I am officially done with nursing school! I’ve been out of school for about three months now and so much has happened since then.
My Journey through Nursing School
So I went through an ADN program that is generally a two-ish year program that teaches all of the foundational knowledge of what nursing is, disease processes (treatment, interventions, etc.), and a lot of the skills that nurses perform whereas a BSN program teaches more of the leadership aspects of the profession.
Some of y’all have been with me since the very beginning since I had started my blog a year before I started nursing school and heard me talk about some of my experiences here on my blog.
When I started college in 2018 after graduating from high school, I went ahead and took the basic courses like English, math, A&P, psychology, and a couple of other things so my course load when I did get accepted into the nursing program at my college wouldn’t be as heavy. I’m glad that I did because I feel like it would have very difficult to manage all of those classes at the same time.
The last couple of years have put me through so much physically, emotionally, and mentally.
From the very beginning, my little world had been turned upside down because from the very first class, we had to learn how to think like a nurse by seeing a problem, analyzing what it is based on the patient knowledge, and knowing what needs to be done and how to do it.
One of the hardest things for me was (and still is) learning the “why” you do something as a nurse. You have to know about the disease process and how it is affecting the person you are taking care of and know why you are providing interventions to help the person.
Surprisingly, I didn’t pull any all nighters studying, but this journey has been far from easy. I knew from the beginning that this was going to be a difficult journey, and I would have to put in the time in effort unlike my previous studies.
During the spring semester of 2020 when COVID hit hard and effected everyone’s lives, we had to go to online classes until the middle of the spring 2021 semester which really impacted a lot of the classes ability to learn because not only did we have to deal with out normal life at home but we also had to attend lectures virtually and do make-up assignments for clinicals. The whole thing was a learning process in the very beginning because this particular program was never intended to be an online thing, so the instructors where trying to figure out how to teach us virtually and provide supplemental clinical experience.
In that spring semester, I had lost a good many classmates to the struggle of that new online format, and even the ones that were moving forward were uncertain of our education as hospitals were not letting student in during the early part. Thankfully, come towards the middle of July, we were able to get into the hospital for clinical which allowed us to finish up that semester.
Then fall of 2020 brought a lot of challenges of its own because fourth semester has family centered health which consists of OB and Peds and mental health nursing. So, in essence we took three nursing specialty courses at one time, and all of these classes had different ways of approaching interventions and treatment than the medical-surgical route that we were being taught in the previous two semesters.
This was by far the most difficult semester because even though I loved taking my psychology classes, it was difficult for me to grasp this different way of handling things. Then with the other class, I had never really been around to the world of pregnancy before and was unable to fully understand the knowledge that would provide competent care to this population.
A lot of my class was struggling because we had a brand new instructor teaching Peds and the instructor who normally taught OB was out on maternity leave, so the school had one of the previous OB instructors come in to teach that part of the course. It was defiantly an experience because we were coming to the school in very small groups to do skills and simulation, and very surprisingly we were able to go to the hospital for clinical.
Throughout the entire semester, we struggled with learning the content and many of us were on the fence of passing the entire semester. I ended up having to withdraw from the family centered care course because after the last regular test, I wasn’t passing the course and needed to make at least an 86 on the final. Which wasn’t impossible, but given my test scores from that class, I wasn’t confident in myself that I’d be able to make the grade.
That in of itself was the most difficult things that I have had to do in my academic career because I did feel like a failure at the time.
I retook that class in the spring of this year and was able to understand that information a lot better. It was also around February or March when we were finally able to go back to in person learning for those who wanted to, and I feel like it helped me immensely being able to be back in the classroom to learn.
The spring semester was also the time when I was originally suppose to graduate, and it was hard seeing the people that I had started with and been through so much with during this journey graduate and start their professional career as a nurse, but I think that this extra semester was what I honestly needed because I don’t think I would have been as confident in myself or skills had a taken these classes that I just finished in the spring semester like I was supposed to.
On to this last semester. For the majority of the semester, it never really felt like I was nearing the end of this chapter in my life. It was a busy semester of lectures, tests, and clinicals. Going into clinicals this semester, I honestly felt kind of loss because I had spent the prior two semesters on the OB floor of the hospital and had to get back into the more med-surg type of patients (aka the patients who weren’t pregnant or recently had a baby and came to the hospital to be treated for an illness), and that in of itself to a second to et readjusted to because L&D/postpartum nurses have a different set of problems that they see more often like bleeding and other things.
But, none the less, I made it through nursing school! I received my nursing pin shortly after we finished finals and everything was put into the system.
Taking the NCLEX
The whole process is kind of time consuming and rather expensive because you have to register with your state’s LLR and have a background check and pay to get your application processed. Then you have to pay like $200 to register for the NCLEX and an extra $8 or $9 to get your unofficial results 48 hours after you take the test, and that’s not including gas money to get to the testing center or lodging if you decide to stay in a hotel.
So even though I had received my diploma, got pinned, and endured everything that nursing school had to offer (during a pandemic none the less), I still wasn’t officially a registered nurse, and not to sound dramatic at all but it felt like the last three years of college and all four years of high school was leading up to me taking the most important test of my life to earn my registered nurse license (no pressure at all right?).
The NCLEX is the test that must be taken to officially earn the credentials RN and to work as an RN (although you can work at some places as a graduate nurse until you take the NCLEX but that’s not something I’m really familiar with).
To make things simple, the NCLEX is every nursing student’s worse nightmare because ever since you stepped foot into the classroom all you hear is horror stories about how awful it is and how people have PTSD from taking it (just kidding… well kind of).
The exam is proctored. Back in the day, this test used to be a paper test, but now it’s computer based. The number of questions a person can take for the test ranges from 75-145, and it’s based on an algorithm, so if you’re getting questions right the following questions are supposed to get more difficult and if you get questions wrong it gives you more questions on that particular topic.
The test can cut off at 75 questions and that either means that you passed or you got so many questions wrong that the other 70 questions wouldn’t help you passed if by some chance you got them all correct. Then on the other hand, you could get all 145 questions regardless of how you did because the NCLEX gods sometimes put in questions that don’t count towards your actual test and needs see how well the questions are. So you can kind of see how this test is mind game because you’re sitting a this computer with a camera on you while someone is watching you take the test and you get to question 75 and hold your breath as you hit submit for question 75 to see if the test turns off or if you keep going.
I ended up having 100 questions on my test, and I’m going to be honest, I felt like the test was easier than people had made it out to be. I thought that I had a lot of endocrine based questions with only about 20 select all that applied questions.
I had used UWorld to study for the test and feel like it was worth the investment. I had gotten the 60 option just incase I didn’t pass that first time, so I would have enough time on my plan to keep studying.
I liked this program because you were able to customize the content that you were studying, and they gave you analytics on how you were doing, how long you typically spent on questions, how many times you changed answers, etc. Helpful stuff if you ask me, and to be honest, I felt like the UWorld questions were harder than the questions I had on the NCLEX.
I had ATI studying material because that was what my school had used but honestly didn’t use it to study for the NCLEX.
I started studying about two weeks before my test date. The day before the test I was anxious and felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack, but somehow I got a full night sleep. The day of the test, I was oddly fine. I went in the mindset of “if I pass that’s great, if not then I now know what to kind of expect for the next time”, and walking out of that building, it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.
When I got home, I had to wait a couple more hours before I could reregister (which is the unofficial, unofficial way to see if you passed). So if you get a message after you put in your information about not being able to reregister that there’s a good chance you passed and if it takes your information, then well… you know.
Luckily I got the message, but was still waiting for the 48 hours so I could pay and get the official unofficial results which also said that I passed; then a day or so later I got an email from the LLR saying that I was officially an RN with my license number.
I was fortunate enough to get a job offer while I was in my last semester of nursing school while precepting on a step-down unit which is a level below ICU and above a med-surg unit where people are either getting better and are able to be transferred to my unit where they would need a little less observation than they would get on an ICU unit or the opposite where the patient needs more observation but not enough to go directly to an ICU unit.
I fell in love with the step-down unit because I’m pretty much constantly doing something. I had done clinical rotations on a couple of other units and they were a slower pace that wasn’t for me at this particular point in my life. On this floor, I get to see a bit of everything, and the patient to staff ration is typically 4:1.
I’m currently in a 12 week residency program where first two weeks, I was travelling to one of the other hospitals for classes, and I’m currently about to finish my 2-twevle hour shifts\1-eight hour\1-eight hour class that has been going on for 5 weeks, and about to go to the 3-twelve hour shifts with my preceptor.
It’s was honestly weird when I first started to work on the floor as an RN because I had to stop seeing myself as a student nurse and start seeing myself as the patient’s primary nurse.
From the beginning of starting the job, I felt confident in my ability of giving meds in all routes, performing skills, talking to the patients, but now I had to start really analyzing everything that’s going on with the patient and trying to anticipate things that could happen and the things that could help the patient and rely that information to the providers.
Over that past couple of weeks, I have almost worked up to a full patient load and have felt somewhat better in communicating with providers and giving report on patients, and honestly in my own skill set in general because even though everyone from the nurses on the floor to the patients (saying that they can’t believe that I’ve been a nurse for only 2ish months), I just don’t give myself enough credit for my knowledge and skills that I have.
I still find it hard to believe that I’ve accomplished this amazing thing in my life, and it’s kind of scary having so much responsibility not only at such a young age but in general.
I honestly don’t know where life is going to take me in the upcoming years or if I’d like to specialize in one particular field in nursing, but all I know right now is that I’m glad that I took this route.
Happy reading until next time,