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Nursing Curriculum: Core Courses of Common Nursing Programs

Common nursing programs include those designed to prepare students to work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN). Although educational requirements vary, programs for these nurses share some core coursework.

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Essential Information

Aspiring LPNs need to complete a diploma or certificate program in practical nursing, while aspiring RNs need an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. Prerequisites for admission into these nursing programs include courses in anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Although nursing courses vary from one nursing school to another, most schools focus on the same core subject areas. In addition, a supervised clinical experience and hands-on practice during courses are common across all programs for aspiring LPNs and RNs.

Both LPNs and RNs have to get state licensure to work in the nursing field. LPNs have to pass the NCLEX-PN, while RNs have to pass the NCLEX-RN. Several optional specialty certifications are available for nurses as well.

Nursing Curriculum Courses

Included below are descriptions of several core nursing courses often found in nursing programs.

Introduction to Nursing Practice

This core course introduces students to the field of nursing. It focuses on the history of nursing and the theories and skills essential to the profession. Critical thinking, cultural variation and decision-making are some of the major areas addressed. Students study different healthcare systems, the legal and ethical aspects of nursing and economic factors that affect healthcare and the nursing field.


Instruction covers the effect of illness in an otherwise well-functioning human body. Students learn about common illnesses and the patterns of disease, in order to understand the processes of illness and healing. Students also investigate ways in which nurses may affect change in an ill person. Emphasis is placed on understanding the commonalities in a variety of diseases. Students also come to an understanding of the relationship between diseases and symptoms that may help them in diagnosing the problem.


A course in pharmacology focuses on drug therapy and its relationship to the nursing profession. Students learn about commonly used therapeutic drugs, how drugs affect bodily systems and the effects of commonly prescribed drugs. Ethical and legal aspects of prescription medications are also addressed.

Health Assessment

Students learn to assess the entire patient, including the physiological and psychosocial components. Basic health assessment skills are taught, including assessment of the respiratory, cardiac, abdominal, lymphatic and musculoskeletal systems. Students learn how to gather data for patient health histories and check the health of the ears, eyes, nose and throat of a patient. Focus is on servicing diverse populations, the promotion of healthy behaviors and common health risks.

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