I have gotten out of practice of posting to this blog. I graduated as planned in December. I then progressed to worrying about and studying for the NCLEX. I did not take an NCLEX prep class because I was confident that I could pass it without it and I was feeling financially stressed enough without spending $400 for one of those classes. I took the test the second week in January. I used Kaplan’s NCLEX-RN Strategies, Practice and Review to prepare for test-taking strategies and Exam Cram NCLEX-RN to review content. I felt like I had barely gotten started taking the test when the blue screen of death appeared on the screen and my test was over. The test had shut down at the minimum number of questions which is 75. Later that day by checking the status of my application for the RN license at the site for my state’s board of nursing, I learned I had passed. Also that day I was offered a job at a physical rehabilitation hospital. I start next week.
The semester is already on the downhill slide and I have yet to post anything. The class I am taking now, advanced medical-surgical nursing, has the reputation of being the most difficult class of all. It is definitely demanding. Right from the start I buried myself in my studies and in completing the obligatory theory maps (which are basically care plans plus the theory behind a specific disorder). I think the first one took me nearly 20 hours to complete. I got considerably faster at getting these done. Even still, I found it impossible to get one done in a single day. This was always my goal since I really hated doing these. We were assigned six of these and I am happy to report that I have completed them all. Not only that, but I have taken enough tests to firmly establish a solid “A” in the class.
While distracted by all this studying I lost sight of the bigger picture; I am graduating in about six weeks and I should be job seeking. I took the week-end off from studying and starting devoting time to looking for a job. I had not even done the background work like revising my resume and writing model cover letters. My resume is now revised. It is only 1 page long which I hear is what it needs to be and it includes important details like licensing and certifications that I somehow left out previously. I think I should have two basic cover letters which I can customize depending on the job. I want to secure a med-surg job or a mental health job, so I need a cover letter for each of these broad areas. I have a draft of the med-surg letter but I want to revise it before using it. I have started the very long process of submitting an online application for a job at my first choice hospital. As soon as I revise that cover letter to my satisfaction, that application will be completed.
I haven’t written a post all summer because it has been one long vacation from nursing school. It’s like I got my old life back and I liked it. No driving to far away hospitals to show up at 6:00 AM, no endless studying and no cramming for tests. I did take a writing class but that just involved writing papers so it wasn’t stressful. I used all my free time to reclaim my pre-nursing school level of physical fitness and then some. I run now, well sort of. I hadn’t done that for decades. I feel fit, alert, healthy, and happy. That said, the stress is starting to seep in around the edges and I know little of this will last. School starts tomorrow. I’m an online student so it will be a slow start. I’ve started reading the the three-inch thick ATI book for med-surg nursing. In just two weeks I’ll be back at the hospital doing clinicals and the dreaded care plan paperwork that goes along with that as well as the endless reading and studying for tests. Even so, this is my last semester. I have just four months to slog through to reach the finish line.
I haven’t posted anything in such a long time that I thought an update was in order. I finished my second course in family nursing without any posts at all. Why? Because so little happened in that course to capture my interest. First of all, it wasn’t really about family nursing so much but rather about mother-baby nursing. At clinicals it was always the same thing. A pregnant woman comes to the hospital and has a baby or more usually a woman just had a baby and now you take care of her and her baby. As exciting as the birth of a baby is, I wouldn’t want to go into this kind of nursing since it lacks the variety of all the various health problems people can have. Also, there is at least in my experience lots of waiting around where nothing much happens. After two rotations I was present at two births–one a vaginal delivery and the other a cesarean section.
I am now taking mental health. This is so much more engaging! We are dealing with the life of the mind here and everything that can go wrong with it. We focus on thoughts, emotions, interpersonal functioning and legal problems. I am seriously thinking about going into mental health nursing because it captures my interest and because I have a background in psychology. I go to clinicals now feeling confident that I have a knowledge base to draw on and that I can handle what comes my way. This is so different than before when I went to clinicals (especially medical-surgical clinicals) feeling like I lacked the clinical experience to really be useful. I generally felt like I would be pressured into using the skills I had only previously experienced in a lab setting such as inserting a Foley catheter or an IV. I still haven’t had the chance to try out these skills on real people. Even though it would make me nervous to try it, I am disappointed that I haven’t had the chance to do these procedures for the first time. But my nervousness went beyond that. I felt clumsy in my assessments. I didn’t know where the supplies were. Here I was attempting to help with a birth for the first time and all I had in terms of background was what I read in my textbook.
I suppose it is only fair to disclose my NCLEX-PN results since I went on and on about how I prepared for it. I passed. While I am not allowed to disclose anything about the nature or the content of the test, I am free to disclose my perceptions to it as those belong to me. I kept thinking while I was taking it, “I can’t believe that whether or not I am licensed as an LPN depends on how I answer these questions.” Certainly not what I expected at all. The questions were more advanced than I thought they would be. So was I helped by studying for it with the Saunders review book questions CD? Well, sort of. From having done thousands of practice questions I knew at least something more about the content covered in 10-20% of the questions, maybe not enough to determine whether I got the questions right but at least I had additional knowledge to help inform my answers. Doing lots of review questions definitely helped me to feel confident and to be a better test-taker and that alone had to have helped me answer some questions correctly. Here’s another tip. You might be able to find out the results of your NCLEX within a day or two after taking it by going to your state’s board of nursing website and checking on your application status.
I’ve postponed my NCLEX-PN testing date to January 9 so I would have more time to enjoy the holidays and to prepare for the test. To study I’ve been using the CD that comes with Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-PN. There are 3700 study questions on this CD. If nothing else I expect it to help with getting me in the right test-taking frame of mind. I will get lots of practice reading questions and deciphering the subtleties of the test questions meanings. Sometimes I overlook important words in the questions like “not, always, all” or phases such as “needs further instruction.” It is of some use in reviewing content as well. There are so many things I have forgotten. As I go through the questions I have been noting the normal lab values that I need to make sure to have memorized by test time. It is helpful that the CD includes rationales for all questions and allows you to bookmark test questions. I bookmark every question that I get wrong or think is really important to remember. In my opinion many of the questions are too advanced for the PN level. For example, much of the respiratory content was not covered in my nursing program and my program usually has a 100% pass rate for the PN test. The pharmacology content questions are proving to be particularly not useful. There are something like 573 of them. I’m just not going to remember every drug, action, use, side effect, and nursing consideration. That said, I still need to study pharmacology but I want to study it in a way that it will stick with me. One of the books I used for my pharmacology class is providing a far more useful way of reviewing. The book is “Core Concepts in Pharmacology” by Holland and Adams. I’m using its companion CD and reviewing the important drugs and key nursing considerations as I complete a quiz on each chapter. This provides a more topical review rather than just the barrage of random pharmacology facts that Saunders provides. So that’s my plan– plodding through Holland and Adams for my pharm review and answering as many Saunders content questions as I can. Here’s my other bit of advice– ignore everything but the content areas in Saunders. I think it is pointless to be concerned about the other categories (such as “level of cognitive ability” or “integrated process”) that Saunders (and seemingly every other test prep company uses) to classify test questions. I generally miss test questions for only one reason, I don’t know the content, not because it is an “analysis” or “teaching and learning” question. Seriously, what are the test prep companies thinking? Also, I find the text of the Saunders book essentially useless. I might review a topic in it but it is mostly just a book of facts that once read would be easily forgotten.
Has anyone looked at both the Saunders’ NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN books and CDs? Are the questions in the two books different or is the main difference that the PN book has the nurse report problems to the RN rather than the physician?
Time has slipped by and it has been an amazing two months since I’ve posted anything. During that time I’ve been trudging through my classes and have felt like I didn’t have enough time to study let alone write posts. Somehow I’ve completed the first year of the program. We had our pinning ceremony on Saturday. I’m scheduled to take the NCLEX on January 3. I want to get it done before classes start up again though I have to say that date kind of crimps my holiday plans. I don’t plan on studying much. I have Saunders’ Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-PN and its CD with 3700 practice questions. Let’s see how many of those I do! Perhaps I am over-confident but that confidence comes from having studied hard for a solid year already and from the consistently high scores I’ve gotten on every ATI test I’ve taken. The ATI tests are supposed to prepare us for the NCLEX. I’ve received the registration materials for the NCLEX and have at least learned that there will be breaks during the test. I was concerned about that since the test can last up to 5 hours long, my test starts at 0800 and I most certainly will have drank several cups of tea before starting the test. The length of the test depends on how long it takes the computer programmed test to determine if the test-taker meets the minimum standard.
Hope everyone reading this gets some much needed relaxation time over the holidays.