First Semester of Nursing School: What to Expect

When it comes to the first semester of nursing school, it’s common for students entering our 16-month ABSN program to fear the unknown. So if you’re thinking about applying to the program, this blog offers up helpful student insight that’s sure to keep you cool, calm, and collected on the first day of class.

first semester of nursing school

During the first semester of our ABSN program, you can expect a fast-paced sequence of four online courses, one hands-on nursing lab, and one clinical rotation. While overwhelming at first, once you get into a routine, the accelerated learning experience starts to feel less consuming.

It also helps to remember that you and your fellow students are all in the same boat and can work together to stay afloat. Not to mention, you have access to highly supportive faculty who are ready to guide you through any rough waters.

The First Semester Curriculum Sequence

Course #Course Name
PHSC 4340Pharmacology for the Health Professions
NRSG 2220Nursing Interventions, Assessment and Community Care
NRSG 2221Nursing Interventions Lab
NRSG 2312Pathophysiology
NRSG 3302Nursing with Women and Families
NRSG 3303Nursing with Women and Families Clinical Rotation

Course Insights from Your First Semester

When Sarah, a 2018 ABSN program graduate, started our Charlotte-based program, she said she was surprised by how much studying she had to do on her own. This tends to be a common reaction among students who’ve never taken online courses. However, once they get used to this style of learning, they come to enjoy the flexibility and convenience that comes with it.

While in the throes of first-semester coursework, students tend to have the most difficulty with their pharmacology and/or pathophysiology studies. For Sarah, it was pharmacology. “We had a long list of drugs to learn in a short amount of time, which wasn’t easy,” she said. “You just have to find a way to learn that works for you.”

Our pharmacology course teaches you the fundamentals of drug action, drug distribution, and drug elimination, while also helping you develop the reasoning skills required to identify, avoid, and solve practical drug-related problems.

To help get her through the course, Sarah developed a concept flow map where she listed beta blockers (a class of drugs) at the top and then listed the most common medications in that class directly underneath. For each individual medication, she listed its purpose, side effects, impact on the body, and its nursing considerations, such as “don’t administer with milk.”

When asked to sum up her first semester in nursing school, she said it was like learning a new language. “You go from thinking in terms of medical diagnosis to thinking like a nurse, which has a lingo all its own.”

Don’t be afraid to ask your professors and preceptors questions. They can give you advice from a working nurse perspective.

-Sarah, 2018 Graduate

She explained that nursing goes far beyond a patient’s medical diagnosis. “It’s understanding what a patient is at risk for and helping that individual make the best lifestyle choices for his or her health.”

For example, imagine you’re a nurse caring for a diabetic patient inside a hospital. You know the patient is at risk for developing bed sores, so you identify ways to prevent these sores from occurring (e.g., propping up the patient’s feet). If sores do develop, you know that diabetics heal slower, so you use your knowledge to advise the patient accordingly.

What Your First Semester of Labs Are Like

During your first hands-on nursing lab, you’ll take what you learned about nursing interventions online and apply that knowledge under the guidance of faculty in a mock clinical environment, which is located inside our ABSN program site.

The goal of this lab is to facilitate your mastery of basic assessment skills and safe clinical techniques. While task trainers and/or full-body manikins enable you to practice and hone your skills, a simulated patient care experience helps develop your communication style, interprofessional collaboration, and critical thinking in a realistic clinical scenario. 

Clinical Rotations Start in Your First Semester of Nursing School

Unlike most nursing programs, we get you started on clinical rotations during the first semester — week four to be exact. Your first clinical rotation will focus on applying the theories, principles, and concepts you learned online during your nursing with women and families course.

As someone who wants to become a labor and delivery nurse, Patti, a 2018 ABSN program graduate, said she came home giddy from her first clinical at one of the local Charlotte hospitals. She never expected she would observe a C-section and then get to spend time with the mom and baby, helping with post-partum checks, etc.

“No matter where you’re placed for your first clinical, you’re going to feel uncomfortable until you get acclimated to the surroundings,” said Sarah. She went on to say that whenever something happened during a clinical that was unfamiliar to her, she’d take notes and then go home and look it up. “Even when you’re not the person providing the care, you’re still observing and trying to understand the clinical reasoning behind what’s going on.”

Bottom Line

Sarah described her overall accelerated path to nursing as tiring but well worth it. She explained that if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll get a good education and graduate as a well-rounded nurse.

“Knowing Northeastern could help me reach my goal of becoming an ER nurse, I was willing to take 16 months of being exhausted,” she said. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat because of the friendships and professional relationships I developed during nursing school.”

As it turns out, Sarah reached her goal ahead of graduation. Wanting to be closer to her boyfriend, she applied to a hospital in West Virginia and was extended a job offer in its emergency department in less than a week’s time.

Other students in Sarah’s cohort also received job offers before graduating from the program. After passing the NCLEX-RN® exam, many of them will start work at Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System), one of our clinical partners and the largest health care employer in Charlotte.

Want to know more about our 16-month ABSN program near Boston or in Charlotte? Ready to get started on your first semester of nursing school? Contact our admission team today!

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