The Ultimate Guide to Nursing School

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Like any of the other posts that I’ve published in the past, nursing school is one of the toughest professions out there. Supposedly... there is a mythical passing rate of 50% for nursing students. There is no reference to help support my previous statement, however, I've come across surprising numbers. A graduating nurse reported to me that their nursing program started out with 125 students and only 55 graduated! Those numbers are significant and understanding why those numbers exist is critical when entering the program.

I’ve also stated in the past that nursing school was a tough journey for me as well. There has been several times when I questioned and doubted myself. There also has been times when I felt like I wanted to quit. But I knew if I worked and study hard, and put all of my effort into nursing school, it would be the biggest and most rewarding accomplishment I would ever experience.

If I look back at nursing school, one of the hardest things for me was finding resources. I would frequently log into Pinterest and try to find some nursing guide to help me throughout struggles and I would find none. Because of my struggles and the lack of resources, I decided to come up with the ultimate guide to surviving nursing school!

Getting Into Nursing School

Retention rate 

Percentage of students who are still enrolled or have graduated one year after enrollment:

  • BSN: almost 90% (2006-2007)*
  • ADN: about 80% (2006-2007)*
  • 2-year institution: about 65% (2006)*
  • 4-year institution: about 75% (2006)*

These statistics aren't that bad, right? These rates to me conclude that there are more students that stick it through the program than drop out and quit.

Competition

How competitive is nursing school? Too competitive. But understanding why is also important. Nursing is competitive because of the type of education being taught and the limited amount of space available. Honestly, I only remember the basics of what it took for me to get into nursing school so I had a co-worker/friend, Andrew Burkart, who is an aspiring nurse fellow who recently applied to various nursing programs, help me tremendously to write up the admission process. **Be mindful that we both live in the DMV area.**

Along with his advice and my further research, we have included the following recommendations to be current as possible. With that being said, there are various things to be mindful of before you apply:

  • Competitie GPA:

Andrew emphasizes the need for good grades. Most nursing schools have a minimum requirement GPA of 3.0 in science courses. To be in good-standing with the rest of the competition, it would be ideal to have an overall GPA above 3.5. 

  • In-county status:

For those who are applying for their Associate Degree of Nursing, this may not be a written requirement, but in-county status may be a factor as well. If you live in a county where the community college resides and you do not qualify for their in-county tuition, that means you will be on the low priority list to be considered. For instance, if I live in Prince George's County, I have a higher chance of getting into to Prince George's Community College rather than getting into any other college. Hopefully, that makes sense.

  • Competitive TEAS score: 

Keep reading!

Entrance exams

  • TEAS:

TEAS stands for Test of Essential Academic Skills. It is a test that nursing programs use to be considered for admission. The higher the score, the better... and in turn increases your likelihood of being considered for the program.

I did not have to take this test when I applied so I do not know what the TEAS are like. However, I have partnered with JobTestPrep.com to be able to provide you offers and deals to help you prepare for this exam. I have personally reviewed their products and I believe that you would highly benefit with their study tools.

Signup with Job Test Prep!


Preparing For Nursing School

Are you ready?

Read my articles on what to expect in nursing school and what nursing school did not warn me about.

Scrubs

  • Be mindful of your institution's policy through your own student handbook. 
  • If you're an amazon shopper, here are some scrub brands that are affordable and fashionable. These are my go-to brands because of their fit and style:

Grey's Anatomy

Healing Hands By Purple Label

Jaanuu

A little bit more pricier... but these scrubs are to die for! It's re-imagined, modern-inspired scrub.

Stethoscope:

Littmann and MDF


Surviving Nursing School

Plan

  • Get organized!:
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Get a planner and note your due and exam dates! It may be also beneficial to get a two separate bags: one for lecture and one for clinical. Make sure you have all your supplies ready for whatever you have ahead of you.

  • Be on time!
  • Try to not miss any dates for either lecture and clinical. It's hard to make these days.

Exams

  • Nursing exams are different from what you're used to. 

When I say 'different', I mean that nursing exam questions are not designed to be concrete. You're probably used to exam questions to have one answer. Nursing exam questions require you to know your content and know how to apply that information into patient scenarios.

For example... a typical Human Anatomy Exam Question will be: "The pituitary gland secretes what kinds of hormones?".. then you pick A, B, C, or D and only one can be right.

BUT a Nursing Exam Question may look like this: "The nurse walks into a patient's room to find the patient's trash can on fire and the patient is sitting on the chair across the room. What is the nurse's best action at this time? 

A. Pull the fire alarm

B. Remove the patient from the room

C. Pull the fire alarm and get the fire extinguisher.

D. Confine the fire by closing all the doors and windows."

All of these answers look correct, right? But if you've learned the content about RACE (Remove the patient from the area, Alarm the sound, Confine the fire by closing all the doors and windows, and Extinguish/Evacuate) you would be able to direct to the right answer, which is B. 

  • Practice, practice, practice, practice! QUESTIONS!

Buy Success books for Q & A!

Lectures

  • Record your lectures and listen to them while you're driving or doing errands
  • Print out material
  • Reinforce your notes by re-writing or re-typing your notes (I prefer typing)
  • Know your material before entering the class (Reinforcing your notes)
  • Join study groups
  • Study by yourself and test yourself!

Clinicals

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Going to your clinical site can be quite overwhelming.  For those of you who are just beginning your nursing school years, each institution has a requirement amount of clinical hours, where each student will have to attend a specific facility to follow a staff member (either a Registered Nurse [RN] or a Certified Nursing Assistant [CNA]) and learn under them.

A clinical site can vary according to your lecture or theory class. This means that if your lecture is about the Medical-Surgical specialty, your clinical site will probably be at a hospital setting at a medical-surgical unit. The amount of hours for each clinical specialty can vary according to your institution. For instance, our psychiatric clinical rotation required us to complete much less hours than our medical-surgical rotation.

Articles: 


Graduation

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  1. Apply for graduation/NCLEX (mid-semester)
  2. Purchase cap and gown (mid-late semester)
  3. Make sure you pass! (end of semester)
  4. Buy cap decorations (1 week after finals)
  5. Take grad pics (1 week after finals)
  6. Create & design invites (1 week after finals)
  7. Make an invite list & send invites (1 week after finals)
  8. Party Ideas (can be done whenever)
  9. Purchase dress and shoes (1 week before graduation)
  10. Graduate & Party time! (graduation date)
  • Apply for graduation/NCLEX - Every school usually has their own due date on when to submit an application for graduation. Ours was in the middle of the semester, which was nerve wrecking since we were all still trying to pass this one last class. But make sure to submit yours by their due date and when approved, make sure you get a copy! Some institutions help with the process of applying for the NCLEX. My institution provided us with the Board of Nursing applications, we filled it out and they submitted it for us. This also has a due date before the semester ends. They don't send the applications until after graduation date.
  • Purchase cap and gown - This was also offered early, way before graduation date as well. I'm not sure how early other institutions are, but I know this process can be intimidating to complete. I say that because some people do not want to purchase a cap and gown until they're sure that they passed the class. But during this process, positivity is so important. I would purchase the cap and gown regardless of an unknown outcome, unless you have solid evidence that passing is inevitable. Some institutions may even run out of stock so whenever available, be positive, know you will graduate, and purchase your cap and gown! :)
  • Make sure you pass! - If you don't pass, unfortunately there will be no graduation.
  • Buy cap decorations and decorate - Usually done in the end, when it is definite that you will be graduating. Go on Pinterest for inspiration and start decorating yours!
  • Take grad pics - This is optional. I chose to do it with the help of my brother. It's something fun to do. I used my grad pics for my invitations.
  • Create & design invites - My institution provided cards where we can print our invites with their logo embedded on it. But you can get creative and make your own!
  • Make a list & send invites - start sending!
  • Party ideas - I used Pinterest to help me plan mine. 
  • Purchase dress and shoes
  • Graduate! & Party! - go and walk! Don't forget to party!

Now for the NCLEX...

If you read the first step of the nursing graduation list, you will see that it's NCLEX time. Whether or not your institution helped with the application process, you have to apply to take the NCLEX through the Board of Nursing. You have to fill out the application process and make sure that you have everything you need according to the state that you're applying to. Once submitted, follow up with the Board of Nursing. If your school sent out the applications for you,  follow up with the school and then the Board of Nursing. Once the Board of Nursing has confirmed that they have received it, give them 4-5 days to process the application. Within 1-2 weeks, you will receive your ATT (Authorization To Test) code via e-mail. Once you get this code, follow their directions and schedule your NCLEX date whenever you're ready to take it.


Understanding the NCLEX

NCLEX is the be-all of becoming a nurse. This is ultimately what you are studying for during nursing school.

What is NCLEX:

  • NCLEX short for the National Council Licensure Examination that is mandated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). ***
  • It is a 75-256 exam question that is based on computerized-adaptive testing (CAT)

How does that work? When you answer a question right, it only gets harder. Not very motivating, huh? It reads how well you answered the first question and then delivers a second question that gives you a 50% chance of getting the answer right. It is thought to become easier once the computer recognizes your ability to answer the question.

  • The computer will shut off once you are done. Some people stop at the minimum of 75 questions, some take the whole 256 questions! (Like me)
  • The computer will shut off once you reached the maximum amount of hours. You have 6 hours to complete the exam.
  • Pass/Fail:
 You can daily with 75 questions if you're below the pass line. You could pass with 191 questions... you'll just never know.

You can daily with 75 questions if you're below the pass line. You could pass with 191 questions... you'll just never know.

Let me end the myths here now.

Just because your test closed at 75 questions does not mean you did soooo good that you passed the test. This could also mean you failed. 

Just because your test closed at 256 questions does not mean you did sooo horrible that you failed the test. This could also mean you passed! (Take it from me). 

 

How to tackle the nclex:

A lot of students do this differently... some like to take the test as soon as possible so that the information is fresh in their mind. This is true, however, this always does not work on people's favor. I'll explain why.

First...

Sign up for NCLEX-RN Fast Prep by Brilliant Nurse!

#1 in Nursing Test Prep - Houston Chronicle.

It is a 30-day program and you'll have access to daily test prep and practice assignments. If you sign up with the link below, you will get a 20% off for this NCLEX plan for only $60!

If you're interested on their 3 month program, use the coupon 'dlmjourney' and get 20% off!

Why Brilliant Nurse? Simple. Their philosophy "is to engage students in active learning using practice assignments, detailed answer rationales and clear case studies to have the readiness needed on exam day (Brilliant Nurse, 2018)."

You need to train yourself to be able to answer 256 questions a day. This is the ultimate goal.

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  • Set out for a month to take your test from the day that you get your Authorization To Test (ATT).
  • Practice questions. Refer to the schedule to the right if necessary.
  • Read rationales and understand.

Tips:

  • Medications are mentioned in generic form only.
  • For calculations, you may be asked to record with decimals.
  • Don't forget to round calculations if indicated.
  • Study content sparingly. Studying too much content and not applying the content into NCLEX questions will not help.

Articles:


References:

  • *National Nursing League: http://www.nln.org/newsroom/nursing-education-statistics
  • **Andrew Burkart: an aspiring nursing fellow (Instagram: @andrewburkart)
  • ***National Council of State Boards of Nursing: https://ncsbn.org/nclex.htm
  • There are various affiliate links and partnerships above that I get paid for, but I have personally used them and/or highly recommend them.
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