What to Expect in Your First Semester of Nursing School

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Your first semester of nursing school will doubtless be full of new experiences, but you can expect plenty of support through faculty, your fellow students, and a hybrid curriculum that blends online coursework with in-person skills and simulation labs as well as clinical placements.

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Loyola University Chicago’s 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program track is a demanding, challenging and worthwhile commitment. Clearly its faster pace means that you will need to be prepared to take on an intensive course load, but if you start the first semester of nursing school by understanding what to expect as well as the pace, you’ll learn how to be a successful student in the program track.

A respected leader in nursing education, Loyola’s Accelerated BSN program track helps you earn a BSN degree in as few as 16 months. The full-time, four-semester program track features an accelerated nursing curriculum comprised of coursework, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations. Because the program track is a compressed learning model, there are no “light” semesters or classes; you’ll learn the intense curriculum no matter what.

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See some of the top advice from Loyola ABSN program track nursing students.

First Semester Courses: Start Strong

The first five ABSN program track courses lay the foundation for your nursing education. You’ll be responsible for learning a vast amount of information through online or in-person lectures (depending on program modality); reading assignments; and other activities like analyzing images and graphics, participating in interactive, virtual health-care scenarios, and discussion opportunities. While there is a lab component in your first semester, you will begin to focus more on applied skills in your second semester, when simulations and clinical rotations begin.

First Semester ABSN Program Track Courses

GNUR 207Concepts of Professional Nursing Practice
GNUR 238Foundations of Clinical Practice in Nursing
GNUR 238LFoundations of Clinical Practice in Nursing Lab
GNUR 293Pathophysiology
GNUR 297Clinical Nutrition for Nursing Practice
GNUR 360Nursing Research: Foundation for Evidence-Based Practice

Adjusting to In-Person or Online Courses

Depending on if you’re enrolling in Loyola’s ABSN program track at our Health Sciences Campus (Maywood) or ABSN Learning Site (Downers Grove), you will need to adjust to either in-person or online-based nursing theory courses during your first semester of nursing school. Students at both locations will still participate in in-person skills and simulation labs as well as clinical rotations, and hybrid students will still have synchronous class meeting times every week.

There are advantages to both learning modes. Some students prefer in-person lectures due to the increased structure offered throughout the program track. This option could be a great way for students who do not have experience with online learning to return to school in a more traditional format.

nursing student sitting at desk using a laptop

For other students, the increased accessibility available in online courses is a major positive. With online lectures and coursework, students can study independently while still meeting assignment deadlines and preparing for tests. Many of our courses are video-based, ensuring that students can absorb material in both a visual and auditory manner, and students who are completing part of the Loyola ABSN curriculum online will have access to the same resources and support that on-campus students receive. With so much work to accomplish as a first-semester ABSN program track student, online-based coursework is perfect for students who want to structure their own learning experience while receiving a top-quality nursing education.

Begin Nursing Labs

One of the biggest adjustments you should expect in your first semester as an ABSN program track student is in-person lab participation. These labs allow you to apply what you have learned during your online-based or in-person nursing coursework under the guidance of expert clinicians and professors while practicing your skills in a safe setting with your fellow cohort members enrolled in the program track. In later semesters, you will continue to develop skills through labs and will begin to apply those skills during clinical placements.

Shift Your Study Habits

The volume of knowledge you’ll gain during your first semester of nursing school may feel overwhelming at times. However, with several adjustments to your study habits to accommodate this demanding, accelerated nursing curriculum, you can be prepared to succeed in your first semester and beyond.

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See if you have what it takes to become a successful nurse.

Organize and Prioritize

Keep overwhelming feelings at bay by organizing and prioritizing your time. Consider a physical or digital planner that allows for mapping out and visualizing your study commitments on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This bird’s-eye view makes it easier to fine-tune your schedule, helping you to juggle multiple priorities more effectively without losing sleep or time with your friends and family.

Develop Efficient Habits

When learning at an accelerated pace, it helps to become more efficient in how you study. Think about how you best learn and get creative. For example, if you’re an auditory learner, you can record yourself reading your notes aloud and then listen to those recordings while driving, while exercising, or while completing chores. Visual learners can create flash cards of important nursing concepts and commit to reviewing a set number every day. In general, the more time you commit to studying in a way that works for you, the better.

nursing student sitting at desk studying

Focus on Comprehension

While good grades are extremely important in nursing school, a focus on learning the course material, understanding how the content ties together, and developing your critical thinking skills is more important than exclusively focusing on grades.

When it comes to grades, you also may wonder which first-semester course presents the most significant challenge to ABSN program track students. Many say that the most difficult is Pathophysiology, an area of scientific study that covers diseases and abnormal processes. To do well in this course, you must locate knowledge from your prerequisites and other courses and also have a comprehensive understanding of how the human body works.

Calm Test Anxiety

Nursing school exams are different from what you’re probably used to ― and you will take them often during your time as a student― so be prepared before each exam. We coach students on test-taking strategies, including how to break down the questions to get to the correct answer.

Also, course exams weigh heavily on your final course grades. If you have severe test anxiety, work on finding methods for relaxing before the first semester of nursing school. During the ABSN program track, we can help you address anxiety by answering questions and maintaining communication about any issues that would be distracting or worrisome. Professors and the fellow students in your cohort often work through material together.

Practice Continuous Self-Care

Loyola emphasizes a Jesuit educational philosophy, educating the whole student while promoting care for oneself, others, and the community. Self-care in nursing school is not on the curriculum, but can be vital in preparing students to adjust into a professional nursing role. Thinking of self-care as a healthy ritual is helpful. If they leave you feeling grounded, relaxed, and recharged, self-care rituals can be nearly anything. You may enjoy meditation, reading, exercise, cooking, or something else; just keep it a priority in your schedule for your well-being.

Approach Nursing School with Confidence

Once you complete your first semester of nursing school, the challenge of an ABSN program track will continue, but you’ll be equipped for success by managing your course load and schedule. After you earn your BSN degree, you’ll be prepared to take on the challenges of becoming a registered nurse and securing your first nursing position. With a Loyola BSN degree, you can follow any number of career paths, practicing in a wide variety of settings.

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Would you like to learn more about Loyola’s 16-month ABSN program track? Can’t wait to get started on your first semester of nursing school? Contact an enrollment advisor today!