Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nursing school vs. Medical School

A little while back I had a request to write a little about my background and to compare nursing school to medical school. I would like to take this opportunity to do that.  I’ve had a lot of different types of questions so I’m going to try and break it down as best as I can. 

What is my background? I went back to school when my daughter was 9 months old. I was pursuing a nursing degree (ADN) and planned on getting my BSN and proceeding on to becoming a Nurse Practitioner. I had always wanted to go to medical school but felt that with a family and baby it was out of the question. About half way through my nursing pre requisites I met a chemistry professor who really inspired me and pushed me to think about medical school again. After discussing it with my husband, WE made the decision to pursue medical school. So…during my first semester of nursing school I started my first semester of pre-med requirements. It was a difficult road because I also had a job but we did it and two years later in April I took the MCAT, graduated from nursing school, and completed the NCLEX successfully, in that order. I also applied for a transfer to UT Austin nursing school to pursue a BSN. So what happened and why did I not go to a medical school in the USA? Well… when I first went to college out of high school I did not care or value my education at all so I did poorly. Although my grades in nursing school were excellent I had my past haunting me and dragging my overall GPA down. I had an average MCAT score. With a higher GPA I would have been a good candidate for a US med school. I could have waited another year or two and dropped my previous transcripts (Texas has a 10 year rule) but ROSS University wanted me NOW. Since I’m not getting any younger, we packed our bags and here we are. 

What did I do before nursing? During my senior year in high school I completed a medical assistant program. For the next 5 years I worked as a medical assistant in a float pool and was able to experience many different specialties. I finally settled on OB/GYN when we moved to Texas. I worked in OB/GYN for the next 4 years and finally ended up in Clinical research with a GYN focus. I continued working in research after I became an RN. I worked for a total of 1 year before I left for medical school. I was accepted into Ross University with an ADN, all of my pre –requisite courses completed and an MCAT score. I did not receive a BSN prior to starting. 

What is the difference between pre-nursing requirements and pre-med requirements? They have very little in common actually. The mutual requirements were English/writing, general chemistry (for BSN). Other than that, there is not much in common. For nursing school I had to complete an introduction to microbiology and an anatomy/physiology semester. It was very general and broad. Well most people reading this blog know what the premed requirements are: Biology, physics, general chem., organic chemistry, biochemistry, and others depending on the school you are applying to. I completed all of my pre-requisites and my nursing degree from Austin Community College. 

What did I do to prepare for the MCAT? I studied using Kaplan MCAT Review: Complete 5-Book Series (Kaplan MCAT Complete Subject Review (5v)), Kaplan MCAT in a Box flashcards, and every practice MCAT exam I could get my hands on through AAMC ( ). I would review every question I got wrong and focus on that material.

Does the testing process for MCAT compare to NCLEX? The process itself is very similar.  I took both in a similar location under similar circumstances and security. The exam content and style however, was completely different. I took the NCLEX in about an hour and 15 minutes. The MCAT was all day. The NCLEX focused on patient care a lot where as the MCAT is all science (physics, chemistry, English, biology). 

How are tests different in medical school from nursing school? The tests are different in many ways. Mainly the exams in medical school (I can only speak about my first semester) were all science based. It was all about pathophysiology, histology, anatomy, and biochemistry and some skills. During the first year of medical school we are primarily focusing on normal human body function. For example, in nursing school, when we talked about heart failure we had a paragraph on the pathophysiology. In medical school we spent 2 weeks on normal heart function alone. It’s very hard to compare nursing school to medical school because I personally feel that they are two totally different types of schools with very little in common except their main goal, taking care of the patient. As a nursing student I learned to focus on HOW to take care of a patient with…and what the normal nursing care is. As a medical student I have hardly began to learn how to take care of patients yet. We are learning the science of the body.  For instance in nursing school we learned what an abnormal lung sound was and what might cause it and when to alert the doctor. In medical school we learned the lung on a biochemical and physiological level then we learned what molecular changes occurred in order to cause the abnormal sounds. Test questions so far have all been multiple-choice. There is a lot of memorization and on the test you will have to recall large amounts of information but… it’s never a simple recall question. It is usually a 2 or 3 step question. You have to go through several processes to reach the answer to the question. Questions are timed with approximately 1.25 min/question. My longest exam so far has been the final with about 160 questions. Honestly, I find medical school a lot more challenging primarily due to the fact that you have to learn and process a TON more information. You cannot hate science/math and do well in medical school. During the first two years all you do is learn science. It’s amazing really.
Do I think being a nurse has helped me do well in medical school? I think nursing school has taught me a lot and mostly I think it will help me during my last 2 years of medical school when I am in my clinical rotations because I am comfortable around patients, I know how to do a basic physical exam, collect a history and so on. I also learned many different study techniques and although I don’t know the information in nearly as much detail as I am learning it now, it is familiar and that alone is a huge help. But don’t be mislead into thinking that being a nurse means that medical school will be easy or a lot less difficult because let me tell you, it won’t.  The focus of the two programs is entirely different and cannot be compared at least not to an ADN.


Anonymous said...

Thanks your answers were very detailed and I understand a lot more now.

from Jakal

Juke Chandavong said...

Thank you for your post and insights. I also have aspirations of becoming a physician. I am currently an RN in a very busy Emergency Department. Like you, I did not have a very good GPA as an undergradate because of my lack of maturity and study habits. Five years after graduating with a Bachelor's Degree, I attended Nursing school and graduated at the top of my class. It took 5 years for me to mature. A physician at my ER recommended Ross University tonight, she actually gave my girlfriend the name of the recruiter. My girlfriend is the Charge Nurse, she thinks I'm brilliant and should go to Medical School ASAP! I hope we can continue to exchange communiques. Thanks again for your post.

Jake, RN

MOM2MD said...

Welcome to my blog Juke. Feel free to ask me anything :)and keep me posted on your progress.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I would love to find out more about the Texas 10 rule? I cannot find any info on it as I live in Florida. Thank you for giving me hope!

MOM2MD said...

I only heard about the Texas 10 rule from my advisor at school so I would strongly recommend you make an appointment and meet with your advisor. I don't know how much the rules have changed since I went through it several years ago. When there is will there is a way. Don't ever give up hope on your dreams.


This just gave me the courage to go back and go to med school I'm so hungry for it