My NCLEX-RN Story

Ah, the infamous NCLEX. Every nurse wannabe knows about this ultimate exam.

It’s the exam that determines whether or not you can practice as a licensed nurse. In other words, it separates the pretenders from the contenders. 

During my first semester of nursing school, one of my instructors said, “You start studying for the NCLEX now.” With that being said, I guess you can say I’ve been studying for this exam for 2.5 years. Although I’ve been preparing for the NCLEX for so long, I still felt as though I wasn’t ready to take the exam when I graduated. Luckily, I didn’t have to take the exam so soon. After I graduated from school, I had to wait to receive my ATT (acceptance to test) from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. My ATT arrived approximately a month after I graduated. During that month, I attended a Kaplan NCLEX course, my husband and I relocated, and I barely studied studied a little. Most of all, I rested. Nursing school took a major toll on me, and it was nice to be able to relax and not have to be concerned with school. Once I received my ATT, a fire was lit under my behind.

My school used the Kaplan program in conjunction with our studies, so I was able to utilize this same program to study for the NCLEX-RN. This program included a 1,200 question test bank, practice exams, and exam trainers. From the time I received my ATT until two days from my exam, I studied. Studying usually included 5-6 hours of nothing but review and practice questions (100-120 per/day). Some days were better than others, but I refused to stop.

As my NCLEX-RN date approached, I became very nervous. Two weeks before my exam, all of my other classmates had taken the exam, and everyone passed except one classmate. Even though most had passed, I focused on the one who didn’t. That made me nervous, and I thought, “What if that is me? What if I fail too?” Even though I studied daily, I still thought of the negative. It didn’t help when I read stories of people failing the NCLEX many times and still weren’t able to pass.

“GOSH! WHAT IF THIS WILL BE ME? I DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR THE MONEY TO KEEP ON RETAKING THIS EXAM!”

A week before my exam, I was tired of studying. I skipped studying for two days because I felt exhausted. I was stressed, nervous, and anxious. I wanted to get the test over with, but I also wanted to be successful. I’m thankful to have supportive family members because they were always there to give me positive feedback and noted I would be successful on the exam. After the two days of doing nothing, I got back into my study mode. The Kaplan program states a person should be scoring at least 65% on the practice exams in order to pass the NCLEX. I was scoring 75-85%, but I still felt as though I could fail the NCLEX-RN.

The day before my exam, my husband took all of my study books and said, “You’re not studying today. You know this material, and you need to relax.” Although I was annoyed with his approach, I understood where he was coming from. He saw me burry my head into those books and the computer for many days, and he also saw my progress. Instead of studying, I made it a mission to enjoy myself. My husband and I ate at my favorite restaurant, went hiking, and saw a movie. By the end of the day, I was very relaxed and feeling carefree.

The day of my exam, I woke up nervous. It was as if the day before never happened. I knew I had to do something about that because nervousness before an exam is never good. To calm my nerves, I made myself some black tea (my morning staple drink), and I performed yoga for 30 minutes. During my yoga practice, I made sure to focus on my breathing. Focusing on my breathing allowed my mind to relax, and my body followed. After I was done with yoga, I meditated for a few minutes and said positive affirmations to myself. By the end of that, I was ready…

…so I thought.

When I arrived at the testing site, I was happy. I walked in there smiling and ready to pass. My happiness was short-lived due to the check-in process. I swear the proctors and administrators have the place on lockdown! You have to have your palms scanned many times, a photo taken, and your items checked into a personal locker. Pockets have to be emptied, and hats/wrist wear aren’t allowed. My exam was scheduled to start at 0800. By the end of the check-in process, it was almost 0830. When my number was called by the proctor, it was time for me to enter into the testing room. The room was small, and each computer station was blocked off by cubicle walls. I sat down, put on the headphones, and began my test.

The first question was relatively easy. I was thinking, “I got this.” The other questions were the same until question five. Yes, question five. By that time, the SATA (select all that apply) questions were coming, and I was thinking, “O’, sh*t! I’m not ready!” Even though I was doing the best that I could, I felt as though I was failing. When I would get a SATA question, I felt good…that meant I was doing well. When I didn’t, I felt horrible. I got a ton of medication questions, prioritization questions, EKGs, and questions asking me to put the answers in correct order. There were times when I saw a question and immediately knew the answer, and there were times when I saw something that I had never heard of. Those were the times when I would stare at the computer screen and say to myself, “I’m done. I’m not going to be a nurse because I’m failing this exam.” I took two bathroom breaks during the exam, and at one point, I wanted to walk out and not return. After my second break, I said to myself, “The computer hasn’t shut off yet so you’re probably not doing that bad. You still suck though.” I walked back into the testing room, answered a few questions, and the computer went blank. I was startled because I thought I would be there for the whole six hours to answer every 265 questions (the most amount of questions allocated).  I was then asked a list of survey questions about registration. By this time I was thinking, “Why are you asking me this? I want to go home, I just failed this exam, and you’re asking me if registering online was easy or not. This is bullish*t!” When I walked out of the testing room, I was pissed off. I asked the proctor when would I know my results, and she said she didn’t know, but I should receive an email on how to access the quick results. After speaking with her, I quickly retrieved my things out of the locker, got my phone, and left. It was raining outside, and that made my mood really salty. I got in my car and just sat there for about ten minutes. I really felt like I failed.

I called one of my friends who is an RN, and when she asked me how did I feel, I went off. She told me to calm down and she assured me everyone feels like they have failed after taking the NCLEX. I told her I knew I failed because I saw questions with subject matters I had never heard of. She then told me I could sign up for the quick results within 48 hours to see my unofficial results. I told her I would try to do that, and I would call her back. I then called my mom and my husband to tell them I failed. Both asked if I saw my results, and of course, I didn’t. They said they didn’t believe I failed, but their words didn’t mean anything to me at that time. I literally felt like a failure.

It was starting to rain really bad, and I drove to the nearest motel. I sat in the parking lot and cried. I then remembered the Pearson Vue Trick, affectionally known as the “PVT.” The idea of the trick is to see whether or not you passed the exam by trying to reschedule your NCLEX. If the system takes your credit card information, that means you failed. If it doesn’t, that means you passed. Since I had my laptop in the car and had free wifi from the Ramada Inn, I decided to give the trick a try. As I typed all of my information, I was sweating bullets. My hands were shaking, and I became really nervous…again. When I pressed submit for the registration, the system wouldn’t take my card. I panicked! Instead, I got a message that said, “Our records indicate that you have recently scheduled this exam. Another registration cannot be made at this time.” At that moment, I began crying. It wasn’t just any cry…it was one of those cries you see people have when they get the Holy Ghost. I sat in my car while it rained and cried. I had that time for myself, and I didn’t care who saw me. I was happy for it to be over.

The next day, I checked the State Board of Nursing to make sure it was real, and it was. There was my name with my RN license number next to it. I screamed with joy and announced it to everyone. My hard work had finally paid off, and it felt awesome to reach my goal.

Nursing school wasn’t easy for me, and it was even more complicated with negativity from outsiders. There were people who didn’t believe in me, people who were negative about my choice to go back to school for a second degree, and people who hated just because they felt like it. On the other hand, there were people who were my constant cheerleaders and constant supporters. Those are the ones that mattered to me the most, and I will never forget their support. Seeing my license number made me realize, I did the right thing, despite the negativity. The negativity fueled my drive, but the positivity nurtured my desire. Passing my exam also let me know my hard work served it’s purpose–the late night/early morning study sessions, the financial sacrifices, working at night at the hospital and studying when I had a moment to myself, the constant tests, the rejections and failures I made, and many more. All of that served it’s purpose.

I’m now a licensed Registered Nurse, and I’m happy with that. I don’t know what the future holds for me as a Registered Nurse, but I’m elated for the career journey. One of my nursing professors sent me an email to congratulate me, and she also noted, “Go out there and take care of some people! I am so thankful to call you my fellow nurse :-).”

Will do Professor, will do.

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