After two long years of nursing school, and four long years of school in general, I am finally officially a NURSE! This road has not been easy by any means and I thought it might never get here but I actually made it out alive.
I started back to school part-time in June 2009 and knew for sure I wanted to be a nurse. My community college has an extremely competitive nursing program. I knew that if I wanted to have a fighting chance at admission I had to have excellent grades and a very good score on the entrance exam. I finished my pre-req’s and applied April 1, 2011 for fall admission. At the end of May 2011 I received notification that I hadn’t been accepted into the RN program but was offered a spot as an alternate to the LPN program. To say I was disappointed would have been an understatement. Going the RN route directly meant only 2 more years of school but starting in the LPN program and bridging to the RN program meant at least 3 years in front of me. I got over the disappointment quickly and praised God for the opportunity to become a nurse, no matter the route it was going to take.
I started nursing school August 2011 and by the second day in I knew something wasn’t quite right. I heard multiple students talking about their grades and I got the distinct impression something with my application hadn’t been figured right. After two conversations with the Dean of Nursing it was discovered that a mistake had been made and I actually should be in the RN program. There are no words for how excited I was and how extremely blessed I felt in that moment.
The feeling was short lived only because the reality of nursing school hit hard and fast. Tests every week, lab check-offs every other session, and a constant fear of failure were my companions. Getting through the first weeks felt like some kind of alternate boot camp where we had to leave who we thought we were behind and learn a whole new way of life. Tests weren’t simple anymore. There were questions with multiple correct answers but we had to know the MOST correct answer. Yes, that’s right, the MOST correct answer. It was like learning a foreign language that had multiple possibilities for one word but we had to make sure we knew the MOST right word. Yep, like that. The end of the first semester alone felt like a victory. We had survived and we might actually get through this crazy thing.
Somehow three more semesters went by and I made it. I passed every class, loved my clinicals, and made friends who I know I will have for a lifetime. On May 17th I donned a cap and gown and joined my fellow graduates to celebrate our accomplishments.
Graduation was one of the proudest times of my life. I walked across the stage, was pinned as a nurse, and said the Nurse’s Pledge. I had accomplished a major goal and it was a feeling of relief and pride. But it wasn’t completely over yet.
To become a registered nurse you don’t just have to complete a program (diploma, ASN, or BSN) but you have to take a national exam to show that you are able to be a competent entry level nurse known at the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX was originally the “big test in the sky”. In August 2011 it seemed like something that would never get here. In May 2013 it seemed like the scariest prospect a nursing graduate can come up against.
The NCLEX is the road block between a graduate nurse and a licensed RN. It costs $200 and it’s one of the most stressful and nerve racking things I’ve prepared for in all my life. The last two years prepared me along with a live review and Kaplan course. I studied for hours each day to try to prepare to pass a test that many people fail every day. That’s a thought I tried my best to keep out of my head.
I scheduled my test for June 10th and told very few people about it to try to reduce the stress (yeah right!). The test is only offered at certain testing centers so I made my appointment and Gabe and I stayed at a hotel the night before the exam. I started my test at 7:40 a.m. and finished with the minimum number of questions (75) about 45 minutes later. I walked out of the testing center at 8:30 a.m. feeling relief and fear of failure all at once.
Most people I know were finding out the next day whether they passed but it could be 48 hours before the quick results were ready. I knew I had a wait ahead of me so I headed back to the hotel prepared to go to breakfast with Gabe and to fill the next day or two with distractions.
I started texting my classmates right away to let them know it was over and the wait had begun. Less than 30 minutes later at a little before 9:00 a.m. one of my friends texted me to say my license number was already up on the state website. It was official, I was an RN!! I could have done a cartwheel, I was that excited. It honestly didn’t seem real. Everything I had done for four years was to make this happen and yet it didn’t seem possible when it actually happened. I shared my news with the world and had so many congratulations it made me want to cry. The support I had from Gabe, my family, my church, and my friends is truly what got me here. I am a nurse and could not be more proud to be able to say that.
Now to find a job…