What I Learned Failing the NCLEX® 3 Times (RN . . . More Than an Abbreviation)

failed nclex 3 times

When I opened the email from Ashely, I could tell that she was completely deflated.

She had just failed NCLEX 3 times.

At that time she was sobbing and unsure if she should even continue on her path in nursing. Prior to this she was sure that nursing was her calling . . . how could she be failing!

A year later, she reached out to me again with the subject line in her email: RN . . . More Than an Abbreviation

Ashley’s Story (how she finally passed NCLEX)

Listen to my interview with Ashley right here:

Failed NCLEX® Three Times . . . So What!

It took Ashley 4 tries to finally pass.

The journey to passing was not a short one.

She spent over a year going through failure.

She had been interviewed and accepted an RN job that was contingent on passing NCLEX.

After each failure, she had to tell her nurse manager 3 times that she had failed.  She watched classmates and friends passing and starting jobs.

Why is this so motivating to me?

Ashley’s approach to this trial is what truly makes her stand out and makes me feel confident that she will be a phenomenal nurse and do so much for our profession.

This is not an uncommon concern with nursing students.  We get emails like this so often.  The NCLEX is simply a beast and a complicated test . . . and shows very little how you will do as a nurse.

What Didn’t Work for Ashley:

  • Mnemonics
  • Kaplan
  • Hurst
  • ATI

Here are the resources she recommends:

View our Time Management Lesson

Ashley and I are kindred spirits when it comes to mnemonics, goals, and how to show compassion to patients.

Key Takeaways:

A failure is an event . . . it doesn’t have to define YOU.

YOU are not your grades.

Everyone has a unique story.  Don’t quit.

If you need additional help with nursing school or failed NCLEX.  Check out the NURSING.com.  We cover all major nursing topics and include thousands of practice questions and resources.

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Lindsay’s Story

Failed NCLEX® twice, but my third time felt easy!

We recently got an e-mail from a NURSING.com user who shared this!!

Hi there! I just wanted to say thank you. I passed my NCLEX exam on the third try using NURSING.com! I got 75 questions and 24 SATAs questions I walked out of the testing centre knowing I passed! The NCLEX felt easy! I will defiantly be telling any nursing student about you guys!

We had to know more, so we reached out and asked her how she did it.  What did she do to make that third attempt successful?  We heard back and this is her story:

Tell us about yourself

I’m a Canadian nurse so the NCLEX was new to me.  The first time I took it I failed at 75 questions, second time I also failed at 265 questions.

I was determined to pass this time! In Canada we are only allowed 3 attempts at the NCLEX! (Scary) but I did it!

How did you pass that third time?

I started a study group with a friend of mine who also was a repeat test taker we studied every Tuesday and Thursday together. I did all the NURSING.com courses, I would do one course at a time, then do practice questions

I also did uworld my average on uworld was in the 99th percentile and my rank with NURSING.com was number 2! I studied on average 6 days a week for about 6 hours a day. I was determined to pass this time!

And how did the NCLEX go on your third attempt?

The day of my NCLEX I walked in the test centre knowing I would pass, 75 questions later and 24 SATAS the computer shut off and I knew I had passed the NCLEX!

The NCLEX felt easy to me this time. Had to wait 9 days to get my official results but I got the four letter word I was hoping for PASS! and I also got to add two more letters behind my last name RN! thanks again for everything! I will defiantly be telling everyone about NURSING.com.
Thank you

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Answer Any SATA Question (the SATA Success Pyramid)

Did Ashley’s or Lindsay’s Stories Help You?

If Ashley’s story resonates with you or helps you . . . please share your thoughts and story below.  If you’ve failed NCLEX and want to give NURSING.com a try click below:

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Podcast Transcription

I almost think of my experience as in like a really rough storm, like in a boat. You can’t have a perfect storm, to be a skilled sailor. Whatever purpose it was for me to fail the NCLEX three times, it really has blessed me. I feel like a better woman from it, after a year. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but really I do. I feel like it strengthened me.

Jon (Male): What is up in NURSING.com community? Today I’m just beyond excited to bring you this episode. This is an interview that I did with a member of the NURSING.com community. About a year ago a nursing student named Ashley reached out to me and said that she had failed the NCLEX three times and she was just beaten down and didn’t know what to do next. I recorded an episode for her and wrote a blog post about failing the NCLEX three times and my tips and my suggestions for how to pass.

About two weeks ago I got another email from Ashley. She wasn’t sure if I would remember her. She said, “Hey, I passed the NCLEX. I’m moving on. I got this license.” The very nature of her email, she said RN more than an abbreviation. She wrote what it meant to her to pass the NCLEX, what it meant to her to be a nurse. Very quickly after reading that email, I responded to her very quickly and I said, “Hey I would love to have you on the podcast if you’re willing.”  So many stude struggle with this. I get emails all the time from students who are failing the NCLEX or debating giving up on nursing, giving up on their dream. What I got from Ashley is I could tell that she was just so dedicated to this profession, just from the email. We’d never spoken before.

When I got on the podcast with her last night, or the episode and started recording and talking with her, I found that she is such a motivated, positive person. She’s going to do a lot of good in nursing. She was so excited to come on to just share her story that it might be able to help one other student out there who might be struggling. If this episode does help you, if this resonates with you, I would ask you to go over to NURSING.com/Ashley and just leave a comment for her. Tell her that it helped. Tell her that it did something for you. Ask her a question. She would love to hear from you guys and hear how her experience might help you to get some confidence. NURSING.com/Ashley when you have some time.

If this episode also helps, please share it with somebody, please leave a comment in iTunes, leave a comment on a blog, share it with somebody. There’s a little arrow in your podcast player where you can share it with somebody through text or email.

This was such a motivating podcast for me. After we talked I told her, “You’ve got me motivated to go do something great.” She’s just so full of energy and excitement for nursing. Just imagine, she had a job at one of the top hospitals in the country, she had graduated with a 3.8 GPA from one of the top nursing schools in Colorado and then she fails the NCLEX. She has to call this hospital, tell them that she had failed, she had to tell her friends that are all getting nursing jobs and working that she had failed. Then she goes and take the test again, fails again, and has to tell everybody again and again and again, and finally passes it. It’s just such an exciting story so, with that I want to bring you this episode. Again, if this helps you in anyway, please head over to NURSING.com/Ashley and just tell her how it’s helped you. Thanks for joining us today. This is Jon with the NURSING podcast.

Today I’m excited to talk to Ashley. Ashley reached out to me about a year ago after she had failed the NCLEX three times. I actually did a podcast episode for her back then and also a blog post. Just a couple weeks ago I got another email from her with some exciting news. I just wanted to share that with you and have her reach out and tell her story about the NCLEX and her nursing journey. Welcome, Ashley. Thanks for coming on.

Ashley (Female): No problem.

Jon (Male): I want to share, about a year ago I got the following email from you. You said, “I have now failed the NCLEX three times. I have a job. I’m a smart woman and graduated with honors from nursing school. I’m incredibly frustrated at this point. What would you recommend to a nursing student in my position?” When I got that email it really stuck out to me because I had worked with a lot of nurses that had failed multiple times and then I saw students that had failed. It just really seems like it drug them down. Some people would even reach out to me and say they had failed and they had thought about getting out of nursing. Tell me how you felt a year ago when you failed for the third time.

Ashley (Female): I remember writing this email to you and I was just leaping in the library because I thought boy my computer had broke. So I was sitting in this little box, just typing away and I was miserable. I really honestly thought, I thought this was my calling for so long. Nursing was what I wanted to do. For four years I had worked so hard and I was unsure, should I change my career? Should I do something else? I honestly in desperation I wrote out to you. It felt terrible.

Jon (Male): I can only imagine. I remember walking out of taking the NCLEX and I called my wife right away and I was like, “I really have no clue if I passed or not. I don’t have a clue.”

Ashley (Female): Exactly. You really have no idea and you feel so gross about it, almost.

Jon (Male): Absolutely.

Ashley (Female): I remember, I’ll walk you through the first time I failed. I decided I would run ten miles and I cried the whole time and I just remember I’m like, “I want to die.” I just don’t understand. I thought I knew so much and for some reason I was like, “Wow I failed and the rest of my class was successful. Why am I going through this?” Maybe I was too confident. I thought I was the bee’s knees and thought I could do anything. It just sucker punched me.

Jon (Male): I can imagine. Before we started recording you told me, you had done well in school. You were a 3.8 student like a lot of us. It’s not like you went into the NCLEX unprepared or you were a bad student that just got lucky through school. It sounds like you worked really hard.

Ashley (Female): Yeah. I did. I would consider myself a [trotterd 00:07:21]. I worked really hard and talent has come a little bit, but it’s mostly just work ethic that keeps me going
Jon (Male): That’s awesome. About a week ago Ashley reached out to me again and this is the email she wrote. She said, “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m the woman who wrote a message about failing the NCLEX three times and having a job offer. Well I wanted to tell you thank you for your help with NCLEX process and podcast. I took all your advice, I had some suffering months, but I did make it out alive. I finally passed the NCLEX my fourth time and this one abbreviation means more to me than you will ever know. I’m so grateful and bless to have had this experience. I’ve grown from my one year of NCLEX trials. I cannot thank you enough for your advice and optimism. I will be starting my new job in the cardiac surgery PCU. I will continue to keep in touch and listen to your engaging, motivating podcast.” Beyond that, the subject line that you chose was: RN … more than an abbreviation. That just really stuck out to me. I had to dig into the email right away. I could tell that this was someone that just resonated with what we’re trying to do here at NURSING. That this just isn’t some thing that we do. Tell me about that email that you wrote this week and how that felt.

Ashley (Female): I finally realized after a couple weeks that I should reach out to you. Like, this is time, I’m like maybe he would know or maybe he would kind of remember me. After this, I pretty much took a year of self discovery through this whole NCLEX process. I really truly believe nurses, we know suffering. We’re fully aware of how precious each moment life is. It’s just a huge commitment and it’s more than just the title. It really is. You take on a huge life change to be a nurse. Whether you touch someone’s life or a life will touch yours, you make an impact every day. That’s why to me it’s more than an abbreviation. It’s a whole life change.

Jon (Male): Absolutely. Do you feel that this process has made it mean more to you or do you think that it always meant the same thing?

Ashley (Female): Oh no. It means so much more. I truly meant what I wrote. I think people take for granted what it is to be a registered nurse. For me I’m like, gosh I worked so hard. I mean I felt like it did a full time job, trying to study for this one test that is terrible. The devil, really.

Jon (Male): It really is. It really is.

Ashley (Female): Still I mean the fourth time I walked out and to me it felt different. I’m like, “Oh maybe I passed it this time.” I think back and I still didn’t know half the things. I just really critically thought about each answer and how to be a safe and effective nurse. It’s nothing like the real world.

Jon (Male): It’s nothing like the real world. That’s the thing. If you’ve spent time in the hospital you’ll probably do worse on the NCLEX, I think. The one thing they care about is being a safe nurse. That is important in the real world, but what they assume is that everything is perfect and-

Ashley (Female): Mm-hmm (affirmative)- a perfect world.

Jon (Male): All they care about is are you going to choose the safest thing. They want to make sure that you’re not going to kill somebody, but in a perfect world sometimes there’s grey areas.

Ashley (Female): Right. People will die.

Jon (Male): People die.

Ashley (Female): That happens.

Jon (Male): Absolutely.

Ashley (Female): That sounds terrible.

Jon (Male): No, it is. Absolutely. We know your story a little bit and we’ll get into this a little bit more, but tell us a little bit about who you are and why you chose to become a nurse.

Ashley (Female): Okay. I am 25. I am a twin, Caucasian, female and my sister and I are both very driven, determined, highly motivated individuals. Nursing is actually my second degree.

Jon (Male): Yeah. Me too.

Ashley (Female): I started with dietetics and realized that I wanted something more. I stayed in the health field but I truly found nursing because my grandma is really stubborn and she pushed me to become a nurse. She always told me it was my calling and I should try it. I just didn’t listen to her. Then one day I decided I should do it. I love people, I’m selfless. I just want to love people at their weakest moments. Maybe this will be for me. My first day I remember I walked into our classroom and there was this girl in yellow, this yellow sweater, which ended up being my best girlfriend, Shannon. We hit it off right away and I finally realized in the whole room that this whole entire time these are my people, I finally found myself and I found where I fit. After that I was like yep, this is where I am meant to be.

Jon (Male): That’s cool.

Ashley (Female): It was the coolest feeling.

Jon (Male): That’s cool. I feel like I had somewhat of a similar experience. Nursing was like my second or third career. I didn’t go in until I was later in life. I think, too, it was kind of the same feeling, like I grew so close to the people I was in school with. We each had a different reason for going into nursing, but we all had at the core that we wanted to help people in some way. I think that common goal and then how difficult nursing can be, you really grow incredibly close to those people. I still-

Ashley (Female): It’s almost a family.

Jon (Male): It is. I still stay in touch with everybody. We’re still Facebook friends, and message and keep up with each others’ lives and their kids and everything, years later.

Ashley (Female): Oh of course.

Jon (Male): Dietetics that’s cool. My wife is actually a dietitian.

Ashley (Female): Oh, is she?

Jon (Male): Yes. She is. She works in ICU as well. She does [peritrol 00:13:53] nutrition and stuff like that.

Ashley (Female): Yeah TPN.

Jon (Male): TPN’s, all those. She loves it. It’s really nice having that we both have that ICU thing we can talk about, because death does happen and you need a way to cope with it and we have each other we can talk about it with and it’s nice. Tell us, what do you want to do with nursing? Why nursing? Beyond just caring for people and stuff, why did you want to be a nurse?

Ashley (Female): I guess, I’ve taken care of people my whole life and it almost became just a natural thing for me. I fell in love with it. It’s weird to say that for a career, but I have a huge passion for it. I think sometimes in college, students are trying things out and don’t really know where they fit. For me it just became such a priority to me, it wasn’t hard to study because I enjoyed it so much. I think about my ambitious goals with nursing and where I want to be and a lot of it just reflects on the people. I just want to love people and take care of them and know that they matter and that they care.

Jon (Male): That’s cool.

Ashley (Female): I think in a way once you become a nursing student you kind of lose that connection with people and you still need that as a bedside nurse. You definitely need to be strong and intelligent, but compassion can really be a huge [inaudible 00:15:39] to nursing.

Jon (Male): Yes. Absolutely. Did you ever work as a tech or anything like that while you were in school?

Ashley (Female): Yep. I worked in the nursing home and I loved that job. Then I worked in the hospital for two years as a tech. I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie so I was in the emergency department for a little bit and just, I loved it. The whole experience. The whole journey has been great. Hard. Painful.

Jon (Male): Yes, but like you said, that compassion, I think is what, and that’s kind of cliché almost to even say it, but the compassion, just being able to explain to people in a way that they can understand. I had nurse Nicole on here a week or two ago and we talked about that too, that the compassion and reaching out to people and explaining to them what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, not only helps them but it really makes the whole process better for them, it makes their whole experience in the health care system better for them, rather than just rushing through the process and trying to get your job done.

Ashley (Female): It makes a person matter. You’re not a robot. You have a check list of things you need to do but when it comes down to it, the patients are talking to you. They’re not talking to the doctor most of the time.

Jon (Male): For sure. Exactly.

Ashley (Female): They want to trust you and so you have to build that relationship.

Jon (Male): Absolutely. What are your future plans with nursing? What do you want to do in a couple years? Five years? Ten years?

Ashley (Female): I’m going into cardiac and I have to be trained as part of my job, since I’m a new grad now. Yay. I have to do ICU-

Jon (Male): Oh that’s cool.

Ashley (Female): Surgical PCU. I think I had one more. Oh, OR. I get oriented into all these different places. They want to make me well rounded, which is wonderful, but I have a very long orientation, so that’s really exciting. I really do see myself becoming a nurse practitioner down the road. I had an internship in Minnesota and I got to shadow a nurse practitioner and I loved that too. It’s so much-

Jon (Male): Was it like a hospital nurse practitioner or like clinic?

Ashley (Female): Yeah. It was in the specialties. I was on the Onc unit.

Jon (Male): Oh cool.

Ashley (Female): I followed … she did immunology. I followed her for the day. Onc was my first love. Then I kind of fell into the hearts.

Jon (Male): I won’t say what hospital you got hired to. Ashley got hired to one of the top ten hospitals in the country. That’s so fantastic. You get to rotate through all these units and see how the process works. Hopefully that gets rid of some of that cattiness and back biting that can happen between units in the hospital, maybe. Hopefully.

Ashley (Female): Oh yeah. [inaudible 00:18:48]

Jon (Male): Cardiac surgery PCU. Would you like to work as a cardiac NP or an intensive care NP eventually?

Ashley (Female): I guess I’ll have to see where the road goes. I honestly at first thought I wanted to do critical care nursing. I am really pretty driven for that, but my parents are both … I’m adopted, well I guess I’m an orphan, but my family, they’re both teachers so they kind of push education, so someday I kind of see myself getting a masters in education. As part of my job I have to do so many certifications [crosstalk 00:19:27] already. Really the first year I think I walk out with 15 certifications required.

Jon (Male): Wow. That’s [crosstalk 00:19:39].

Ashley (Female): I’ll be studying a lot.

Jon (Male): I know that’s incredibly overwhelming right now to even think about, but getting certified within your specialty is so much better than studying for the NCLEX. Trust me. As you’re studying for your certification, you start learning more and you start becoming more hands on and you start feeling like you’re part of that team. It get’s you to a level that you can start communicating better with the physicians as you learn your specialty. That’s fantastic. I know it’s still probably very overwhelming to you with everything else.

Ashley (Female): Oh yeah. I haven’t even started my first day yet and I’m overwhelmed. I’m like, “Man I have so much to do.” It’s like an exciting, happy time. I’m like, “Oh yes, I am a nurse.”

Jon (Male): I’m excited, but this is terrible.

Ashley (Female): Yeah. Oh my God, so much to do. Jon, I do want to tell you one of my future goals, maybe in the next five or ten years, have you ever heard of the Nightingale Award?

Jon (Male): Nightingale Award. I don’t think I’ve heard of that one.

Ashley (Female): Each state represents certain nurses every year for being advocate or leadership or volunteering, so forth. That’s one of my career goals is to get that.

Jon (Male): That’s awesome. Okay, I just-

Ashley (Female): Look it up and then we can chat about it.

Jon (Male): I just Googled it. I’ll have to look into that. I haven’t heard about that. That’s great. That’s good. It’s good to have those goals in your career too, otherwise nursing really can start dragging you down and that’s just coming from experience working on the floor. All the politics and everything within a hospital can become a huge weight, so having that bigger vision of something that you want to do. For me, it was this, the NRSNG thing, this bigger vision of educating nursing students. I think for you, you already have that goal and that vision where hopefully everything within nursing and working in a hospital doesn’t bring you down.

Ashley (Female): I’ve seen nurses that become jaded. That’s really sad. I’m like, “Gosh, what happened to you?”

Jon (Male): It can happen incredibly quick. I work in a pretty big and busy ICU where there’s a lot of death and there’s a lot of under staffing and [inaudible 00:22:02] because of how difficult it is. We’ll have nurses that only last, out of school, a month or two just because it can really weigh you down. I feel for those nurses because they put the same amount of effort and time and energy into getting this license and then it’s gone. I think part of it, maybe, is obviously the hospital could revamp the way they educate and train nurses, but part of it I think too is having that bigger vision of what this is and what it can be.

Ashley (Female): By far.

Jon (Male): Let’s get into your NCLEX studying and things like that. Take me to that first time. We’re going to dwell on it just for a minute. I don’t want to break you down or anything.

Ashley (Female): I knew I was going to open up some wounds today, but I’m doing this for the greater good.

Jon (Male): Well I appreciate it.

Ashley (Female): You’re welcome.

Jon (Male): You were working as a tech of some sort when you took the NCLEX the first time, is that right?

Ashley (Female): That’s right.

Jon (Male): You were close with your cohort, your classmates and everything?

Ashley (Female): Oh yeah.

Jon (Male): You were getting the stories back that people were passing and starting their jobs. You go, you take the NCLEX the first time and you don’t pass. How did you cope with and handle expressing that to your … you already had a job too. How did you approach all this and all those people without … because it had to be done. How did you do it without and have the courage to do it?

Ashley (Female): First off I would say I broke down after the NCLEX because I think you’re so pent up from studying so much that you just have to get it off your system. It was so stressful and all that pressure with people around you and constantly leaving. I’m a very slow test taker. You’ll find out later in the story kind of what I ended up finding out about myself. I had to really take a week and self reflect, and really ask myself, “Is this worth it?” I did all this work, what went wrong. Finally when I got my results back, because obviously every nursing student wants to pay to get there quick results, so I knew within three days and I just saw on that line, fail. My heart almost stopped beating. I’m like, “Wow what happened?” I had to really think deeply. I’m like, “Is something wrong with me?” “Am I not smart?” “What am I going to do?” I really had to collect myself. When I actually started talking to my nurse manager who is now my official nurse manager he was so positive and he told me, “Ashley, don’t give up. You’ve gone through so much work. This happens all the time. I hear stories all the time about this. You’re not the first one. You’re going to get through this and you’re going to call me when you pass. Just tell me your schedule, what you’re thinking and we’ll go from there. It’s not a big deal.” Honestly from that, that was the hugest phone call that I had to make because that was really so much weight lifted off my shoulders, but it felt good.

Jon (Male): Were you afraid they were going to rescind their offer and say-

Ashley (Female): Oh yeah, I felt like [crosstalk 00:25:41].

Jon (Male): “Well clearly you’re not good enough for us.”

Ashley (Female): Exactly. I already had so much pressure from my family and just where I’m going for my new job that I was miserable. I was shaking trying to make this phone call. I remember sitting outside my house. It was sunshine out. I was like, “Thank the lord it’s not gloomy. I just need to be positive about this.” I felt so supported that it helped. I ended up only telling a few of my friends because I was so sad. You almost don’t want to share it with people that you failed, because you feel-

Jon (Male): Like a failure.

Ashley (Female): Yeah. You do. You start to think it.

Jon (Male): You blame yourself.

Ashley (Female): Then you feel that your classmates will make fun of you or that they question if you’re going to be a good nurse and you start to create all these webs and certain negativity and it just storms. You’re like, “Stop. I’m creating a story. I can’t do this. I’m not going to think about this. That’s their journey, where they are going. This is mine.” Really I had to take responsibility and be like “All right, I must have not been well prepared. I probably took it too lightly. I need to rethink my strategy for life right now.” It took a lot. The first time was the worst. Then the next couple of times got a little better. It still hurt. The first one was like a knife to my chest.

Jon (Male): You have to wait, is it like 45 days between each test or something like that? Is that the rules?

Ashley (Female): Mm-hmm (affirmative)- [inaudible 00:27:35]

Jon (Male): Between these three attempts you’re seeing your friends starting their jobs, working in hospitals and things.

Ashley (Female): Yeah. I’m hearing stories.

Jon (Male): They’re doing all the cool stuff.

Ashley (Female): It’s painful. Exactly. I’m like, I have to stay here and watch your Facebook posts, or my friends that are nurses tell me about their days or where life is and I feel stuck, like wow I’m lost. I can’t believe I didn’t pass the NCLEX.

Jon (Male): What specific things did you do to keep yourself motivated and positive? You had to remain positive just to get through life. We’re talking [inaudible 00:28:17] several years worth of time. How did you keep yourself going toward this?

Ashley (Female): I inevitably did a lot of cross fit because I needed to get that out of my system. My mental health needed to be a lot better. I stuck to my closest friends and I didn’t worry about everyone else. I honestly kind of went off social media. I just kind of took everything that was negative in my life and I threw it away. I’m like, “You know what, I’m going to get through this. This is a storm and I have got to persevere.” I still worked but I worked part time and I focused solely on the NCLEX. I was adamant, I’m like, “No this will not beat me down.”

Jon (Male): Absolutely. I can only feel for you. I can imagine how … because we’ve all had failures and things like that, but for a failure to carry on for … and I’m sorry, I’m going to call it for a failure-

Ashley (Female): Go ahead just say it.

Jon (Male): For lack of a better word, if that works. To fail for a year, most people never experience that. I think it’s incredibly inspiring that you kept that focus and that determination for that long. I don’t personally know if I could have done that, honestly. I commend you. I think there’s so many out there that kind of remain in the shadows with this. They might post a link or two on all nurses or something about failing, but they kind of try to keep in the shadows or give up. I think that’s just so incredible that you were able to stick with it for that long. That’s amazing. It really is.

Ashley (Female): Thank you.

Jon (Male): Tell us what study materials and what study guides, plans, eventually do you believe worked the best for you?

Ashley (Female): I probably tried everything under the sun. I can tell you what really was awesome for me. Some people might not agree with me but that’s okay. Whatever makes them happy.

Jon (Male): Different strokes for different folks. Right?

Ashley (Female): Exactly. I tried [Hurst 00:30:40] and I tried Caplan and those did not work for me. I realized after my third time, okay mnemonics don’t help and I can’t [crosstalk 00:30:54] some [inaudible 00:30:55] strategy to help me get through this.

Jon (Male): I promise we didn’t rehearse this. I didn’t ask you at all before, but thank you. Mnemonics just tick me off because they don’t teach you the material. You don’t understand with the mnemonic. Go ahead.

Ashley (Female): You honestly, you have got to learn your content.

Jon (Male): You do.

Ashley (Female): If you don’t understand it or if you can’t even teach it, you need to go back through and revamp what you just did.

Jon (Male): Right, during the middle of a code you can’t be running a mnemonic in your head to save a patient. You’ve got to understand what the heck is going on.

Ashley (Female): Exactly, I wrote probably 500 flash cards, I would say. In this whole one year aspect, I really … I also took ATI and I took, what’s that test called? I took many standardized tests and they told me I was at passing level. That was encouraging.

Jon (Male): This was before you took the first time or like-

Ashley (Female): This is after the second and third. I realized, I’m like, “Why am I nearly passing, but on standardized tests I’m getting it?” That’s what kind of weirded me out. You sent me, on your blog or podcast that you sent me, Prioritization, Delegation, Assignment. That’s a gold mine.

Jon (Male): Isn’t that? That’s the best of [crosstalk 00:32:33]

Ashley (Female): Really it is the best.

Jon (Male): Oh yeah. I’ve look at trying to recreate that and I don’t. I don’t even try. It is the best book for those.

Ashley (Female): Everyone should purchase that. If you can take those questions and get them right-

Jon (Male): You’re golden.

Ashley (Female): NCLEX will be a breeze.

Jon (Male): It is. I believe that.

Ashley (Female): Truly. Those are the hardest questions I ever took.

Jon (Male): They really are. In that book there’s a lot of those questions.

Ashley (Female): I loved it. I went through the whole book. I went through … I did all of [Sonder’s 00:33:04] comprehension. I dug through a ton of things. It probably, actually, my [med surge 00:33:09] is probably awesome now. I have such a broad spectrum-

Jon (Male): Knowledge.

Ashley (Female): I also, I took … so medications, I think I went through the majority of your NURSING podcast because there’s so many drugs and I hate drugs. I have a very poor memory.

Jon (Male): You’ll come to love them, don’t worry, you will.

Ashley (Female): I really struggled. I remember after my second or third time, one or the other, after I had gone through your whole medication course, I improved completely. I was above the passing level.

Jon (Male): You mean the podcast or the course?

Ashley (Female): I did both.

Jon (Male): Great. Good. That’s good, I’m glad that it [crosstalk 00:34:01]. Good.

Ashley (Female): When you’re desperate you’ll do anything.

Jon (Male): Good.

Ashley (Female): That was really a key for me. I also reviewed a Caplan stuff, but I mostly just went through med surge and tried to understand where I was. After you fail so many times you start to realize what’s weak for you or what areas on the NCLEX were awful. For me, basic care and comfort was terrible.

Jon (Male): Really. Interesting.

Ashley (Female): Even though I was near passing on everything, I couldn’t some how grasp it. Like how to walk with a cane. Weird stuff like that, where I’m like, “How am I going to teach that or remember that?” There were some things I just, I don’t know.

Jon (Male): It didn’t click.

Ashley (Female): Well I don’t know why it wouldn’t stick. Those were the best for me. The last thing I did was probably one of the cheapest things you could have done, would have saved me thousands of money. I went to National Council, NCSBN. The official owners of the NCLEX and I did their course. That was awesome. It was so much cheaper than everything I paid for. Over a year of time. It gave me what I needed.

Jon (Male): It’s very condensed, it’s very-

Ashley (Female): Very condensed-

Jon (Male): It’s very bullet pointed of the different things. On all the flashcards you made, what were you putting on those flashcards? What was on the front and back? How did they work for you?

Ashley (Female): I did systems. I had to make sure that I understand how the whole system worked. I would break a system down. I would break down cardiac. I would break down neurology. I would break down fluid and electrolytes. I honestly worked it through. I would just kind of do … for fluid and electrolytes I just did F and E. Then on the front part I would put fluids. I just did isotonic and all the rest of them. I would think in my head, and say it out loud to myself, what are these and what do they do? That really helped me.

Jon (Male): Okay. So you’re just making yourself talk through the details behind it.

Ashley (Female): I talked it through and then I would make sure that I understood how it worked. I mean cellularly was great, but just how it worked with a patient. I’m like, “Okay, why would I give this? Because they’re dehydrated. Because they have severe burns.” Really think about it. I really had to stretch myself.

Jon (Male): You’re right. That’s the critical thinking. Right? [crosstalk 00:36:49] would say what’s an isotonic fluid, that’s simple, but what conditions, and why for those conditions? I think that connection is lost in nursing schools a lot.

Ashley (Female): Oh it’s so bad.

Jon (Male): We teach memorization and that’s not what you need.

Ashley (Female): No.

Jon (Male): You need to know why this fluid works for that.

Ashley (Female): I loved my program. We’re ranked number one in the state. I walked out of there and I don’t think I knew how to critically think. Honestly, I think I had all this material and all this knowledge, but I couldn’t piece it together. It had to take me a year to really understand it. That’s killer. It just kills me saying that because they’re wonderful. I loved my program, but-

Jon (Male): No but I think that’s one of the big problems in my mind personally with the nursing education is that we love to say critically think, we love that word, we love it, it’s such a good word-

Ashley (Female): But can you do it-

Jon (Male): But what does that mean? Teach me. What does that mean. You’re telling me that from day one but what does that mean? How do I do it? Instead of that, we’re shoving mnemonics at you and memorization lists. I think that needs to be cut out and we need to be saying, this is what these are. Once you have all those things learned and understood I think mnemonics have a place, but not until you know what you’re talking about.

Ashley (Female): Exactly. I mean heck even though [inaudible 00:38:07] you don’t know a certain drug and what it’s going to do, you just know the mnemonic, that will never help you.

Jon (Male): It’s never going to save you.

Ashley (Female): It just hurt to know that I had to teach myself critical thinking. It’s good. I take pride in it and I’m very happy that I got through this. I believe nursing schools need to be revamped, completely.

Jon (Male): Yes. I agree 100%. I do think the book Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment helps with teaching, critically thinking a little bit if you read through all those rationales. We’re working on, we’re trying to develop some sort of course or videos or things to really teach it. I really think that’s missing out there. Let’s say you could rewind the clock 18 months. You can go back to last June or something. What three study resources would you give yourself?

Ashley (Female): Delegation, Prioritization, Assignment, hands down. I would do the NCSBN course, just to help refresh yourself and then I would listen to your podcasts on medications. Simple.

Jon (Male): Exactly. If you work hard in school, if you find a system that works and what helps you, just finding those resources that help with that or encourage that I guess would be a good way to go. You’ve been working in the health care field for a while now and you’ve had time to kind of think about where you want to go with nursing, but can you think back and share one of your most memorable nursing experiences, whether as a student or a tech or whatever.

Ashley (Female): As a nursing student?

Jon (Male): Either way. Whatever. Just a memorable experience with a patient or whatever. Something that really sticks out.

Ashley (Female): I was in Minnesota and I was working on the Onc floor and I had this patient who had a very rare osteosarcoma in the spine. She was my age, which was really shocking to me because I never thought I would deal with patients that were my age. It was a really bittersweet moment, because she was diagnosed in December, had a child in January, and then when I met her in May she was struggling really bad. She really opened up to me in a way that I have never felt with anyone yet. I think I will get to that point when I am a nurse, but she really moved me. I remember her telling me, she’s like, “Ashley, nobody understands why I want to die.” I told her, “Look you are in the worst pain you could possibly be.” She had drips of Ketamine. She had a spinal tap. She had probably every line that you could think of that she was running. She told me, “I’m miserable and everybody wants me to keep living.” She’s like, “I think I’ll be happier when I die.” I told her, “This is your choice and you don’t have to do anything. God will provide. He is going to help you get through this no matter what happens and you have got to believe in yourself.” We would talk about Pinterest and have like-

Jon (Male): Just girly talk.

Ashley (Female): I got down to her level and was able to meet her needs without having to stretch myself or be an adult or be someone that I’m not. I can just be who I am at that point. It was amazing. We just matched so well, so every time I would work she would make sure I was on and I would get her as my patient. I struggled with boundaries obviously, because I’m super connected to her and she passed away actually right after I went back home to Colorado. It was one of those moments where I just knew, I’ve made a difference in her life. She wrote me a letter before she died about how she was so thankful that I was there for her during that time. It moved me. There’s things that you stick on to in nursing and that’s definitely one of them. It encourages me.

Jon (Male): Absolutely. There so much in that story that I think could make solo podcast episodes. I think that’s a fantastic story.

Ashley (Female): I was 23 and I had to really absorb all that.

Jon (Male): That’s hard. That’s a lot.

Ashley (Female): It was a lot. It is. It changes you.

Jon (Male): I think that things that happen, I’m not an incredibly political person or anything like that, but I think that things that happen in the world in politics and in the U.S. and things like that, when you come at it from a nursing perspective and having seen things like that, in and out, day in and out, every time you go to work you’re actually dealing with death. I think that it changes the way that you see a lot of things. I think a lot of our friends who aren’t nurses just can’t get it. There’s no way that they can even understand what we do or what we see.

Ashley (Female): It’s just so hard to get them to grasp what I do every day. I’m like, no, really, [yolo 00:44:09].

Jon (Male): Seriously guys.

Ashley (Female): It really means something. I’m not trying to be a teenager but life if so precious.

Jon (Male): It is.

Ashley (Female): We take it for granted.

Jon (Male): We do. I think I’ve shared this story several times before, but the one patient that sticks out to me more than anyone else was a guy that was about my age, he was my age exactly, our birthdays were like a week apart. He had a daughter that was the same age as my daughter, a year old at the time. He had a very strange, rare pathology in the brain that caused hydrocephalus to the point that the neurosurgeons and neurologists, the infectious diseases docs could not diagnose what it was, but he ended up herniating and dying. I was with that family for three days, in and out every night with them, with their husband, their son, their brother. Seeing pictures of his little daughter that didn’t get to tell her dad goodbye and being. I’m still friends with the family on Facebook. In situations like that I just don’t believe necessarily in boundaries. I have to be able to separate myself and be able to move on with my life, but I was there for that family and they provided a life changing experience for me as well. People can’t understand that.

Ashley (Female): We’re such a different breed too, to think that. I got invited to her funeral. Most people don’t get invited to those things but we do, we go to the baby ceremonies, baby showers I guess that’s what you call it. We’re so a part of their lives that it transforms us, but I think it transforms them too.

Jon (Male): For sure. I did another episode too where I talked about compassion [inaudible 00:46:03] I think. I talked about what is it about us as nurses that motivates us to be in this time of life with people? Is it audacious? Is it compassion? What is it? Why are we putting ourselves in that situation? These people will never forget us and we’ll never forget them. It’s such a … after that patient when I drove home from work I actually went to my parents house. It was after a night shift and I was exhausted and I went to my parents house and I told them, “I love you guys.” It was like, like you said [crosstalk 00:46:40] it’s like holy crap, that could … this wasn’t because this guy was obese, it wasn’t because he was drinking and got it an accident. It wasn’t because a lot of the things I see in a Neuro ICU, it was because no one knew. He was just my age and had a daughter my daughter’s age. It’s like holy crap, that could have been me right there, right now.

Ashley (Female): Mind blown. Exactly. I could have been Hannah who was my patient, that could have been me. I could have lived that life, but some how I’m still here.

Jon (Male): Exactly.

Ashley (Female): It goes to your core.

Jon (Male): It really does.

Ashley (Female): I guess I truly believe if you’re going to be here on this earth you need to make someone’s life better.

Jon (Male): I agree.

Ashley (Female): I think that’s what draws our type of people, are drawn to nursing.

Jon (Male): Maybe that’s what it is. My job before nursing, I was a buyer for a large sporting goods store. I would go to work at 9:00, come home at 5:00 and sit in my desk all day buying golf balls from Asia. I’d go home ticked off every night. I’d look forward to Friday every day and then on Sunday I was already depressed for the coming week. That changed the moment I started nursing school. That was gone. I was doing something good. Even if it was just for one small thing, one patient says thank you or gives you a Christmas card or whatever it is, it does change you. I’m glad that you decided to stick with it. You clearly have a tremendous amount of passion and it seems like you’re really in the right spot.

Ashley (Female): Thank you. It really took a lot. I did question myself so many times.

Jon (Male): Yes. Well good for you. We’ve been talking about an hour now all ready.

Ashley (Female): Oh really. [inaudible 00:48:28]

Jon (Male): Tell me, what one piece of parting advice would you give to someone who is struggling to pass the NCLEX?

Ashley (Female): There’s two things that I really hold on to this day and that I also held on to at the NCLEX. It’s called the four P’s. Have you heard of it?

Jon (Male): I don’t know.

Ashley (Female): Maybe. Patience. Positivity. Prayer. Perseverance. First off, as a nursing student you are your hardest critic because sometimes we’re pretty perfectionism, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I would say strive for progress but not perfection. This quote was probably my favorite of all time. “You have only to decide upon what it is you want and then stay with it, never deviating from your course no matter how long it takes, or how rough the road until you’ve accomplished it. Winners simply do what losers don’t want to do. Success is largely a matter of holding on after others have let go.” That would be my two biggest things to think about. Don’t give up. Never give up. Never give in.

Jon (Male): Would you mind sending me that quote?

Ashley (Female): Oh absolutely.

Jon (Male): Then I can post it on [inaudible 00:50:11]. I think it’s hard to look back on trials and really be happy for them. I don’t know who you were a year ago but from our conversation, this is the first time we’ve talked, but it seems like you’re in a very good place and you’re going to be able to do a lot with nursing.

Ashley (Female): I almost think of my experience as in like a really rough storm, like in a boat. You can’t have a perfect storm, to be a skilled sailor. Whatever purpose it was for me to fail the NCLEX three times, it really has blessed me and I feel like a better woman from it, after a year. I can’t believe I’m saying that. But really I do. I feel like it strengthened me.

Jon (Male): Just never let your license lapse so you never have to take it again.

Ashley (Female): Yeah.

Jon (Male): Seriously thank you very much for coming on. I’m excited for what you’re going to be doing in the coming years with nursing. Thanks for listening to the NURSING NCLEX Prep broadcast [inaudible 00:51:21] at NURSING.com. We’ll catch you next time.

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