If you are failing nursing school, you can implement these tips TODAY to turn things around. I want to be the first person to tell you it’s going to be okay. You WILL get through this.
The reason one might be in jeopardy of failing nursing school usually falls into one of three categories…
A) you are failing an actual course (which in most cases is anything below a 75-80%)
B) you are failing clinical, or
C) you have failed a critical skills check-off and only have one more chance.
Whatever the reason, there are some proven strategies you can put into effect RIGHT NOW to prevent you from failing nursing school, help pull you away from the edge and keep your dream of becoming a nurse alive.
Failing a nursing school course
Let’s start with reason A…what do you do if you are in jeopardy of failing nursing school because you are doing poorly in one of your courses? The first thing to do, is to figure out exactly where you stand grades-wise. I suggest downloading an app such as Simple Grade or Grade Calculator Plus. Input your grades, paying careful attention to things that might be weighted more heavily than others. With this data, you can see what grade you NEED on that next assignment or exam in order to pass the course. Now that you know what you need to earn, you can take steps to get there.
First things first…where are you having trouble? In most cases, your coursework is graded mainly on exams. Are you a smart student that has trouble with test taking anxiety? Are you uncomfortable with computer-based tests? Are NCLEX-style questions tripping you up? Maybe you’re having trouble understanding what, exactly, to study? Or HOW to study. Or are you simply overwhelmed with all the content, or having trouble grasping specific concepts? Whatever it is, you absolutely must identify what the problem is, or you’ll continue to flail. Chances are, you won’t have ALL these issues, and one you identify what your problem actually is, you’ll start feeling better about solving it. For example, let’s say you have severe test anxiety. Can I help? ABSOLUTELY! Just follow Nurse Mo’s Test Day Strategy and I guarantee it will help immensely. I go into all my strategies in great detail in The Nursing School Thrive Guide, but I’ll give you a little sneak peek here.
Nurse Mo’s Test Day Strategy is how I kept the nerves at bay during nursing school, kept my cool during exams and did my absolute best. It starts by having a solid study strategy in the days/weeks before the exam (let’s face it, no amount of deep breathing can help if you’re ill prepared!). The strategy kicks in the night before the exam. Stop studying mid-day or early evening…you will want to relax your beautiful brain and get some good rest. The next day, you are going to RESIST studying…with every fiber of your being you are going to resist the urge to pull out your notes and study. The idea is to keep your brain open and relaxed. When you arrive at the testing site, you will undoubtedly see all your classmates gathering together, quizzing each other, and generally freaking out. You are going to avoid the huge freakout session. Make sure you know where the room is (if it’s not your usual classroom), then take yourself outside or to a quiet hallway where you do anything but study. I used to listen to Yo-Yo Ma on my iPhone…whatever you need to do to relax, as long as it does NOT involve looking at your notes or talking to anyone about what might/might not be on the exam. You are going to waltz into the exam room RELAXED, calm and ready. All those classmates in the hall? They’ve amped themselves up into a frenzy…their adrenaline is pumping and there is no way they can approach the exam in a calm, collected manner. You, on the other hand, are the picture of serenity. And the answers will come. I promise.
Of course, doing poorly on exams doesn’t always have to do with text anxiety…it may simply be that the concepts are difficult, you’re not studying effectively, or you are simply overwhelmed. I go into detail for a proven study strategy in my book…it has helped loads of other students, and it can help you, too!
Now, let’s look at scenario B…you are failing clinical. This is a biggie. You absolutely cannot fail clinical, and now that you are in jeopardy you are under the microscope. Clinical is scary enough as it is…but having your clinical instructor watching your every move like a hawk can make even the most routine med pass an absolute minefield of terror. The best thing you can do here is to go speak to your clinical instructor. You MUST understand what issues are causing you to do poorly…is it your clinical preparation? Maybe you’ve flubbed on your charting one too many times, or forgotten one of the five rights when you gave a med. Find out where you are weak, and you can work on making yourself strong.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to prep thoroughly for your clinical rotations. DO ALL the clinical prep, and do it perfectly…as though it were a huge exam each and every week. Because it is. Show up on time, show up prepped and show up with a positive attitude. As you are going about your day, try not to rush…take your time, be thorough and MOST OF ALL be safe! Don’t take shortcuts, don’t make assumptions and don’t rush through critical things such as meds and assessments. Clinical failures usually revolve around safety, so make sure you are doing everything carefully. If you’re not sure…ASK! There is nothing more dangerous than a nurse who doesn’t ask questions when s/he is unsure of something. I promise you will NOT look like an idiot for asking…you are a student, you are supposed to ask a ton of questions!
Failing a skills check-off
What about scenario C? You’ve got some critical skills check-offs throughout your nursing school career and you’ve failed one. Most schools will give you two (or even three) attempts to pass a skills check off, so take a deep breath. Breathe in….breathe out. Ok. Now what? Now you prep like the dickens for your next checkoff. The first thing you want to do is look at the scoring/grading criteria. It should clearly state every single thing you need to do in order to pass the checkoff. Thing of this as your script and think of yourself as the world’s greatest actor preparing for a role. Solicit a volunteer, and go through your “script”…everything from introducing yourself to performing hand hygiene to maintaining a sterile field. Practice each and every step so that when it comes time to do the actual checkoff, you’re confident as heck and you rock that checkoff. Now, some checkoffs are harder than others…I remember the checkoff regarding injections sending people into tears…all the different measurements (what length needle, what gauge, what technique?). For checkoffs such as these, I highly recommend making flashcards and studying just like you would for any exam. You got this.
While these tips just hit on a few strategies, I do hope you feel like there is a way up and out of the academic hole you find yourself in. Failing nursing school can be scary, especially considering how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. For an in-depth look at how to rock nursing school, check out my book, Nursing School Thrive Guide, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. Hang in there!
Get this on audio in Podcast Episode 93.
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