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I failed the NCLEX three times. Maybe that's something that you've already experienced or maybe it's the greatest fear that you have as a nursing student. Well, it's also the subject line of an email that I received way back in 2015 from a nursing school graduate named Ashley. Lemme read to you exactly what the email said. It said,
I have now failed the NCLEX three times. I have a job. I'm a smart woman and graduated with honors from nursing school. I'm incredibly frustrated at this point. What would you recommend to a nursing student in my position?
But when I woke up that morning in 2015 and read this email, my heart sank for Ashley. So I wrote her a couple strategies, a couple things that she could do, and recommended some books and some videos that she could watch over on nursing.com as well. And then I kind of set it aside and I kind of forgot about it.
The next email
The next email that I got from Ashley had the subject line RN, more than an abbreviation. On her fourth attempt. Ashley passed her nclex, and in the time since 2015, she has worked in the Progressive Care Unit for about one and a half years, then switched over to cardiac intensive care for about seven and a half years.
Most recently, and I just caught up with Ashley last week, she has now applied to and been accepted to CRNA school and will start that soon. Now she's been applying to CNA school for four years. So there's this theme in Ashley's life of perseverance and sticking to it.
What I want to do now though is I want to rewind the clock to 2015 and after she messaged me that she had passed the nclex, I got her on a phone call and we talked about her experience of failing the NCLEX and what that felt like, how she dealt with that and how she got through it. So I'm going to play some of the audio from that interview as we go through this podcast and kind of talk to you about some of the experiences that she had. As we do that, let me take it back.
First to that night when she sent me that email.
I remember writing this email to you and I was just weeping in the library because at that point my computer had broke. And so I'm sitting in this little box just typing away, and I was miserable. I really honestly thought, I'm like, I thought this was my calling for so long. Nursing is what I wanted to do. For four years I had worked so hard and I was unsure, should I change my career? Should I do something else? And honestly, in desperation, I wrote out.
The first time failing
So I wanted to understand those feelings that Ashley had that first time that she failed walking into the nclex, that first time, our anxiety's highest. But at the same time, our hopes are highest too. We've done all this work.
We've gone through school and we are ready to be a nurse. We're ready to move on with our lives and begin this journey of RN at the same time. Our anxieties are so high. So after she took that first in clicks and then a couple days later found out that she failed, I wanted to get inside her mind and understand what it was that she felt.
I decided I would run 10 miles and I cried the whole time. And I just remember I'm like, I want to die. I just don't understand. I thought I knew so much and for some reason I was like, wow, I failed and the rest of my class was successful. Why am I going through this? And maybe I was too confident, thought I was the bee's knees and that I could do anything. And yeah, it really, it just sucker punched.
Telling her boss
Now, part of the story that I haven't mentioned yet is that coming out of nursing school, Ashley had already landed a job or a job offer from one of the top hospitals in the country. And so she was planning to move from her home state of Colorado out to this new state and begin this job at this new hospital contingent upon passing the nclex.
So she failed.
She has to tell the nurse manager at this hospital the news, and this was an incredibly scary time for her. So you can imagine not only the pressure of failing the nclex, but now the pressure of telling this hospital that's counting on you and expecting you to become a nurse. And so this is the experience she had of calling that nurse manager with all of that fear that she had,
I had to really take a week and really ask myself, is this worth it? I did all this work, what went wrong? And finally when I got my results back, because obviously every nursing student wants to pay to get their quick results.
So I knew within three days, and I just saw on that line, I'm like, fail. And my heart almost stopped beating. I
'm like, wow, what happened? And I had to really think deeply and I'm like, is something wrong with me? Am I not smart? What am I going to do?
And so I really had to collect myself.
And so when I actually started talking to my nurse manager, who's now my official nurse manager, he was so positive and he told me he is like, Ashley, he's like, don't give up. He's like, you've gone through so much work. He's like, this happens all the time. He's like, I hear stories all the time about this. He's like, you're not the first one. You're going to get through this and you're going to call me when you pass. And he is like, just tell me your schedule, what you're thinking, and we'll go from there. He's like, it's not a big deal. And so honestly, from that, that was the hugest phone call that I had to make because that was really so much weight lifted off my shoulder.
Telling your friends
With that call done with the nurse manager, the next thing was to tell her friends, to tell her classmates, you see all your classmates passing and then you get your result of a failure and your heart sinks. You feel terrified.
Are they better than you? Will they judge me? This is what Ashley said of that experience.
You feel that your classmates will make fun of you or that they question if you're going to be a good nurse and you start to create all these webs and certain negativity and it just storms and you're like, stop.
I'm creating a story. I can't do this. I am not going to think about this.
That's their journey where they're going, this is mine. And really I had to take responsibility and be like, all right, I must have not been well prepared. I probably took it too lightly. I need to rethink my strategy for life right now. I have to sit here and watch your Facebook posts or you or my friends that are nurses tell me about their days or just where life is. And I feel stuck. I'm like, wow, I'm lost.
I definitely did a lot of CrossFit because I needed to get that out of my system. My mental health needed to be a lot better.
I stuck to my closest friends and I didn't worry about everyone else, and I honestly kind of went off social media. I just kind of took everything that was negative in my life and I threw it away and I'm like, you know what? I am going to get through this. This is a storm and I have got to persevere. I still worked, but I worked part-time and I focused solely on the nclex. I was adamant. I'm like, no, this will not beat me down.
Patience, positivity, prayer, perseverance
You as a nursing student, you are your hardest critic because sometimes we're pretty perfectionism and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
So I would say strive for progress but not perfection. And then my last, this quote was probably my favorite of all times. So you have only to decide upon what it is you want and then stay with it.
Never deviating from your course, no matter how long it takes or how rough the road until you accomplished it. Winners simply do what losers don't want to do. Success is largely a matter of holding on after others have let go quotation. So that would be my two biggest things to think about.
A rough storm
I almost think of my experience as in a really rough storm, like in a boat, and you can't have a perfect storm to be a skilled sailor. And so whatever purpose it was for me to build the NCLEX three times, it really has blessed me and I feel like a better woman from it after a year. I can't believe I'm saying that, but really I do. I feel it strengthened me