An ideal nurse does not look at a predicament as if it is a heavy burden; he will instead see it as a challenge and an opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
From lectures to clinicals, student nurses are bound to encounter complexities of varying degrees and it is highly essential that they should be informed of those. The intention is neither to discourage nor intimidate them from pursuing the program but the aim is to prepare them well so that they will be more effective in their chosen trade. Also, keep in mind that these ordeals come with a great prize — that is the privilege to touch lives and broaden one’s own perspective about health and wellness in general. For me, nothing can be as rewarding in the same manner as that.
Hence this list was conceived — to develop an awareness of the struggles (or challenges for that matter) aspiring nurses are about to experience. Take note, that this list only covers the general challenges for studying a bachelor of science in nursing, because there are various nursing programs out there, and nursing itself can be challenging in so many different ways.
1. Grueling lectures.
Mind-draining lectures are just one thing that sets nursing apart from the other college programs. Lectures in nursing involve complicated concepts and theories that require strong background knowledge in pre-nursing subjects such as Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry, and Biology.
It’s not enough that you go to class regularly and listen attentively to the long lectures, you also have to retain what you’ve learned from previous lessons to continue surviving. On top of that, nursing textbooks (especially the ones for medical & surgical nursing and psychiatric nursing) are not as simple as what other college students use, for they typically come in two volumes which are equally thick like a brick and are not very easy to grasp in one reading.
2. Unpredictable clinicals.
The shifts during nursing clinicals also vary from time to time, and the patient assignment can change without a definite length of time. If that’s not unpredictable, I don’t know what is. That’s why student nurses are ought to be quick learners and adaptive to change.
3. Taxing homework and projects.
Considering the hard work it takes for the lectures and the clinicals; it’s like adding salt to the wound to even have homework and projects that are really time-consuming and arduous. They could come in the form of a case study, a set of nursing care plans, a report or thesis so brace yourself for some intensive researching and long hours reading reference books. This factor trains students in time management and perseverance.
4. Dreadful tests and exams.
The test and exams you are to take as a student nurse are the ultimate challenges after every series of lectures and clinicals. Consider yourself very lucky if you find some lenient clinical instructors who give “basic” kinds of tests and exams but for the most part, clinical instructors are motivated to prepare challenging drills to really test your knowledge and understanding.
You can’t blame them, though, because they are training students whose future professions are concerned with health and life. It’s an advantage if you do well with tests in the form of identification and enumeration. But be informed that majority of your exams will consist of situational questions in which the choices are so tricky because each of them would seem as if they are all correct answers.
5. Stressful college life and limited time for other activities.
This one is self-explanatory. With all the things explained above, it wouldn’t take a registered nurse to figure that you’d be dealing with stressful college life and very limited free time as you study nursing. I even distinctly remember some colleagues of mine who used to gain scholarship by sidelining as an assistant in our library but were not able to continue it as we progress through the second year of nursing because of conflicting schedules with our clinicals.
6. Post-graduation training
For most college students, the struggles from studying end as graduation day come but in the case of nursing students, it’s an entirely different story. Graduating from nursing school only leads you to more doors of mandatory training and certifications so you could increase your chances of securing a nursing job. For starters, it is mandatory in most countries that you pass the nursing licensure examination to be recognized as a registered nurse, and that would entail some months of review. After becoming a registered nurse, some hospitals would then require that you undergo certain training such as basic life support (BLS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and intravenous therapy training before you could get hired as a staff nurse. Worse, the competition could be so tough that you might want to consider taking a master’s degree to stand out in the pool of applicants.
7. Unreasonable expectations and demands from people who know you.
For others, this is an honor but for some of us, this is also one of the pains. People will expect you to know what to do during an emergency situation or when someone is ill. You get it, these requests are uncalled-for. Many people have unreasonable demands and expectations from student nurses.
So there goes your list. You may weigh each of them and assess yourself if you’re still undecided about taking up nursing. But if you’re so sure about the career, fret not because nursing is a genuinely promising profession once you get the hang of it. Nursing is one of the noblest and hardest of all human endeavors — for we cannot imagine the world without nurses as we cannot imagine a life without caring and comfort. Besides, if nursing is what you truly love to do, you will excel at it no matter how trying it might seem for others. To help you prepare better for the nursing program, you may read our “10 Nursing School Tips for Starters“.