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Why is Nursing School so Stressful? Consider These 4 Stressors.

Some studies suggest that the stress levels of students in nursing school are higher than those enrolled in medical school. Why is nursing school so stressful? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, we can tell you the most common stressors we’ve seen among our ABSN program students and how you can triumph over them.

Why is Nursing School so Stressful? Consider These 4 Stressors.

1. Time Management

Our 16-month ABSN program comprises four full-time semesters of fast-paced nursing curriculum. It’s a hefty workload that often causes students to feel overwhelmed. Having to balance coursework, exams, skills labs, and clinical rotations simultaneously with personal and family obligations can intensify these feelings, creating a fear of failure. But these are ways you can avoid feeling stressed:

  • Stay organized and practice good time management. It helps to get a physical planner that allows you to plot out and visualize your academic and personal commitments on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Be sure to list all quiz and exam dates, project deadlines, and clinical times, along with any personal appointments, family obligations, and “me time.” You’ll also want to review everything you’ve got going on a week in advance.
  • Ask friends and family for help. Have a talk with those closest to you and explain what challenges you’re up against. See if they’d be willing to help you with household-related tasks and errands. You might also consider automating your life as much as possible, such as buying items online and utilizing a grocery delivery service.

2. Accelerated Curriculum

The sheer volume of information nursing students must learn, absorb, and retain often takes them by surprise, especially those who are accustomed to learning by memorization. Nursing students must be able to think critically and synthesize concepts. After all, memorizing the term “renal failure” and its associated complications isn’t enough. It’s necessary to understand how the kidneys work and how they influence other parts of the human body. Here are some strategies that can help you avoid this stress:

  • Form or join a study group. Studying with others helps promote deeper learning. Through peer interaction, you’re able to tell if you’re learning a concept properly. Plus, peer mentoring provides an outlet for support and promoting connectedness between students.
  • Know how you best learn and develop complementary study strategies. If you’re an aural learner, for example, you could record yourself reading your notes out loud, and then listen to the recordings while driving in the car or going for a walk. Consider completing the VARK questionnaire. It’s a great resource for identifying your learning style and recommending efficient study strategies.

3. Clinical Placements

Starting the second semester of our ABSN program, clinical rotations can be a major source of stress for nursing students. Not only is there a fear of the unknown, it’s also common for students to be afraid of doing something wrong. Here are ways you can use nursing simulation to boost your clinical confidence and avoid stress during nursing school:

  • Get up close and personal with patient simulators. Our computerized medical manikins allow you to practice your knowledge and skills without the fear of harming a real person. To reap the full benefits of simulation, you should take advantage of every opportunity that’s available. After all, you have nothing to lose, since we don’t grade you on your simulation performance.
  • Be open and honest with instructors. Following each simulation, you’ll meet with an instructor to discuss your performance. Rather than emphasize your mistakes, the instructor uses this debrief to get your thoughts on the experience and then provide constructive feedback to help improve and expand your skills. Therefore, it’s important to be candid about your feelings and actions during the simulation.
ABSN students in a clinical setting

4. Nursing Exams

It’s pretty common for nursing students to have test anxiety. After all, nursing school exams are very different from those administered in other fields of study. Nursing questions are rarely straightforward, and most are complex multiple-choice questions where every answer is correct, but one is more correct than the others. Students have to think critically rather than pull from memorized content. Here are some things you can do to keep test anxiety at bay:

  • Learn how to break down complex questions to get to the right answer. Our nursing faculty can show you how to key in on what the question is really asking. Being able to properly dissect a nursing question also comes in handy when it’s time for you to take the NCLEX-RN® exam.
  • Gauge your own level of understanding by trying to explain a complex concept to someone else. If you’re struggling to get that person to understand, chances are you need to do some more studying.

Final Advice for Handling the Stresses of Nursing School

Not only is nursing school challenging, our 16-month ABSN program requires a lot of time and energy to be successful — some compare it to working a full-time job with frequent overtime. So before jumping too far ahead of yourself, take a good look at your personal, family, and financial obligations to make sure you’re in a place where you can handle the stresses of nursing school.

But whether you start nursing school in a few months or a few years, just remember it’s completely normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed by the curriculum. You may even find yourself wanting to give up — but don’t! Go ask a registered nurse about his or her nursing school experience. There’s a good chance you’ll get a response along the lines of “it was extremely tough but well worth it in the end.”

After all, nursing is a highly rewarding and growing profession that offers job security and good pay. It also gives you the flexibility to work in various capacities and in all types of settings, from airplanes to hospitals to schools.

Want to know more about why the stress of nursing school is totally worth it? Contact our highly supportive admissions staff to see if our 16-month ABSN program in Downers Grove or Maywood, Illinois, is a good fit for you.

We’d like to acknowledge some sources for this post:

Haws, Jon. “How to Slay Nursing School: Forget Study Tips, Go for Strategy.” Dec. 19, 2015.
Independent Medical College. “Evaluation of Factors of Stress Among Nursing Students.” June 2, 2017.
Tagher, Gannon. “Nursing Students are Stressed … So What?” Sept. 26, 2017.

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