Finishing Strong: Game Plan for Completing School and Passing the NCLEX
Anyone who has attempted to get into a nursing program has their own story of the challenges potential nurses face. For many, it begins with enrolling in school and successfully completing required prerequisite courses such as Anatomy and Pathophysiology before beginning any nursing classes. These alone can be extremely demanding courses requiring hours of dedicated study just to pass.
Yet the prerequisites are just the beginning. Once accepted to a program, future nurses face a mountain of rigorous exams and participate in many levels of experiential learning that takes a toll on any schedule. So how can you muster up the strength and courage to overcome the challenges of nursing school? Tannikka Jones graduated from Nightingale College December 2018. She is now the Nurse Manager at Mission Pines Rehab in North Las Vegas. Tannikka shares her Nightingale College experience and has solid advice for thriving as a nurse. Check out Tannikka’s story:
I always knew I wanted to be an RN. After years of working as an LPN, I finally went back to school. It took a lot of courage to enroll in the nursing program. Nursing school is tough. There were days when I wanted to give up, days when all I could do was cry, get upset, feel frustrated. But I never gave up. I faced the challenges with determination that I would cross the finish line.
My advice for current learners is to take control of your life with the following game plan.
- Stay focused on the big picture
You have the ability to control what you pay attention to while in nursing school and all throughout your life. If focusing on what is going wrong doesn’t serve you, look at where you want to be and focus on the end goal. The best advice I have for current learners is to invest in your own med-surg book. Get the actual book so you can read it, use highlighters, and take notes in the margins. The NCLEX focuses heavily on med-surg and critical thinking. You must understand how to triage patients. Once you are a nurse, you direct your own workflow, there is no one there to do it for you.
- Prioritize your schedule and individual tasks
My experience with nursing school involved a series of choices. Every choice I made was to pass the NCLEX the first time. That is why I took the prep class by Hurst and New World. It’s the reason why I stayed home to study rather than go out with friends on the weekends. It’s why the last 3 weeks of the program I stopped working and began studying full-time, eight hours a day. Of course I went into debt, but I knew that once I was a nurse, none of that would be an issue.
- Believe that what you are learning is working
As I look back on my time in nursing school from the perspective of someone who is working as a nurse manager, I now understand that the difficulties and challenges helped equip me with the skills and determination required to be a nurse. It was never meant to be easy. Nothing about saving lives comes easy. There are days I am grateful for the challenges because they helped me to realize how strong I truly am.
Nursing programs are intentionally designed to equip you with the skills to overcome stressful situations. As a nurse you will work in life-or-death situations. Embrace the challenge, face your fears, and conquer self-doubt. Trust that the program is working and believe in yourself.
I was determined to only take the NCLEX once. That was the goal that I hung on to and the object of every tough choice I made. As the day drew near, I had obstacles arise, stress was mounting, and it seemed as if everyone in my cohort, family, and work were vying for my attention. I had to maintain laser-like focus on my goal. I would not allow anything to stand in my way.
When it came time to take the test, my heart beat fast and my breathing was steady. The test was tough. We are taught that having the right answer is not good enough, you must provide the “most right” answer in order to pass the NCLEX. This can be intimidating, but never be deterred. You have worked too hard, for too long, to give up this close to completion.
The scariest part for me was when the test completed after only 75 questions. At this point I had either failed miserably or finished strong. Then came the waiting game. It took 10 days for me to receive notice that I had passed the NCLEX.
I am now Tennikka Jones, R.N. Those two letters after my name have made all the difference in my life. If you ever feel discouraged, take hope that you are not going on this path alone. Do your part to take advantage of all of the support and coaching offered by Nightingale College. There is an NCLEX coach, make an appointment. An entire library of peer-reviewed articles is available to you. Recommit yourself to being self-guided, act as if you are a leader now, you will be called to be one as a nurse. Sacrifice a little of your life for the rest of your life. Become the nurse you were meant to be.