Yes, those rumors drive me crazy, also. By the time you have finished pre-reqs at my school you are absolutely convinced that the professors are going to eat you, the Clinical Instructors never pass anybody, the other students are terribly rude, and the schedule is so crazy that nobody ever has time to sleep.
I have found it to be exactly the opposite. The schedule isn't nearly as demanding as the rumors had it, the other students are all really helpful, the Clinical Instructors are great, and the professors are really helpful. Yes, it is hard to pass nursing school, but complaining about it never made it any easier! Also, at our school most of the complainers were the ones who either dropped out or failed out of nursing and went on to other degrees.
Even now that I'm actually taking nursing classes, it's still the same. One of my first days in class another student came who had flunked out the semester before and told our study group a horror story about one of the instructors who teaches both theory and clinical. Now, in my personal opinion she has a personality issue with that instructor, but she is convinced that the instructor is the problem. After it became obvious that she wasn't going to talk about anything else despite our best efforts to change the subject, I left. Mind you, I had sat there listening to her for almost an hour, which time I could have put to much more profitable use. Some of the others from that study group still have a grudge against that instructor!! Which is wrong, because the instructor in question is a great instructor and does everything in his power to help you pass the class. Sorry for the rant, back to the subject at hand!
I just try to ignore all the gossip that goes around. Most of the time the truth is the exact opposite from what the rumor is, or at the very least the rumor is a very one-sided contorted view of the truth. I don't think anybody should ever need to know about my personal problems with some instructor/test/class. Now, if some professor really hates it when you do such and such, or really likes it when you answer essay questions a certain way, I don't mind having that knowledge. But, if in the process of telling me that you feed me a contorted view of the instructor, I don't want to hear about it! Before I actually got done with my pre-reqs and started NS, I just tried to let the stories roll off my back, and take an objective look at the facts for myself. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out the real NS situation!
As far as at exam time, could you try coming in with or after the instructor? My professors are usually at least 15 mins early, especially on exam days, which really cuts down on gossip and chatter the morning of the exam.
You certainly have my full sympathy in this matter! Maybe we should start the Nursing students against gossip club...
Edited to fix spelling