featured image hardest parts of nursing school

I'm going to state the very obvious. Nursing school is hard. Probably harder than most other degrees.

Like all things, not all parts of nursing school are created equal. There are parts that nursing students will find more difficult than others.

*Disclosure: This article on the hardest part of nursing school may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

Hardest Parts of Nursing School

Check out the video above if you want to watch the abbreviated list. Otherwise keep reading below.

1. The Critical Thinking Questions

Learning how to answer NCLEX-style questions is probably one of the most challenging parts of nursing school.

Unlike most test questions you've probably answered up till now, finding the answer is not straightforward.

Here's how non-nursing school multiple-choice questions are:

If you're asked a question, you could have four or five answer choices, and out of those answer choices (we'll assume five), three or four of them will be obviously wrong, and only one is the correct answer.

This is NOT how test questions work in nursing school.

In that same scenario, if it's a nursing school-style question, all five answer choices would be pretty close to the correct answer.

You'll hear this referred to as finding the most correct answer choice.

Here's What to Do

What I've found that helps is to do a lot of practice questions.

Make sure the practice questions you do has good rationales. You can find practice questions on the Nursing Student Academy.

nursing.com images

Get the Nursing Student Academy

For the 99% of nursing students who hate reading textbooks. This is the platform that fills in the gaps that those nursing school textbooks leave.

The nice thing about the student academy is that it also has helpful study aids and guides on often tough nursing school topics.

Pro-Tip
It's not that all the answer choices are correct. It's that it's very difficult to discern which is the correct answer unless you fully understand the material.

It's hard to pass nursing school exams if you don't fully understand the topic.

2. Learning How to Study

nursing students studying in a group

Until I got into nursing school, I thought I knew how to study.

Nursing school is an entirely different beast. The materials can be hard to understand, and the sheer volume alone can overwhelm many students.

Plus many students have poor study habits that lead them to stare at textbooks for hours without retaining any of that information.

Here's What to Do

What I've found to help combat this is to read up on good study habits for nursing school.

Learn how to take good notes and if you're able, consider hiring a nursing school tutor to help you on tough topics.

As a side note, a good tutor should be able to help you learn proper study techniques.

If you need help finding a nursing school tutor, check out this platform.

Many nursing students have used that platform to find a tutor that's helped them pass nursing school.

Pro-Tip
The site that I recommend to find nursing school tutors also vets them.

Because it's online (there are in-person options also), you get a lot of freedom to schedule the time that works best for your schedule.

Find your nursing school tutor.

3. Learning How to Manage Your Time

Between all the random assignments, studying for exams, and clinical, you will have a full schedule in nursing school.

If you don’t get organized and manage your time, you will have a hard time succeeding. There are just too many things for you to try to keep straight if you're not careful.

The secret to my success with managing my time and staying organized is using a planner to keep important dates in mind and set reminders for myself.

I’ve found using a digital calendar like Google Calendar to be the best for me, but I know many others who prefer a physical calendar.

Regardless of which one you pick, you just need to pick one and create a system that helps you stay organized.

Why am I focusing on staying organized?
Are you wondering why I’m talking about organization when the title of this section is about managing your time?

It’s because you can’t effectively manage your time if you don’t make organization a priority.

Hire a Tutor for School

If you need a tutor for school, you can find one using this online platform. The tutors are vetted, and you pick the time that works for your schedule. Whether it's for nursing school, nursing school prereqs, or any school-related subject, this is a platform you should check out.

4. The Stress and Anxiety

woman meditating

Nursing school is stressful. I think that goes without saying. The thing is trying to figure out how to deal with that stress.

Because people respond to stress differently, the key thing is to understand how you respond to stress and what you can do to manage it.

Some good stress management techniques include:

  • Working out
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Finding laughter in things
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Deep breathing and meditation

Very Important!
If your stress and anxiety are really bad and you’re having difficulty finding relief, consider seeing your primary care provider or another licensed medical professional.

Go here to find a licensed therapist.

5. Staying Motivated

Staying motivated in nursing school is hard.

I've always said that students need to look at the journey to becoming a nurse like you would a race.

Nursing school would be a marathon, not a sprint. If you're not a runner, you might not get the reference but what that means is that you need to learn how to pace yourself.

Nursing school is the same. You need to figure out your groove otherwise, you'll burn out fairly quickly.

The other thing that helps to stay motivated is to remember your why.

Remember Your Why
Why did you want to become a nurse? Was it for financial reasons? Was it to serve others?

Regardless of your why, that's what you need to focus on to stay motivated.

6. Not Seeing Your Friends and Family

couple happily talking

When I was in nursing school, I found it hard not being able to see friends and family as much as I was accustomed to.

I essentially disconnected from some people for that 2+ years. Unfortunately, some of the connections could not be reestablished afterward.

Some people say two years is not a long time.

I would disagree.

I would argue that when it comes to staying connected with people, two years is a long time for that relationship if it's not nurtured.

Here's what you need to do.

What I'm going to say next will be hard, and many people won't agree with this.

First of all, you need to figure out what your priorities are.

For those of you who are in a serious relationship or married, you don't really have the luxury of putting that relationship on the back burner for a couple of years and picking it up where you left off afterward.

Life doesn't work that way, and nobody is that understanding.

You need to get organized and make time for the relationships that matter to you.

That doesn't mean you have to prioritize all your relationships. For some of you that would be impossible.

You need to pick the relationships that matter to you. For example, if your relationship with your big brother, sister, cousin, etc., is important, then make a point to spend time with them.

Related: How to Deal with Dating and Relationships in Nursing School

7. Going to Nursing School Clinicals

a nursing student in a classroom

Clinicals are one of the best times in nursing school.

Clinical is when you practice all that knowledge you've been gathering in classrooms and skills lab.

It can also be one of the scariest times for students who have never worked in healthcare.

Here's What You Do

Show up early and make sure you're prepared and ready to learn.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot more you can do about clinical. As soon as you're starting to get comfortable in a clinical area, it's already time for you to switch to another clinical.

You just need to be able to go with the flow.

Pro-Tip
Clinical is probably one of the easiest classes in nursing school (if you were counting clinical as a stand-alone class).

That's not to say there's not a lot you need to do. Some of those care plans are very time-consuming, but that's all it tends to be.

Time-consuming work that's not super hard.

8. Dealing with Assignment and Proficiency Exam Overwhelm

stressed student in nursing school

There's a lot of assignments in nursing school. At any given moment you could have:

  • Multiple small assignments due
  • A paper
  • A care plan to do for clinical
  • Studying for an upcoming big exam

And all of this could be for one class, and you'll of course have multiple courses in a semester.

There were times in school when it seemed like I was close to having a panic attack just from overwhelm of not knowing where to begin.

Here's What to Do

  • Make sure you have the due dates of all the assignments listed on your calendar.
  • Order the assignments based on priority and start working through them.
  • Things like studying for a test should be done little by little. Do NOT wait until a couple of days before and then cram.

Nursing Student Academy

Check out the comprehensive supplemental course nursing students are taking to improve their grades and pass nursing school.

9. Learning How to Manage Your Money

money

Most people generally struggle with managing their finance.

The problem is compounded when you're a college student spending thousands of dollars on education and not being able to work.

What I would recommend is to learn how to budget. Learning how to budget will lead you to monitor what you are spending and hopefully change some of your spending habits.

Even if you have enough student loans to cover everything, be careful.

You don't want to make the same mistake millions of other college students (me included) have made, which is to rely solely on student loans like it doesn't have to be paid back at some point.

Pro-Tip
If you do have to rely on student loans, the goal is not to shame you.

The goal is to start learning valuable principles that you'll need even after nursing school.

Remember, once you're done with school, you should be thinking about saving for your retirement.

10. Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

First of all, let's define what imposter syndrome is.

What's imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you're not good enough. Or, in this case, doubting your abilities to become a nurse.

Imposter syndrome is rampant as a nursing school student because of how hard the exams are and everything that's expected of you.

There are many helpful articles you can find on the internet about dealing with imposter syndrome. Here are some key points that may help you.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. It's really hard to solve a problem if you don't realize you have a problem.
  2. Challenge your doubts and stop comparing yourself to others. A big part of feeling like you're not good enough could stem from you comparing yourself to others. Social media doesn't help when it comes to this.
  3. Seek professional help. If things are really bad, there's no shame in seeking professional help from a licensed professional. While it will cost you money, hiring a therapist can be affordable if you know where to look. Check out this platform to start looking for a licensed therapist.

Pro-Tip
Your health insurance company may pay for therapy. It never hurts to reach out to them and ask.

11. BONUS: The NCLEX

The NCLEX makes this list because this is the final hurdle. This is the last but MOST important test you're going to take in nursing school.

This test makes everything you've done up until graduation matter.

Most students will pass the NCLEX, but as you probably would have guessed, this causes a lot of anxiety and stress for the thousands of nursing students out there.

the passing rate for first time nclexpn and nclexrn

My suggestion is to buy a good NCLEX prep course. This is the one I recommend because they have a pass rate that is significantly above the average.

It’s Hard But Doable

Without a doubt, nursing school is hard, but it's doable. So many students have come before you and have been successful.

Check out the articles I have on this site for more information on how you can succeed in nursing school.

Nursing Student Academy

Check out the comprehensive supplemental course nursing students are taking to improve their grades and pass nursing school.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the hardest part of nursing school?

    The hardest part of nursing school is getting used to the NCLEX-style questions. Most students will not be used to questions where every answer choice will seem like it's the correct answer.

  2. What is so hard about nursing school?

    Nursing school is hard because students will learn complex nursing and medical concepts and then apply that information in often stressful environments where failure is costly.