The NCLEX presents to us an ideal world of mostly black and white information. You have everything at your disposal including doctors, residents, a rapid response team, endless supplies, and an amazing support staff. This isn’t translating when practical nurses take the NCLEX. These type of students know that almost all of nursing is a gray area. The hospital system is imperfect. Often nurses are left with no supplies, no support staff, and a deteriorating patient. So they choose answers that are practical and what they would ACTUALLY do in real life. But NCLEX isn’t real life...hence they are lost in translation and left to fail the exam time and time again.

The second problem we have seen with repeat test takers is just that...they are not great test takers. They could save your life in 2 minutes, they could deliver the most therapeutic communication, they could drop an NG tube in less than a minute....but they aren’t excellent test takers...but they don’t need to be to deliver the delicate news that the cancer is back or the patient’s labs were not what we hoped for...so we are still lost in translation.

I was a clinical instructor at a well-known nursing school for several years and I saw ALL kinds of students. I always maintained that if I was in the hospital or my child was in the hospital, that I would want a “B” student to take care of me. Why wouldn’t I want an “A” student? Because the “A” students were so stuck in the book and so stuck in a black and white world that they froze when it came to therapeutic communication or what to do if the information the patient was giving didn’t match up with the textbook. What were the “B” students like, you ask? They laughed with their patients, they pretended that the patient’s stool didn’t smell terrible when they gently cleaned them, they talked to their patients like human beings, and they rolled with the punches.

When I see students who have been unsuccessful on NCLEX, one of the things I ask them is, “How are you at the bedside?” Ten times out of ten, they will say, “I’m amazing...my patients love me and I love caring for them.” Yessss I knew it. So this test is not an indication of the kind of nurse you will be. The best indication of the kind of nurse you will be is your heart, your personality, your love for the profession, and your desire to do good for your patients.

After students are unsuccessful on the NCLEX, I see them come into my office defeated, confidence shot, questioning their competence, questioning their commitment to the profession and ultimately saying, “Maybe nursing just isn’t for me.” To that person, I say, “My dear friend...you already are a nurse. You embody everything that a nurse could hope to be. You are kind, you are giving, you are compassionate and empathetic, you love fiercely, you fight hard, and THAT is a nurse.”

We have made NCLEX a Goliath of a beast...something that can’t be passed...something to fear. No, my friends. The NCLEX does not have that kind of power. Learn its weaknesses...learn its questions...learn what it’s looking for...and be the David to its Goliath. Don’t make NCLEX mighty beast to fear. YOU, my dear, are the beast to fear. The NCLEX doesn’t have the knowledge...YOU do.

So pick yourself up, dust off your pants, bandage your wounds and your ego, check your pride at the door, and get ready to get dirty...NCLEX Prep is a mental test as much as it is a physical test. Stop comparing yourselves to others...they have not walked in your shoes...they aren’t a part of your story...they haven’t lived your life. Accept no defeat. Claim victory over this exam this time. YOU WILL NOT FAIL. Do the work. Then do it again. When you think you can’t do one more practice question, do one more. Because you can and you will pass. And you will change the world.