Non-Traditional Nursing Student (RN-BSN)

Posted by MANS Secretary on October 28, 2015 at 10:35 PM

Going into nursing school, I immediately set the expectations of completing my BSN. Due to financial issues that many students face, I decided to start with the ADN route. I completed my Associates degree in May 2015 and immediately began the RN-BSN program at University of Maryland, School of Nursing, in the Fall of 2015. I was one of the very few in my graduating class that decided to immediately continue my education. Many students in my class stated remarks such as: “after two years, I need a break,” “I need a job first,” “I want to get married and start my family,” “my main focus is the NCLEX, I’ll worry about that later.” Contrary to the opinion of majority of my graduating class, all I thought of was “I want to get it over with!”

As I completed my 3rd semester of nursing school, I began submitting my applications for local RN-BSN programs. Prior to graduation, I was notified of my acceptance into the two schools I applied to and was ecstatic that I would be able to complete my BSN within, what I considered, a reasonable time frame. Additionally, I wanted to continue my education, while I felt like all I learned in nursing school would be ‘fresh’ and would allow me to complete my BSN with ease. Low and behold, I was mistaken.

Immediately after graduation, I began studying for the NCLEX. After a few weeks of studying, I sat for and passed the NCLEX in mid-June. I then had just a few weeks to enjoy my summer, and thought it would be the perfect time to take a vacation, until I received my bill for tuition. Once I received my friendly reminder that 4-year universities were significantly more expensive than community colleges, I opted to stay in town and work to save money for tuition payments. Before I knew it, my month was up and, I was beginning orientation as a New Grad.

Overwhelmed with fear, joy, and anxiety, I began my new position as a nurse. My time was immediately consumed with lectures (yes, orientation consists of lectures too), orienting on the floor with my preceptor, assignments and evidence-based practice projects. For the first two months of orientation, I truly felt like I was in nursing school with all the EKG reviews and case study assignments I had to complete during times I wish I was asleep. My orientation lasted just short of three months, and overlapped with the first few weeks of school. Thankfully school was not set to start until after Labor Day, which gave me just enough time to mentally prepare myself for the overlapping assignments.

As school started, I began to worry that completing my BSN was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Although the RN-BSN program I am enrolled in is not as exam-focused as my previous nursing education, I had to become familiar with writing 3-page, 5-page and even 8-page papers again. This would surely consume any of the free time I had when I was not working 12 hour shifts.

As I attempted to adapt to this new lifestyle of working full-time and completing my BSN as a full-time student, I frequently asked myself, “why didn’t I take a break?” I felt this way for several weeks into the semester, until I was conversing with an old classmate, who had originally stated they would continue their education in the Spring, but know considering holding off until next Fall. She stressed about how long it was going to take her to complete the program, and mentioned how less motivated she is to go, since she is already in a good paying career.

I advise ADN graduates not to get too comfortable. “The IOM recommends that a proportion of practicing nurses with a BSN [degree] increase by 80%, by 2020” (Finkleman & Kenner, 2016). I don’t want students to have the wrong opinion of the BSN program as I did. No it is not easy, yes you will have to study just as hard as you did in nursing school, but the knowledge that you build upon your previously knowledge is impeccable. I am able to constantly apply new evidence-based practices that I learn in school to my clinical practice at work, making me a better nurse. What better time to learn the best way to be a nurse, than as a New Grad in the beginning of your career.

So yes, I was not able to take an immediate vacation upon graduation; yes, I have days that I work a 12 hour+ shift and have to come home to study; yes, my social life is still partially non-existent (as many nursing students can agree with); and yes it is not cheap to pay tuition, but I am just weeks away from completing my first semester of the BSN program, and won’t have to worry about the contract that I signed stating I would complete my BSN within a given timeframe. While some of my classmates will be struggling to find the motivation to return to school, I will be graduating in 2016!


Finkelman, A., & Kenner, C. (2016). Professional nursing concepts: competencies for quality leadership. (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning, LLC.


Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.


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