Becoming a nurse takes determination and courage, but with so much to learn, you may be asking yourself, “am I smart enough for nursing school?” It’s normal to struggle in nursing school but you can make it through, especially if you have the right support. Nursing school is hard for everyone but you are smart enough for nursing; learn how to get through your education with less stress.
Do you have to be smart for nursing school?
Nursing requires a variety of skills, including empathy, critical thinking, communication, and more. You do have to be smart for nursing school, but “smarts” aren’t limited to just getting good grades. There are different types of intelligence that play an important role in getting through nursing school.
Intelligence types that help in nursing include:
Interpersonal intelligence (or emotional intelligence): The ability to understand, empathize with, and relate to others. When caring for others in need, connecting to their fears, concerns, and struggles will help patients feel seen and appreciated.
Logical intelligence: The ability to analyze problems and apply critical thinking. In fast-paced healthcare environments, thinking on your feet keeps you in control and able to work under pressure.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: The ability to perform physical tasks. Nurses spend long hours on their feet and have to use their bodies to care for others, including lifting, moving, and supporting patients during procedures.
Linguistic intelligence: The ability to communicate clearly. Nurses must be able to share health information between patients, family members, and other hospital staff in order to deliver accurate care.
Being smart in the academic sense does play into nursing school success since you’ll be spending a lot of time learning new facts, procedures, and best practices. But since most nursing students are delving into complex science and health-based topics for the first time, you won’t be alone in opening your mind in a new way.
Learning anything new is an adjustment and can make you feel like you’re not smart enough at first. With time, applying all your different intelligence types will serve your goal and help you grow into a successful nurse.
Is nursing school mostly memorization?
Memorization is a major component of nursing school, but there’s much more to a nursing education than remembering facts. While you’ll definitely need to recall a wide range of information at the drop of a hat, memorization will only take you so far.
Nurses must be able to put facts into action, applying critical thinking in fast-paced environments. Patient symptoms won’t always be exactly as described in textbooks, meaning nurses must combine knowledge and real-world experience in nuanced scenarios.
You’ll never be able to memorize everything you need to know as a nurse. Nursing school teaches you how to use what you’ve learned while considering new information on a patient-by-patient basis.
Is nursing school hard for everyone?
Nursing school is challenging for nursing students of all ages. This is because on top of a demanding academic schedule, you’ll also be tasked with clinical rotations that teach you the human element of the job. Delivering patient care isn’t just about learning new things; it’s about putting those things into action.
First-year nursing students often report the highest level of difficulty while adjusting to the rigors of nursing school. Unlike most college students who only have to focus on academic responsibilities, nursing students must also take on additional clinical commitments that can be draining, mentally and emotionally.
Even though nursing school is hard for everyone, the National League for Nursing reports that most nursing students will finish their programs. Despite the struggle, the overall dropout rate is fairly low, with a majority of 2- and 4-year nursing students seeing their studies through to the end.
88% of bachelor-level (BSN) nursing students will finish their degree
80% of associate-level (ADN) nursing students will finish their degree
Is it normal to struggle through nursing school?
Yes, it is normal to struggle through nursing school. Whether you’re starting a nursing program right after high school or going back to school as an adult, pursuing an RN education is always a challenge.
There are ways to lessen your struggle though. Having support systems while being in school will make the experience much more manageable.
Tutoring: If you feel yourself struggling to understand new concepts, personalized tutoring is a great way to fill in any information gaps. Getting help before you fall too far behind is key, though asking for help at any time during your education will help keep you on track.
Mentoring: Mentoring is different from tutoring in that a mentor can offer personal or emotional support when you feel low, as opposed to the academic support of a tutor. Finding a trusted professor or practicing nurse in your circle can help pick you up during rough patches.
Study schedules: Carving out a set study schedule will help you feel more focused and prepared on a daily basis. Find times when you can eliminate distractions and hyper focus on your school work; this helps you stay on top of assignments and minimize the stress of falling behind.
Community: Leaning on your peers makes a big difference when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Your fellow classmates can directly relate to your struggles and make you feel less alone.
Test out options: When you’re working through your nursing prerequisites, you can utilize a system called credit by exam which allows you to test out of certain classes. Testing out saves significant time in school, helping to lower your stress levels.
Be kind to yourself: Remember that you are doing something new, and growth takes time. You're bound to make mistakes but that doesn't mean you aren't smart enough for nursing school. Give yourself grace when you fail; progress over perfection!
Make it through nursing school with support from Achieve
Even if you feel like you’re not smart enough for nursing school, you can make it through with the right support. Achieve Test Prep helps you through your nursing education with test prep courses, on-demand tutoring, and more so that you can advance with confidence. Our live, synchronous instruction gives you personalized attention and the ability to ask questions in real time. It’s normal to struggle, but you don’t have to be completely overwhelmed by nursing school stress.