NCLEX: Like a Deer in the Headlights. Ch 10

Updated | Published
by Julie Reyes Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience.

I am staring at the screen. I have my finger on the mouse and scroll through the answers. I feel myself dying just a little inside as the drums start pounding in my head, and my heart marches loudly to the beat. In spite of the cold room, I am sweating. I am only on question 1.

Is NCLEX really that hard?

NCLEX: Like a Deer in the Headlights. Ch 10

I was fortunate to land a job at the children's hospital where I became a student nurse tech. I never even applied anywhere else, which is ironic, since I never wanted to work with sick kids. Yet here I am, sitting in a Pathways Program with nine other new grad nurses reviewing for the NCLEX for the next week or so. One of the girls let me use her study questions CD and we all strive to grasp essentials of nursing. The main thing I realized is that the NCLEX wanted to know if I knew everything about everything. At least, that is how I felt.

I had books, practice questions, rationales, and youtube videos all teaching me how to best prepare for the exam. I had the voice of that little Southern belle from the Hurst review sticking in my brain (I listened to her lectures over and over). We studied together, we crammed and quizzed, and then we scheduled and sat for our exam.

I present my ID to the lady at the desk in the center where I am to take my exam. I have followed, to a "T", the advice from books on what to do the day before the NCLEX. I did not study a lick, and I laid on my couch all day reading a fun book I always wanted to read but couldn't since I was too busy with school work. I glance around at the other people here taking exams for other certifications. I notice the room is about the same temperature as the Antarctic. I shiver and pull my jacket tightly around me.

I am told to stand on the "X" as my photo is taken. I am given a key and told to put my stuff in a locker. I am taken to a room with an attendant and asked to empty all of my pockets, roll up my sleeves, roll up my pant legs as they check for any evidence of cheating materials. I am taken into a room, given a pair of earphones, directed to a computer, and instructed to start when I am ready.

I enter my information and hesitate to press "enter". I hear his voice in my head - the one who said, "You aren't smart enough to be a nurse", "The only reason you have a good gpa is because you didn't go to a "real" university". What if he is right? What if I fail? I roll my eyes in an effort to see the idiocracy of his statements. I made it this far, what else is there to do but take a leap of faith?

I press "enter", and my first question appears. What makes me nervous is not being able to go back to review my answers at the end of the exam. I have to make the best choice now and then never think of that question again. I only have one shot at this question. I stare and I think about what immediately stands out at me as being wrong. I eliminate two. I am torn about the other two remaining answers. They are probably both right, but what is most right?

I take a deep breath, and click. Then submit.

Then read, exclude, deduce, decide, submit. For 75 questions I do this.

I remember, at question number ten, I thought - "Oh, hey, something I know!" Then rolled my eyes (this is getting to be a bad habit) and plunged ahead.

On question 75 I made my choice. Here is the fork in the road. If I hit enter and the exam is over, I have probably failed, but I could pass. If question 76 comes up, I still have a fighting chance. I could have a hundred more questions and have a better chance of passing, I think, so try not to be upset if the test is not over, I tell myself. I have my arrow circling the "submit" button, and I keep hesitating to press it. I sat there for minutes on end. Not so much worried about the answer for that particular question, because I knew that one...but not ready to face whatever the next screen will tell me. Not sure I can handle a blurb about the test being completed.

I push away from the screen and take a break. I am just mentally trying to prepare myself. I want to get my phone from my locker and call my husband, but really, what is he going to do? I want to call my mom, who thinks that no matter what, I am smart. I decide that is stupid, I just need to dive in. Get it over with. I place my earphones back on and hit submit.

Game over. Exam ended.

Shocked and dismayed, I am just .... embarrassed and defeated. Just 75 questions and I know I knew....ONE.

I turn in my earphones, grab my stuff from my locker, walk numbly to my car and climb in. I just started bawling. All this way - this long hard road - and I have to do this all over again?

I head home, the long drive home, and pull out my study books. (I also poured me a drink, but that is beside the point.) I highlight things that were on the exam, and make some notes. I am preparing for my next attempt already. I will not be defeated. As I study on into the night, I get a nagging feeling that there is a chance that I could have passed. I don't want to let myself think that could be true, because I don't want to be crushed, but I just can't help but hope. maybe...

At work the next day, I admit to my group that I did take the exam. I had not told anyone. One of the girls in my group had 248 questions on her exam and just found out that she failed it. She was already gearing up to retake it. Then they asked me if I tried "the tricks" to see if the BON still had me listed as a graduate nurse, or if I had tried to re-register for the exam again. These are supposed to be "tricks" that hint if you had passed or not. Apparently, you cannot re-register for the exam if you passed. I gave it a try, but was still not convinced. I could not re-register, so I had hope, but was just not convinced.

The next day, I decided to cough up the money to find out early, when the nurses in the unit kept urging me. I pulled out my credit card, and with a crew of nurses behind me (which I did not want- just in case...) I could feel my apprehension rising as I proceeded through the pages to the final one that would give me my results. The crew saw it before me and they all started cheering and patting me on the back -

I DID IT! I PASSED!!

I AM A REGISTERED NURSE!!!!!

Read the preceding chapters:

Go to Nursing School? NEVER!! Ch 1

Culture Shock & Big Girl Panties - Ch 2

Pretzels, Puppies, and Physical Assessment Ch 3

Tales from the Crypt....uh.... I mean Clinicals. Ch 4

Give me a BREAK!!!! Ch 5

RN: Judge and Jury Ch 6

Virtual Reality Ch 7

Avoid Kids at ALL Costs! Ch 8

The End of the Tunnel...Holy Cow - is that LIGHT?! Ch 9

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

44 Articles   260 Posts

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9 Comment(s)

SopranoKris, MSN, RN, APRN

Specializes in ER & Critical Care. Has 7 years experience. 3,151 Posts

Congratulations! And ending in 75 questions, you've more than likely passed, not failed. Way to go :) Mine ended at 77 questions and when I went from question 75 to 76, I got so worried that I wasn't doing well. I felt nothing but relief when it shut off at 77. Of course, then you start agonizing that maybe it wasn't good.

Wasn't that the longest 48 hours of your life? :up:

garyleenycum

garyleenycum

4 Posts

Great article! All the introspective 'self-talk' brings me back to my own testing experience! Outstanding!

Fabnurseat40

Fabnurseat40

9 Posts

Loved your post, RN!!!!

Congrats

kldepp08

71 Posts

AHHHHH!!!! I just lived this, this week!!! I sat down at the computer saying "please shut off in 75 questions." As I was going through the exam, I felt like I knew nothing and was just guessing. Get to question 75, and beg "please don't shut off now... just give me a few more questions to prove myself." SUBMIT...... BAM...... Shut off!!! I knew I failed! I kept telling myself, there is no way I could have done so bad that I bombed it in 75, but I just couldn't convince myself! I have a job riding on this... What do I do?!?!?!?

So.... I wait.... The agonizing 48 hours. Pay for the quick results (I live in MA and it takes them at least a week to post your license). I PASSED!!!! What a relief!!

So, to all of those who passed, congrats. To those who did not, try again, you can do it! And to those waiting... you got this!!!

Best of luck to you all!!!

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience. 44 Articles; 260 Posts

CONGRATS!!!!!! What an amazing feeling and what an achievement! Now go save some lives!!!!!:yes:

mrs.rn2be

mrs.rn2be

24 Posts

Congrats!! I just want to say, this post helped me tremendously. Out of all of the posts out there, I identified with this one the most before I tested.

During and after the test, I thought to myself, OMG, please don't shut off at 75, I didn't even get a chance to prove myself! Well, 75 came, I clicked next and I got the blue screen. I begged for more questions! I couldn't believe I failed NCLEX in 75! I went home, cried and sat around nauseous the rest of the morning. I finished 75 questions in an hour and 10 minutes.

This morning, I was getting ready to do the PVT, after several tries to refresh my BON website, and boom, there was my name and license number! I was so happy finding out I passed I was crying hysterically! My kids thought I was nuts, but we all had a good laugh about it! Such a wonderful feeling to know you passed!

Thank you for your post and again congrats

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience. 44 Articles; 260 Posts

mrs.rn2be said:

This morning, I was getting ready to do the PVT, after several tries to refresh my BON website, and boom, there was my name and license number! I was so happy finding out I passed I was crying hysterically! My kids thought I was nuts, but we all had a good laugh about it! Such a wonderful feeling to know you passed!

Thank you for your post and again congrats

That is awesome that you passed!!! It is one of the best feelings in the world! I love the fact that we, as nurses, have had to get where we are by our own "gumption" and drive. No one else can take the exams for us or qualify to become a nurse!!! It truly is a badge of honor!

kldepp08

71 Posts

Thanks!!!! I can't wait to begin! It still doesn't feel real. My license finally posted on my BON. It's official... I'm really a nurse!!!

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience. 44 Articles; 260 Posts

kldepp08 said:
Thanks!!!! I can't wait to begin! It still doesn't feel real. My license finally posted on my BON. It's official... I'm really a nurse!!!

That's awesome! I have an article coming out soon - "Chalk it up to Experience", on what I learned my first year in nursing. I hope you read it and maybe it will help you some!!! :D So excited for you!

kldepp08

71 Posts

I can't wait to read it!!! I'm very excited to begin my career, but so nervous as well. Any insight would be great!! Thank you so much!