Why Is Nursing School Hard?

Whether you are considering a campus based or top online registered nurse program, we’ll look at a common question future RN students have: Is nursing school hard?

We all want to know what we are getting into before starting anything because we want to be successful and find a good career for us. Nobody wants to fail college — let alone an RN program that required a year’s worth of prerequisite courses.

That said, how difficult nursing school is will depend on the student’s situation and skill-set.

Some students may find the academic part easy or manageable but may struggle with the clinical component. For others, it may be the reverse. And others may have no problems at all.

There is no black and white, yes or no, answer to the question, is the nursing program hard?

Like the questions you’ll be asked during your tests and on the NCLEX, it’s all shades of gray.

But a nursing program is doable if you are willing to put in the time and hard work

Hardest part of nursing school: Time management

If you are working full-time, have a family, and are going to college full time, good luck. That is a lot to do.

Your situation is already setting yourself up for failure because college requires a lot of time. School is a full-time job.

The sheer volume of time required for studying nursing, going to classes, and going to clinicals is what makes it difficult.

Managing your time and organizing it is a skill-set that you’ll need to learn, and this skill will also transfer into the workplace when you get a job as an RN, prioritizing which patient needs care first.

Book and street smarts required

The amount of material you’ll need to know is massive, with lots of complex concepts and theories, and you’ll have a small amount of time to learn it. This is a challenge, having tests each week in multiple classes.

The tests themselves don’t have clear cut answers, either. They will force you to think critically about your readings and PowerPoints and determine what the best answer is (what the RN should do) in a given situation.

In a multiple choice test, there could be 3 out of 4 right answers, but only one is slightly better and correct. Being able to differentiate can be difficult.

This means you can’t memorize material and expect to pass your classes. You also be expected to retain that information because future classes will build upon that foundation.

Get organized

There is also a lot of reports and papers to write. You may also find that your Type A personality may slide and you’ll be happy with a “B” or “C” grade rather than an “A”.

Nursing programs can be hard from an academic standpoint, but that’s not to say you won’t have a life if you start school.

You’ll have to learn how to balance and organize by order of importance. The only requirement you’ll need — other than supplies — is a calendar and good organizational skills.

You won’t learn everything required to be a successful RN in two years or at your clinical rotations but you’ll learn more once you get a staff position.

‘I hate nursing school clinicals so much!’

Clinical rotations can be the hardest class during nursing school. They can be difficult for students.

During clinical, you are working directly with the patients, your clinical instructor and registered nurses at the hospital or clinic.



You are putting into practice what you learned in the classroom. For some people, clinical is hell on earth and the hardest part of nursing school.

Some students have anxiety and hate clinicals because they don’t feel prepared to work with patients due to lack of confidence and experience — both of which can be overcome but can be difficult at first.

Example: Let’s say you can’t believe that your clinical instructor trusts you with a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff to take auscultations.

If you don’t feel confident doing blood pressure and lung auscultations, during a slow period ask your clinical instructor if you could spend 30 minutes performing that exam on each patient on your unit to improve your skills.

The additional practice will benefit you, and you’ll gain confidence, which will help you with other duties during clinicals.

Staff nurses may also pose a problem to students, who may find them grumpy to be dealing with a student.

But that can be overcome by asking your RN good questions about themselves. They are regular folks, too, and will open up if you ask them questions about themselves and their opinions on situations.

Examples: Why did you choose to work in the ED or ICU? What is the best way for students to use their time on your floor?

If you can connect with the staff RN and get them talking about themselves, they’ll enjoy you listening to them and you’ll get a better experience with them. Granted, it will still be difficult but manageable.

Although clinical rotations are taxing, they don’t prepare you for a staff position. During a day at clinicals, you’ll pass out a few drugs, ambulate a patient, start an IV, etc.

This is good practice but when you become an RN, you’ll be required to do twice this on 8 patients. Practice will improve your skills and efficiency and reduce the anxiety jitters.

Rattled backgrounds: Really, how hard is nursing school going to be?

In a hospital or clinic, you’ll see things that will shake your reality — from dead bodies to abused children. The emotional toll can be hard in nursing school and as a registered nurse.

You also have to worry about liability and lawsuits. Remember, a nurse is not a mindless robot who just follows doctor orders; a nurse requires a level of autonomy, knowledge, and critical thinking skills to keep the patient safe.

This requires an understanding of diseases and their processes, along with an understanding of why something is happening and how to solve it.

So there’s more to being an RN than passing medications and doing assessments on a patient. You, also, have to handle an emotionally upset family, who is going to be at their worst and in need of compassion and help.

Is nursing school worth it?

Is becoming a nurse hard? Yes. But for the right person, it is worth it. Nursing school will be a challenge, but you will succeed and grow as a person.

Once you are finished, you have a lot of opportunity to choose a specialty. Remember, some specialties don’t require patient contact!

You also have other options such as pharmacy, medical, or dental school if you took a bachelor’s in nursing. There’s a lot of options — even continuing into advanced nursing practice.

There is no clear cut answer about to the pesky question, asking is nursing school hard?

The difficulty of your coursework and clincials will be individual to you but your program is doable with a little tenacity and hard work on your part.



I hope this article provides insight into why nursing school is so hard for some people but not others.

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