March 17, 2007, 1:00 pm

Nursing School: How to Start BEFORE You Get Into a Program!


I have a comment.

Nurses are not “trained”, they are educated. Dogs are trained.

And I have a few questions, too!

How did they get those bows in the back so perfect?

Why is this student stopping her colleague in the middle of medication rounds to tell her about “pink toothbrush”?

I doubt her classmate is hemorrhaging from her gums at this very moment. Her mouth is closed and it’s hard to tell.

Personally, I’d write her up for interfering with the “Five Rights of Medication Admininstration”, as you just know Janet’s med was late now that she was worried about her gumline!

I mean, the conversation is still going on as they are walking around campus in those capes and their 10/10 Emergiblog rated caps!

I cropped the ad, so you are missing the frame where Janet can now date Dr. Gorgeous because she is no longer sporting oozing gums.

As it all turns out, Janet’s gums were fine, she just had lipstick on her teeth…..


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If you are thinking about becoming a nurse, or if your are a nurse with an Associate’s Degree or a diploma, there are ways you can start your route to nursing or to an advanced degree without even being in a nursing program.

I did it by accident.

Until a little over 18 months ago, a BSN was the last thing I wanted.

In fact, I wanted anything but a BSN.

To be honest, back in the ’80s I didn’t even want to be a nurse anymore. I was so burnt I was crispy around the edges

I actually wanted a degree in music. I didn’t play an instrument so I took a year of piano. You can’t become a concert pianist at the age of 29. Bummer. I’d have settled for keyboardist in a rock band.

I loved art, so I took an entire year of art history – the classes designed for art majors. I rock when it comes to art-related “Jeopardy” questions!

I decided to take the next class in the English major sequence, too. Discovered “Hamlet”. Great fun!

One day I decided that I might want to be a paralegal. So…I signed up for two classes at the local university. Decided being a paralegal was like being a nurse. You do all the work and you don’t make the money. Been there, was doing that so left the life of the paralegal student behind me.

I was left with new knowledge, a lot of units and a 4.0 GPA while I was trying to “find myself”.


Okay, so what’s the point?

The point I’m going to make here is that every one of those classes led me towards my BSN, even though I did not recognize it at the time.

Every single one of those units was accepted by the University of Wisconsin when I finally decided to go back for the BSN.

I started thinking about someone unable to commit to a nursing program right now, but may want to do it in the future. Or someone who already has their RN license but wants to get their BSN and is too busy working and/or raising a family to be able to even think about it.

My advice?

Take a class. Just one.

Any class.

One at a time. I did two at a time, but that might seem overwhelming.

If you are not a nurse right now:

  • Choose your class with an eye on nursing requirements.
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • English
    • Math
    • Statistics
    • Speech
    • US History
    • World Cultures
      • all classes that are required whether you eventually decide to go AA or BSN.
      • These are classes that can be taken online if necessary, a technology that wasn’t available back in the 1980s!
      • Perfect for those who don’t have the time (or the babysitters) necessary to actually sit in a classroom.
    • Once these humanities are out of the way, go for the sciences:
      • Biology
      • Chemistry
      • Anatomy and Physiology
      • Microbiology
        • These all have a lab component, so classroom attendance is required.
        • Some nursing schools say that you must have these classes within the 5-10 years before you apply, so if you know it will be awhile before you can apply or aren’t sure what you want to do, you can do these last.

Don’t let the number of classes listed make you weary. Remember, you are doing this one class at a time, at your pace, on your schedule and on your budget.

  • Community college is the way to go here. Much cheaper than a university. These are lower division classes. Might as well get the same content for less money!
  • Make sure they are all transferable to a university! This is important. You may not think you want a BSN now, but you might change your mind two decades later, like I did!

If you are already an RN, I have only one word to say to you:


Yep, that’s the word! Whether you have an AA or a diploma, anything you can take in the way of humanities is a good bet.

  • Go for something you are interested in. I had a blast in my classes, and I wasn’t even taking them with an eye on a BSN!
  • You probably did not have to take a critical writing class or a statistics class for your AA/diploma. These will be required for the BSN. Get them out of the way before you apply to a BSN program.
  • Again, make sure that they are transferable.
  • Oh, and don’t discount any classes that you may have taken in the past! Those paralegal classes counted for eight upper division Political Science units/electives. Who would have thought?


The key is to dip your foot in the water here. If you like the temperature, you may decided to take two classes or maybe more.

One class is doable.

We have the technology today to enable us to take a class and never leave our house. Take advantage of this and over the quarters/semesters/years/decades you will find yourself well situated when you decide to make that move into nursing or go for that advanced degree.

I made that decision at the age of 49.

It’s never too late.


In a future post, I’ll discuss online degree programs, what to look for and why I decided to go back for my BSN. Some of the reasons may surprise you!


  • girl in greenwood

    March 17, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I’m very excited for your next entry! While I’m still a year away from finishing my ADN, I am interested in pursuing my BSN at a later date. I have a past BA in English & music, so I think I’ve got the humanities covered. 🙂 I’m particularly interested in hearing about the online RN-BSN programs you researched, since I’m hoping to spawn in the next couple years and may be trying to raise an infant and get my BSN at the same time… and I’m pretty sure they don’t like you to breastfeed in the classroom. Online classes? Problem solved!

  • AzRN

    March 17, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    kim, nicely done. i, too, went back for my bsn after 10 years of working with my associates degree and caring for my daughter. i’m now in an online msn program. my gpa was high enough that the gre requirement was waived. not all programs offer that incentive.

  • A Bohemian Road Nurse...

    March 17, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I already have a BS in another field, and I have a diploma in nursing. But I’m just so horribly tired all the time that I can’t imagine doing…er…even one class—I know that sounds lazy as heck.

  • Onehealthpro

    March 17, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    It might be fun for you to interview instructors who teach on the web and in the classroom and compare the experience for those who are thinking about following your great advice. Onehealthpro

  • Candy

    March 18, 2007 at 9:33 am

    For those of you who already have a BA or BS in another field and and ADN, you can skip the BSN and go straight to the MSN at most universities. Don’t let the “advanced degree” scare you — this is also very doable. Most programs will allow you to take one or two classes at a time, and many are online. Like Kim says, just take one class — give yourself a “try on.” It’s never too late — my hubby just went back to school to change his career, and he’s 55!

  • Rita Schwab

    March 18, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    You’re right about Nurse “Pinky Gums.” She is distracting a caregiver administering medication – one of the primary causes of sentinel event medication errors…

    Where are those Joint Commission surveyors when you need them?? : )

  • ~RN Faye

    March 18, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Exactly, this is the way to go! I used the local community college to obtain credits for my RN to BSN program in 2005. Not only were the credits transferable, they were also less expensive than the same courses offered at this University.

  • zygote

    March 18, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    I’m about 18 months away from starting my ADN program (fall of 2008) but I’m already interested in a BSN. I did have to look at your list of suggested classes twice, all of them are pre-rec’s for admittance into the ADN here. Fortunately, all of ours transfer to the medical university downtown so it shouldn’t be a problem when I’m ready to apply for their ADN to BSN program. Thanks for the information!

  • Dr. Wes

    March 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm


    Congrats (I think), you’ve been tagged.

  • jeff

    March 18, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I am 4 days away from getting my ADN from a community college, then have to study for the NCLEX, and I think that the fatigue (not activity intolerance) i feel now is how I will feel as an RN, yes? I am so not in a hurry to start taking classes ever again, but the Masters is still in my long term plan book. *sigh*

  • Markie

    March 18, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    I’ll second Candy’s comment about the master’s entry option. That’s what I ended up doing. My program is full-time for 18 months, but it spits you out ready to sit for the NCLEX (I’m hoping I’m ready anyway). And you have a Masters.

    Full-time nursing student is not for the faint of heart or unsupported mid-life male. I absolutely could not do with without my wife and daughters giving me their love and help.

  • S. R.

    March 19, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I tell the young kids to just get the college classes behind them, even if they aren’t really into them and even if they receive Cs. I took my first prerequisite for nursing, without the faintest idea of ever becoming a nurse, 11 years before I eventually graduated with a BSN. I say to anyone that wants to be a college graduate, you have to meet a college graduate to mentor you through the byzantine process of class choice. School officials don’t give or know a damn a lot of times.

  • Bardiac

    March 19, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Great advice! I have one little quibble, though. Don’t think of getting classes “out of the way.” Think of how the classes (especially writing classes, but I may be biased) are contributing to your education and helping you in further classes. That’s especially true of a writing class; it should really help develop strategies for writing in other classes.

    How are your BSN classes coming along?

  • Randall Sexton

    March 20, 2007 at 12:16 am

    One should never stop taking classes. I wound up with two masters and now working on NP and other fun stuff.

  • Andrea B.

    April 4, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Another great resource for anyone who wants to take classes at their own pace is this site that offers a listing of online masters in nursing. Taking courses online really helps people with the opportunity to learn when it’s convenient for them. There’s little pressure and you can still maintain a job or family life while working to further your education. 🙂


  • why

    September 23, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I was thinking in getting into med school, but I realized a few monts ago that I love giving support and advise to patients than being a Doctor. In this country Doctors do not have direct contact with patients, but nurses do!
    Thank you for the advice about classes!

  • Peggy S

    February 13, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I too, took a degree many years after being a full time nurse. I did not do too well in high school and was so afraid I would not do well in university that I did not admit I was doing a degree till half my credits were in the bag. I was the most surprised person to find myself on the dean’s list. What I unconsciously learned over the years paid off in spades at the university level. Try it. It is hard satisfying work but sooo worth it.
    Agree with the art history. I went to Greece to do Greek art history as an intercession course and it was a very memorable experience.
    Retired now and that too is good. There is life after nursing.

  • michelle

    August 20, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Getting in a nursing program seems so competitive. What would give someone an edge on getting into a nursing program??

  • Vera

    May 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Pls help me out.
    I am a Nigerian with Diploma certificate in GENERAL NURSING and ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY.
    I want to further to obtain BACHELOR’S DEGREE and MASTER’S DEGREE IN NURSING.
    Thanks in anticipation.

  • stellah cheruiyot

    June 10, 2009 at 5:48 am

    am a student at kenya methodist university taking bachelors degree in nursing and sometimes i also fing books hard.but i would like to urge those intending to take it not to give up!

  • stellah cheruiyot

    June 10, 2009 at 5:51 am

    people say that nursing is not a carrier but a volunteering activity because they pay less compared to the labour!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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