You might be debating if you want to apply for a nursing program. While you have probably looked at the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) versus the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), as well as costs and maybe at the number of students that are admitted into the program each year at the school of your choice, let me tell you a little about the courses that are included in a nursing program. After all, you might as well know before you enroll what you will be studying several hours a week for the next few years, right?

When someone asks, “What kind of courses would I have to take in a nursing program?,” the answer is always a frustrating, “It depends.”

This is because each nursing degree program is its own organization. All programs try to reach the same standards, but how they meet those standards and prepare their students for the real world of nursing is up to each program. This means the names of courses will be different. The number of required credit hours may vary. But there are some courses that tend to show up in just about every nursing degree program you’ll see out there.

In an ADN program, typically classroom study is combined with clinical work, the hands-on part of the training, and is completed within two years. For an ADN, common topics that are included in the program include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Human development
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Psychiatric or mental health nursing
  • Adult and family health
  • Patient assessments
  • Psychology
  • Patient assessments
  • Microbiology

So the first portion of a BSN nursing program is typically classroom study, including completion of elective courses, with the last portion being the clinical work. Many who are interested in a nursing program complete as many of the non-clinical classes as possible while they wait to be accepted into a program.

Courses in a BSN program may include:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Psychology
  • Basics of nursing care
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical ethics
  • Family nursing care
  • Illness management
  • Community nursing

You’ll have to grab an encyclopedia to better understand what these course names mean. But you can be sure that these courses teach fundamentals about the human body and how nurses help with patient care. They’ll also teach you ethics and how to be a good nurse.

There are other topics covered in BSN programs that allow a closer look at the fine points of being an RN. For example, Creighton University’s nursing program includes “Informatics in Health Care,” introducing the student to the use of computer-based information management in health care, as well as “Power, Politics and Policy in Health Care,” emphasizing the importance of nursing participation in the many spheres of political influence, including the workplace, government, professional organizations, and the community. Other institutions include leadership courses as well.

Some courses expose a nursing student to more specialized areas of nursing, such as pediatrics and geriatric nursing.

The clinicals portion of nursing training is typically completed by spending supervised hours at a hospital. Most states require RN students to complete this hands-on training. The number of hours required, which may be up to 150 hours each semester, are translated into clinical credits, which are usually four credits per semester.

All these courses, no matter if it is through an ADN or BSN program, prepare a student to take the NCLE-RN test, the National Council Licensure Examination—Registered Nurse. Each state administers this test to confer the designation of RN on a nursing student.

So debate, if you will, about entering a nursing program, but at least debate with all the information about the courses required in a nursing program, and then decide if it is right for you.

If you’re ready to learn more about nursing degree programs, visit our Nursing Degrees page.

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