NCLEX Studying is Making Me Wish I Never Graduated

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    An article I'm spontaneously writing for the contest in the library because I'm exhausted of studying for Boards. It's a reflection on my experience in a two-year ADN program, as I'm seeing it now, a few days out from my NCLEX.

    NCLEX Studying is Making Me Wish I Never Graduated

    It's almost three weeks past my graduation from nursing school, and I'm still fielding questions as to why I can't come out and play. Yes, I'm still studying. No, I can't tell you when my NCLEX is; I've heard it's bad luck. I swear, that's just what they tell me. I'm moderately surprised that my friends still ask me to go places. For almost the last two years, they've asked me when I'm free, and I've told them "May 2018." I didn't realize--until I got there--that graduation was more of a beginning than an end.

    To be honest, I didn't realize I was going to graduate until the day before I did. I tanked my grade in March, which is more or less my least favorite month of the year. It's like the Wednesday of months, where I live. There's so much rain, and you're just in the center of some imperceptible gloom, waiting for things to happen. As it turned out, I did a bit more sitting around and waiting than I needed to--and my average was suddenly six points below passing. All my professors were worried--even the ones from first year that I thought wouldn't check in on me anymore. Boy, was I wrong. It turned out that, shockingly, almost everyone I knew cared about my success. Sometimes people asked if there were any distractions in my personal life. It turned out that the distraction was that I was trying so hard not to have a personal life.

    I had to kick my motivation into high gear in April--"Save Your Grade" Month--and I found out some things about myself along the way. I realized that I had to exist as a human being in order to pass. The problem was not the type of studying I'd done before. Lack of confidence, that was my dilemma. I cut back caffeine before test days, religiously following a routine including sleep, tea, and breakfast. For anxiety, I tried meditation where some others might go for medication. No judgment, either way. It turned out that I made it, skating by with a point or two above passing average. I think we all get through nursing school the best way we can--and try not to look back too extensively when it's over.

    You see, I think that's my problem now. I keep looking over my left shoulder. Sometimes one of my best friends has dreams that her grade was never submitted for a biology class, and they won't let her walk at the pinning ceremony. I think I'm having that dream, too, but I'm awake. Here I am, overly caffeinated and in the library, on the campus I don't belong to anymore. This morning, I tried my very best to avoid anyone I knew--and failed. I saw an ADN student in uniform on the elevator, headed to clinical orientation. I asked him how he was doing. His response? "How do you think I am? I'm in nursing school." I almost smiled, idly wondering how many times I'd said that. He asked me why I was here, so I had to calmly explain about the NCLEX one more time. Once I graduated, studying wasn't over.

    Maybe it won't ever be over. I imagine myself poring over the textbooks in the break room at my new job, trying to figure out what type of acid-base imbalance my patient has. I hope I never forget my ABG's, but I've recently found out my brain has a limited capacity. For example, weeks ago, I caught myself referring to the refrigerator as "large kitchen box that makes things cold". There was too much nursing information in there to keep up with regular vocabulary any longer. Some sacrifices simply need to be made, I suppose. My brain is awfully full. I found myself Googling what scores I need on the Kaplan QBank in order to be confident I can pass the NCLEX-RN. I'm sure I was told during the review course, but I can't dredge up that information today. To you, dear reader, I ask: How's a 65 on Kaplan? What do you think about an 80 on the NCSBN Learning Extension review question bank? I'm in no way advertising these products. I just bought what I had money for, and I'm hoping for the best.

    "Hope for the best" is part of my motto. The other half is a bit less optimistic: "prepare for the worst." Indeed, I don't think I'll ever truly feel prepared. For the NCLEX, for orienting as a new graduate nurse... Isn't that, at least conceptually, part of the beauty and joy of nursing? Every day, I wake up and I log a mental to-do list of what needs to happen. Sometimes, I only complete the most essential items. Other times, I need a completely new list. I wouldn't know the first thing about being a real-world nurse, but my mental list just feels a little too close to prioritization in my everyday life. Nursing school has truly permeated every fiber of my being. When I made an (exceedingly short) speech as class leader during the pinning ceremony, one of my key points was that the experience of the past two years has fundamentally changed who I am. I am grateful for that today.

    But I swear to you, sometimes I wish I never graduated. I don't mean that as if I regret a single day of the past two years. No. I put my blood, sweat, and tears into that program. Yes, even tears--although I joke to all my favorite people that I physiologically cannot cry, I want to make you all aware that it's not always true. It's just that soon, if all goes well, I'll tentatively be making a foray into the real world. I never realized I was in a bubble, protected, during my days as a student. Indeed, it was difficult to realize how safe I was until I had to step out of it.

    I stepped out on May 9, 2018. After pinning, I had to first confront the fact that the ceremony had been real. There were pictures; my aunt even made me a poster with quotes from the speech I'd made. They really did let me walk. My school pin is in my bedroom, hanging on my wall from a length of ribbon. My grade, in the books, really was a passing grade. A diploma is coming in the mail. (After helping to plan pinning for about a year, I didn't want to attend commencement as well--it was overwhelming to me.) For a few days, I had to try to confront the person I might have become if I'd never been to nursing school. I found that I did still have an identity outside of that. Yes, I'm a human being! I love the beach, but not sand. I do enjoy making art. Talking to people is the bright spot of my day.

    So I'm human, and not a machine without emotions. That was something huge to come to terms with after nursing school. Not only a human, but a grieving human. I scarcely believed that I could grieve about a change in my life. Visualize Kubler-Ross' stages of grief in action--first, I experienced that pervasive denial. I was taught that not everyone experiences the stages in order, but I certainly did. I'll let the reader decide whether this article constitutes bargaining or acceptance. Certainly, it's helped me solidify my feelings about what I consider the greatest achievement of my life. How I wish I had appreciated the lifelong friends I made in that program! It was challenging, yes, but I miss it now with a certain detached fondness. Yet, as I've stated, my pinning ceremony was the beginning of the rest of my life. I can't keep mistaking it for an end, as such.

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    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About masonicus, ADN, RN

    My name is Mason; I was a class leader who helped plan the pinning ceremony at my community college. I graduated 2018 with my ADN, and my grades were as average as they come. Despite everything, I love what I do and who I'm becoming.

    Joined: Jul '17; Posts: 32; Likes: 30

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    8 Comments

  3. by   Have Nurse
    I love this story. Let me offer you some edification and encouragement. We all understand your journey and when you get a chance to land that first nursing job, (if you haven't already,) it will be an adventure. Yes, we are always learning.....Well done!!!
  4. by   masonicus
    Thank you! I have been blessed with a med-surg offer from the local hospital. I took the NCLEX today and it shut off in 75!
  5. by   godsent23
    Great read! Very similar to what I am feeling. I am scheduled to NCLEX on July 3rd, however I am freaking out. I know that I'll never know everything on the test, but I am wondering if a month is enough time to actually prepare?! I have taken a Kaplan review (hated it), in the process of doing Hurst, and I purchased Uworld. Any thoughts/advice??
  6. by   medic2LPN
    I can completely relate to your situation. Myself also graduated from my ADN program in May 2018. I was fortunate enough to be a paramedic prior to getting into the nursing program which luckily had a paramedic to nurse bridge which lasted roughly six months. After the completion of that program we were able to take the NCLEX-PN examination, which I did. I am scheduled to take my examination on the 7th of June at 0800. Just like everyone else taking the examination have been freaking out. I purchased UWorld just prior to graduation but didn't really do much with it until 2.5 weeks ago. I have 400 questions left in the Qbank and only have a 67% overall total. I had taken my first self assessment right after graduation just to see where I was currently sitting. At that time I scored in the "very high" chance of passing (in the 85th percentile). It was nice to see where I was but that score wasn't good enough for me. I have been doing 150-175 questions/day. I took my last self assessment last evening and again obtained a "very high" chance of passing but was now ranked in the 92nd percentile. I know I shouldn't have the nervousness/anxiety that I do considering I have taken numerous PearsonVue examinations including the NCLEX-PN but like everyone else says, you don't know what they are going to ask you. Let me know how it all turns out. Godsent23 how are you doing in Uworld?
  7. by   peanutbaby123
    I felt exactly the same way with school. I JUST got by with my grades. We had our final exam less than a week before graduation and I was almost shocked that I passed, thus passing nursing school all together. I NEEDED that last passing 78-80 something to survive it. I was surprised when some other students (that seemed so confident in school and clinicals) didn't show up for graduation because they had failed the last test. There is so much pressure to not only pass school but also the NCLEX that it is completely unnerving. I don't know if you have a job yet but I had a graduate nurse job lined up right away after graduation. I knew that I wasn't ready for the NCLEX and needed a couple months to sort my brain out and absorb information from my new job. Once I got training and working with a nurse on my new unit everything that I learned in school clicked for me... the A&P, the labs, the meds, the actions taken in emergencies, all of it. The further I got from the text books during school (and cramming for tests) the more I understood because it was being applied in real life without the clinical instructor staring over my shoulder. I had a great nurse to help train me but I feel like the short bit of experience is what really helped me pass the NCLEX the first time. Don't get me wrong I still studied for my NCLEX like crazy after graduation but I found some questions that I got on my NCLEX were things that I had some sort of experience with on the tele/med surg unit that I was training on which gave me more confidence. I had 76 questions on my NCLEX before it turned off. I took my NCLEX in August. If there is any way for you to get that kind of real world experience before hand then I would try if your feeling unsure.
  8. by   masonicus
    Quote from godsent23
    Great read! Very similar to what I am feeling. I am scheduled to NCLEX on July 3rd, however I am freaking out. I know that I'll never know everything on the test, but I am wondering if a month is enough time to actually prepare?! I have taken a Kaplan review (hated it), in the process of doing Hurst, and I purchased Uworld. Any thoughts/advice??
    I never said I liked Kaplan... Some people swear by Hurst. I found out today that I passed the NCLEX with using basically just the NCSBN review and a sprinkle of Kaplan. I think it's about knowing yourself and your strengths to see what sort of studying fits you. I gave myself exactly three weeks between graduation and the NCLEX.
    Last edit by masonicus on Jun 2
  9. by   lsimilien04
    Hi there,
    I totally agree with you. I also had to learn the hard way!!! Completing nursing school to me is just the beginning and I learned the hard way. I was a B average student in school and once u completed the program I thought the NCLEX would be a breeze . That was not the case at all. I've already failed this test twice. And it didn't take me long to realize that what I've learned in nursing school is not half of what I need to pass the NCLEX! I found myself studying all over again as if I was still in nursing school. You're right it's impossible to know everything for the NCLEX, but I struggled with the questions that were being thrown at me!!! I've tried UWORLD, Kaplan, Mark K. Review, hurst , Ascencia, and Helen Fuerer with no prevail!! I feel as if I have no life anymore! This preparation has taken over my entire life!!! I don't know about you,
    But I'm a VERY DETERMINED person! Yes I felt depressed the last two times I took the NCKEX, but I've been able to pray about it and move on ! I need to do this if this is the last thing I do, and now I've been studying for the past month I'd say wig the help of an on line tutor! We're using Saunders, which I love because of the content. My tutor predicts that I can sit for my boards again in July! So I'm waiting for ATT! I will be looking forward to it! Good luck !
  10. by   AngelKissed857
    Saunders for content review, Lacharity for delegation (and there is a lot), and UWorld- you'll be golden.

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