It all comes down to the last exam of the quarter, the last one that matters at least. There's something to be said when there's a 10% difference in your lowest average score and the next lowest. I remember my first thought when the test landed in front of me, "This is it, the apex of my quarter. The singular point in my history that I may look back at and either be filled with regret or wonder why I ever worried." (Maybe not so eloquent as that: it might have possibly been, "AGH, I DON'T KNOW ENOUGH AND I'M GOING TO FLUNK THIS STUPID TEST THEN FAIL OUT OF SCHOOL! WHY DID I EVER THINK I'D BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR NURSING SCHOOL???")
The feeling continued through the first page, onto the first few questions of the next and then with the scratch of #2's on scantrons and the occasional cough into a sleeve, I felt myself gradually slip into my comfortable test-taking mode. It was reassuring to know the material backwards and forwards, to uncover the question behind the question and really understand the importance of themes in nursing. ABCs. Maslow. MONA. Basics about how diseases, I's & O's and medications will affect the fluid and blood pressure of a patient
I studied the textbook, online resources, practice questions, everything I thought might help but was still unsure how I might fare as I abruptly flipped the final page and with an anticlimactic finish, it was over.
I knew the information, but many times knowing isn't enough. Being book-smart is great but it takes a certain kind of student, a certain kind of person to be nurse-smart. Take the knowledge from A&P, from the textbook, from clinicals, and then understand what is most important to pay attention to; the "most correct" answer. That's what separates a great nursing student from a mediocre one, or one that never makes it to the NCLEX.
I did end up passing the class with my 82%, just over 2% shy of a failing grade and a drastically different future. I was prepared for either outcome; mentally composing a message to my cohort with encouragement and camaraderie. Preparing to lift their spirits as I would have wanted someone in that position to lift my own. There were three in my cohort that probably needed it.
I prayed a lot those couple of days. Not just that I would pass, but that God would allow me to be content with whatever outcome He had for me. The thing about believing in a true Sovereign is that we may present our requests to Him with fear and trembling, but He will ultimately know the best outcome for us-the outcome that will bring the most glory to Him.
I honestly prepared myself for what it would mean to me, mean to my family to be held back a quarter. To have my first out of two strikes against me, graduate 6 months later than I planned, and struggle with the knowledge that had I been a better student, I would not be in this position. The line between my responsibility and His omnipotence is a fine one.
The situation I found myself in was ultimately one of my own creation. I let myself slack off to an impressive degree over my three weeks off for break and as a result sort of limped into the start of the quarter. My resolve during first quarter to not play a single game on my phone did not carry on to the second and as a result I allowed my study-breaks not only be stretched to unreasonable lengths but be so mindless that I was hindering my actual study time.
I write this as an encouragement and a caution. I allowed myself to begin the quarter with distractions and struggled, limped along with those distractions until the completion of the quarter.
From my mistakes, I caution current and future nursing students. Work as little as you need to and take out loans if necessary. With dedication and that higher paycheck, they will be paid back in a timely manner. You may think you're smart enough to carry on a full workload (I know the thought crossed my mind several times) but it's not worth risking failing out of a quarter or out of school completely. You'll find that scenario to be more costly in the long run.
Spend time with family and friends but understand that it will be limited, and above all, designate that time. If you are only half-paying attention to both your family and studies all the time then you won't do well at either. It may be that you have to remove yourself from your textbook or notes during the time from family and it might be that you need to remove yourself (physically) from the presence of your family.
Have an office? Use it. Library close by? Coffee shop (that you aren't distracted by)? Take advantage of those spaces but let your family know that when you are present physically with them, you are also present mentally.
And the caution I wish I would have heeded the most: know your most powerful distraction or distractions, and if at all possible, eliminate those distraction completely (at least until you pass the NCLEX). If you need breaks-scratch that-WHEN you need breaks, watch a TV show with someone you love. Read a magazine that's easy to put down. Go for a hike with friends or family. Exercise. Don't binge watch a show, try to do homework while watching a movie, or say, "oh just one more game."
From one future-nurse to another: know that this time in your life is going to be difficult but also know that if you allow it, it will whittle away unproductive character flaws that may still be clinging to you. This school isn't just about being the smartest in your class, that's only one aspect of it. Allow the flames of school to harden your resolve and craft you into an excellent nurse. And be sure to take precautions to prevent yourself from getting burned.