Accelerated NursingClinical RotationsFrequently Asked QuestionsOnline LearningSkills & Simulation Labs

What to Expect During Your First Semester of Nursing School

Student studying notes about what you need to know about the first semester of nursing school

If you’ve recently been accepted into the Notre Dame of Maryland University Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, congratulations!

Your admissions counselor has likely done a great job of giving you a general sense of what’s to come over the next several months. Now that reality is setting in, you may be looking for more specifics on what to expect during your first semester of nursing school.

How and where do I complete coursework? How often and where do I have to attend labs? When do clinical rotations start, and what will my instructors expect from me in the first semester? We answer all these questions and more below.

Editor’s Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cohorts beginning our program in 2020 may not have a typical first semester experience. Until further notice, some in-person elements of our program, such as labs, clinical rotations and on-campus classes, may be modified to protect the safety of our students. Please reach out to your admissions counselors with specific questions or for more information.

First Semester Courses

You can expect to complete the following courses during your first semester as a Notre Dame ABSN student. These include nursing coursework either online or on-campus, onsite labs and, in some cases, clinical rotation components.

NUR 301Holistic Health Assessment4
NUR 303Nursing Informatics2
NUR 305Foundations of a Caring Profession5
NUR 310Pathopharmacology4
 Total Credits15

Coursework in Your First Semester of Nursing School

The coursework you complete in the first semester of nursing school sets the foundation for the rest of your nursing education. Whether in our online or on-campus classroom, expect instructors to throw vast amounts of material your way through lectures, reading assignments, and other learning activities. 

You’ll build upon and be expected to apply all the information you learn during this content-heavy semester in later semesters, so it’s important to develop study strategies early on based on your unique learning style.

Two Program Options

The Notre Dame ABSN program offers two ways for students to complete nursing theory coursework:

  • In our Hybrid Accelerated 2nd Degree program, coursework is delivered through an online learning management system. Each online course features a series of learning modules, each with a list of activities to complete, ranging from watching a video to completing a simulated case study.
  • If you prefer a more traditional learning method, our on-campus Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN program covers the same curriculum; the only difference is in where and when you attend class. Through this learning option, all lectures take place at our main campus in Baltimore.

Why courses are beneficial to your nursing education

Students enrolled in our Hybrid ABSN program have the benefit of learning where, when, and how is best for them. It’s important to note, however, that while online learning does afford a level of flexibility and convenience, you still must adhere to instructor deadlines and visit the ABSN program site to take proctored exams.

NDMU nursing student studying with nursing textbook

Meanwhile, students who choose our on-campus Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN program can expect regularly scheduled face-to-face interactions with instructors in real-time to help them focus and establish a routine.

No matter which path you choose to pursue your accelerated nursing education through NDMU, you can expect the same rigorous curriculum, a high level of instructor support, and plenty of opportunities to connect with your nursing school peers.

Skills and Simulation Labs

Your first semester of nursing school will also involve skills and simulation labs, which you can expect to participate in multiple days each week. If you enroll in our hybrid ABSN program, you’ll complete them at our program site in Elkridge; students in our on-campus ABSN program attend labs at the Center for Caring with Technology lab at our main campus in Baltimore.

In either case, you can expect these labs to feature hospital equipment, medical supplies and full-body manikins. They’re meant to provide a contextual learning environment for you to combine your foundational nursing theory knowledge with hands-on skills practice.

three NDMU nursing students with lab coats working with a simulation manikin

It’s during this portion of your accelerated nursing education that you’ll learn how to develop and apply such basic nursing skills as wound care, intubation, and head-to-toe assessments — the kinds of skills you’ll need to have as a professional in the field no matter the area of practice.

Why labs are beneficial to your nursing education

Skills and simulation labs offer an opportunity for you to learn vital nursing skills you’ll use daily as a nurse in the field in a low-risk environment where it’s safe to make mistakes. After every simulation lab experience, you’ll give and receive constructive feedback from classmates and instructors in open, honest debriefing sessions.

In this learning environment, you’ll also have the chance to get as close as possible to all sorts of real-life clinical situations — developing your clinical judgment and problem-solving skills and building your confidence in the process — that you may or may not be exposed to during clinicals.


The hallmark component of any nursing school experience, clinical rotations involve putting nursing skills and theories into practice in a real-world setting. They’re probably the closest experience you’ll get to what working as a nurse is really like, giving you chances to interact with health care professionals and perform basic care tasks for patients.

Clinical rotations begin in the first semester of the Notre Dame ABSN program, giving you that many more opportunities to apply the nursing theory and skills you’re learning about throughout our ABSN program. But don’t worry — we won’t throw you into the deep end of patient care on your first day. Working under the guidance of experienced clinical instructors, common clinical tasks you can expect to perform during your first semester include taking vitals and performing head-to-toe assessments.

two nursing students in NDMU skills lab

Why clinicals are beneficial to your nursing education

Clinical rotations through the Notre Dame ABSN program allow you to experience a variety of specialty areas of nursing practice, including medical-surgical nursing and community health. Access to such myriad patient care experiences serves to help you narrow down (or widen) which area of clinical practice you’d like to pursue after graduation.

While we can’t guarantee where your rotations will take place, our clinical partnerships include some of the region’s most prestigious health care providers. This means you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside and network with some of the best and brightest health care professionals in the greater Baltimore area.

Are you ready to start accelerated nursing school?

Are you feeling more prepared about what to expect in your first semester of nursing school? Then you’re ready to begin your first semester at Notre Dame of Maryland University’s ABSN program. Contact us today to learn more about our accelerated BSN programs in Baltimore.

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