Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Horrible, Horrible Wait

Two years ago some "level III" nursing students came to our theory class along with some level II students and some actual nurses who had actually graduated from the same program at some point in the past. The level III students were there to tell us about their experience with the NCLEX and I remember one guy talking about taking BART and walking to the test center and that he thought, "And here were regular people going to work and doing regular people things..." in that he was not doing something regular or doing something routine.

Well, that stuck with me and I was thinking about it on Wednesday, the day before my test. "I'll be fine. I'm calm. Everything is fine. It's just a test," I was thinking. But the next day I sat on BART listening to my littlest iPod and I knew exactly what that guy meant two years ago. I could barely BREATHE and here were people going on with their day. I got off BART and I went into the highrise building The Test was being held in and I ran into a fellow Nursing School U student and she looked pale and shake-y and weary. She had taken The Test that morning and was just leaving.

I went up the elevator and I got my picture taken and my fingerprint scanned and I put my belongings (except my driver's license) in a locker (I picked #5. It's not a lucky number, it's just my favorite number) and I pocketed the key which was attached to a floppy rubber strip. The online test instructions said "no coats", but they let me keep my striped hoody. I was asked several times if I had anything aside from the key and my license in my pockets. I lied, "No. Nothing." I had a little lavender sprig in my back pocket. I had picked it from my garden on the way out the door. I had to smash the same finger onto another fingerprint scanner and then was led into the room. The test hostess (uh, what else could I call her?) sat me at a computer and logged me in. There on the screen was my picture, the one they'd just taken, the one with a big dumb grin...

And I flew throught the questions. I know this drug, I know this drug and I couldn't place it and then it came up AGAIN: that same drug. And then there was a whole chain of "select all that apply" and "who would you see first" kind of questions. And a bunch of peds questions. I swear to you, this test found every weak spot I have and shone a light on it and I got to question 75 and waited and waited to click "Next" because I was scared the test would continue and terrified the test would shut off and there was a million-year pause and the screen went blue and that was it. And I started crying really quietly and then the test hostess was there to take me away and I got to swipe *another* fingerprint (weird- I was being filmed and recorded- how could someone have taken my place, but, ok, fair enough). And then I recovered my belongings from locker 5 and I was down the hall and into the elevator and out on the street devastated and sure I had failed.

So, now I wait. Did I pass? I can only think of all of the questions I got wrong. And this test is really meant to screw with you that way. If you fail you get about half of the questions wrong. If you *pass* you get about half of the questions wrong it's just that the questions are harder. Apparently, if you get "recall" type of questions you're going down. They're the easy questions. So now I'm thinking, was that a "recall" question. At one point I got asked what a drug is meant to treat...And that was late in the test. That's a recall question. So, I failed. But am I that crappy a test taker and that lousy a nurse that I would definitively fail at *75* questions? (Non-nurse-y types: the test gets to 75 questions and, if it has been determined with 95% certainty that you have failed, the test shuts down. Likewise, if it has been determined with 95% certainty that you've passed the test shuts down). So, I must have passed. And people say if you feel like you failed and like your entire spirit has been crushed from your body and you just want to sit in a dark corner hugging your knees and rocking while humming childhood lullabies then, well, for sure you passed. So there you have it.

And now I wait.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Obligatory NCLEX Freak Out Post

Yeah, sorry. I know you read a couple of nursing student/ nurse-y type blogs and so you know the formula: Student Nurse signs up for NCLEX and writes the I'm-Freaking-Out-Here-People posting. I'm taking my boards (NCLEX) this Thursday, but I'm oddly calm. Have I been studying? Yeah, a bit. I've probably answered close to 3000 questions since September (some friends say, oh, those are the WRONG kind of questions: only *name of price-y test prep center* actually gives questions that are like the NCLEX), I've read through a comprehensive review book once, but mostly in a kind of space-y, half paying attention way. And I didn't pay a buncha dosh for a dull prep course. I took an ACLS class instead plus I'm planning a meal at my favorite spendy restaurant. Look, if it's not pretty, useful or yummy I'm not spending money on it.

One thing: I have noticed that lots of tests and meds harmlessly turn urine some non-urine color and I'm supposed to, as a nurse, be able to say to my "client" (yeah, yeah, I know, that's how my main prep book refers to patients) "This is a harmless and expected side effect of this medication/ procedure." But, right now I can't tell you what a normal bilirubin level is and I'm supposed to have that burned onto the interior of my eyeballs by now, right? I'm fixating on all the wrong stuff and I'm also doing dishes and celebrating holidays and family birthdays AS IF I WAS LEADING A NORMAL LIFE.

I did splendidly on a predictor test ("Oh, but that means nothing," those friends say). I'm getting anywhere from 10 to 40% of my questions wrong, but I'm calm. I just want to do it like a bank robber: Get In, Get Out, No One Gets Hurt. I'm ready for my test and maybe a large part of it is that I am ready to be done with it. And if my calm and cocky and cavalier attitude should come back to laugh in my face should I fail, then, oops.

I'm sure I'll be posting with the formulaic I'm-Sweating-And-Anxious-Did-I-Pass-Did-I-Fail posting in the interim period between taking the test and getting my results.

That's my garden in late February before it's tulip-y splendor really peaked.