Can I Be A Nurse If I’m Bad At Math? The Surprising Truth

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If you are wondering if you can be a nurse if you’re bad at math, you are not alone. I promise. This is a super common question.

Maybe you got freaked out when you saw that you need to take algebra and statistics for part of your prerequisites.

If you are like me, and especially if you are in your thirties, it can feel especially daunting. I don’t know about you but I was always in the “dumb math” all through high school.

Here is the truth though. Maturity goes a VERY long way. If you are bad at math, you can absolutely be a nurse. The only math you need is basic 8th-grade level math.

can i be a nurse if i'm bad at math

Math is a skill that can be learned by anyone

Just like any other skill, it takes repetition and practice.

Almost every other country in the world understands this, values this, and implements this. Sadly in America, we fall behind.

However, just like with anything, there are people who seem to just pick things up very easily and hardly have to try. You must understand that these special talented people are the minority, not the majority. This is true of even honors math students! Only a few are just “gifted”, and the rest just work hard.

Math is a skill that requires repetition, repetition, and more repetition. There is a famous saying that I LOVE and recite almost daily, “repetition leads to mastery”. As a nursing tutor, I seriously stress this.

If you are asking yourself if you can be a nurse if you are bad at math, it is a valid question. But hopefully, you are feeling a little better with your abilities now.

What math do I need to know to get into the nursing program?

To get INTO a nursing program, math is a lot bigger deal than when you are IN the program. At least in my experience.

To get into nursing school, you are going to take either the HESI or TEAS entrance exam.

I am going to talk about the HESI exam since that is what I have experience with, but from my understanding the TEAS is very similar. Here is a great FAQ article about the TEAS right here.

For the HESI you will need to know:

  • Basic addition and subtraction
  • Subtraction with regrouping
  • Basic multiplication
  • Basic Division
  • Decimals
  • Fractions.
  • Ratios and proportions
  • Percentages
  • Military time
  • Algebra: How to evaluate an expression and solve equations for a specific variable.
  • Roman Numerals
  • Changing Celsius to Fahrenheit, Fahrenheit to Celsius.
  • Conversions (English and Metric)

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

If you feel overwhelmed right now, I kind of do too and I already took the test lol. It looks horribly complicated when laid out like this.

Translating math into the English language. It sounds and looks bizarre…

So please don’t let this discourage you from going forward. So I am going to SAVE you and practically guarantee you passing your HESI math in the 90th percentile. You can read how I scored a 94% right here.

So what exactly did I do to prepare to get accepted into nursing school on my first try?

I used only two resources to score in the 94th percentile. Two incredibly affordable sources at that.

And they are:
1. The book HESI Admission Assessment Exam Review and
2: Math Dude on Youtube

As long as you spend one to two hours every day, working on this content, you will do VERY well.

My Study Schedule For the Entrance Exam

  • Studied for 3-4 weeks
  • 1-2 hours a day

Yep, that’s it. I just practiced math problems over and over until it just got super repetitive and easy. If you watch Math Dude you will know how to do all of the problems you need to know.

The final answer to your question, Can I Be A Nurse If I’m Bad At Math?

i'm bad at math can I be a nurse

Yes. Yes you can.

When you get into nursing school you will see that dosage calculations only require adding, subtracting, dividing, some conversions sometimes, and simple fraction work. It is 8th grade level math, and extremely repetitive.

So why do we “struggle” and lack confidence in math compared to other countries?

In the textbook called Developmental Psychology: The Growth of Mind and Behavior by Frank Keil, he goes over the subject of children and learning mathematics. Through multiple studies, it has been found that children in the United States do not do as well as other countries on math competency tests.

Why would this be? 

For one, in the countries where children rank higher on their scores, they typically receive “richer conceptual explanations” and more mathematical practice drills.

In countries with lower scores, there is less conceptual exposure and fewer math practice drills. Secondly, teachers in the higher-scoring countries have more training and proficiency in mathematics than our U.S math teachers.

This is most likely because they just plainly receive more mathematics education in other countries. Thirdly, and most importantly, in my opinion, using Japan as an example, they believe mathematical skill is the result of a student’s efforts, versus in the United States, there is a common belief that being good at math is an innate talent. Something you are just born with and don’t have much control over the result.

No wonder we have a large volume of searches asking, “can I be a nurse if I’m bad at math?”

Hopefully, my own personal anecdote and success can show you there is nothing innate about succeeding on the HESI and with math in actual nursing school.

It is 100% a reflection of how much you practice. That’s it. And hopefully, you see this as good news.

Our country needs nurses so don’t let “math” hold you back

As you are probably aware, the United States is experiencing a severe nursing shortage. If you are a compassionate, empathetic, organized person with an excellent work ethic and a love for people, then we need you in healthcare.

Not only will you be able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for you and your family, but truly the best part is going home at the end of the day and feeling like you REALLY made a difference in peoples’ lives that day.

To Conclude, Can I Be a Nurse If I’m Bad At Math?

Yes! You can easily refresh or relearn the necessary math. It is basic, 8th grade level. You can do it!

So schedule that HESI exam, or register for your pre-requisites, wherever you are in your nursing school journey. Just make the next step and keep moving forward.

Jackie Jimenez BSN, RN
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