By Shannon Rosen
There’s currently a shortage of nurses in Florida, so it’s a good time to consider getting into the field. As a relatively new OR nurse, I can tell you that it’s a really rewarding career, but it does come with a number of challenges—including passing the NCLEX exam.
If you can get past that hurdle, becoming a nurse has a huge impact on your and your family, too. That's why my father and I have prepared a list of tips for passing the NCLEX and staying mentally strong in the face of all this line of work requires of you—and your loved ones.
Tips for Aspiring Nurses
1) Ask for help.
This tip applies both to making it through testing and when you're struggling with mental health. You should always ask your family for help when you need it. See if your mom can make you a snack while you're studying or ask your dad to quiz you on questions. It's tough to make it through the NCLEX—or any test for that matter—on your own, so you should get assistance whenever possible. Other family and friends should be on your call list, too. Having as many people on your side as possible is key, and not just through testing, but also throughout your nursing career.
2) Take mental health breaks.
Your mental health can suffer if you're focusing your entire life on studying. It can stress you out significantly and leave you feeling burnt out. Take mental health breaks when you can, even if it's something as simple as grabbing your favorite candy bar for a fast break, or heading outside to get some sunshine and Vitamin D. You should definitely take longer breaks if necessary, too. If you're really having trouble concentrating, you may need to take a day away from your studies to enjoy life, and get back to it after you've recuperated. I also chose to take Sundays off and reset for Monday, which really helped me not get burnt out.
3) Study any way that helps you.
You shouldn't use someone else's study methods if they don't work for you. Everyone learns a little differently. It's important to study in a way that best helps you understand the material and remember it after. You may learn better watching a tutorial video on a subject, for example, than simply reading it from a book. You may be like me and need to combine several methods for the best chance at retention. Watch videos, go back and highlight things or take additional notes, let your parents quiz you, and invest in a helpful test program.
4) Use test prep materials that fit your learning style.
Prep materials that truly prepare you for a test like the NCLEX are a huge help. You can start by taking a practice test that allows you to see what type of score you would receive if you were to take your exam today. It helps point out your weaknesses and allows you to discover which areas you need the most improvement in, so you know where to focus your attention and study time going forward. I used the UWorld NCLEX-RNⓇ prep test and was so glad I did. With more than 2,000 questions available, it really does prepare you for the real thing and help you ensure you know all the right material come exam day.
5) Focus on a set number of questions per day.
Trying to get through hundreds of questions in one day isn't feasible. Instead, focus on a set number of questions each day and go from there. I chose 75. I only worked on those 75 questions and went back through to find any answers I had missed on them. The next day, I continued with my next set. This really helped provide some focus to my study sessions and ensured I wasn't overwhelming myself with too much work.
Tips for Nursing Families and Support Systems
Students can’t achieve success without loved ones by their side offering guidance and support. My dad was a huge help to me, and here are his tips to help your family member or friend through this transitional time in their lives.
1) Offer help.
Families should do better than simply wait to be asked for help. Sometimes, studying for such an important test can make it difficult for students to ask for what they need. Offer to watch your child's dog for them so they can work uninterrupted. Assist with financial needs if you're able. My dad even came out of retirement and got a part-time job to help me with my expenses. I know that isn't feasible for everyone, so just offer support where you can.
2) Give them exam preparation materials as a gift.
Birthdays and holidays are a great excuse to give your nursing student something special. For students on a budget, test prep materials are a great gift, one that shows that you’re on their side during this challenging time.
3) Remember that passing the exam is just the beginning.
Being a nurse, especially these days, is a stressful job. Nursing students and already established nurses need family and friends on their side who can help them survive the tough days and celebrate the great days. Families who support a healthy work-life balance for a nurse are not only helping their relatives, they’re helping all their patients, too.
Shannon Rosen graduated from Nova Southeastern University, passed the NCLEX in May 2022, and is an Operating Room Nurse at Naples Community Hospital in Naples, Florida. She can be found here on TikTok, where you can also watch a clip finding out her NCLEX score for the first time with her father.