What Is Nursing School Like?

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Before starting nursing school, you may ask: What is nursing school like? With an accelerated program like the ABSN at Northeastern, you’ll complete four semesters of online courses, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. After graduating in as few as 16 months, you’ll be ready to take the NCLEX.

student nurses working in sim lab

When it comes to the first semester of nursing school, it’s common for students to be unsure of what to expect. You may be asking, “What is nursing school like?” Starting school with a general sense of what your days as a nursing student will look like can be reassuring.

Read on for a glimpse of what nursing school is like at Northeastern’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. We are committed to supporting you throughout the nursing school journey, so there’s no reason to fear.

Overview of Accelerated Nursing School

The Accelerated BSN program at Northeastern has a four-semester curriculum that combines online classes, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. Each week will bring a mix of independent studying and hands-on learning experiences. The adaptability of online courses means you can adjust your study schedule based on the time of day you learn best. Along with preparing you for a clinical nursing career, a major focus of the ABSN program is preparation for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), which you’ll take shortly after graduating from nursing school.

What to Expect in the 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.

SEMESTER 1 CurriculumCourse TitleCREDITS
NRSG 2001Foundations of Professional Nursing Practice2
NRSG 2220Nursing Health Assessment and Fundamental Nursing Skills3
NRSG 2221Lab for NRSG 22201
NRSG 2350Integrated Pathophysiology and Pharmaceutical Interventions for Nursing Practice6
NRSG 3302Nursing with Women & Families3
NRSG 3303Clinical for NRSG 33022
Total Credit Hours17

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 sites near Boston or in Charlotte.

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, Northeastern ABSN students start clinical rotations during the first semester — week four to be exact. Knowing what to expect in nursing school clinicals can help ease anxieties about this valuable learning opportunity. Your first clinical rotation will focus on applying the theories, principles, and concepts you learned online during your nursing with women and families course.

Northeastern ABSN student listening to child's heartbeat

As someone who wants to become a labor and delivery nurse, Patti, a Northeastern 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,” says Northeastern ABSN program graduate 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.”

Secrets to being a well-rounded nurse - nurse in scrubs standing outside

Learn more about the value of clinical rotations in nursing school.

Is Nursing School Hard?

If you’re asking the question, “What is nursing school like?” you may also be wondering, “Is nursing school hard?” It’s a well-known fact that nursing school is difficult, even more so when you’re in a 16-month accelerated program. While in the throes of first-semester coursework, it takes time and dedication to absorb the high volume of material on such a fast timeline.

When asked to sum up her first semester in nursing school, Sarah says 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.”

Sarah describes her overall accelerated path to nursing as tiring but well worth it. She explains 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 says. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat because of the friendships and professional relationships I developed during nursing school.”

Northeastern ABSN student working in sim lab

Learn more about how hard nursing school really is. Remember: the challenge is worth it in the end.

Tips for Nursing School Success

Whether it’s your first semester or fourth, a little preparation goes a long way to starting the term on the right foot. Here are some quick tips to help overcome the challenges of nursing school and reach your goal:

Plot out your schedule

And not just labs, clinicals, and exams. Reserve time to read material and complete assignments. Block out study time. Be sure to keep a copy of your schedule in plain sight so family and roommates can easily see your free and busy times.

Reclaim your study space

Archive materials from the previous semester that you no longer need. Mount a cork board for keeping key documents such as course syllabi at your fingertips. Take your favorite quotes and post them at eye level.

Northeastern ABSN student studying

Buy your school supplies

Think beyond the usual pens and notebooks! Stock up on ink and paper for your printer. Install relevant updates on your computer and phone. Evaluate the condition of your clinical uniform.

Update your skills

On your resume or LinkedIn profile, capture highlights and accomplishments from each semester (if applicable) in writing. Reflect on clinicals while they’re fresh so you can easily sum up your experience. Articulate how your past education and work experience contribute to your success as a nurse. The way you talk about your skills will change as you progress in school, but practice makes perfect.

Plan ahead

Adopt a realistic attitude now regarding what you can take on, and be vocal about it. For example, if you have two clinicals next semester, don’t feel pressured to host Thanksgiving. It’s OK to sit out a field trip or two. Be kind to yourself this year!

Ask questions

In the words of Sarah, “Don’t be afraid to ask your professors and preceptors questions. They can give you advice from a working nurse perspective.”

Northeastern ABSN student reading textbook

Looking for more nursing school study tips? Here are 11 more.

Become a Northeastern Nurse

Want to know more about our 16-month ABSN program near Boston or in Charlotte? If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 62 non-nursing college credits (eligible for our Charlotte campus only), you can complete your nursing degree at Northeastern in as few as 16 months.

Ready to get started on your first semester of nursing school? Contact our admission team today.

Get Your Free ABSN Program Guide

Our ABSN program guide includes everything you need to know about the accelerated path to nursing.

Northeastern University ABSN program guide