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Should I Chase My Pipe Dream or Give Up?

Nurse Beth   (442 Views 4 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

356 Likes; 10 Followers; 82 Articles; 224,892 Visitors; 1,694 Posts


Dear Nurse Beth,

I failed RN program twice at same school, both times in clinical rotation. 

First time was in 1991, Advanced Med-Surg, then after picking myself up and having to wait another year until that class rolled around, I attempted it again, passing all the required skill check offs again, repeating the associated academic class although I had a high B grade with GPA of 3.8 prior to the failure. I was successful without any issues at all, in fact my instructor was impressed with my skills and ability to apply theory to clinical setting. I then progressed to the next quarter, Psych Nursing which I excelled at both clinically and academically. Then proceeded with Maternal Nursing, I had high B academically and was seemingly doing good in clinical, no needs improvement in any area, but then at clinical review, I was told I was being failed. 

Honestly it was so long ago and I was in such a state of shock, I can't even remember the specifics, it was after a vaginal delivery without complications and the patient was in the wheelchair, alert and talking, voicing no complaints. I asked if she wanted to get back into bed and she declined. It was at end of clinical training day and I was to get changed and meet professor and classmates for post clinical review. The clinical instructor and other staff had left the room and I was the only one with the patient. I stayed in room with her until a nurse or CNA came into the room, then explained that I needed to go. It was my understanding that the nurse or CNA, I can't recall, was ok with my leaving. 

I was not assisting with the birth only an observer, however, I did give a brief report of patient's status and left. The next day, I went to clinical rotation and was told I had been failed because I left the patient unattended which was a safety issue. I appealed the decision and although one of my previous clinical instructors said she would vote in my favor, she sided with the other 5 instructors on the panel. 

 As you can imagine, I was sick to my stomach. I bawled my eyes out for hours, depressed for days & weeks. All that money gone, all those classes wasted. I had 5 children at the time, so I just did my best to put it behind me. In 1996, I decided to apply to LPN school and was successful. It was 15 month program but I only had to do 12 months. It was on quarter system. I made all A 's in academics and 3 A's and 1 B in clinical. I have been an LPN since 1997 but I have a hunger to be an RN

I have had to work full time so going back to school wasn't a possibility, but now that my kids are grown and I can work part time, I have been craving going back. I'm 62 though so I don't know if I have what it takes. I know I am smart but with nursing school clinical grading being pass/fail, it freaks me out. 

 Maybe I am just not cut out to be an R.N.  I don't even know if I can get accepted since I failed out of nursing school twice. Are all R.N. program clinicals pass/fail? I understand how critical it is for students to be able to apply theory to clinical situations but the pass/fail is so black & white. As an LPN, I did the same job as my R.N. coworkers except hang blood, and do admission assessments so why was my LPN clinicals graded and not pass/fail? Does Board of Nursing determine this or the school? I am thinking that things might be better now, as there are simulators that students get to work with prior to clinical rotation that can help build my confidence in clinical rotation.

Do you think that I would be able to work as an R.N. due to my age which would be around 65 when I graduated. Am I just chasing a pipe dream. My goal isn't to stay in clinical nursing. I did UR for 8 years in managed care and want to purse case management or advice nurse but every job I see requires an R.N., even the same job I did for 8 years at UHC, which I got laid off from in 2013. Thanks for reading. Sorry so long.

Dear Should I Try Again,

So to follow...in:

  • 1991 you failed the RN program, reason not given
  • 1992 you failed again in the same program for leaving a patient unattended, although according to you, the patient was attended
  • 1997 you earned your LPN with no problem

As to whether you are eligible for an RN program, you may be. You failed over 2 decades ago, and have successfully practiced as an LPN for over 20 years. Each school has its own admission criteria, and you will have to talk with Admissions in the school you plan to apply to. However, you could be asked about failing, and the explanation you provide (no fault on your part) may work against you.

Most undergraduate nursing programs are pass/fail in clinicals, and while it's understandable that memory still affects you, you are a different person this time around after over 20 years of clinical experience. 

Your age is a challenge because while schools cannot discriminate, it's hard to prove age discrimination. After graduation, you would need to work bedside for at least 2 years as an RN before you would be eligible for most non-clinical roles, such as case management. You will be facing competition from younger applicants.

It's not impossible if you have extraordinary drive and passion to be an RN. Otherwise it's important to come to peace with your regrets and put it behind you.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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1,120 Likes; 7 Followers; 21,279 Visitors; 2,691 Posts

Dear Should I Try Again,

It makes sense that you would still desire to fulfill your original goal/dream, especially given the way you experienced the disappointments (questions left unanswered, lack of closure, etc).

I have a lot of working years left, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. (Plus, I am overly practical and not a risk-taker - - just so you know what kind of advice you're getting here!)

You have successfully worked as a nurse for 20+ years now. That should count for something in your mind, because it does count for something.

You are talking about a significant financial investment and moreover this still the same blood/sweat/tears/ripping-your-hair-out/hoop-jumping ordeal it has always been, and whether you are "too old" in actuality or not, it is difficult to imagine that you won't come up against some kind of discrimination/inordinate scrutiny, etc. Since I am not a risk-taker it is likely not a financial and sanity risk I would take.

Only you can work through your feelings on this, but my suggestion is - don't do it just to prove something or to try to right some wrong. You have successfully worked as a nurse all of these years while raising your family and no doubt made positive contributions to the world in plenty of other ways, too. These are life accomplishments that should legitimately allow you the emotional freedom to come to peace with past regrets (like Nurse Beth mentioned).




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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

48 Likes; 14,309 Visitors; 995 Posts

How long do you plan to work?  You'll be 65 when you graduate, would it really be worth investing so much time and money into a RN program?  I went from LPN to RN, graduated at 40 and found myself starting all over as a new grad.  My LPN experience meant little to nothing to the RN recruiters.  Heck, I didn't even make much more money than before.

I will say that since I don't know you, I can't say what is best for you and your situation.  Maybe you have time and money to burn.  Maybe failing RN school previously just made you feel that you need to conquer it for a sense of accomplishment?  Not to be rude, but I really don't see you being able to build a real world RN career at your age.  

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2 Likes; 701 Visitors; 26 Posts

I’ve applied to graduate school and in March I’ll find out if I’m accepted. If so, I’ll start in May and by the time I graduate I’ll be 61 ys old! I was on the fence for awhile but retirement isn’t in my future unless my mind or body gives out! I say go for it! Good luck! 🍀 

Edited by virgogirl

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