Friday, March 23, 2012

A little explanation.

This isn't a cap.  Sorry if you came here looking for one.

I wrote this up at DX mainly because people were trying to guess what field I was going into.  I know I've been more open with some of my capping friends, but I also haven't been all that open about this on the blog.

So first thing I would like to say is thanks again for all your kind words in my previous post.  I posted that just a few hours after I learned about not passing the exam.  I'm not exaggerating when I said that I was devastated.  I felt horrible all that night, and most of the next day (today).   But talking to Jennifer and Simone really shook me out of that 'oh woe is me' mindset.  I'm still not 'good'.  But I've at least taken a step back from the cliff I was looking down.

I'm honestly not trying to be a drama queen and garner your attention, but I figured I owed you all some explanation on why this is a hard decision for me to make.

First, I guess its not fair to be coy about the field I am trying to get into.  I am attempting to become a Registered Nurse.   The exam I failed is the NCLEX, and it is required to get my license.  While I have graduated from a nursing program (and from what I have heard, a very good local nursing program), that degree means absolutely nothing (well... student loans) without passing this exam.  The degree doesn't get me into any nursing job without first getting a license.

Yes... I have worked hard to learn what I have learned, and experience what I have experienced.  I have hundreds of hours in a hospital taking care of patients (clinicals), and can honestly say I have saved peoples lives.  I don't mean save lives as in I passed them their blood pressure medicine... I mean I was the only one to notice a man's breathing getting worse and worse, and because of the actions I took, he survived.

I can retake this test.  Failing on the first attempt in no way diminishes my ability to perform what I can do, or even get a job.  I personally know nurses that didn't pass the NCLEX on their first FOUR attempts.  But to me this is just another failure, in a long line of failures.

I spent three years in a Pre-Optometry program straight out of high school before realizing that I didn't have a strong enough desire to be an Optometrist.  I went into photography and spent three years earning an associates degree in that.  If you are counting, that is six years of school for an Associates degree.  I still have the student load debt to show for it.  But after nearly 10 years of trying every avenue that Photography can offer to earn a living with, I failed to ever really make a living.

Nursing isn't my passion.  It is something that I can do (and according to my teachers and clinical instructors, do well), that pays well, and that there is a demand for.  I struggled often in school, partly because it isn't my passion and partly because I have trouble with the hundreds of drugs we are required to know.  And to be honest, its not hundreds of drugs... we are expected to know the proper administration of thousands of drugs.  We need to know what they are given for, how they are given, what the doses are (and the doses are different depending on HOW we give them), what the proper effects are, what the side effects are, what the allergic reactions are, and the proper way to handle an adverse reaction as well as an overdose.  

Sadly the NCLEX is VERY heavy with drugs.  I've been struggling with that part of my education since I entered the Nursing Program.  It hurts even more as in the real world, there aren't just thousands of drugs... there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of drugs.   I would NEVER pass a drug without knowing how to do so properly.  But I would simply look it up if I didn't know it.  And this isn't just me... I saw nurses with decades of experience looking up drugs on a regular basis.  Not even Pharmacists need to have that much knowledge in their heads.  So to pass this test I will need to study something that has vexed me for years, and has no real basis in the real world of nursing.

And a word about the test.  The NCLEX is a computer adaptive test.  It isn't a matter of getting enough right answers.  To be honest almost everyone walks out of the test getting 50% of the questions wrong.  That is because each question is given a certain difficulty level.  If I get a question right, the next question is harder.  If I get a question wrong, the next question is easier.  The most difficult questions are set up so that veteran nurses will get 50% of them wrong.  The way to 'pass' the exam is reach a level where I am getting 50% of the questions correct, and hold at that level (getting one wrong, getting one right, getting one wrong.... so on and so forth).

If that level of difficulty is considered 'competent' enough then the test ends and I pass.  If that level is considered far to low, then the test ends and I fail.  If it is not at a 'competent' level but close to it, the test continues for up to 265 questions.  And if I haven't passed at that point, the test just turns off and fails me.

That last scenario is exactly what happened.  I didn't do bad enough to really 'fail' but I didn't do good enough to pass either.  And what makes that even harder to take is that I am in the minority.  Around 80% of the people that take the NCLEX the first time pass it.  At my school, one of their biggest selling points is that 98% of their students pass it on their first try.

The thought of making a new study plan, implementing it and hopefully taking the test again (the soonest I can take the test is 6 weeks), is frankly heart wrenching.  I don't just want to be making more money... I NEED to be making more money.  My last few semesters at school I survived on my student loans.  Sure I worked one day a week at a local retail store stocking shelves, but that earns me all of $120 a month.  I decided to not pick up more hours after graduating so that I could put that extra time into studying... but even studying that much didn't get me to pass.

I fully expected to have taken this test earlier and be working at this point.  Even an entry level Nursing job would provide me the biggest paychecks of my life.  And now after three and a half years of additional student loans, I owe over $60,000.    Nine and a half years of school, and 20 years of failing has made this simple stumble very hard to accept.

I don't know what I am going to do yet.  I wish I did, but I just don't.  I've given myself until Monday to make this decision.


  1. I help my mom with her medication from time to time, helping to read over the side effects and if it will interact with anything she's taken, and also filling her box of meds.

    She has a LOT of health problems and has in the past, taken up to 30 different pills each day. It's worked it's way down to about, 20-24 now, but still, that's a lot of pills! And It's hard to remember them all, I know more about it then most, but even at just 30 pills it's difficult.

    And I've been doing this for almost 20 years, just helping her. So I completely get the drug thing being hard! Sooo many pill's might interact with just one or two others she is taking, and to make things worse, my mom is different in that some med's have the opposite effect on her. Her pharmacist of 30 year's will attest to that, so it can be very tricky just for one patient.

    But, as hard as it is, it's still not as hard as trying to pronounce halve of them! *giggle*

    But seriously, I couldn't imagine trying to remember 1000's of drugs and their interactions, side effects, and purposes, AND retain that knowledge! That sort of thing would take a normal person year's of dealing with them daily!

    I'm glad i could help you in some small way, and i wish you the best. *hugs and kisses* I will be around to chat if you need to talk any more. ^_^

  2. I will skip my usual long windedness and say this simly. YOU CAN DO THIS! Perhaps not in two attempts, but perhaps so. Regardless if you dont give up you WILL achieve your goal. YOU can do this.

  3. Hey, if you need someone to talk to, drop me a line. You and I are in extremely similar situations. I, too, am in a career path that requires a degree that is useless without a license. I spent ten years getting that degree, and twice now have not even been allowed to take the exam, let alone see if I can pass it or fail it. I can definitely understand your frustrations. It is very very draining on the soul. Despite that, there is hope. If you keep walking, eventually you will get there. That is also something that I can tell you from experience.

    Ultimately, I know that nothing I say can truly make things better. But, if nothing else, I can listen and understand. And, I can't promise anything, but my Aunt is an RN who teaches some of the classes around here. If you would like, I can ask and see if she has any advice or anything that can help.

    What this all boils down to, is that you shouldn't give up. Take a little time and do something fun. No matter how pointless or frivolous it might be, no matter how irresponsible it might seem. Take one day, set it aside, and do something you truly love. If you have a friend to do it with, even better. Things will be a bit brighter after that, and it will be easier for you to pick yourself back up and move on.

    And remember, you'll always have an Angel watching over you.

  4. I am sorry if I indirectly "outed" you in a few of the captions I've made for you, and I tried to cover it up somewhat clumsily!

    Meds are always an issue, and when you throw in all the name changes, generics, and especially the ones that sound the same .. you always have to be on your pretty little toes. It may not LOOK the same, but take someone with a funky accent, make them excited, and you can certainly hear "Flomax" instead of "Volmax". Flomax is for enlarged prostate issues and to help with kidney stone passing, while Volmax another term for the generic Albuterol.

    I can totally see why its so friggin' hard to figure out, but keep trying sweetie! Waiting 6 weeks is a pain in the ass, but you'll make it over the hump!

  5. Just take a deep breath and remember this is just a speed bump, nothing more. You're determined to get there, you've come this far, and I have faith you will find yourself donning those scrubs for work soon.

  6. I kinda know what you're going through. I graduated from high school almost seven years ago, have changed majors twice, and am attending my third college, and am still at least a year from getting my degree. I feel frustrated when I realize that my friends who are several years younger than me have already graduated and are working in the field I'm trying to get into, while I'm stuck working retail full time to pay the bills.

    What makes me feel better is to change my point of view. I take my jealousy and shift it into pride at my friends accomplishments, and remind myself of the little things that make me awesome. Trust me Caitlyn, you have plenty of things that make you awesome, and given time I'm sure you'll pass that exam