Nursing Programs: Does Class Size Matter?

NursingJuly 20, 2014

Nursing programs have the best of both worlds as far as class size is concerned: Large classes for classroom learning and small learning groups of eight to ten students for the clinical portion of their education. As a student, it is important to have both academic experiences to properly prepare you for your career.

Nursing schools are limited in how many students they can admit because of nursing faculty availability and the state board of nursing limits how many students can be at one clinical site. While this contributes to competition for nursing school spots, it also ensures a quality education for all nurses.

What Does "Small" Mean?

Colleges and Universities everywhere may advertise that they offer small classes, appealing to students with the promise of a more personal learning experience. However, without actual numbers, its hard to know what "smaller" means. Some large university courses have over 350 students in them. Though 150 students is technically smaller, it might not be exactly what the student has in mind when they think of small classes.

The beauty of nursing school is that your clinical experience will be supported by your small clinical group and professor. Furthermore, you will be assigned to a nurse on the floor for the day who shows you optimal practices and provides you opportunities to practice them yourself. What could be better than one-on-one instruction?

Large Class Benefits

A large class has some unsung benefits that may appeal to learners. In a large class, it may be too overwhelming for a professor to assign and grade lengthy writing assignments in a timely manner. Expect the multiple choice format to be the main method of evaluation.

Some topics may not lend themselves to discussion, but are instead best presented through illustrative examples and slides. Pharmacology and microbiology are good examples of classes that don't necessarily benefit from open discussions. This doesn't necessarily mean there is no room for questions and answers from the professor; however, you should strive to keep any questions you may ask relevant.

Personal Responsibilities

Nursing requires that a lot of information be absorbed in a short amount of time, and some of it will need to be done independently — no matter how small or large your class may be. Nursing programs generally assign readings for you to complete before the lecture day to familiarize you with the material. There are also at-home learning activities to be completed and lab days for hands-on experience. If you find that there is a nursing concept that you don't understand, a faculty member can likely explain it to you. Failing that, there are nurses in your community and on the internet who always enjoy helping the next generation of nurses.

No matter your learning style, nursing programs have both the benefits of small and large class sizes, however, how much you learn is really up to your individual effort and hard work.

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