Saturday, January 2, 2016

Pass your #NCLEX

It was the best piece of paper I ever received.

Upon completion of writing the test, I sat in my car that warm June day and cried. I had no inkling it was coming. The flood of pent-up emotion appeared out of nowhere, overwhelmed me, and was done as quickly as it started. Just like a summer afternoon rain storm back home.

“... A vast internal damn of self-imposed pressure had finally burst. I had not let myself down... I had not let my family down. This thing we'd worked toward all this time was actually going to happen.” ~ Chris Hadfield

I had less than a week to wait for my results. My preparation had been 100%. I had done all I could on my end. The test was the test was the test, and I would have to wait to see if I passed.

When it came in the mail from NCSBN, it really was the best piece of paper I ever received.

Today I want to share my study resources - and those of my friends - so that you can receive that marvelous piece of paper saying you too passed the NCLEX!

Passing the NCLEX is a two part task.

  1. Review material and know your stuff.
  2. Learn how to answer multiple choice (MC) and select all that apply (SATA) questions with confidence. 

Hence studying is also a two part task.

  1. Find, read, and learn excellent review material.
  2. Do practice NCLEX questions until your eye cross then start all over again the next day.

Review material for 4 years of nursing school comes in several forms: books, in person seminars, and online review courses. 

  • Review books are awesome because they are the cheapest option for poor nursing students - somewhere in the $75-100 range - but less awesome when you consider the amount of discipline required to create and complete an independent study plan of 4 years of nursing school material. Excellent for independent motivated learners. Less excellent for learners who do better with guided and group instruction. I chose this path because I was poor and prefer to study alone. My Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination is highlighted and tabbed near to death. I'll lend it out, but I will never ever part with it.
  • In-person seminars to help students prepare for the NCLEX are my least favourite option. I do not recommend. Our university offered them. Nearby universities were offering them. They were everywhere, and the prices seemed astronomical - upwards of $500! - for one or two days of help. The reviews I got from classmates who attended them were not flattering either. These seminars tended to tell you what to study, rather than getting into the actual dirty work of studying. I did not pay for these seminars and am happy with that decision.
  • Online review courses are a cool option. They review your 4 years of school material, but in a guided interactive way with video lectures, follow along worksheets, and old-fashioned review material. They are more costly - about $300-400 - but provide a backbone of guidance, support and motivation to studying that a lone book of review material does not. Friends of mine had success with one particular of these services: Hurst Review Service. I checked out their materials and was frankly quite jealous! This was way beyond study material *and* taught the critical thinking our profs often missed *and* tossed in test-taking strategies and practice questions to conquer the MC and SATA questions. Quite the deal. 
So that's review material. Pick one that works for you!

I made a game of out the many ways baristas misspell my name. Lol

Next, you need a source of practice questions. One so deep as to make you nauseous. Sorry. Just being honest. 

Test-taking strategies are not taught in the Saunders review book. There are test questions in Saunders, but they are primarily knowledge-based questions. Those are - most definitely - not NCLEX questions, but do help you review the material you just read.

Sources for NCLEX type questions include Kaplan's QBank and UWorld.
  • Kaplan's QBank is tied to their online review course that appears similar to the above mentioned Hurst Review Course. It looks good on paper, but I didn't experience it for myself to solidly say it's a go. It is however very popular. 
  • UWorld is the question bank that I used to feel confident about MC and SATA questions. When I was studying last spring, they had a 1 month free trial promotion going that I took advantage of in order to practice. I completed my Saunders review and then attacked as many questions as I could in UWorld. I never paid a penny for UWorld, but would I have? An enthusiastic yes! 100%. 
Here's all the reasons why I loved UWorld and would recommend it to anyone. 
  1. The rationales for the correct and incorrect are super duper thorough and teach you loads of test-taking strategy without you even realizing it. You start identifying the distractors, the answer you might have looked over but should reconsider, the obvious wrong answer, and the correct answer. I was so impressed. 
  2. There are more questions than you can finish. For real. 
  3. There are more SATA questions than you ever want to see in your entire life. But that's a good thing! Success on the NCLEX means that your test will throw more and more SATA questions at you, especially if you finish in 75 questions, and you need to be prepared. 
  4. Their scoring system tells you a percentage you are getting correct and your likelihood of passing so you can see where you need to improve. 
  5. Their website boasts that their questions have "Multiple concepts per question to reduce prep time" and that's nice of them. But it's actually exceptional because the NCLEX does the exact same thing. Only it's testing multiple concepts per question in order to determine if you can figure out what they are really asking you. Seriously, each question on the NCLEX has multiple layers for you to decipher and will require you to simultaneously analyze concepts from all of your four years of classes combined.
    Grad Day!

To prepare for the NCLEX, you need review material and practice questions. 

The review embedded in the practice questions is not sufficient in my opinion. It's a great extra review, but I do not recommend relying on it solely as your review of nursing school material.

For me, Saunders as review material + UWorld practice questions = NCLEX success. Your success may have a different formula. 

I wish you the best of luck but study hard. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Study for #NCLEX on Twitter

Does one sentence ever send you on a tailspin of thought? Mine has had me going for a year now. You have probably seen the end result if you follow me on Twitter. #NCLEX anyone?

Here's the line: 

"It's time for the nursing profession to leverage social media."
It's actually the title of an editorial written by nursing researcher Caleb Ferguson - @calebferg

I was researching a paper on nursing leadership when I stumbled upon it. The nursing leaders who inspired and interested me were those who were attempting to meet this statement's call - researchers, bloggers, writers, informaticists who were utilizing, experimenting, creating, innovating with social media. I wrote my paper based on their inspiration and thought the line was done with me. 

But shortly after finishing the paper, I started worrying about taking the NCLEX. Being that neither thought could leave my mind, I suppose it might have been inevitable that they became stuck to each other and stick is what they did. Twitter. NCLEX. Twitter. NCLEX. But what did Twitter have to do with the NCLEX? Like a curious kitten, I couldn't help but follow that trail of thoughts...

and found accounts and hashtags on Twitter that were <gasp> educational! 

Check these out: 

@CoronaryKid @TheNursePath @ReviewNursing  
#ECGReview #FOAMed #FOANed 

I mean, why not? We are connected to our phones way more than we are to our med-surg books. Teaching others is learning for yourself. Or that's what the learning strategist told me in first year. And as professionals, we have the knowledge skills and judgment to turn something new into our own. Twitter has the brevity, accessibility, and portability to be HUGE! 

So, I started a hashtag campaign for my classmates and I to study for the NCLEX, deciding to use the already watched-followed-and very busy #NCLEX hashtag in combination with a hashtag that denotes our university. We've been busy at it since the beginning of the fall semester. We tweet, teach, follow, learn, and try to help each other keep calm about our upcoming NCLEX. 

Join us! We'd be happy to have you participate by using our hashtag or simply #NCLEX. I follow both hashtags religiously and retweet as necessary. 

What can YOU do with social media as a nurse or nursing student? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Needs to be Written

I leave most shifts with a picture that I can't get out of my head. Happy or sad, poignant or frustrating, it is stuck there until I do "something" with it.

This being my last semester of nursing school, I decided to do something better about that. I decided I wanted to reflect on that image and use the reflection to identify strengths and weaknesses. I turned that thought into a SMART learning goal, one of five we are required to complete each semester at our placements, hoping this would metamorphosize into a career long habit. Plus this was a perfect use for an impulse journal purchase I made last year.

I started out diligently writing after every shift only to find out three weeks in that my mentor that checks in with us at placement disagreed with my plan. She said I should already be doing this type I reflection. That this learning goal was too simple.

But I wasn't doing this type of reflection already. I dealt my stuck images in another way - sleep, food, a drink at the end of shift. And based on the amount of complaining I hear from colleagues when we are required to reflect, I highly doubt anyone else is either.

And I don't believe that any reflection could ever - should ever be considered simple. Do you? In fact, 

"The reflective process can be particularly helpful [even!] in graduate courses, when students are preparing to become expert practitioners" (Schaefer, 2002, p. 293).

Strong testimony. I also enjoyed Not Nurse Ratched thoughts on journaling, and since I love Twitter, I can't help but mention that my Twitter feed is buzzing with the hashtag #hcnarrative -- a movement encouraging professional health care workers to reflect in storytelling. 
I know these are all half arguments pointing to other people's well articulated statements, but to keep long story short, I did it this way and have - of course - changed my learning goal to become competent in everything there is to know about heparin drips but will continue reflective journaling.

Schaefer, K. M. (2002). Reflections on Caring Narratives: Enhancing Patterns of Knowing. Nursing Education Perspectives, 23(6), 286–293.

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