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How to Mentally Prepare for the First Semester of Nursing School

Nursing school is challenging. It has to be—people trust nurses with their lives. So while our 16-month ABSN program is demanding, with commitment and preparation, you can be successful. You just have to go into the first semester of nursing school with the right mindset, which starts by understanding how the program works and getting a handle on the accelerated learning experience.

preparing for the first semester of nursing school

Designed as a second-degree option, our accredited ABSN program builds on your bachelor’s degree (or higher) in another field of study, making it possible to earn a respected BSN in 16 months. The full-time, four-semester program features accelerated nursing curriculum that comprises coursework, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations. Because it’s a compressed learning model, there are no “light” semesters or classes—the intensity of the curriculum is consistent throughout.

“Everything about our ABSN curriculum is relevant to being able to provide safe, quality care,” says MariJo Letizia, director of the hybrid ABSN program at Loyola University Chicago. “As a nursing professor and nurse practitioner, I can tell you firsthand that the challenges of nursing school are all worth it in the end. Tremendous opportunity exists in the nursing profession. Best of all, it’s a profession in which we can make a difference in the lives of others every day.”

It’s important to understand that the first five courses of the ABSN program lay the foundation of your nursing education, so expect them to be context heavy. You’ll be responsible for absorbing vast amounts of information by way of lectures, reading assignments, and other learning activities. While there’s a lab component in the first semester, you begin to focus more on applied skills in semester two, where simulations and clinical rotations come into play.

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

The sheer volume of knowledge you’ll gain during this first semester is pretty mindboggling, but it’s manageable if you plan ahead and know where to go for support. You might even consider these six action items in preparation for your first semester of nursing school.

 1. Learn to Juggle

Keep overwhelming feelings at bay by organizing and prioritizing your time. Consider getting an old-school planner that enables you to plot out and visualize your study commitments on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This bird’s-eye view makes it easier to fine-tune your schedule so that you become more effective in juggling multiple priorities without losing sleep or important time with friends and family.

2. 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. If you’re an auditory learner, you could record yourself reading your notes out loud, and then listen to these recordings in the car, at the store, or while walking on the treadmill. It’s also helpful to automate as many aspects of your life as possible, such as buying supplies online or utilizing a grocery delivery service.

get creative with your studies

3. Focus on Comprehension

While good grades are extremely important in nursing school, you shouldn’t become over obsessed with them. You should use this energy to focus on learning the course material, understanding how content ties together, and developing your critical thinking skills. If you do that, then good grades should come naturally.

On the subject of grades, you’re probably wondering what first semester course throws most ABSN students for a loop. Hands down it’s pathophysiology, an area of scientific study that covers disease and abnormal processes. To do well in this course, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of how the human body works.

4. Calm Test Anxiety

Nursing school exams are different from what you’re probably used to―and there are a lot of them. So be prepared to come face to face with complex multiple-choice questions where every answer is correct, but one is more correct than the others. But don’t worry, we coach you on test-taking strategies, including how to break down these questions to get to the most correct answer.

Also be aware that course exams weigh heavily on your final course grades. So if you’re someone who has severe test anxiety, it might be helpful to find ways to calm your nerves before the first semester of nursing school. During the ABSN program, we can help you keep your anxiety at bay through various calming and breathing exercises.

5. Find Relatable Resources

Other ways you can mentally prepare for the first semester of nursing school involves reading blogs and listening to podcasts created by nursing students and experienced registered nurses. Here are a few to consider:

6. Practice Continuous Self-Care

Self-care can easily fall to the wayside when you’re in the throes of nursing school. But it’s extremely important for you to schedule “me time” in your calendar. It’s helpful to think of self-care as a healthy ritual that is no different than brushing your teeth every morning. Self-care rituals can be whatever floats your boat—just as long as they leave you feeling grounded, relaxed, and recharged.

make time for you

Why is Nursing School Worth the Challenge?

Once you complete nursing school and pass the NCLEX-RN® licensure exam, the sky’s the limit. You can take any number of career paths as well as practice in a wide variety of settings. Not to mention you get to work in a highly rewarding profession that pays a good salary and has the trust of the public.

Expect a Handful of Support

As a Loyola ABSN student, you have access to a variety of support resources designed to help you navigate through the challenges of nursing school.

  • Need help preparing for an exam?

– Ask your academic advisor for help.

  • Looking for test-taking strategies?

– Check out the student success modules in our learning management system.

  • Have a question about labs?

– Get a quick response from your clinical instructor.

  • Having trouble with a specific concept?

– Use any number of communication tools to discuss it with your professor.

Want to know more about our 16-month ABSN program? Can’t wait to get started on your first semester of nursing school? Contact our admission team today!

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