According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses perform various duties, such as giving patients medicine and injections, taking and recording patients’ vital signs, operating and monitoring medical equipment, and taking patients for diagnostic tests. Those interested in becoming a registered nurse can apply to a nursing school and enroll for a four-year Bachelor of Science in nursing program or Associate Degree in nursing program that takes two to three years to complete. Most community colleges offer nursing courses as well as hospitals. Students can expect to go through a certain routine during their time in nursing school.

Classroom Course Work

Classroom instructions form a major part of the nursing curriculum. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, classes in psychology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, nursing practice, nutrition and microbiology are common in all nursing programs. Students also take additional courses in mathematics, liberal arts and other behavioral sciences. Those earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing get more training in critical thinking, communication, leadership and physical and social sciences to prepare them to take up administrative or research positions. Specialty nurses may narrow their area of study to oncology, pediatrics, obstetrics or gerontology. Classroom course work equips the nursing student with diverse knowledge on patient management and treatment of various medical conditions.

Lab Experience

Students in nursing schools also spend a substantial amount of time in the laboratory practicing the skills they learn in the classroom. Most universities are equipped with a simulation lab, which is lauded as the most experiential part of the nursing curriculum, according to Grand Canyon University. A simulation lab provides students with a hands-on learning setting where they can apply theoretical knowledge in a simulated medical facility environment. At the Grand Canyon University, the simulation lab experience takes place after students complete their first semester. Students use computerized lifelike manikins that simulate various health problems to practice essential skills. The beauty with this setup is that it imitates a real clinical environment but gives students an opportunity to display their critical thinking skills without causing harm to patients. In Indiana University, the manikins are in a home-like setting to help students hone their home-care skills.

Clinical Rotations

A nursing program must ensure that students gain necessary medical experience that includes decision-making skills, patient care and clinical skills. Clinical rotations grant nursing students an opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge they learn in class to real-life patient situations. Students complete these rotations under the supervision of a qualified registered nurse in healthcare agencies, such as community centers, public schools, mental health facilities and hospitals in their localities. A student must complete a number of hours in clinical rotations before graduating. For example, at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, students in accelerated nursing undertake six clinical rotations during which they must complete 728 clinical hours. During clinical rotations, nursing students visit various departments such as obstetrics, adult health, pediatrics, surgery, geriatric and mental health clinics to learn hands-on skills.


After graduating from college, nurses must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination to start their career in any state. This standardized test is the last hurdle to becoming a nurse, and it is advisable to obtain an NCLEX study guide during nursing school. A study guide helps students identify the areas they must concentrate on or where they need more assistance to pass this test. The NCLEX is a multiple-choice exam that tests the ability of students to use nursing knowledge in making critical decisions during their practice. Some nursing schools may help students prepare for the NCLEX by initiating standardized computerized testing to increase the passing rate. These schools also use the scores from such tests to identify students with a higher risk of failing the NCLEX and to assist them with additional resources and individual study plans to help them pass.

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