7 Nursing Courses You Can Expect While Earning Your ADN

illustration of nursing student will icons representing different nursing courses

When it comes to considering an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN), it’s easy to jump to the end—the part where you’ve learned all the skills and are ready to start making a difference as a nurse. But what about all the nursing courses that get you to that point? What exactly will you learn in your ADN program?

We asked Dr. Lynn Bilder, School of Nursing director of curriculum and program quality at Rasmussen University, to get some insights on the Professional Nursing (ADN/RN) program. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the key nursing courses you’ll take on and highlight how they will help prepare you for this critical healthcare career.

Previewing Associate’s degree Nursing courses

From proper hand-washing techniques to more advanced medical interventions, you’ll learn a lot of important knowledge and skills in your nursing courses. While these are just a sample of all the required courses, they should give you an idea of what you can expect as you earn a Professional Nursing Associate’s degree.

1. Introduction to Nursing

This foundational course will introduce you to both the past and future of nursing. In this course, you’ll cover a nurse’s scope of practice, which outlines the procedures you can legally do as a licensed registered nurse. You’ll also examine standards of care and evidence-based nursing, which will inform what you’ll be responsible for in a clinical setting.

How will this course prepare me for my career? As a nurse, you will be one member of a larger healthcare team. Doctors, nurse practitioners, technicians, administrative staff and other nurses will depend on you to know your role and how it fits into the bigger picture. This course will lay a foundation of basic nursing skills and medical terminology to communicate more effectively with others.

2. Physical Assessment

This course will provide nursing students with the knowledge needed to assess patient conditions. This includes evaluation techniques and criteria for neurological, respiratory, musculoskeletal and vascular systems, among others.

How will this course prepare me for my career? It’s hard to help anyone if you don’t have a solid read on what might be going wrong. Knowing how to assess patients is a critical piece of being an effective nurse. Whether you’re just taking stock of a patient for the first time or evaluating how a long-term patient is progressing and responding to treatment, the ability to effectively physically assess a patient will be a big piece of your day-to-day work.

3. Multidimensional Care

In this two-part series of courses, you’ll learn how different diseases and conditions affect the body in complex ways. Musculoskeletal, immunologic and inflammatory factors can all impact the condition of a patient and how you care for them. Dr. Bilder points out that the range of possible factors is very wide.

“These [courses] provide the student the opportunity to integrate multidimensional factors into [their] nursing care,” she says, “These include not only physical aspects but also things like emotional, social, spiritual and nutritional needs, as well as providing culturally responsive care.”

How will these courses prepare me for my career?

No two patients are the same. While you might encounter the same broken wrist over and over, each person will have a different story, medical history, ways to communicate pain and more.

“Integrating these multidimensional aspects of care ensures a holistic approach to patient-centered care,” says Dr. Bilder.

In other words, multidimensional care is about recognizing the different factors that influence health and recovery—and how those factors vary from person to person. A greater knowledge of these factors allows you to be more effective in treating a patient overall.

4. Mental and Behavioral Health Nursing

Similar to multidimensional care, this course will help you identify the often-unseen psychological factors that influence patient health and outcomes. You’ll examine the effects of stress on patients and their families—as well as the complexities of caring for people with mental health disorders.

How will this course prepare me for my career?

As you encounter patients in your career, it's important to understand the signs of mental health disorders and what you can do in response. In some cases, it's as simple as taking more time to explain an IV to reassure a highly anxious patient. In other cases, you may have to involve an advanced-practice mental health professional. Either way, you’ll need to know when and how to address mental health as a nurse.

5. Pharmacology for Professional Nursing

In this course, you’ll learn more about the “how” and “why” behind the use of medication. You’ll study the principles of safely administering different forms of medication, including oral, topical and intravenous. You’ll also examine how each medication affects the body and appropriate interventions for each type of medication.

How will this course prepare me for my career?

As a nurse, you won't prescribe medication, but you will administer it. You’ll also be responsible for educating patients on the purpose and potential side effects. In some cases, you’ll need to adjust the dosage of a medication based on the patient, such as insulin and blood glucose levels.

6. Leadership and Professional Identity

This course will explore both the personal and professional sides of leadership. It will also help you develop your professional identity. Dr. Bilder gives a preview of the concept: 

“Professional Identity is an important aspect of nursing,” she says, “It focuses on the internalization of core values and perspectives that are essential components to the art and science of nursing.”

You’ll build confidence in your role and refine what it means to lead through evidence-based research. Analyzing successful agencies within the healthcare system will help you understand what leadership looks like in nursing.

How will this course prepare me for my career?

Being a leader is about more than your job title. Even as you begin your career as a nurse, you will need the leadership skills to make important decisions and advocate for your patients. Like any work environment, you’ll also need professionalism to navigate the hiring process, interact with your manager and communicate effectively as you advance in your role.

7. ADN Capstone

This course serves as the conclusion to your ADN program. You’ll tie together everything you’ve learned in your other classes, including holistic patient care, working on a healthcare team and understanding your role as a nurse. One of the ways you’ll demonstrate your learning is creating a patient care plan that incorporates the physical, emotional and social health of a patient.

How will this course prepare me for my career?

As you begin to pursue nursing positions, you’ll be able to show employers that you’ve done more than just read about being a nurse. You’ve practiced your skills in a clinical setting and have completed real-world projects that show your knowledge. You’ll have a deep understanding of critical topics and a broad appreciation of how they work together.

Are you ready to start your nursing courses?

It’s no secret that nursing courses are challenging. But now that you know more about what you’ll be gaining, it’s easier to see just how rewarding they can be. As a national leader in nursing education, Rasmussen University invests in the quality of its nursing courses so you can feel confident in the skills you're developing. To learn more about how you can get started on the path to becoming an RN, check out the Rasmussen University Professional Nursing Associate’s degree page.

About the author

Hannah Meinke

Hannah Meinke is a writer at Collegis Education. She enjoys helping people discover their purpose and passion by crafting education and career-related content on behalf of Rasmussen University.

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