergency scenarios you take part in during labs, clinical rotations involve real-life patients facing real-life medical issues. This fact alone is a major source of stress for nursing students, especially those who have no prior experience working in healthcare. Not only are you introducing yourself to a patient, but you’re also working with a licensed preceptor or clinical instructor to devise and carry out their care plan.
Clinical rotations are notoriously stressful, especially early on, as anything could happen at any given moment and many students have a fear of making a life-threatening mistake. While we can’t guarantee neither will happen during your shift, you can take a sigh of relief knowing we’ll ease you into the clinical experience starting the first semester, gradually increasing the level of clinical practice.
What Students Say:
Cody, ABSN Class of December 2019: “My first clinical at the hospital was nerve-racking. Even though the simulation and lab had prepared us, I was still nervous to be working with real patients. But when we arrived, I had a great experience. My clinical instructor really made sure to get us comfortable.”
Dominique, ABSN Class of December 2017: “In my first clinical I was nervous just to talk to patients. I remember I was shaking and sweating. Now I can do that with my eyes closed. I’ve definitely progressed since my first clinical.”
Sacrificing your social life and family time to nursing school
Between studying for exams, working long clinical shifts, and putting in time for skills and simulation labs, accelerated nursing school involves a delicate balancing act to achieve continued success. That sometimes leaves little time for personal and family obligations, often causing students to feel overwhelmed.
For sure, the commitment to nothing but nursing school for 16 months is a grind; sometimes you may feel like there’s no end in sight! To get through the long hours and frustrations of not understanding a nursing concept right away, the best things to do are remember why you’re pursuing a nursing degree and take it one day at a time. Plus in the end, you’ll be that much closer to becoming a nurse!
What Students Say:
Lester, ABSN Class of August 2017: “For the stress and the time you have to put in, go into nursing because you love it or you’re going to enjoy it and you’re interested in the field. Don’t go into it for money because you’re going to be way too stressed to be doing a job like this.”
Jill, ABSN Class of December 2017: “You have to make a commitment to do 16 months of school and focus on studying and becoming the best nurse you can be. It’s a short time period and it goes fast. You have to stay on top of your academics to be successful in the program.”
Taking nursing school exams and passing the NCLEX
The exams you’ll take in nursing school are unlike any other tests you’ve taken in prior fields of study. The questions are rarely straightforward — but that’s by design. Most multiple-choice questions on nursing school exams have several correct answers; it’s up to you to choose the most correct answer. This questioning style forces you to think critically — a skill you must master to become a competent, confident nurse — rather than pull from memorized facts.
Then, once you graduate from nursing school, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Required of all nursing school graduates, the NCLEX tests your clinical skills to determine if you have the skills and knowledge to deliver safe patient care. Most importantly, you must pass the NCLEX to receive licensure to practice as a nurse — no big deal.
What Students Say:
Dominique: “Our test questions are similar to the NCLEX, and those test questions aren’t easy. You definitely have to study for them since it’s more critical thinking. Going into my fourth semester, I felt prepared for the NCLEX.”
Lester: “The NCLEX is a different type of stress and anxiety level. You can get through nursing school and still be nervous for the NCLEX. The school does a great job of preparing you. …If you can get through these tests in nursing school, you’re going to have no issues with the NCLEX.”
Accelerated nursing school is hard, but it’s important to remember the result — the RN title after your name! Are you ready to stand up to the challenge of nursing school? Contact one of our admission representatives by completing this form — he or she will reach out to you soon to see if you’re a good fit for our program.