What Is Nursing School Like? The First Semester Explained

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Summary: Nursing school is fast-paced and packed with a lot of information in a short amount of time. During your first semester of nursing school in the Xavier University ABSN program, you’ll complete online nursing coursework and attend in-person skills and simulation labs.

The first semester of nursing school explained

If you’re considering Xavier University’s 16-month ABSN program, you're probably wondering what nursing school is like. You’ll especially want to see what current students and recent graduates of the program have to say about our accelerated path to nursing and the tips they have for how to prepare for nursing school.

As a student in our ABSN program, your first semester of nursing school comprises online nursing coursework, hands-on nursing labs, and practicum experiences that are broken up into two eight-week terms. Overall, semester one sets the foundation for your nursing education, providing the knowledge and skills necessary for a smooth transition into forthcoming terms.


A lot of people think that learning online is easier or of lesser quality than learning in the classroom — neither of which is true. ABSN graduates meet the same terminal program objectives as the traditional 4 year program. It’s a course delivery option that involves a significant amount of independent study, requiring you to have good self-discipline and time management skills to be successful.

“Don’t come in thinking [the program] is going to be easy because [part of] it is online,” advises Sarah Bobbe, Xavier ABSN student. “I have to work harder because of the online component, but it’s worth it for me. This program allowed me to start [nursing school] the fastest and be done the fastest.”

While instructor, assignments and exam deadlines still apply, online learning allows you to attend “class” at any time of the day or night. Delivered through Canvas, a popular learning management system that caters to every learning style, each of our online nursing courses feature a series of modules that allow you to absorb course materials.

Prepare for Online Learning: Create a Study Group

Online courses shouldn't feel overwhelming, but if they do, consider creating an online study group or scheduling dedicated study time to go over the concepts and study guides. Even though you're learning online, having a support system is crucial. Get connected to your classmates via discussion boards, chat rooms and email to share study tips and lean on one another.

While ABSN program graduate Lauren Larrick will tell you that online learning was challenging for her to get used to, it ended up benefitting her.

“I chose the Xavier ABSN program because I really liked the online aspect,” she said. “I struggle with sitting in a classroom, so being able to take breaks, learn on my own time, and spend in-depth time on the material really helped with my learning.”

Prepare for Online Learning: Take ABSN Prerequisites Through Xavier

If you’re unfamiliar with online learning, it’s a good idea to complete your ABSN prerequisite courses online through Xavier and get acquainted with the course delivery system. While some ABSN programs require as many as 15 prerequisites, we only have four: anatomy and physiology I and II, microbiology, and statistics.


Our state-of-the-art nursing skills lab features hospital equipment, medical supplies, clinical task trainers, and full-body manikins. The skills lab experience provides a safe, contextual learning environment for developing basic nursing skills such as head-to-toe assessments, nasogastric tube insertion, and wound care — the types of skills that every nurse must have no matter the area of practice.

Prepare for Skills Labs: Apply Your Existing Skills

“[Skills labs] start out very basic and then progressively get more advanced,” Sarah noted. “In our first skills lab, we learned proper hand washing and sterilization techniques.”

Among the more challenging nursing skills that you’ll learn during the first semester of nursing school is tracheotomy care.

Greg explains that he was able to take the skills he learned during his first semester labs and apply them in the real world.

“During clinicals, I got to manage a patient who had a feeding tube as well as change the dressings of a patient who had burns.”

Northeastern ABSN student in simulation lab
As an accelerated nursing student, you can expect to participate in nursing labs up to three days a week.


With the help of a computerized medical manikin, our nursing simulation lab takes your nursing competency to the next level. Getting you as close as possible to real-life clinical situations, these labs help develop your clinical judgment and problem-solving skills, essentially preparing you to think on your feet and act on evidence while working in the profession.

Prepare for Simulation Labs: Focus on Learning

While we don’t grade you on your simulation experiences, we do record them so that you and faculty can debrief on your clinical performance.

“Simulation is really focused on learning,” Lauren says. “We talk about [the experience] with our professors in terms of what we could’ve done better or things we did great.”

Prepare for Simulation Labs: Experience Lifelike Patient Care

Our simulation manikin lets you actively engage in patient assessment and treatment without the fear of putting an individual’s safety at risk. Under faculty control, the manikin can ask questions and replicate bodily responses to procedures, such as intubation and catheterization.

Another benefit of our simulation exercises is that they allow you to be placed in patient care situations that you might not be exposed to during clinical.


Unlike a lot of nursing programs, we start you on your clinical practicum (a.k.a. clinical rotations) during the first semester. Like nursing labs, your clinical practicum starts out simple, but then we gradually place you in more complex scenarios within hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes.

Prepare for Clinicals: Learn About Ohio Hospitals

While we can’t guarantee where your clinical practicum will take place, many of our students gain real-world experience in top health care facilities, such as Mercy Health, TriHealth, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Prepare for Clinicals: Supplement Your Learning

Lauren explains that during your first set of clinical rotations, you’re taking vitals and performing head-to-toe assessments. From there, you progress into practicing nursing skills such as starting an IV line, and by the fourth and final semester, you’re caring for patients as a whole.

“When you go into clinical, you’re typically assigned to a patient that has a condition that’s similar to whatever you’re learning about at the moment,” says Lauren. “If you’re learning about the heart, the goal is to give you a patient with an atrial fibrillation or some kind of heart defect. [Xavier] really tries to help supplement your learning that way.”

Xavier nurses are unique because they are taught to be empowered at the bedside to provide the best possible patient care.


The nursing education you’ll receive as a Xavier ABSN student is second to none. In fact, local health care facilities seek out our students.

“Before I even graduated from the ABSN program, I was offered a job with Mercy,” Lauren says.

Ready to get started on your path to a nursing career? Contact our admission team today!

Xavier ABSN simulation lab

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