There are many reasons to consider becoming a nurse. It’s a job that is always in demand. You can start working straight after finishing your degree. The pay can be good. You will be helping people for a living. The job can be extremely varied – from working in a fast-paced emergency room to being a geriatric nurse in a hospice to becoming a midwife. You can work as a nurse educator or take a management position, where your days might include recruiting new nurse hires and making decisions regarding budgets.
Even if you already know you want to become a nurse, nursing school can be a shock. You can go in with limited knowledge on anatomy and biology, and dive deep into physiology and pharmacology right away. You’re expected to memorize symptoms of many diseases and medication, which can be daunting.
Whether you’re just considering going into nursing at all, in the middle of nursing school, or finished with undergrad and wondering whether to continue to NP school, let’s go over how challenging it is to aid your decision whether it’s the right path for you.
Nursing School vs Nurse Practitioner School
The level of teaching in nurse practitioner school is different. You’re expected to think at a different level. In nursing school, you’re taught how to gather the information needed to report to the healthcare provider. In nurse practitioner school, you are being trained to the practitioner. Therefore, you are being taught to think in a different way than what you have gotten used to from working as a nurse. You are no longer a carer who is reporting to someone, but the main provider who is making the decisions.
The depth of information is different, as well. For example, the pharmacology taught in nurse practitioner school is a lot more involved than in nursing school. You are no longer expected to know just about different classes of drugs. In each class, you are expected to know the different medications, different side effects and black box warnings, certain populations who can’t metabolize certain medications, and more.
With all that being said, is NP school harder than nursing school? Not necessarily. Fatima mentions in the video that she didn’t feel too much of a difficulty shift in her first year. We spoke as she was going into her second year, and she was mainly interested to see how the clinical rotations would be. While the shift from working as a nurse (I was working part-time at a hospital during NP school) to clinical rotations was challenging, I personally feel that undergrad was harder. Being confronted with so many new things at once was a rough transition for me. In NP school, the concepts were already familiar to me.
In terms of school-life balance, more people work while doing NP school than in nursing school as an undergrad. The undergrad program is more demanding, while in grad school many people are already working part-time or even full-time, or are married with children. NP school is quite flexible and you don’t feel that school is taking over your life as you sometimes might in nursing school.
Another bonus in NP school is that you choose your specialty and interest. I knew I was interested in being a Psych nurse, and I enjoy the fact that in NP school I can tailor my classes so I don’t need to learn about fields that don’t really interest me. Fatima, on the other hand, chose family practice because she felt that it was more varied and had more options.
Another thing NP school gives you is extra leverage. Whether you are interested in opening your own clinic, developing medical products or working overseas, grad school can help you get there. The extra credentials and knowledge will make you stand out and more people will take you seriously and respect you. If you’re an in any form, continuing on to NP school can be beneficial for you.
If you’re still wondering if nursing school or NP school is right for you, keep doing your research. See what different options there are out there. Talk to different kinds of nurses and nurse practitioners. Ask them what their days are like, so you can get a sense of what it is to be a family care practitioner compared to being an intensive care nurse, for example. Talk to different schools and ask for information about their programs, to see what you find interesting.
At the end of the day, don’t let the fear of how difficult nursing school can be detract you from going for it. Take it one step at a time and just go for it.
Check out this video where I talk to Fatima Frances about the differences between nursing school and nurse practitioner school. We go in-depth about the challenges and perks. We also do a Q&A where we discuss the best shoes to wear at work, racism in healthcare, and what apps we use to make our lives easier as nursing students and professionals.