What to Expect in Nursing School

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If you have decided to enroll in nursing school, you may be unsure of what to expect, such as what the first week is like and what courses you will take. Fortunately, knowing what to expect in nursing school can ease your anxiety and help you become excited.

nursing students looking at sculpture of spine

If you’ve recently been accepted into nursing school, congratulations! In the Notre Dame of Maryland University Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, we truly believe you’ll find nursing to be a fulfilling career.

Your admissions counselor has likely given 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 in nursing school.

Let’s talk about how to prepare for nursing school, look at what your first week in the ABSN program might be like, and discuss what to expect during your journey to become a nurse.

How Do I Prepare for the First Week of Nursing School?

The first week of the program will involve a lot of information presented to you quickly. After all, the Notre Dame ABSN program packs the material that would be dispersed over a traditional four-year period into 15 months. To prepare for this, make sure you have all the necessary materials to keep yourself on track and organized.

The best initial supplies to purchase are a day planner, folders or binders, notebooks, pens, highlighters, and notecards. These supplies will help you remain organized and assist with study sessions.

It’s best to hold off on purchasing textbooks and course-specific supplies until you receive syllabi for your courses from your professors. Many professors require specific brands or will suggest more affordable alternatives to required supplies at the start of the semester.

nurse using laptop

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What Should I Expect During Week One?

Your first week will focus on acclimating to nursing school. You will participate in orientation, syllabus distribution, and networking to help you find your footing and establish expectations going forward.

Orientation will help you understand how your courses will run and offer a general overview of what to expect in nursing school. You’ll also get acquainted with any software or online platforms you need to use. At Notre Dame, we’ll take time introducing you to the equipment you’ll handle in the program, and you’ll also get the chance to ask questions.

Syllabus distribution will give you an idea of the pace and content that will be encompassed in your nursing courses. You’ll get a feel for the standards your instructors expect and how they grade assignments. This will also show you when to expect exams and help you plan your studying time.

Networking will also be important during your first week. Getting to know your instructors and meeting your cohort of peers is key to your success as a nursing student, regardless of whether you’re enrolled in a traditional four-year or ABSN program. You can create a study group together, lean on one another for support, and make lifelong friends and colleagues.

What Do You Learn in Nursing School?

NDMU student in blue scrubs working on manikin

Nursing school provides BSN students with a comprehensive education that spans across nursing theory and fundamentals to nursing specialties. At Notre Dame, ABSN students take part in a curriculum that covers the following areas over the course of four semesters:

  • Nursing foundations (e.g., holistic health assessment, foundations of a caring profession)
  • Nursing research
  • Psychiatric/mental health
  • Professional nursing care of the adult
  • Maternal and newborn nursing
  • Professional nursing care for children and families
  • Community health nursing

The above is just a sample of the nursing school courses. As you progress through NDMU’s ABSN program, your education will cover a wide range of areas of study, ensuring you graduate prepared to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become a registered nurse.

Below is a more in-depth explanation of what to expect in nursing school during your first semester. In NDMU’s ABSN program, you will take part in coursework — either on-campus or online — skills and nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations over the course of 15 months.

What BSN Courses Should I Expect to Take?

Your BSN courses will focus on a variety of aspects in health care and nursing practice. During your first semester of nursing school, you will build a foundation for your nursing education through lectures, reading assignments, and other learning activities.

For example, you can expect to complete the following courses during your first semester as a Notre Dame ABSN student.

  • NUR 301: Holistic Health Assessment
  • NUR 303: Nursing Informatics
  • NUR 305: Foundations of a Caring Profession
  • NUR 310: Pathopharmacology

You should also expect a lot of studying throughout your education. In nursing school, studying isn’t limited to assessments. You will be studying for simulation labs, clinical rotations, and eventually, the NCLEX, throughout nursing school.

It may feel like you spend most of your free time studying; however, this is essential for staying on top of all your courses — not just lectures — and will help you confidently take the NCLEX once you graduate.

nursing student studying

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Online vs. On-Campus Coursework

Many ABSN programs provide online coursework in place of on-campus classes. At Notre Dame, students have the choice to complete nursing theory coursework online or on-campus.

In our Hybrid Accelerated 2nd Degree program, you’ll participate in coursework through an online learning management system. The online courses feature 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 where and when you attend class. Through this learning option, all lectures take place at our main campus in Baltimore.

Students who choose our on-campus ABSN program can expect regularly scheduled face-to-face interactions with instructors in real-time to help them focus and establish a routine.

2 nursing students in classroom working on classwork

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

What Should I Expect During 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.

Simulation labs provide a safe, risk-free environment where you can apply your knowledge and gain essential nursing skills without real-world ramifications. Through skills labs, you will work with medical equipment and supplies, learning how to effectively perform foundational nursing skills, such as:

  • Placing nasogastric tubes
  • Performing head-to-toe patient assessments
  • Applying wound care
  • Performing catheterization

In addition to skills labs, you will participate in nursing simulation labs. Nursing simulation labs teach you how and when to apply nursing skills in simulated, real-world scenarios. Each student will play a role in a scenario, teaching you how to collaborate and navigate medical procedures and emergencies. You will review each scenario with instructors to identify best practices, successes, and areas of improvement.

Nursing skills and simulation labs help prepare you for what you will encounter in clinical rotations, another important aspect of your nursing education.

NDMU student working on a manikin

What Should I Expect During Clinical Rotations?

The hallmark component of any nursing school experience, clinical rotations involve putting nursing skills and theories into practice in a real-world setting. You will complete your clinical rotations at various health care facilities in the greater Baltimore area.

Many describe clinical rotations as the closest experience you’ll get to what working as a nurse is really like, giving you the chance to interact with health care professionals and perform care tasks for patients. Clinical rotations begin in the first semester of the Notre Dame ABSN program, and offer opportunities to apply the nursing theory and skills you’re learning 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.

Your clinical rotations cover a variety of clinical settings and areas of nursing, such as:

  • Medical surgical nursing
  • Advanced medical surgical nursing
  • Pediatrics
  • Obstetrics
  • Psychiatric and mental health nursing
  • Community health

During your clinicals at out ABSN, you will work alongside talented and dedicated health care professionals, providing valuable networking opportunities. You also can explore various specialties, helping you narrow down which areas of nursing you may want to pursue in your career.

Earn Your BSN with Notre Dame

NDMU student hero shot in classroom

Are you feeling more prepared about what to expect in nursing school? Then you’re ready to begin your nursing education at Notre Dame’s ABSN program.

At Notre Dame, you can earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as few as 15 months. Through either on-campus or online coursework, on-site simulation labs, and clinical rotations, our rigorous curriculum prepares you to take the NCLEX with confidence and become a registered nurse. Contact an admissions counselor today to take the first steps toward earning your second degree.