Sometimes it’s not until you’ve spent some time in a field that you realize it’s not a good fit. After working for a few years as a scientific researcher studying metagenomics and microbiology, Todd found himself facing a major life decision.
“I got a publication and was at a crossroads of whether I wanted to do research science and go into that field,” says Todd, adding that it resulted in offers to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. “Or I could do something else.”
However, what that something else might be was yet to be decided. This is his story from a bachelor’s in biology to nursing school student.
Finding the Right Career Path
To understand why Todd walked away from a promising research career, you have to know him. “I just like people, and I like doing things with my day, like moving and being physical,” he says with a laugh, before explaining what he sees as the pinnacle of a research career — writing and reviewing grant proposals and reviewing findings while others get to carry out the actual research. “That didn’t appeal to me personally, so I started looking at other career options.”
Like many biology degree holders, Todd gravitated toward medicine. “My dad was a veterinarian, so I’ve been around some type of medicine my entire life,” he explains of his decision to apply to medical school.
During the lengthy application process, though, he began volunteering on the med-surg floor of a local hospital. He also got his certified nursing assistant (CNA) license and started working as a CNA. These experiences would prove to be pivotal, leading him to question whether medical school was right for him.
“I’d spent time with the hospitalist team working as a scribe at Providence before I volunteered there, and I didn’t like the daily grind of the physicians,” Todd says. “It seemed to be more of an office job than I thought. You do your rounds on your patients and then you go sit in front of a computer, look at charts, and write up orders.”
He’s not alone. When students choose nursing school over medical school, it’s often because they want to spend more time interacting with patients. So after much thought and reflection, Todd decided to apply to nursing school, admitting, “It fit more of my personality and what I was trying to get out of it, as far as why I was going into medicine.”
Why Accelerated Nursing Programs for Biology Majors?
In many cases, an accelerated nursing track is the quickest path to a career in nursing. However, how long it takes you depends greatly on your previous education. Because Bachelor of Science in Biology programs place a heavy emphasis on math and science courses, these students tend to meet more of the nursing school prerequisite course requirements than students with Bachelor of Arts degrees.
Why Todd Chose Concordia University–Portland’s Accelerated BSN Track
Lucky for Todd, when looking for accelerated nursing programs for biology majors, he easily found Concordia University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track. “I actually drove by the ABSN building every day,” he says. “That’s not what led me to want to go there, but that’s what led me to know it existed.”
So he looked into the ABSN track, which blends online- or campus-based nursing theory coursework options with hands-on skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. “The 16-month timeframe was definitely attractive to me,” he says.
Getting Ready to Apply to Nursing School? Check out these seven tips for improving your chances of getting in.
The admissions process also impressed him, and he says his enrollment counselor did “a fantastic job” of explaining the process and providing him with a clear list of what was needed.
“Most programs I’ve applied to in the past — be it medical school or other programs — their admissions team and the admissions process is very hands-off,” says Todd. “The [Concordia] admissions team did a really good job of helping me get all of my pieces in place.”
Thanks to Todd’s previous degree and experience as a CNA, he met most of the ABSN track admissions requirements — an advantage of transitioning from a bachelor’s in biology to nursing school. However, he did have to take Nutrition and Human Growth and Development, which he did over the summer prior to starting the ABSN track in August 2018.
It felt really good to be on a secure path to something that will lead me to a career that I’ll find fulfillment in.
5 Tips to Help You Succeed in Accelerated Nursing School
During our conversation, Todd — who currently serves as the ABSN track Officer of Outreach and Community Service for the Concordia University Student Nurses Association (CUSNA) — touched on a number of tips for succeeding in nursing school, beginning with making absolutely sure it’s for you.
1. Be Sure It’s Right for You
Before you even think about applying for an accelerated nursing track, you need to weigh whether the pace, modality, and time commitment work for you.
For example, online coursework has many advantages — you get to decide when and where you study (so long as you meet deadlines, of course), and can go back and review the material as often as you need to, etc. However, it’s not for everyone. Some prefer to learn via on-campus lectures, which is why Concordia University–Portland is now offering a campus-based ABSN option. At the same time, you should keep in mind that nursing school won’t be easy regardless of the modality or university.
“I’ll be the first to say that my major concern with starting the program was the online modality. Most of my experiences in higher education have been on-campus, brick-and-mortar-based,” says Todd. “But again, I knew that if I put in the requisite amount of effort, things would work out and I’d be able to effectively manage that.”
2. Set a Schedule and Stick to It
You’ve probably heard that consistency is key when it comes to diet and exercise, but it’s equally applicable to nursing school, especially given the ability to work ahead should you choose.
“Because it’s online, it always feels like there’s something you can be doing,” Todd explains. “So setting a schedule for myself as far as when I’ll be working on what and for how long, and when I was going to take my day off, was really important.”
For Todd, a schedule means looking at the curriculum to be covered for the week and then breaking it into chunks. Typically, he completes all of the required readings early in the week so that he can work on assignments next. Then he ends his week with studying the material.
3. Mix It Up
If you’ve ever taken online courses or held a work-from-home job, you know the occasional change of scenery can work wonders for your mood and energy. While Todd finds that a highly regimented schedule works best for him, he also recommends mixing it up when it comes to location.
After studying at his apartment in the morning, on days he doesn’t have labs or clinicals, he usually leaves to work out around noon and then spends the next few hours studying at a coffee shop or on campus, “just to get a change of scenery and be around more people.” In fact, Todd even keeps his books and notebooks in the trunk of his car so that wherever he goes, he can study.
4. Manage Your Mindset
Nursing school, and especially the first semester, can be a bit of a shock. “I have a degree in what some people might consider a tougher area of the sciences, but nursing school is difficult,” Todd says, adding “The first term of nursing school is notoriously hard for everyone.” Part of what makes it difficult is learning how and what to study.
To help students prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), all Concordia ABSN tests feature NCLEX-style questions. Unlike the tests given in most schools, these tests often include questions that have multiple correct answers, with students required to pick the most correct answer — which can be a major adjustment. In instances like these, maintaining a positive attitude is paramount.
“Some of my classmates would get frustrated at the exams, but my thinking was, yes, these are tough and they’re open-ended, and I would be annoyed by some of the answers I got wrong,” Todd says. “But in the end, I want to sit down for my NCLEX and have it feel easy.”
5. Don’t Go It Alone
Prior to contacting Concordia about the ABSN program, Todd shadowed a physician friend in a local emergency department and was struck by how well the entire team worked together. In nursing school, as in the hospital, you’ll come to rely on your peers for help and emotional support, so it’s a good idea to get to know them from the start. In addition to studying with members of your cohort, you’ll also be assigned to work with them during simulation labs. It’s also important that you reach out to your instructors if you have questions or need help — something nursing students can be reticent to do at times. Remember, they’re there to help you.
All of the instructors want to see you succeed.
Todd is slated to graduate December 2019.
Are You Ready to Make the Switch to a Career in Nursing?
Whether you’re going from a bachelor’s in biology to nursing, or coming from any other field of study, our enrollment counselors are here to help. Give us a call today to find out if Concordia University’s ABSN could be the right path to a life-changing career in nursing.