The Dog Ate My Care Plan…

Just a mom/wife/nursing student extraordinaire trying to make it in the big bad city…

Posts Tagged ‘exam’

D-Day: Operation NCLEX-RN

Posted by isntshelovlei on February 3, 2012

After proceeding through various security measures—fingerprints, photographs, and palm vein scans—I sat in front of that infamous computer terminal. The last two-and-a-half years of my life had been leading up to this moment. I took a deep breath and clicked “Start.”

It wasn’t that bad—I kind of pretended I was sitting at home doing practice questions on my laptop. I had beyond my fair share of the dreaded SATAs (select all that apply) which supposedly is a good sign—I’ve heard that they’re considered upper-level questions and if you’re getting a lot of them then more than likely you’re above the passing line.

For those of you who may not know, the NCLEX-RN can be anywhere from 75 to 265 questions (which is why they give you up to six hours to complete the exam). Obviously, everyone wants to only get 75 questions. And most people whose exam cuts off after 75 questions do seem to pass. But it’s all about demonstrating minimum competency. If you’ve accomplished that by 75 questions then that’s great but if not the computer will usually continue to give you more questions so that you can try to dig yourself “out of the hole” so-to-speak and get above that line. Contrary to popular belief, it is also possible to fail with 75 questions. How you answer those first 20 or so questions sort of determines your general competence level. Get most of them right and you position yourself comfortably above the passing line; however if you start off not doing so hot…

After I clicked the radio button for my answer to #75, I hovered my mouse hesitantly over the “Next” button. With one eye shut, holding my breath (and before I passed out), I clicked…and the screen went blank!

It was over!!

Afterward there’s a survey, another palm vein scan (they wanna make sure you’re still you and all), and they send you packing.

And then you wait…

This is truly the nerve-wracking part. The waiting. Official exam results can take weeks to receive in the mail; quick-results can’t be obtained for 48 hours. What on earth are you supposed to do in the meantime? Most people opt for the “Pearson Vue Trick” aka “PVT.” This is an unofficial way of checking whether you passed or not. Basically you log on and attempt to register for the exam again. If the system doesn’t allow you to register again and you get a popup that says something along the lines of “you’ve already registered for this exam, contact your board” you passed. However, if the credit card page comes up, then…sorry, you did not. A nifty little step-by-step guide can be found here.

So I did the PVT and got the “good” popup (make sure the status says “delivery successful” otherwise it’s too early to do it) so I was feeling pretty good. And the very next day my RN license was already posted on the state website—I don’t think you can get much more official than that! I’m a nurse! 😀

To those who have yet to take the exam be encouraged, be confident, and kick NCLEX butt! Good luck!

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Test Tactics

Posted by isntshelovlei on March 31, 2011

So I think I offended some with my tweet about people who study up until the second the scantron hits their desks.

My bad.

It’s just part of my own personal test-taking philosophy I’ve acquired over the years. It consists of three things:

1) I don’t overstudy. I read what I’m supposed to read; I listen to my recorded lectures; and I review my powerpoints and notes. But I gave up some of my more neurotic studying habits. I no longer strategically position my notes on the steering wheel on the way to class so that I can take a glimpse or two at every red light or stop sign. And though I do review the morning/afternoon of the exam I don’t try to cram in the last few minutes while the scantrons are going out. What for? Whatever I don’t know at that point I’m not going to learn in the five minutes before the exam starts. At that point I’ve turned on my “it is what it is” switch. Woo-sah. And to be honest my grades have been better since I stopped driving myself into the ground. I’m more relaxed and I no longer stress-eat on test days. When you overstudy, if you don’t go in there and suffer a total brain fart (which sucks after all that extra effort), you’re overthinking the questions and second guessing yourself—all because you psyched yourself out. And so I don’t (anymore). There’s a lot of information to learn in nursing school and you do need to study. But you don’t need to overdo it.

2) I don’t sit and stare at test questions if I don’t know the answer. What for? The answer is not going to jump off the page waving its arms at you. Pick one and keep it moving. Narrow them down (with multiple choice there’s usually two you can toss out right off the top anyway) and eeny, meeny, miny, moe the rest if you have to. Though on a rare occasion if I’m really torn between two answers I will skip a question and come back to it—you just have to be very careful that you also skip it on the scantron sheet or that can lead to a whole other mess…

3) I never erase. Go with your gut. Usually when you change an answer, you had it right the first time.

I guess it also helps that I happen to be a good test taker. The Kaplan review course for instance that many people like to take before they take their boards (it’s actually required for my program) is actually less about content review and more about how to be a better test taker. It’s all about strategies for breaking down the questions and recognizing traps. I’ve already got that down. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even read the whole question most of the time (which is why it only takes me about 30 seconds per question when we’re allotted a minute and a half for each). Usually, half of the question is superfluous information you don’t need and was thrown in there to confuse you. I choose not be be distracted by the distractors. This is not to say I’m just guessing answers and getting lucky. You do need to have a solid knowledge base to be able to recognize trigger words/phrases and weed out the riff-raff. But hey, this is just what works for me. Different strokes for different folks…

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Stuff and Dump

Posted by isntshelovlei on July 14, 2010

I’ve gotten to that point of the semester where I’m absolutely positively fried. It really feels like I’m just stuffing and dumping information now. Especially in pharmacology—we have four exams, the content doesn’t overlap, and the last exam (technically the final) is NOT cumulative (a rarity). So now that I’m studying the meds for Exam 3, I feel like what I learned for Exams 1 & 2 has already floated off to the Bermuda Triangle of my mind never to be seen again. And with the pharm HESI right around the corner (and you know I don’t take an opportunity for free/extra points lightly), that is so not a good thing. So I’m hoping that I really have retained some of this stuff, and that it’s just laying dormant somewhere in my hippocampus ready to spring into action…

July 23rd UPDATE: The pharm exam last night was beastly!! To add insult to injury, our professor told us that the class average for this particular exam is usually about a 73—but keep in mind that anything less than a 75 in my program is an F!! Now everyone gets to wait, obsessively checking Blackboard every few hours, to see if the grades are posted—and hoping that we passed!

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Spring Break!!

Posted by isntshelovlei on March 5, 2010

Health Assessment is over. Finished. Finito. We took our final exam last night and now have to wait 48 long hours for our grades (probably even longer for our final course grades). I actually didn’t think the test was that bad. And since I made benchmark on the HESI I already have an extra 10-point cushion. There were a lot of questions that looked let’s just say “familiar” and I found myself thinking “ooh! I know that!” throughout most of the exam. There were 70 questions total and I was done in about 35 minutes. My professor hesitantly took my scantron—“Are you sure???” I just smiled and shrugged. You know my motto—“Either you know it or you don’t.” I have never been one to sit and stare at test questions as if the answers are going to magically pop out all of a sudden. I have also made it my policy to never change my answers on exams. Most of the time when people change their answers they had it right the first time.

My interview for the nurse extern program was today—I think it went pretty well. It was initially a group info session and then we broke out to tour and interview with the managers of our preferred units. They received almost 600 applications for the program and can only take 32-34 externs so my fingers are crossed—matter of fact while we’re at it, cross yours too! My only concern is the scheduling of it all. They would like for you to work as an extern fulltime—which of course I can’t do or I’ll lose my benefits. So I would have to work my extern schedule around dropping down to a 0.5 FTE at my “real job” (*smirk*), plus my lectures and clinicals since my nursing program runs all year round. Not an easy task, but it can be done!

And so spring break it is—sadly there will not be any sandy beaches in my forecast. I will say it is starting to warm up a little since that record-breaking snow we got but it’s still probably only about 45 degrees on a good day. But at least I’ll get to go to sleep at a normal hour for a few days…

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Buh-bye Health Assessment

Posted by isntshelovlei on March 1, 2010

Health Assessment is just about coming to a close—thank goodness. For a minute there I thought I wasn’t going to make it–my hair even started falling out again. But I’m still here, balding and all lol. We had our clinical final exam/check-offs this past Saturday. You have to do an assessment of one major system (Neurological, Thorax & Lungs, or Abdominal) and two minor systems (CN 1-6, CN 7-12, Cardiac & Peripheral Vascular, or Head/Neck/Face/Ears)—which you basically pick out of a hat. Since you don’t know which ones you’re going to get until that morning you have to know ALL of them perfectly—or at least sufficiently well as clinical is pass/fail. With so many minor details within each system I must have studied for it for a week straight—I even slept with my notes the night before. Instead of visions of sugar-plums dancing in my head I was having nightmares about cranial nerves, diaphragmatic expansion, and liver spans. But it actually turned out ok. My major system was abdominal—which of course was one of my least favorites. I’m just not comfortable with the percussion aspect of it. Liver spans, splenic dullness, tympany over the gastric bubble—most of the time it all sounds like the same ol’ shit to me. And how many nurses really percuss in their daily practice? I am almost 29-years-old and I don’t remember ever being percussed. For my minor systems I had Head/Face/Neck/Ears (and I remembered to hold the otoscope upside down!) and Cranial Nerves 7-12—piece of cake.

We still have to take the HESI tomorrow night and our final exam on Thursday. If we make benchmark on the HESI (we’ll see how that goes), we get 10 points added to our final exam grade. Now I wouldn’t mind that at all…

Up next, Maternity/OB. But first, spring break here I come! Of course it won’t be a full week of pure unproductive bliss since we’re expected to have read the first five chapters in our maternity textbook for the first day of class—oy!

In other exciting news, I have an interview scheduled for the 2010 Nurse Extern Program at the #1 pediatric hospital in the nation! Go me! And from what I’ve heard, due to the economy they’ve had to cut the number of spots in the program in half, so I would just about pee myself if I actually get a spot. It is such a great opportunity—clinicals are such a tease to me at this point! If I’m selected I’ll get to do more hands-on direct care, and in peds at that! For those of you looking for a similar opportunity check out the 2010 U.S. Summer Externship and Opportunity Resource Guide. UPenn puts this out every year; it was recently updated so it should be pretty accurate. Good luck!

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Sink or Swim

Posted by isntshelovlei on February 6, 2010

I figured since clinicals were snowed out this morning, I’d do a quick blog catch-up before I hit the books.

Health Assessment does not seem to be getting any better. Some were optimistic that okay we got that first shocker exam, we would adjust our studying methods, and the next four exams (plus the HESI) would be better. Well we just got back our second exam this past Thursday and the class average was a 69–for both evening classes taking the course! And keep in mind that a 74 or less is a FAILING grade in our program (there is no such thing as a C- or a D). So for the second time the class grilled our instructor for over an hour, going through each answer on the 43-question exam (who makes a 43-question test anyway?), challenging probably a third of them. I think there ended up being only one question that was actually amended and credit given for.

So needless to say, this class “ain’t been no crystal stair.” But this is only one class out of thirteen, the second semester out of seven. Everyone’s all fired up and stressed out which doesn’t help matters any. After they’re done chewing out the professor (who is only playing the hand she was dealt by the higher-ups), they want to march on down to the Director and Dean’s offices to give them a piece of their minds as well. But really, what is that going to accomplish? If you got a 40 on the exam, you’re still going have a 40 on the exam after you’re done running off at the mouth. So now what are you gonna do? Sure some of the teaching methods could probably be improved, and the amount of information involved would definitely be better spread out over fourteen weeks instead of seven, but those changes most likely won’t happen in the next three weeks. So stop focusing on them and start focusing on YOU. Maybe you have to study a little more, sleep a little less–whatever it takes. I understand that this is a supposedly part-time program geared toward working individuals with outside responsibilities so we already feel spread a bit thin. I am still working a full-time job and have three kids, so trust me, I know. But it all boils down to how much you really want it and what you’re willing to do to get it. I for one will be damned if I’m gonna let this one class stop me from becoming a nurse!

So as Dory from Finding Nemo would sing, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

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Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

Posted by isntshelovlei on January 31, 2010

That’s right. Winter Break (and nights that involve a solid eight hours of sleep), is officially over. Back to the grind.

This semester they’re shaking things up a bit (BIG shocker there). So instead of taking two classes simultaneously for 14 weeks, we’re taking Health Assessment for seven weeks and then Maternity/OB for 7 weeks. At first I thought it would be better to only have to concentrate on one subject of books, BUT now you have to learn everything twice as fast! So even though we’ve only had four classes so far, we’ve already had to read about 20 chapters! My brain, is so overstuffed with information, that I am starting to have dreams about Kaposi’s Sarcoma, black hairy tongues, furuncles and frickin’ cranial nerves! We had an exam last Tuesday; we have an exam this Tuesday. I have to do a genogram and health teaching project in the next two weeks. And check-offs are fast approaching at the end of February. Sheesh. Things are moving so fast I feel like a walking case of vertigo!

Clinicals are good so far. Again, it’s a lot of information being crammed into a few short weeks, but my instructor is good. She’s thorough and always willing to answer any questions you may have. My lecture instructor, on the other hand, replies to 90% of our questions with “It’s in the book.” Gee thanks. Well instead of me coming and sitting in this classroom for three hours listening to you read off the powerpoint, maybe I should just stay home and read the book. She’s nice and all, but it just feels like yet another course where I basically have to teach myself. What exactly does my $480/credit get me around here?…

Well this is going to have to be one of my shorter posts–duty (aka studying) calls!

~Peace, love, and coffee 🙂

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