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GINS04: Nursing School Prerequisites and Why They Matter

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So what do you learn in nursing school?

How to be a nurse?… No, not really.

You would think that you would learn how to be a nurse in nursing school, but alas you do not.

Actually, nursing school gives you the building blocks to become a nurse. Unlike, say, welding, where you are ready to be a welder when you finish welding school. Coupled with the fact that most people don’t actually know what a nurse does. I remember not really knowing what a nurse did. I thought all they did was pass meds, take vital signs, and give shots. That is why it is hard to understand what you even learn in nursing school and also, why nursing school is so hard.

So I ask again

Well, besides learning about diseases, treatments and prognosis, you learn how to survive in a stressful environment. You learn how to work with others in a way you haven’t had to before. You learn how to take notes in a whole new way. You become comfortable with crying more often and in places you have never cried before.

You learn to be strong and timid all at the same time. You need to be confident but not too confident because that is cocky. You need to be educated but not a know it all. You need to be one big contradiction… and that’s stressful. If there is anything I have learned though, is that every class, every clinical, every teacher, every school is different and you can’t necessarily generalize what you learn in nursing school. Each person will get a different education because it isn’t standardized. Also, and this might be just my experience, most of the teachers teaching the courses are not teachers, they are nurses. So they learned how to be a nurse but they didn’t learn how to be an effective teacher.

Nonetheless, I have attempted to compile a list that gives a breakdown of what is taught in nursing school. The following is a list of some of courses you might take as a nursing student and some of the things you might learn in those classes.

The Art and Science of Nursing (a fundamentals course)

  • Positioning
    • Turning a patient
    • Preventing pressure ulcers
    • Preventing foot drop
    • Administering an enema  
  • Sites for IM medication administration
  • Bed baths
  • Ambulation
    • With cane
    • With crutches
    • With walker
  • Lifting and transferring patients
  • Wound care

Health Assessment

  • Head to toe assessment
    • Lung sounds
    • Heart sounds
    • Bowel sounds
    • Cranial nerve assessment
    • Skin assessment
    • Abdominal assessment
    • Reflex assessments

Health Assessment

Essentials of Professional Nursing

  • How to obtain your license
  • How to take the NCLEX
  • How to make a portfolio
  • How to read and interpret nursing laws

Pathophysiology

  • Disease processes at the cellular level

Pharmacology

  • Classes of drugs
  • Pharmacokinetics
    • How a drug is absorbed into the body
  • Drug names
  • Drug uses
  • Medical Mathematics

Pharmacology

Adult Health Nursing

  • Nursing care for patients with specific diseases
    • CHF
    • COPD
    • Diabetes
    • Renal Failure

Psychiatric/Mental Health

  • Different mental health diagnoses
  • Medications for mental health
  • Talking to and dealing with mental health patients

Nursing Care Childbearing Families (AKA OB)

  • Pre-pregnancy
  • Intra-Pregnancy
  • Post-Pregnancy
  • Infant assessment

Child/Family Health (AKA pediatrics)

  • Milestones
  • Vital signs
  • Age groups
  • Pediatric dosing medication
  • Vaccinations

Nursing Research (For BSN students)

  • How to perform nursing research
  • How to read nursing research
  • How to find research
  • How to implement nursing research

Community Health Nursing

  • Nursing history and theory
  • Community resources
  • Educating the community

Critical Care Nursing

  • ICU or ER rotation
  • Lecture on:
    • Vents
    • Drips
    • Details about blood work results such as ABGs

Vent

These are just some of the classes that I had or other nurses that I have worked with had. Each school is different and so is the curriculum.

I know this doesn’t explain why nursing school is so difficult or why it’s so stressful, but it does show the diversity of nursing and help shed a little light on what nurses deal with.

What I think sets nursing apart from other medical professions is that we integrate treating people and their medical and psychosocial needs. 

“Without medicine disease prevails, but without nursing, suffering prevails.”   – Jean Watson 


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Date Published - May 4, 2017
Date Modified - May 6, 2017

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.