Janice Hawkins, RN, MSN

Chief Academic Advisor, Master Advisor Certified

Old Dominion University, School of Nursing

What misconceptions do students have about a nursing degree?

One of the biggest misconceptions that students have about majoring in nursing is underestimating the level of hard work required to be successful. At most institutions, students compete for limited seats in nursing programs. Admission to the institution does not necessarily mean admission to the nursing major. Last year, more than 75,000 qualified applicants were denied admission to nursing programs due to the lack of space. Students must be prepared to work hard from the very beginning of college coursework to gain admission to competitive programs. Even hard working students should have more than one plan for degree completion. Currently, associate degree programs produce sixty percent of the nursing workforce. A legitimate plan for degree completion may include enrollment in associate degree programs followed by RN-BSN degree completion programs. Once enrolled in a nursing program at any level, students should anticipate a busy schedule. In addition to didactic coursework, nursing majors are required to complete several hundred hours of hands on clinical experiences. To meet requirements, nursing students may incur additional costs such as expenses related to transportation, equipment, simulation training, immunizations, and background checks. Another common misconception is that students often expect the basic nursing program to prepare them for work in specialty areas such as pediatrics. Although students complete clinical hours in a variety of settings including pediatrics, nursing programs prepare students for generalist practice and for the licensure examination. New graduates meet minimal expectations for practice. There is still a lot to learn on the job!

What are the attributes of a student that typically does well in nursing?

Nurses of all backgrounds are necessary to care for diverse populations in a variety of settings. Empathy and compassion are some of the first attributes that come to mind when describing future nurses. These are important qualities in order to provide care to patients who are often in pain or distressed. In addition to a caring attitude, students must be organized and capable of successfully managing multiple tasks while maintaining attention to detail. Time management is a critical skill for both nursing majors and registered nurses. A strong academic background in math and science is usually a good indicator that students will be able to develop and apply critical thinking skills to nursing coursework and practice. Nursing students must develop study skills early to be successful in the nursing major. Students must be prepared to work as team players. This includes strong communication and assessment (attention to detail) skills to advocate for patients as part of an inter-professional team. Students must also meet physical requirements to be able to perform expected duties of registered nurses such as lifting and transferring patients, hearing heart and lung sounds, and responding to emergencies. Because health care is continually changing, a desire for life-long learning is an essential quality of all health care providers.