Does Nursing School Prepare You for the Real World?

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ABSN student with stethoscope working with sim manikin

If you aspire to be a nurse, you want to be confident that nursing school is going to prepare you for your future profession. Earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a big commitment, and it needs to be worth it. After school, you want to smoothly transition into your career as a practice-ready nurse. But does nursing school truly ready you for real patient care? Does nursing school prepare you for the real world, and how can you be sure?

At Concordia University, St. Paul, our goal is to educate the graduates of our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program so they excel at their nursing careers from the very beginning. CSP is committed to ensuring our students make a successful transition to their nursing careers.

So what do you learn in nursing school that’s relevant to your career? Nursing school is built to teach you so much more than just medication dosages and physiology. When you finish school, you need to be ready to jump into your career of caring for living, breathing human lives. This is important work, and we want you to be ready.

We’ll dive into the importance of the question, does nursing school prepare you for the real world? It’s key to find a school that adequately educates you in clinical practice. We’ll also cover practical strategies you can apply to finding a nursing program that readies you for real life.

Nursing School vs. Nursing Career: Minimizing the Learning Gap

If you graduate from the right nursing school, you’ll find yourself prepared for the challenges that come with real nursing. Great clinical nursing programs will ensure what you learn in classes will set you up to succeed in a nursing career. A few of the differences between nursing school and professional nursing include:

  • Problem-solving challenging and complex patient cases
  • Coping with the stress and schedule of nursing
  • Collaborating with the entire care team
  • Handling code blue responses
  • Navigating a real patient care plan

As a new nurse, you’ll want to feel comfortable with these scenarios. So before jumping into nursing school, what can you do to ensure you are prepared for your career? How can you be sure that your nursing program will prepare you to handle the complicated, multi-layered patient scenarios?

Rest assured that some nursing programs, such as the Concordia University, St. Paul ABSN program, are intentional about preparing their students well. Therefore, by seeking out a program that is committed to clinical nursing preparation, like CSP’s ABSN program, you’ll set yourself up for career success. When your nursing school adequately prepares you for the clinical world, you can get satisfaction and joy from your work.

5 Qualities of Nursing Programs with Real-World Nursing Preparation

When you’re applying to nursing schools, what should you look for in a program that will set you up for a nursing career? How can you ensure a nursing school does prepare you for the real world? Fortunately, there are some key principles of great clinical nursing programs. Choosing a school with these characteristics will help you move into your new career with less stress.

CSP nursing student working with sim manikin

1. BSN Degree Program

The first criteria you should consider with nursing schools is the level of nursing education they provide. There are many options to choose from, such as associate or degree nursing programs. However, choosing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program is your best choice to get you ready for clinical practice.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses with a bachelor’s degree are better prepared on quality and safety issues. Studies have also shown that more educated nursing teams have better patient outcomes and lower patient mortality.

This connection between earning a BSN and having improved patient outcomes is likely connected to the more comprehensive education BSN students receive compared to other nursing degrees. BSN programs are in-depth and intensive with teaching clinical reasoning, physiology, pharmacology and much more.

There is a large demand for nurses with a BSN degree, and healthcare organizations are hiring them at high rates. This means choosing a BSN program not only benefits your ability to transition into your career; it also improves your career prospects.

2. Robust Simulation Labs

Simulation labs are a great steppingstone for clinical knowledge. They allow students to hone their skills in a low-stress environment. You should look for a program with in-person simulation and skills labs every week, as this allows you to practice vital skills that will be relevant for transitioning into professional nursing.

What do you learn in nursing school labs? First, effective simulation labs teach nursing students how to collaborate and work within a healthcare team to address patient care challenges. This will translate into the team approach you’ll use when you start caring for patients alongside doctors, therapists, nursing staff and case managers.

nursing students standing with instructor next to sim manikin

Hands-on labs also address the challenge of handling high-stress situations such as a code blue or cardiac arrest. You will learn appropriate nursing protocols and practice them over and over, so you’ll know what to do in real life. Your instructors will teach you how to manage stress and keep a level head, which will set you up to act with assurance when you get to the clinical setting.

At Concordia St. Paul, simulations are a major piece of our curriculum, and students can expect to learn in this format multiple times each week. Because of this foundational, interactive education, our students are better prepared to know how to care for patients in the clinical world.

3. Starts Clinicals First Semester

Clinical rotations are a key component of well-rounded nursing programs. They consist of spending time in hospital units and outpatient clinics, working under the guidance of professional nurses. This gives you the chance to see nursing in action and to be involved in clinical decision making.

Starting in clinicals as early as possible in your nursing curriculum is vital to giving you the experience you need. Therefore, look for a nursing school that begins your clinical experiences in the first semester, such as our ABSN program at CSP.

4. Varied Clinical Settings with Plenty of Clinical Hours

While starting clinicals early in the curriculum is vital, the next piece in choosing a nursing program that prepares you for the real world is making sure you get enough high-quality clinical time. How many hours of clinicals does the school provide? Will you rotate in a variety of hospital units and clinical settings? Will you get experience working with children, adults, seniors and OB patients?

These are all great questions to ask as you consider nursing programs. Look for programs with extensive clinical experiences in a variety of primary care and specialty settings.

At CSP, clinical rotations for our accelerated BSN program are extensive, making up a major piece of the curriculum from the first semester. Our ABSN students rotate in diverse clinical areas, including:

  • Adult Health
  • Obstetrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Acute Care
  • Long-term Care

5. Transition to Nursing Experience in the Last Semester

Another bonus that some BSN programs offer is an intensive clinical experience during the final semester of nursing school. If you can find a program that offers this type of course, it’s going to help you when you’re finishing school. Review the curriculum of nursing programs you’re considering to see whether this type of course is available.

What do you learn in nursing school transitional experiences? At CSP, our Transition into Professional Nursing course is similar to an internship, where our fourth semester nursing students have the same schedule as a preceptor. Students work several 12-hour shifts while caring for more patients and having more extensive clinical responsibilities.

nursing instructor raising hand

The course can be challenging for students, and that is the point. We want them to learn how to navigate a nursing lifestyle early while they still have so much support and guidance. By getting accustomed early to the intricacies of a nursing career, our students can be truly ready to enter the real world of nursing.

Does an Online Nursing Program Prepare You for the Real World?

One question you may wonder with an online nursing program is, does taking nursing school online make the transition to clinical nursing more challenging? The answer is that it depends on the program.

Online learning is a beneficial opportunity for students to gain foundational nursing knowledge. Online classes like ours at CSP allow for a more flexible learning environment so students can learn in a way that best complements their strengths.

However, the online curriculum is only one of the three key learning environments at CSP. The other two components, labs and clinicals, are in-person and focused on teaching hands-on nursing skills. Therefore, students benefit from the ease of online learning while also gaining the vital face-to-face experience that will prepare them for the real world.

When you’re considering a nursing program with an online component, investigate the entire curriculum, and look for a program that offers significant time in the skills lab and in clinicals.

Ready to Begin Your Nursing Journey?

Does nursing school prepare you for the real world? Now you know that it can, and it should. You’ve learned about what types of nursing programs best prepare students for professional nursing. If you want to start a rewarding nursing career, there’s no better place than Concordia St. Paul. Earning your BSN at CSP is a great career move.

If you have a prior bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits, then you may be eligible to enter our accelerated BSN program. CSP offers three start dates per year — in January, May and August — at both of our ABSN sites. Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon, our accelerated BSN program provides the opportunity to graduate in as few as 16 months.

If you’d like to learn more about earning your BSN at Concordia St. Paul, reach out to our admissions counselors.