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Dear Loved Ones of Nursing Students: What it Feels Like Going Through Nursing School

Dear Loved Ones of Nursing Students…

What it Feels Like Going Through Nursing School

So your loved one has decided to go to nursing school. “Wonderful!” you think… as you’re excited for them to go on this journey and get this amazing job afterwards. They tell you it’s tough and spend a lot of time studying.. but it really is hard to understand-when you’re not the one physically going to nursing school-exactly how hard nursing school really is .


Feelings of inadequacy abound

Whether or not they were experienced with patient care before going into nursing school, suddenly they are in an environment where they are constantly being told they’re wrong.

You are being introduced to procedure after procedure, concept after concept, and skill after skill so quickly that you really don’t fully understand something before you move on to the next section.  You really just learn enough to get through the test and then continue. You’re constantly being asked questions in class and clinical and are frequently corrected, because honestly… who gets this stuff right the first time?

The clinical environment is intimidating enough; suddenly you’re thrown into an environment where you feel a need to prove yourself and perform constantly just to maintain some sense of confidence.   You want your clinical instructors, patients and their loved ones to trust you and have confidence in you.. but that’s pretty tough when information is being thrown so fast at you that it feels like you’re trying to drink from a water hose and you’re in a constant state of information overload trying to sort out what matters and what doesn’t at that particular instant.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ep37: How to Prepare for Nursing School: 4 Quick Tips


Constant deadlines, many of which overlap

Research papers, math exams, med quizzes, skills labs, clinicals, small/medium/large exams, clinical care plans, reading assignments, and general homework are just the tip of the iceberg… of one class.  Routinely, full time nursing students are taking at least two, more likely 3-4 courses at once.  Many times, the instructors of these courses don’t touch base to ensure students don’t have multiple deadlines or exams that fall on one day.

I remember having an 8 hour clinical every Thursday, a major exam every Friday morning, and discussing the next section immediately after the exam – which meant we had to read it beforehand.  We had to study for the exam (which was over 200-400 pages of material) and then read the next section (another 200-400 pages) to be prepared for every Friday class… on a normal week.

Oh, and those major exams over 200-400 pages worth of material?  They were 25 questions.  If you just get a few wrong, you’re already down to a B.

And don’t forget, in most nursing schools 80% is passing… not 70% like other majors.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ep207: So You Want to Be a Nurse? (How Hard is Nursing School . . . Really) [plus free download]


It’s not over when it’s over

Senior year is usually a time when college students are somewhat winding down… however this is the worst time for nursing students. Not only are they worried about passing their finals to graduate from nursing school ( again, with 80% or higher!), they also have to pass their nursing boards, write cover letters and submit resumes, and hopefully go on job interviews.


And I won’t even go into the headache of the process of being able to sit for boards, taking it, and physically getting your license in-hand…

After they conquer all of this, first year of learning how to be a real nurse at the bedside is also really scary. You’d think you would feel prepared to be a nurse after all of that, but nursing orientation as a new grad is a rude awakening.  It takes months (like 6-8) to feel like you know what you’re doing every time you clock in.

So if you think about being in a very intense, high stress environment for the entire nursing school experience, and then throw them into a job as a nurse…

The stakes are now higher … new nurses are working 12 hour shifts with patients that have the same expectations from them as the next nurse who has 19 years of experience.  You’re dealing with patient’s lives… performing procedures, giving medications, monitoring very ill people and trying to interpret intricate clinical pictures.


Needless to say, nursing students are very stressed for a long period of time.  Saying, “I had a bad day,” or “I’m just really overwhelmed right now” barely even begins to articulate what they’re feeling and experiencing. I hope this gave you a little glimpse into the demands and expectations of the normal nursing student, and really helps you understanding truly how hard nursing school is.

Don’t forget to check out our NRSNG Academy, full of resources for nursing students to ease this process and bring those incredibly in-depth concepts  to life in various formats. You can check it out at NRSNG.com/academy.

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Date Published - May 23, 2017
Date Modified - May 28, 2019

Susan DuPont, RN BSN

Written by Susan DuPont, RN BSN

Susan DuPont, RN, BSN works as an Emergency Department nurse in Michigan. Her true passion is the pediatric population. When she is not nursing she is buffing up on her outdoor survival skills or lifting weights.


  1. Avatar

    O Henry

    Nursing is the most rewarding career I could ever choose, I have always worked in the nursing field, but; going through nursing school was a living nightmare.
    My husband who should have been my biggest supporter called me a wasp. But thanks be to God I made it through and I made NCLEX on my first attempt. Thank you for writing so candid about nursing school.

    • Avatar

      NRSNG Support

      Hey O Henry, I’m so glad you persevered and, not only, graduated nursing school but passed the NCLEX on the first attempt! You are a ROCKSTAR!

  2. Avatar


    Nursing school was a living nightmare!
    But I made it and being a nurse is the most rewarding job to me!

    • Avatar

      NRSNG Support

      Hey Mary, we hear that alot about nursing school It’s unfortunate but we are thrilled you made it through and are now living your dream!

  3. Avatar

    Amber barker

    I’m just in school for my lpn, it’s not that big, but this honestly made the difference in my mentality. I thought I was crazy thinking everyone was saying I was wrong or trying to make me look/ feel dumb. In a family of people way to embolden in health care I even got that at home. So the fact this is the only article I found that even mentioned it has really turned the tide for me. I appreciate it more than you know. Thank you so much for publishing!!!!

    • Avatar

      Cindy Torres

      Hey Amber, you are so welcome. We’re so happy that this article has had such a positive impact on you. Thanks so much for taking the time to reach out to us and let us know. Take care and Happy Nursing!