Common Challenges Faced by Accelerated Nursing Students

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Accel­er­at­ed pro­grams have a rig­or­ous and fast-paced cur­ricu­lum, requir­ing effi­cient time man­age­ment and strong motivation.
  • Many stu­dents work while study­ing, mak­ing it essen­tial to main­tain a bal­anced sched­ule to man­age per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al commitments.
  • While over­all cheap­er, the con­densed time­frame means high­er annu­al costs, lead­ing to short-term finan­cial stress.
  • The demand­ing nature of these pro­grams can cause stress and burnout, neces­si­tat­ing good self-care prac­tices and sup­port sys­tems.

Accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing pro­grams have become quite pop­u­lar nowa­days, espe­cial­ly among those who don’t want to waste time in a 4‑year pro­gram. By going for a fast-track nurs­ing degree, you can become a reg­is­tered nurse in about 2 years, pos­si­bly even less. These cours­es are more flex­i­ble, mak­ing them a suit­able choice for poten­tial nurs­es who still want to keep their jobs until graduation.

That said, while the speed and flex­i­bil­i­ty of the class­es can be rather con­ve­nient, we can’t go over the fact that there are also a few chal­lenges to con­sid­er. Know­ing them can help you pre­pare and find the best cop­ing strate­gies. For this rea­son, this arti­cle will review the most com­mon nurs­ing school chal­lenges and present some valu­able tips to over­come them.


1. Intense Curriculum and Pace

Some might think that accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing pro­grams are the eas­i­er ver­sions of tra­di­tion­al cours­es since you study less. That’s a great mis­con­cep­tion because the cur­ricu­lum cov­ers the same top­ics. The only dif­fer­ence is that these pro­grams focus more on the core nurs­ing course­work and clin­i­cal expe­ri­ence and less on the “tran­si­tion­al” classes.

When a stu­dent enrolls in an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram, they already have a bachelor’s degree of some sort in a dif­fer­ent field, so they may not need to go through every class. They can trans­fer the cred­its or use that knowl­edge. That said, semes­ters are still short­er, so you will have to go through intense course­work in less time.

To improve your nurs­ing work­load man­age­ment, you may want to use some time man­age­ment tools. Dig­i­tal plan­ners and cal­en­dars can be very help­ful, as well as break­ing your tasks down. Find­ing your moti­va­tion can go a long way to keep you focused.


2. Balancing Life and Studies

Many stu­dents going for accel­er­at­ed BSN pro­grams have one thing in com­mon: they have a job. That is the main rea­son why they went for an accel­er­at­ed degree in the first place – they don’t have the time for a tra­di­tion­al pro­gram. Accel­er­at­ed cours­es often make things eas­i­er because stu­dents enjoy a cer­tain flex­i­bil­i­ty. Most class­es are in the evening or on week­ends, so they are the per­fect option for a nurs­ing student.

How­ev­er, this doesn’t mean you will have less to study. You will just have to do this in your free time. This could make it very dif­fi­cult and demand­ing for your per­son­al life, as you will have to sac­ri­fice your hob­bies or your sleep.

Still, a good strat­e­gy could make it eas­i­er for you to main­tain some bal­ance. By cre­at­ing a sched­ule (and stick­ing to it) and pri­or­i­tiz­ing your tasks, you can make time for the things that mat­ter to you. You could also com­mu­ni­cate with your fam­i­ly and employ­ees about assis­tance and sched­ul­ing con­straints to main­tain a good nurs­ing school work-life balance.

3. Financial Stress

One of the great­est obsta­cles brought by accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing pro­grams is relat­ed to finances. Ulti­mate­ly, the entire tuition pro­gram is much low­er than a tra­di­tion­al pro­gram. While it depends on your cho­sen insti­tu­tion, get­ting your bachelor’s degree from a 4‑year pro­gram is around $70,000 or more. Accel­er­at­ed pro­grams are cheap­er, hav­ing you pay approx­i­mate­ly $40,000 in total.

In the long term, the accel­er­at­ed pro­gram will ben­e­fit your sav­ings. Still, in the short term, things can get rather com­pli­cat­ed. Since accel­er­at­ed pro­grams take place over 2 years instead of 4, you might have a high­er fee per year. This can be very stress­ful for a stu­dent with bills and rent to pay and lit­tle time to hold onto a job due to studies.

An excel­lent way to bypass this chal­lenge is to look for finan­cial aid options. For instance, the Free Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid (FAFSA) can pro­vide you with access to finan­cial aid for nurs­ing, such as grants and schol­ar­ships. Some accel­er­at­ed-class insti­tu­tions also offer finan­cial aid options for promis­ing stu­dents. If every­thing else fails, you should con­sid­er a loan repay­ment process and defer the pay­ments until you fin­ish school and earn an income.

4. Physical and Mental Health Strains

Between study­ing for exams, going to work, and tak­ing care of every­thing you are sup­posed to han­dle in life, you might be at high risk of nurs­ing school burnout. The lengthy clin­i­cal hours don’t make things any eas­i­er, as you will have to be on your feet for extend­ed peri­ods, phys­i­cal­ly han­dling patients and doing all sorts of tasks that a nurse should do.

The lack of sleep could also take a great toll on your physique, mak­ing you feel fre­quent­ly tired and not in your best shape. Not to men­tion that when you are stressed, you can’t even sleep well, which caus­es you to lose REM and wake up con­stant­ly dur­ing the night. This can add sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the nurs­ing stu­dent stress.

While this can be chal­leng­ing, it doesn’t mean it is not man­age­able. Cre­at­ing a sched­ule con­tain­ing some “you” time can go a long way, and pri­or­i­tiz­ing your tasks can pre­vent you from burn­ing out. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers and pro­fes­sion­al con­nec­tions (e.g., your pro­fes­sors) for accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing stu­dent sup­port. Also, remem­ber that at the end of the day, self-care is impor­tant, so try to squeeze in some relax­ing activ­i­ties you love.

5. Learning at a Rapid Pace

As a nurs­ing stu­dent in an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram, you will see there is lit­tle time between semes­ters. This means the same infor­ma­tion taught in tra­di­tion­al pro­grams should be learned rapid­ly. Active learn­ing could be very help­ful here. More­over, you could break your course load into small­er, man­age­able chunks.

To cope bet­ter, com­plete one task at a time. Some effec­tive study tech­niques for nurs­es include the Pomodoro method, which gives you some “brain breaks” between study ses­sions, thus improv­ing your pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Use tech­nol­o­gy when avail­able, such as inter­ac­tive sim­u­la­tions and edu­ca­tion­al apps, as they can help improve your abil­i­ty to engage actively.

6. Limited Clinical Experience

One of the great­est chal­lenges that stu­dents of these pro­grams face is the lim­it­ed nurs­ing clin­i­cal expe­ri­ence. This doesn’t mean you will not cov­er as much as a 4‑year stu­dent; instead, there will be less time for pleas­antries and oth­er time-con­sum­ing teach­ing moments. There won’t be much ques­tion­ing met with awk­ward silences and redos of the pro­ce­dures. You should make the most of the time you have at your disposal.

A good tip would be to famil­iar­ize your­self with the the­o­ry, pro­ce­dures, and pro­to­cols. Try active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in the activ­i­ties and ask­ing ques­tions when­ev­er some­thing is unclear. Sim­u­la­tion tech­nolo­gies and role-play­ing exer­cis­es with your class­mates could also help you get as much clin­i­cal expe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble with­out freez­ing through rounds.

7. Building Professional Relationships

A big chal­lenge of join­ing an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram is the dif­fi­cul­ty of build­ing pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ships. You will be part of the pro­gram for two years or even less, and many of your class­es will like­ly be online. This doesn’t give you many nurs­ing men­tor­ship opportunities.

This means you will have to look for every chance to social­ize and cre­ate con­nec­tions. Be proac­tive and try engag­ing in con­ver­sa­tion from the ear­ly stages of the pro­gram. Today, most accel­er­at­ed cours­es already have some chat or forum where the stu­dents can talk with one anoth­er, so don’t be afraid to use them when needed.

8. Transition to Professional Practice

For a nurse who fin­ished a 4‑year pro­gram, jump­ing right into the prac­tice is no big deal, espe­cial­ly as they have already been doing it for a long time. That said, peo­ple with dif­fer­ent jobs who are going through a nurs­ing career tran­si­tion might not find this easy to do. Not only do they get few­er clin­ic hours than aver­age stu­dents, but they also don’t have as many connections.

While the con­densed cur­ricu­lum of an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram should make you just as ready as 4‑year stu­dents, not many super­vi­sors think that way. Con­sid­er­ing the lim­it­ed time­frame, they might believe you are unpre­pared to jump into real-world prac­tice. The same thing could apply to your own thoughts about your skills, as you may fear you are not yet ready to take on all the responsibilities.

To improve your accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing out­comes and estab­lish your­self as a pro­fes­sion­al, a good idea would be to focus on clin­i­cal com­pe­tence. Employ­ers are look­ing for skills, deci­sion-mak­ing, and crit­i­cal think­ing abil­i­ties, so get as much hands-on prac­tice as pos­si­ble. Improve your com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills as well, as this helps you inter­act with patients and improve inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships with your peers.

The Bottom Line

Accel­er­at­ed nurs­ing pro­grams may come with quite a few chal­lenges, but aware­ness is often the key. If you know what to expect, then you can also find the best strat­e­gy to over­come all obsta­cles. Once that hap­pens, you can active­ly work toward get­ting your degree and becom­ing a nurse.