How Hard is RN to BSN Program – (15 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome)

Written By: Chris Meyer, RN-BSN

Pursuing a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program is an incredible way for nurses to further their education and expand their career opportunities. If you are a registered nurse considering this degree path, you may wonder, "How hard is an RN to BSN program?" That is a great question, and I want to help answer it for you.

Recognizing challenges and identifying ways to overcome them can help you succeed in earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In this article, I will share the 15 biggest challenges you will face in an RN-to-BSN program and how to overcome them.


An RN to BSN program is hard but can also be extremely rewarding. If you have the determination and motivation to earn your BSN, you can turn challenges into opportunities for growth and success in the program and your career.

RN to BSN students must face several obstacles on their journey from RN to BSN, such as finding the right school or program, managing time with work and family commitments, gaining clinical experience, dealing with financial issues, and passing exams. With the proper guidance and strategies in place, you can successfully complete an RN-to-BSN program.


There are several reasons why an RN to BSN program is hard. Several issues can be challenging endeavors for many students. In RN to BSN programs, you must balance work and family commitments, maintain your financial responsibilities, learn complex subject matter, and get through clinicals and tests. Despite the difficulty, if you get proper guidance and support and implement proven strategies, you can overcome the challenges students in RN to BSN programs face and succeed.


(The following are the 15 biggest Challenges you will face in an RN to BSN Program and ways you can successfully overcome them.)

Challenge #1: Finding the right school or program

About the Challenge:

For many prospective students, finding the right RN to BSN program is hard. Sometimes the most challenging thing about these programs is finding the right one. You must consider options such as whether to attend school on campus, online, or in a hybrid format that combines campus and distance learning. Comparing cost, length of the program, and location of clinical sites is essential in making the right decision.

How to Overcome:

With so many options and variables, it is essential to research different schools and programs to gain an understanding of what best suits your goals, budget, and lifestyle. The most crucial factor in finding the right RN to BSN program is ensuring the program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Consider talking with academic and financial advisors to get answers to any questions you have. Things to consider are accreditation, length of the program, cost of the program, and where you will complete clinicals.

Challenge #2: Balancing school with work and family commitments

About the Challenge:

Managing time with work and family commitments is one of the biggest challenges you might face when pursuing any degree, and one of the things that makes an RN to BSN program hard. You must learn to balance your current job responsibilities with academic requirements, all while juggling other commitments such as parenting, caring for elderly family members, or simply having enough time to relax and recharge.

How to Overcome:

One way to balance RN to BSN school with work and family commitments is to create a plan that works best for you. Start by creating an organized schedule of your current obligations, such as work hours, classes, exams, and family time. Break down the tasks you need to accomplish into small chunks and create realistic timelines for completing each one. Prioritizing tasks and managing your time appropriately will help you make the most of every hour you have.

Challenge #3: Avoiding burnout

About the Challenge:

Because an RN to BSN program is hard, you may need help to maintain your enthusiasm and energy throughout an RN to BSN program. Burnout can have serious negative impacts on your mental and physical health and can hinder success in school and at work. It is essential that you take steps to prevent burnout from occurring.

How to Overcome:

One way you can avoid burnout is by making sure you take time to practice self-care. Taking breaks between study sessions, getting enough quality sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and finding ways to de-stress are all essential components of avoiding burnout.

Additionally, you should set realistic goals and not overwork yourself to reach them. Setting milestones aids in motivating you while providing short-term rewards, which will help you stay on track and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed or burned out.

It is also crucial while in an RN to BSN program to stay organized, as this helps manage stress levels associated with completing your degree program. Make sure you keep a detailed schedule of all tasks that need to be completed as well as deadlines for each task and/or assignment due date.

Challenge #4: Dealing with financial issues

About the Challenge:

You may face financial issues during your RN to BSN program. Financial concerns such as paying for tuition, textbooks, supplies, and other costs associated with the program can be daunting.

How to Overcome:

It is important to plan ahead, create a budget that you can adhere to, and ensure you have the funds you need to complete the program.

When creating a budget, you should consider all of your expenses, including tuition, materials fees, books, and supplies, living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, and any other associated costs you will need to cover throughout your RN-to-BSN program. Additionally, you should assess any potential sources of funding, such as scholarships or grants you may be eligible for to reduce your overall tuition costs.

Apart from scholarships or grants, you could look into alternative loan options such as federally funded student loans and grants, which offer low-interest rates and flexible repayment plans. This will help you stay on top of your finances while ensuring you have enough funds available throughout your RN-to-BSN program.

Challenge #5: Passing exams

About the Challenge:

Passing exams during an RN to BSN program is hard. As you work to juggle a job, family commitments, and other activities, you must also find enough time to dedicate solely to your studies. Worrying about failing exams is only natural. However, there are strategies you can use to help you prepare so you can pass your exams.

How to Overcome:

Your first step should be to plan out your study schedule. Make sure you set aside enough time each day or week for studying. It is also important that you create realistic academic goals, so you do not become overwhelmed or stressed out by the workload. Be sure to discuss your schedule with an academic advisor to find a course schedule that complements your other obligations.

Another way to overcome the challenge of passing exams in an RN-to-BSN program is to break down the material into smaller chunks so that you can focus on learning one concept at a time instead of trying to tackle everything all at once.

It is essential that you find effective ways to review the material you have studied and retain it in your memory. Quizzes, practice exams, and flashcards are excellent methods for testing yourself and ensuring you understand the material you are learning. This will help you stay on top of your studies while also giving you confidence when it comes to taking exams during an RN-to-BSN program.

Make sure you get plenty of rest before an exam and keep yourself hydrated. This will help keep your mind focused and alert so you can do your best work when taking tests during an RN-to-BSN program! With some dedication, hard work, and proper planning, passing exams during an RN-to-BSN program is totally achievable!

Challenge #6: Writing assignments, papers, and projects

About the Challenge:

Writing assignments, papers, and projects can be a difficult, time-consuming task for any student, especially students in RN to BSN programs. It can be especially challenging if you do not enjoy research and writing.

How to Overcome:

One of the first things to do to help overcome the challenges of writing assignments, papers, and projects is to understand the requirements and expectations of your professor before beginning the work. You must take time to plan out your paper or project before you start writing. Make sure you create an outline and determine what research materials you will need, and which sources are most reliable for gathering information related to your topic. Remember, prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Challenge #7: Understanding program requirements

About the Challenge:

It can be difficult to understand the requirements for some RN-to-BSN programs. The program goals and expected student outcomes listed on some school websites may need to be clarified. You must understand what is required of you to make good progress and succeed in a program.

How to Overcome:

Take time and do your research to make sure you understand the RN-to-BSN program details and the expectations you must meet to complete it. When starting out, review any guidelines or prerequisites you may have missed during your initial research.

Consult with faculty members or advisors who can provide you with additional information on the program requirements and answer any questions you may have. They can guide you through the process and help you create a plan of action, so you will not get overwhelmed by all the tasks that come with such a program.

Do not be afraid to ask questions until you clearly understand what is required of you as a student. Once you have a clear understanding, staying organized is key! It is vital to keep track of deadlines and assignments, so you can plan ahead for meeting requirements in a timely manner.

Challenge #8: Developing advanced communication skills

About the Challenge:

Developing advanced communication skills is essential to progressing through an RN to BSN program. During this program, you may face challenging conversations with fellow students, professors, and healthcare professionals.

How to Overcome:

One of the most challenging parts of developing advanced communication skills is finding the right words at the right time and being able to express yourself without coming off as too aggressive or passive. Developing a more assertive tone can help you confidently explain your thoughts and feelings while also taking into account the other person's opinion.

Practice makes perfect! You can overcome the challenge of developing effective advanced communication skills by engaging in conversations with faculty and peers as much as possible. Engaging in conversations with people who have a higher level of education or experience than you can challenge you to think and helps build confidence, which is vital for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Challenge #9: Keeping up with advances in technology

About the Challenge:

Another reason an RN to BSN program is hard is the requirement to keep up with technology. With new advancements in technology and the digital world, you need to stay up to date to make sure you have the necessary skills to succeed in your career. Staying abreast of an ever-evolving digital landscape requires you to invest time and effort in learning new technologies or applications related to healthcare.

How to Overcome:

When it comes to keeping up with technology, you should create a plan for yourself so you can better manage your time and stay on top of any changes in the industry. Researching online, attending regular webinars or seminars, reading industry journals, and taking advantage of any available hands-on training opportunities are all invaluable resources you can use to stay informed and increase your knowledge base.

Challenge #10: Keeping up with current research

About the Challenge:

Another reason an RN to BSN program is hard is that you have to keep up with current research. It is essential to stay up to date with the latest advancements and discoveries in the healthcare field to better understand and apply what you are learning. This can be a complex task since you will need to take into account the ever-evolving nature of medicine as well as advances in technology that can impact how you practice nursing.

How to Overcome:

To make sure you gain a thorough understanding of current healthcare trends you should dedicate time each week to read industry newsletters, journals, or publications to stay informed on any new developments.

Engaging with fellow students or professionals through social media or forums is another great resource you can use to get different perspectives on diverse topics within your field. Sharing ideas and engaging in conversations with people who have a similar interest in healthcare will give you more insights into any new trends or research that might be important for your studies.

By taking advantage of these resources, you will be able to stay up to date with current research during your RN-to-BSN program, allowing you to further develop your knowledge base and sharpen your professional skillset!

Challenge #11: Grasping Evidence-Based Practice

About the Challenge:

A bachelor's nursing program is more rigorous than an associate degree nursing program. One of the things that makes an RN to BSN program hard is having to transition to an evidence-based practice way of thinking. You must learn techniques to research evidence and apply the evidence into daily practice, which can be challenging.

How to Overcome:

To overcome the challenge of developing an evidence-based practice mindset, take advantage of laboratory and lecture opportunities focused on EVP. Consider subscribing to top nursing magazines to stay abreast of changes and breakthroughs in nursing and healthcare. Recognize areas where you have a knowledge gap and ask questions to overcome them. Take advantage of every opportunity possible to use research and proven evidence when implementing care, including working on class assignments and mock patient scenarios.

Challenge #12: When your previous nursing experiences or knowledge do not seem to align with the BSN content

About the Challenge:

During your time in an RN to BSN program, you may find that your own practical work experience and the academic content in your coursework may not line up. Nurses who have been in practice for a long time before going back to school often find this is one of the biggest challenges that make an RN to BSN program hard. It is difficult because we can become accustomed to doing things one way, then go to school and learn the "textbook version" of how to get things done.

How to Overcome:

While it is normal to find your own way of doing things to make work flow more smoothly or make the most of your time, it is important to follow appropriate guidelines. One of the best ways to overcome the challenge of what you are used to doing and what your instructors teach is correct is to learn why things should be done a certain way and follow proper protocol.

Strive to apply what you learn in class to real-world scenarios and use your own experiences to dive deeper into different topics or concepts. Do not be afraid to ask questions and get clarification if your way of doing things is different than how your instructors do things. Your differences may be more of a personal preference rather than a "right or wrong" issue.

Challenge #13: Limited time to accomplish all you need to do

About the Challenge:

For some people, managing time wisely while enrolled in an RN to BSN program is hard. Nevertheless, it is one challenge you must learn to overcome if you want to succeed. Finding ways to balance coursework, employment, and other commitments can be difficult, but you can use a few strategies to help you stay productive and organized.

How to Overcome:

The most effective way to manage the challenge of limited time is to create and stick to a schedule. Your schedule should include time for studies, family, work, and self-care.

Try not to underestimate how long it takes you to complete work. If you want accurate estimates, spend some time tracking how many hours you work on various activities each day, then compare those numbers with the amount of time you originally thought it would take you – this will help you adjust your expectations going forward.

Get your family and friends to help out. If you have friends or family who can help contribute to household chores, meal-prepping, babysitting the kids, or running errands, that can free up a lot of your time. If your children are old enough to do chores, this is the perfect time to get them started and on a weekly schedule. In the long run, having them help will benefit your whole family.

Finally, remember that taking breaks is important, too! When you try to cram all your responsibilities into a busy schedule, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. So, be honest about what you can and cannot handle and include achievable tasks in your schedule.

Challenge #14: Adjusting to a more rigorous academic environment

About the Challenge:

Many students in RN to BSN programs struggle with adjusting to the rigorous academic environment. An increased workload, more in-depth course content and diverse clinical requirements can make an RN to BSN program hard, especially if your previous educational programs were slower paced. However, with some dedication and perseverance, you can adjust to the new academic environment.

How to Overcome:

One way to adjust to the demands of your new academic environment is to consider any obligations you have outside of school and determine how much time you can dedicate to school. If you need to continue working or have other responsibilities, such as caring for children or other family members, you may find that pursuing your degree part-time is easier to accomplish than a full-time school schedule.

Talk to your academic advisor and be honest about what you feel you can handle so they can help you create a schedule with achievable goals. Keep in mind that you can always take on more classes in later semesters once you become acclimated to being in school again.

Challenge #15: Getting started

About the Challenge:

Although an RN to BSN program is hard, I think the biggest challenge is simply following through with your decision to go back to school. Deciding to start an RN to BSN program can be intimidating, but you do not have to go it alone. There are plenty of resources you can access to help you move forward and make the right choice.

How to Overcome:

Make sure to research and read up on the different programs. Do your best to understand the requirements and curriculum for each program you are considering to see if you are comfortable with them and confident you can handle it.

Reach out to faculty and alumni from the program you are thinking of attending. Hearing about their experiences will give you a better idea of what to expect, and you may even uncover some useful tips or strategies for managing your course load. Once you feel like you have a better grasp on all these components, you will be ready to start your journey!


Perhaps the most common question registered nurses ask when considering earning their bachelor's degree is, "How hard is an RN to BSN program?" The truth is, they can be extremely hard. However, with proper planning, time management and hard work, you can pursue one of these programs and succeed. If you are an RN considering going back to school to get your BSN, I encourage you to take the tips from this article about the 15 biggest challenges you will face and how to overcome them in RN to BSN school and get your degree!


1. How Long Does RN To BSN Program Take?

Depending on your program, completing an RN to BSN program typically takes between one and two years.

2. Is It Normal To Struggle In RN To BSN Program?

Yes, it is normal to struggle in an RN to BSN program. An RN to BSN program is hard because it is designed to be challenging, but with dedication to hard work, you can overcome the struggle.

3. Which Year Of RN To BSN Program Is The Hardest?

The first year of an RN to BSN program can be the most difficult, not necessarily because the coursework is more complex than subsequent years, but rather due to having to adjust to your new school schedule and successfully manage your time.

4. What Are The Hardest Classes In RN To BSN Program?

The hardest classes in an RN to BSN program vary from person to person, as everyone's abilities and experience levels are different. Generally speaking, you may find the coursework more challenging if you have not taken several science-based courses previously. Most students say pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and evidence-based practice are the hardest.

5. How Many Hours Do I Need To Study In RN To BSN Program?

The number of hours you need to spend studying in an RN to BSN program varies, depending on your strengths and weaknesses and course load. As a general rule, most nursing faculty suggest students spend three to four hours for each credit hour they are enrolled each week. For example, if you are enrolled in 10 credit hours, you should prepare to spend 30 to 40 hours each week dedicated to studying and completing assigned work.

6. Is It Hard To Work During RN To BSN Program?

Working while enrolled in an RN to BSN program is hard. It is harder for some people than others, depending on commitments, workload, and course schedule. Taking classes part-time or online can make it easier to juggle work while you study. Additionally, employers may be more likely to accommodate you if you are upfront about your academic goals right away. With some advance planning and communication, you should find that you can successfully manage both working and studying for your RN to BSN program.

7. What Percent Of RN To BSN Students Drop Out?

It is difficult to give an accurate percentage of the number of RN to BSN students who drop out, as it can vary significantly from program to program. However, based on research studies, you can expect around 10-20% of students in your RN to BSN program will drop out.

8. Is It Common To Fail RN To BSN Program?

While some people do fail in RN to BSN programs, it is not common. In fact, although an RN to BSN program is hard, an average of 80% of students succeed.

9. What Next After Failing RN To BSN Program?

If you fail an RN to BSN program, you should first assess the reasons behind your failure and identify any areas where you think you can improve. Talk to your academic advisor or instructors for advice, and when you are ready, try again.

Chris Meyer, RN-BSN
Christopher Meyer is a Registered Nurse with ICU and critical care experience. He is a current Family Nurse Practitioner graduate student with a specific interest in rural and public health. Before beginning his nursing career, Chris worked as a Hydrologic Technician for the U.S. Geological Survey in Louisiana and Puerto Rico.