7 Challenges to Prepare for in Accelerated Nursing Programs

Two students, Chloe and Mateo, are enrolled in nursing programs. Chloe chooses a traditional BSN degree and in four years, she’s a licensed RN-BSN. Mateo selects an accelerated program and becomes an RN-BSN in two years. In four years, he’s a licensed nurse with two years of experience (and pay) under his belt.

It’s easy to see why Mateo’s situation is appealing. An accelerated degree is an excellent opportunity to start working faster. However, there are some accelerated nursing struggles that we don’t talk about enough. To help current and prospective students in accelerated nursing programs, here are solutions to seven common problems you may encounter.

What Is an Accelerated Nursing Program?

An accelerated nursing program is one where students take a heavier courseload each semester and graduate in a shorter time. These programs are seen at almost every nursing level, including for associates, bachelors, and masters.

Generally, there are two different sets of requirements for these programs. The first is programs designed for those who already have some education completed, such as a BSN program designed for licensed RNs with an associate’s degree. The other is for those with no experience or education, and this is commonly seen at the associate’s or bachelor’s level.

For both program types, the coursework is often heavier than a normal program because the curriculum fits within a shorter period.

The Time Commitment

A shorter timeframe doesn’t mean less time in the classroom. For example, in a normal LPN to RN program, students might take three to four classes per semester. In an accelerated one, they’ll take more classes per semester or squeeze semester-long classes into a shorter timeframe, like eight weeks.

Before you commit to nursing school on the fast track, take an honest look at your calendar. Will you be able to make room for a more time-intensive program over the next six months to one year? If not, accelerated nursing may not be for you.

For those who are already in an accelerated program and struggling with time management, these three tips may help:

  • Block study time and class lectures in your calendar and then fit life around these blocks.
  • Use the Pomodoro method or another time-tracking system to get more coursework done in a shorter time.
  • Get enough sleep and schedule breaks. This one may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll perform better and be more productive on eight hours of sleep and with strong mental health.

Balancing Work and Nursing School

Completing an accelerated nursing degree while working part- or full-time is difficult. If you’re doing this, we applaud you…and have some ideas about how you can cultivate better work/school balance.

For starters, choosing or transferring into an online program can offer more flexibility than in-person programs since it cuts down on commuting to and from campus. Asynchronous courses, where content is delivered in video modules students and activities students can complete at any time, are also ideal for those who are working while getting an accelerated nursing degree.

If you’re in an online program and still struggling to balance it all, talk to your nurse manager. Changing shifts or cutting back on hours temporarily could help make the school and workload easier to manage.

Keep Up Academically

Nursing school is notorious for being rigorous. Ask almost any college student or faculty member and they’ll tell you nursing students often have their noses stuck in a book.

When you decide to complete that curriculum at an accelerated pace, it can be even more challenging.

Fortunately, these habits can help you keep up academically:

  • Access free student support resources, like tutoring or faculty office hours
  • Join or form a study group
  • Reserve time each week to study instead of cramming before big exams

Managing Stress

Between studying for that anatomy exam and preparing for a clinical rotation, nursing students often feel stressed about grades, balancing everything, and finding the time to complete assignments.

If you’re stressed in an accelerated nursing program, know you are not alone. There are support resources, such as your campus’ counseling services and loved ones, to lean on. Even discussing your worries with a student in class can make you feel less alienated by your stress.

Along with support, certain habits can lower stress levels. These include yoga, breathwork, and meditation. To get started, check out these free resources:

Financing an Accelerated Program

While accelerated degrees can cost less than a regularly paced alternative, they are still pricy. Plus, unlike a normal degree, you have to pay for an accelerated degree in a shorter timeframe.

To alleviate the financial burden, explore all financial aid options. If you’re still feeling worried after exploring all these paths, read the University of North Georgia’s guide to staying financially fit as a student.

Maintaining a Social Life

Between lectures, labs, and adulting, it can be hard to find time to socialize, especially in an accelerated program.

If you’re feeling isolated, try these three easy ways to socialize:

  • Text one friend a week to let them know you’re thinking about them
  • Facetime friends or family when you have ten spare minutes for a quick check-in
  • Organize studying sessions with other students in your program

Using an Accelerated Degree to Advance Professionally

An accelerated degree should, for lack of a better term, accelerate your professional life. But if you’re rushing through the program without networking or exploring career options, you may not receive the full professional benefit of your degree.

To ensure your degree supports your professional goals, set aside 30 minutes each week for professional development. In that time, you can network virtually with healthcare employers and current nurses, utilize resources from your school’s professional development center, or beef up your resume.

An accelerated nursing program demands a lot from students, but it also enables them to become licensed nurses faster. Once you conquer these seven common struggles, you’ll be unstoppable inside and outside your accelerated nursing program.