Even before they fill out an application for nursing school, nursing students know their particular academic path is not an easy one. In nursing school there are no classes where you can slide, no semesters where you know your schedule will be easier, and no time to take a breather because you know you’ll catch up later.

For nursing students who have any kind of learning difficulties or who might need specific accommodations to make sure they are able to participate at the same way other students do, nursing school is particularly daunting.

Lots of students come into nursing school knowing they might have a reason to request an accommodation or with an already documented history of successfully working with a classroom or testing accommodation. But plenty of other students who previously worked around whatever difficulties they had or logged extensive hours to keep up, don’t realize they need one until the rigors of the work load and the demands of the courses in nursing school make it very clear.

Whether you arrive at college having previously benefited from an accommodation or you are already in school and just realizing that your current approach isn’t working, a visit to your schools Office of Disability Services is in order.

Generally, the office will issue accommodations for students after really examining the difficulties they are having so they can find out what works, what has not worked, and what accommodation will best serve the student.

Among accommodations many schools see are those where students request more time to finish an exam or those who request a separate, distraction-free area to take an exam. Other students might need note takers in class or might request to have exam questions read aloud to them.

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Students request classroom-based and testing-based accommodations for various reasons including a learning disability, anxiety, or a hearing or sight impairment. Being granted an accommodation doesn’t put the students ahead of the game, but gives them equal standing and an equal chance to be academically successful.

If you are granted an accommodation, it is then up to you to decide how to proceed. Many schools will allow you to use the accommodation as needed per class. So you might request extra time in one class, but not in any others or you might request extra time to take exams in all your courses.

Although you do not have to disclose your reason for your accommodation to faculty or teaching assistants, it’s especially helpful if you discuss the logistics with your professor at the beginning of the term or semester. Ask how the accommodation will be handled and how it will best be used for that specific class. Professors are used to accommodations and some even talk about accommodations in the course syllabus. Remember, you are welcome to share the reasons for your request, but you are under no obligation at all to do so.

And if you are struggling and think an accommodation can help you, reaching out for assistance will only be a positive. Today’s culture, especially on a college campus, is open and accepting of all the different learning styles people have. But if you don’t feel this acceptance, you don’t have to reveal your request to anyone but the office that grants accommodations.

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In addition to reducing your stress and removing obstacles to your success, advocating for yourself now will be a huge benefit for you after graduation. Once you know what works, you’ll be able to ask for accommodations in the workplace if you need them and with a full and experienced understanding of how it helps your performance.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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