How do I prepare to re-take the NCLEX after 17 years?

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Hi! I'm a middle-aged former nurse, haven't practiced in 17 years, currently exploring whether I want to try to re-enter the field. I'm not looking for advice on whether I *should* do that, but just on the practical issues of preparing to retake the NCLEX - my license is expired so under California rules I would need to retake it - and renewing my basic skills. When I look at educational programs & materials out there, everything I see is geared toward either people who have never been licensed, or people who have an *active* license now and just need CE or a skills refresher in some subject. So I'm clearly not looking in the right places, but I don't even know the right terminology for what I'm looking for. I know it's not unheard of for people to retrain and re-enter nursing after a long absence - I've worked with people who did that - unfortunately I'm no longer in touch with anyone in the field, and I've had no luck with posting general questions like this in other online forums.

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Reentering the nursing field after a long absence can be challenging but achievable. Taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) again is daunting for most of us! Congratulations on your commitment and decision to reenter the NCLEX and reinstate your license.

Nursing has changed significantly over the last 17 years, but the fundamental principles of nursing remain the same.

However, the NCLEX has changed considerably and is now called the Next Gen NCLEX. Read FAQs about Next Gen NCLEX, how it's changed, and why.

Here's a general roadmap and some tips for preparing to retake the NCLEX and renewing your basic skills:

  • Review the Next Gen NCLEX exam content and familiarize yourself with its content and format. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website offers information about the exam, including test plans and sample questions.
  • NCLEX review courses. Here's a list of CA BRN-approved review courses and refresher courses. Hopefully, you can find one near you. Look for NCLEX review courses or materials specifically designed for individuals preparing to retake the exam after a long absence. While it's true many resources are geared toward first-time test takers or those with active licenses, a review will still help you prepare for the exam.
  • Refresher courses. To address clinical skills, consider enrolling in a nursing refresher course. These programs are designed for individuals who have been out of the field for some time and need to update their skills and knowledge. Some nursing schools and community colleges offer refresher courses both online and in-person. Again, check the CA BRN's list. Refresher courses can also lead to job leads.
  • Continuing education (CE). Even though your license has expired, completing continuing education courses can help you stay updated on current practices and regulations in nursing. Look for CE courses that focus on foundational nursing concepts and skills.
  • Network with peers. Reach out to former colleagues or acquaintances in the nursing field. They may be able to provide insights and advice or even recommend specific resources for your situation. Professional nursing associations and online forums can also be valuable sources of support and information.
  • State-specific requirements. Be sure to familiarize yourself with California's specific requirements for reactivating an expired nursing license and retaking the NCLEX exam. In California, applicants who do not hold a current and active registered nurse license in another state, U.S. Territory, or Canada for more than eight years must retake the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and apply as an 8-Year Retake. Contact the California Board of Registered Nursing for guidance on the reinstatement process and any additional steps you may need to take.
  • Get a Live Scan. The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) now requires nurses to undergo a Live Scan background check as part of the licensure process. Live Scan is a system that captures fingerprints electronically, typically for criminal background checks. This will be part of your application, and the CA BRN provides instructions on making an appointment for a Live Scan.
  • Self-assessment and study plan. Assess your strengths and weaknesses in nursing knowledge and skills. Develop a study plan that targets areas for improvement and allocate time each day or week for studying and practice.
  • Stay Positive and Persistent. Reentering the nursing field after a long absence may require patience and perseverance. Stay motivated, believe in your abilities, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. With dedication and effort, you can achieve your goal of returning to nursing practice.

Remember that reentering the nursing field may take time and effort, but with the right preparation and support, you can successfully retake the NCLEX exam and renew your basic skills.

I'm excited for you! Good luck on your journey back into nursing!

Nurse Beth

I'm currently studying for the NCLEX after10 years of graduation and 8 years out of the medical field. Good luck!