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Life is a journey, not a destination. Sure, we have all heard it before and it has become a cliche in our society. There is truth in that statement though. When one road is closed (and anyone that drives in and around the Toledo area can verify this), there is always another route waiting to lead you to where you need to be. I've learned a lot over the past few years and I plan to document both the good times and the bad. Hopefully, through it all, I can help some other poor, lost, lonely soul that is wandering on the road called life.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The story of a mental meltdown... May this help other people preparing for NCLEX examination

Where to begin...

I promised to start blogging more and since my last one, I have not written anything. I know, lame. However, between graduation and last Thursday I was preparing myself to take the NCLEX exam so that I could be licensed as a nurse.

See below...

First, I would like to say... What the FUCK?!? Really!

There is honestly no amount of studying that can prepare a person to take that stop! For those of you that are unfamiliar with this exam let me explain.

You register to take this exam at the testing center of your choice. Years ago, Columbus was one of the only testing centers for people registering to be licensed in Ohio. Today, there are many choices including out-of-state, but the only one that is close is in Maumee (Ann Arbor, being the next closest...GO BLUE, but I digress).

On the day that you take your exam, you drive to the testing center you chose (by the way, your anxiety level may be in overdrive because you spent the last few years of your life preparing to have to take this exam; and, at $200 an exam you don't want to retake it) and walk into the office. A friendly person sits at a desk and gives you a number to confirm your appointment if you aren't the first person there. When it is your turn, you must present your id, turn in your cellular (or any electronic) device, place each hand on a machine that reads the veins in your hand and have your photo taken. Then you place all of your belongings in a locker. Once you have done that, another friendly person will take you into the security area where you can see everyone taking their exams both physically and on camera. The rules are explained to you in great detail and you are told that you are video taped and there is also audio so please don't read the questions out loud or you will be dismissed. Many other rules are explained, but again, if you are like me your anxiety will drown out almost everything that was said because you just want to be done with the exam. I remember hearing something about ear plugs...noise cancelling headphones...and headphones for audio questions.

You are given a sheet of laminated paper and a dry erase marker, but if you write anything on it before you begin the exam you will be dismissed. You are required to place your hand on the palm scanner again and they compare your id to the photo that was taken and ask you to verify that you are you... Honestly, I don't know how I wouldn't be me. I only walked about six feet from the front desk to the security room (directly around the corner)....It must have been done before somehow though..

Then you are walked into the actual testing area and assigned a computer. You are logged in and once again asked to verify you are you (by the same person...I swear I am still me, can we get on with this)...

You sit down, and go through the tutorial...

The NCLEX exam uses computer adaptive testing which means, based on how you answer the previous question, the computer determines your level of competency and will either continue to give you increasingly harder questions until you fuck up or will continue to give you easier questions until you can get back on track and prove you are competent. You will answer no less than 75 questions but no more than 265. You must be able to prove that you are competent enough to earn the title of Registered Nurse. You have 6 hours to take the exam and breaks are scheduled at two hours and at three and a half hours. You can also take an unscheduled break at anytime. Breaks count against your time and once you submit an answer you cannot go back and change it. Oh more thing...there are also 15 questions that are considered experimental questions. Those 15 questions are questions that may or may not be added to the question bank the next time the NCLEX is updated. Those questions don't count against you, but they also do not count for you either.

From the very first question I felt unprepared to take the exam. The questions were brutal...and anytime I got an easier question I felt defeated...I was like, wait a sec...this is just a knowledge based question, I must be doing horrible to get a knowledge based question...I was mentally beating myself up. After about an hour an a half I was ready to take a break (I had a cup of coffee that morning's a diuretic). I saw that I was about an hour and a half in and decided to wait because there was a scheduled break coming up in half an hour...then I saw what question I was on....

Oh shit...I was panicking. I was close to the 75 mark... I kept answering questions and answering questions....Then it happened. I was at 75... I hit the submit and I kept saying over and over in my head, "Please don't shut off, please don't shut off....I don't feel good about this...please don't shut off.

Once I hit the submit button after question 75, the screen changed...the test was over..and all I kept saying was, "". I took the survey to finish the exam and raised my hand to be escorted from the testing area.

Back in the little security room I was once again asked to verify who I was (Ok...seriously! I haven't moved since you sat me have me on camera....come, on!). And that was that.

By the time I got to my car, the tears were flowing. I truly felt like I failed the exam.   People always ask me if the exam is multiple choice and when I tell them yes it is...they are all like...oh. Well that's easy. Yeah, in the normal world. In NCLEX world it isn't really easy at all. There are questions in which every answer is correct, but one answer is MORE correct than the others. That's messed up! What the fuck?!? There were soooooo many select all that apply questions.

All I could think of was, "I should have actually studied more. I hadn't looked at the ATI book we got after graduation. It's a nice, compact, complete review of nursing....I glanced at it briefly to refresh lab values before the exam...I just answered a shit ton of NCLEX style questions before taking the exam.

I do have to give a huge shout out to KAPLAN. I did sign up for the KAPLAN review. I must say, it was amazing. I did not learn anything about content material or knowledge...but I learned about the world in which all NCLEX exam questions come from. See, NCLEX land is a utopia... You have all the staff you need, you have all the time in the world to take care of one patient and you have any order you need (unless the question is specifically addressing those issues). Once you learn this, it is suppose to make answering the test questions easier...okay I'm not going to didn't make answering the questions easier, but it gave me perspective on how to eliminate the right answers and focus on the most right answer....

Back to the story though since I digressed again.....

Sitting in my car at 9:44 am, trying to calm down, tears flowing...I sent a message to my mom. It read, "I don't have a good feeling about that at all. :'( 

I drove home thinking I was about to let all of my family and friends down. I know there is absolutely nothing wrong with not passing the test the first time. It happens to a lot of people. The test is hard and for many students, maybe their education didn't teach them how to answer NCLEX style questions from the get go. They may have all the knowledge in the world, but have never been trained on how to apply it. I was also thinking about how difficult the test was and how there was no amount of studying that would help me when I would have to take it again.

I finally made it home. It felt like hours had passed in the 20 minute drive home. I felt absolutely defeated. It was then that I remembered  "the trick". This trick, as explained by at least three different instructors was supposedly a foolproof way to find out immediately if you passed the exam or not. As soon as you are done taking the exam, go to the testing center website and try and re-register to take the exam again. If you pass a screen will pop up saying you are already registered for the exam and can't take it again....if you failed, it will let you re-register at that time.

I got the pop up...

As exciting as that was, my mind was racing with thoughts like, "What if this isn't real, Maybe I am the exception to the rule, blah, blah, blah"... And so it went for the next 48 hours.

After 48 hours you can pay $8 and get your unofficial speedy results. However, after talking to a fellow classmate, I discovered that if you go to the Ohio Board of Nursing website, after the 48 hours the site will be updated; and, if you have passed, you will have a license number. It made sense. Why would they issue a license number if you failed the exam?

Saturday morning, I was up before 8 am... Now then, was is 48 hours from the start time or 48 hours from the time you finished? I wasn't sure and I couldn't fall back asleep. I was like a vulture stalking a carcass on both of the websites (Well, hello anxiety! I didn't have enough of you on Thursday, why don't you come back and say howdy while I wait for my results). Each time I checked the sites, I became more and more afraid. Nothing was updating. I thought for sure I was a no go at this station. Then it happened...I was on the testing site and it said my quick results were ready. I went back to the board of nursing license number...I was right...I DID fail. I started to cry AGAIN!

By this time I heard my mom making a cup of coffee and knew she was awake. I was going to have to pay the money and find out for sure...That meant, I had to go out to the dining room table where my purse was so that I could get my debit card...SHIT!!! I had to compose myself. I had already been a wreck the last 48 hours, I didn't want anyone to see how much more of a wreck I had become.  It wasn't happening though...I was too scared and upset. The knots were twisted and something upset the butterflies because they were like a tornado whirling around inside me. I got to the dining room and my mom asked me how I was doing? All I could say was, "I don't know yet", before another deluge of tears came pouring out. I had to explain to her what was going on. She was calm..and told me to just the money and find out.

Through teary eyes I filled in my credit card info and paid the money. This is what I saw...

In that moment, a weigh was lifted, the tears dried, and I could breathe again. I walked back in the dining room, walked up to my mom and she said... "Well?". I gave her the biggest hug and was able to tell her that I passed. I chalked it up to being Saturday. Perhaps the people that update the board of nursing stuff aren't there on weekends (though they should be...don't they know how much anxiety people go through?) and I will check again on Monday to see if I have a license number. And then, I will find a job (You know...because jobby jobs just grow on job trees...or something like that).

I still have a hard time believing it. I passed with 75 questions in under two hours. WoW!!!!!

So, to all my friends that still need to take the test... Stop studying.... it isn't going to help. Learn HOW to take the test, and answer lots and lots of NCLEX questions. If you don't have the content by now, don't worry...Are you going to get every question right? Hell No. If you do, you aren't

Good luck. I won't sugar coat it. It is the MOST brutal test I have ever taken and those 48 hours seem like an eternity. But...after it is is such a great feeling. I was on cloud nine the rest of the day (and still am).

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