What should you expect in nursing school? In some ways, nursing school is very similar to the experience you would have in any associate’s degree program. You will start by taking some core classes, or prerequisites, and then move into the classes that are specific to your major. Nursing school is a little different, however, because it requires a substantial amount of hands-on experience. This is done through clinical rotations and final independent study similar to mini internships. Upon graduation, this combination of classes will adequately prepare you to take the nursing licensing exam.
Every associate’s degree requires students to take classes that are outside of their major. These classes generally deal with broader topics and aren’t as specific to one topic as the nursing classes you will take. Examples of core classes you might take are composition, where you learn about various writing styles and hone your writing skills; an IT class, where you learn about basic software like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; a basic math class such as college algebra; a basic psychology class, which will be important for treating patients who have mental illnesses; a intro level science class, most likely biology, where you will learn about health and diseases; and maybe a sociology or history class. Of course, the exact classes you take will depend on where you go to school. Even though these classes don’t directly relate to your major, they will help make you a well-rounded person and will prepare you for the professional world. For example, writing or English classes will help you learn to communicate better and prepare better notes and reports while on the job.
This is where you get into the meat of your degree – the specific knowledge required for you to become a registered nurse. Examples of classes might include nursing fundamentals, pathophysiology, pharmacology, surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, mental health nursing, human anatomy and physiology, and potentially a class on leadership or other nursing trends. Again, this list does not represent an exact curriculum for every school, but it gives you the gist of the types of subjects you will be studying. You won’t start out taking these classes right away. Most students complete the 30 to 40 credits of general education requirements before moving on to the courses in their major.
Clinical Rounds/Capstone Experience
Virtually all nursing programs require some amount of hands-on experience prior to graduation. A lot of schools offer clinical practice as part of the upper-division nursing classes, in which you will participate toward the end of your studying. The goal is to give you experience in a real-life environment. You might work in a public health clinic, an outpatient clinic, a mental health agency, a rehabilitation center, a dialysis unit, a hospice facility, within a department in a hospital, or in some other medical atmosphere. As you near graduation you may also have a final course that allows you to integrate your knowledge in an independent clinical setting. Ultimately, such experiences train students to be ready to take the RN examination.