Hey y’all. So, this here is going to be a very vulnerable post. One that I never thought I’d share for fear of judgement, shame, and whatever else society throws at us that’s so negative. But, here I am, stepping out of my comfort zone and being bold. Why, because I know that someone else needs to hear this and know that they can get through whatever they are battling.
Anyway, whew, let me tell you life is a journey. Oh wait, I’ve mentioned that before. I’ve been on so many journey’s, but this journey of becoming an RN (registered nurse for those that aren’t in the “medical lingo” world) has been INSANE. Full of so many highs and lows, but also one of the most rewarding journeys. So, enjoy the ride while I share in an as condensed version as I possibly can.
You see, there’s always been this aching in my heart to want to be a nurse. I’ve been in situations where we’ve had to deal with nurses and I’ve seen and experienced the good and sadly, the bad. But, as most know, I did things a little different in my life. I got married at 18 ½ and had my first baby 13 days after turning 19. I grew my marriage and my family first. And, here’s the spoiler, I wouldn’t change any of it!
There then came a point in my life that the aching to go after my degree became stronger. I had a husband and daughters that I knew would fully support me if I decided to pursue my degree. So, I made the jump. I started by just taking a few pre-req classes part time at a community college. Not too long after that, we moved back home. I didn’t want my classes to go to waste so I did my research and found a university that had (what I think and can prove to be) one of the best nursing programs on this side of the country. But, at that time they were only accepting 40 students a year. You had to submit a lot of different information, take an exam, and apply to be in their program. The year that I applied, so did 87 other students. I prayed that if it was truly what God had planned for me at that time, He would make it clear and that door would swing wide open. A couple months later, I received a letter congratulating me on making it in. So, I began my journey to go after my BSN, RN degree.
Also at that time, I learned that to actually start the nursing classes, I had to take two additional courses first as some of my prior courses wouldn’t be counted. But, I was grateful for being accepted and I was going to do what it would take. I eventually made it through those courses and was able to begin the actual nursing program. Let me tell you, nursing school is not for the faint at heart and doing it with a family brought even more obstacles. AND if that wasn’t quite enough the grading system was TOUGH. I’ve never been one that was great with testing, but did great with the rest of the required work. However, I quickly learned that you have to maintain an “exam” average on top of your overall grade. I knew that would be one of my many obstacles to overcome. I had this way of doubting myself during every single exam. I’d talk myself out of answers, I’d question everything I was doing, and quite honestly, I let the enemy have far too much control. I let him mess with my mind a lot, well until my final year, but hold on, I’ll get there.
At the end of my first semester in the nursing program, I went in to take my final exam. I was on the brink of the exam average I needed to pass, but my overall grade was great. However, the exam average was crucial to continue on. Well, I missed that percentage by 1%. Yes, you read that right, one percent! There was no overcoming it in that moment, it was what it was. I was devastated to say the least. I was a rollercoaster of emotions and felt like such a failure. A failure to myself, to my husband, to our daughters, to our mighty God, everyone. I gave myself the break to process and decide what my next move was going to be. And eventually, once I got out of my hole, I realized that God wasn’t done with me yet. I wasn’t supposed to give this up. However, I wouldn’t be able to continue in the program as I’d have to retake that particular class and it wouldn’t be available until the next year. Which would also prolong my graduation one year longer. So, I took several Bible classes to keep me active in school and continued to prepare myself for the next year.
The next year came and I made it through the semester of retaking the course and into the next semester. Into the next year after that and then, apparently I like to do things the hard way. I was upon the second semester of my Junior year and again about to go in and take my final for one of my courses. And again, I was on the brink when it came to the exam average. Well, I missed it, by 1.64%. I couldn’t hardly believe I was going through this again. I prayed and reached out to one of the professors that was incredibly impactful during my journey (I’ll share more about her later, probably in a different post). After conversing with her, I decided that I was going to file a petition. I had worked FAR too hard for this to end. You see, you can only go through that once and if it happens again, you are let go from the program and have to start completely over. I wasn’t ready for that to happen, nor did I feel like that was what God wanted either.
After a week or so, I received an email from the Dean of Nursing that they were granting my petition and would allow me to continue on in the program (with some stipulations of course). However, one of those stipulations was that the Dean wanted me to prove to her that I could get past the exams. She was requiring me to take 4 exams (with different questions) over all the content in that particular course again and to do it over the course of the summer. It would be set up similar to an online course. I already had all the study material I would need. I would just have to redo the exams, not all the course work again as I had an “A” in all of that. I did have to have the exams done before the next semester started. Here’s the thing, this university doesn’t do nursing courses during the summer. But, the amazing professor that taught the specific course I needed, offered to meet me at her office if I needed to study. She told me to just let her know and we would work everything out. I agreed. However, I did NOT want this to take my entire summer. So I scheduled one exam a week for the first four weeks of the summer. I studied hard and passed each exam with a much higher percentage, proving that my journey wasn’t over yet. I continued on….
My Final Year
The first semester of my last year was going to be a tough one. I had a couple tough classes, but I worked HARD. I didn’t do fantastic on one of my first exams, but I kept praying and working through it. I had a professor ask to meet with me. She was known to some as a bit of a tough professor, but she had always been kind to me. I think it’s all in how you treat someone. I respected her, treated her kindly, and appreciated all she taught. She simply wanted the best for her students. Who knows, we could be taking care of her or her family some day and she wanted to be sure she would get good care. I don’t blame her one bit for that, it’s exactly what I’d want too. Anyway, she pulled me into her office. She said she had heard about my first exam score and she wanted to have a little, “come to Jesus” chat with me. She handed me a box of tissues and said, “I’m going to be firm, but I want you to remember, it’s because I KNOW what you’re capable of. I know God has chosen you to be a nurse and you’re going to be an amazing nurse!” She proceeded to talk to me about my testing anxiety. She told me I was giving the enemy too much credit. That as long as I spoke of testing anxiety and let the enemy mess with my head, I’d continue to battle this rollercoaster. She said, “stop it! Declare that he has no power over you.” She prayed with me, hugged me, and told me she believed in me. It was absolutely what I needed to finish out my final year of nursing school. From that point on, I did just that. I declared the enemy had NO power over me, that my God was mighty and SO much bigger and that He gets the victory and the glory, PERIOD! My exams were all passing from then on. You see, sometimes it just takes someone being real with you, believing in you, and reminding you that you’re a daughter of the KING! This particular professor did that for me and I’m forever grateful.
Blessings Along the Way
Finally, the end was in site. All assignments, exams, etc… were complete. Nurse pinning, hooding, and graduation were finally here. I can’t even begin to tell you the excitement and feelings I had for all of it. This journey may have taken me longer than most, but I had done it! I was going to be a nurse. Something I had wanted and dreamed of for so long. Something I had wholeheartedly felt God had called me to be. My heart was full. Nurse pinning was such an amazing experience. For those not familiar, it’s a special ceremony for nurses to be pinned with an RN pin by their professors. There is a candle lighting, lighting the way as we head out on our journey to serve others selflessly. Awards are given. Which, much to my surprise I was voted on and blessed with not one, but two amazing leadership awards. One was, “Department of Nursing Outstanding Leadership,” and I was voted on by my peers to receive it. Second was, “Department of Nursing-The Barbara Lester Servant Leadership Award,” and I was voted on by my professors and nursing faculty. Receiving both of these awards was incredibly humbling and such an honor. I will never forget the moments. I also was voted by my peers to read our class scripture at the beginning of the nurse pinning ceremony (which I nearly fell apart doing as I was overcome with emotion). Again, so many moments that I will never forget and that I am so incredibly grateful for. God was gracious and faithful through the entire process. Even in the moments when I thought it was the end, He was constantly reminding me that this journey wasn’t over. That I was meant to be an RN. Hooding and graduation were also both wonderful experiences that will be forever etched in my mind.
Oh Wait, You’re not Done Yet
You thought that was it?!?! Never, God likes to keep me on my toes, always reminding me, He’s the one in control. So, I may have graduated, but I was quickly reminded that I wasn’t done yet. I had the dreaded NCLEX-RN exam to overcome. You see a BSN-RN degree isn’t like most degrees. You don’t graduate, get hired, and start working as a nurse. You graduate, study some more, apply through the state for licensure, study some more, wait for clearance, get an authorization to test number, study some more, sign up for a test, keep studying, likely be hired somewhere pending your exam, study some more, and then proceed to pass the test. This isn’t like other tests. This is a DOOZY! You are given a minimum of 75 questions up to a maximum of 265 or 6 hours whichever comes first. The exam literally stops and shuts off when it decides, no heads up or warning. It’s also not the easiest thing to study for. There’s a variety of areas and a variety of types of questions: multiple choice, select all the apply (Lord why?!?!?), listen so you can identify, hotspot, put in order, etc… There’s no going back to fix a question, once you move forward, you’ve moved forward. There’s a national average line that you must stay above, but you don’t know where you’re at on that line while you’re taking the exam. Multiple choice questions are usually set up with four choices: two dead wrong, two correct, but which one is the “most” correct?! You go in with identification, empty pockets, get the veins in your hands scanned, your picture taken, and then you’re lead in to your computer. From there, it’s a whole lot of praying and relying on your knowledge.
I had received my authorization to test and scheduled my exam for the first possible morning appointment, which was almost a month away. At the end of June, I went in to test. I figured I’d studied as much as I could. I drew what felt like the short straw and was given 265 questions, with some extra “trial-don’t count towards your exam” questions, and a survey. This took me four grueling hours. After 48 hours you’re given the option to pay $8 for “unofficial” exam results or you can wait up to 6 weeks to hear from the board of nursing. I opted for the first choice. I paid, waiting for it to process and then saw the word I dreaded, “fail.” My heart and stomach both sank. I felt just like I had so many times before, that I had failed. Failed myself, my God, my husband, my kids, my future employer, etc… I cried, no, let’s be real, I SOBBED. I questioned God. I got angry, I doubted myself, friends there were so many emotions. My poor family probably had no idea what the hell was happening. Honestly, neither did I. But GOD….
It Wasn’t Over, Victory was Near
My dear hubby called me to find out how I had done and I literally fell apart and he let me. He held me, encouraged me, and after a bit of time, he helped me snap back to reality. He reminded me as he had from the very beginning of this journey, when I was struggling, “Bran, if it were easy, everyone would be a nurse. You can choose to stay down or you can get back up, fight, and finish this battle. You decide.” God, thank you for blessing me with that man!! So, I got up, ready to fight my ass off! The board of nursing gave me a new authorization to test number, but I would have to wait at least 45 days. I would also have to pay the testing fee again, but so be it. I scheduled for the first available morning appointment after the 45 days which was at the end of August, on my 21st wedding anniversary to be exact. I studied EVERY SINGLE DAY. I studied while in the truck, on vacation, early mornings, in the evenings, you name it, I studied. I was going to conquer this. My God, my husband, my daughters, and my future employer were all in my corner, cheering me on. They were reminding me that God had set me out to do this, He hadn’t given up on me, and I couldn’t give up on Him.
So, when the day came, I went in to take the test again. Again, I went in with identification, empty pockets, had the veins in my hands scanned, had my picture taken, and then was lead in to your computer. I prayed and I answered each and every question with the learned knowledge I’d been working on for the last several years. I went back and forth on if I should pay the $8 following the 48 hours after the exam or if I should just wait it out. I prayed for God’s guidance on the best choice. Well, at 48 hours, I paid the fee. Guess what I saw, “PASS!” My friends, God IS FAITHFUL! When you’re obedient to Him and His calling on your life, He will bless you. When you FULLY surrender everything to Him, lay it all down at His feet and trust, I mean REALLY REALLY trust that His plans and His timing are best, He will bless you. Does that mean it will all be easy, you’ll never fall, and you’re probably going to cry….A LOT?!?! Hell no. It means you’re going to go through all of that and then some. And then when you think you’ve gone through it all, you’ll get hit again. But, you have two choices: one, when you get knocked down, you can stay down or two, you can fight like hell to get back up, push forward, lean in hard to our mighty God, and persevere. My friends, I. GOT. UP!!!
I’ve heard a million people say, “those in the medical field make so much money.” Or, “in the medical field, you’ll always have job security.” I mean truly, the list of things I’ve heard people say are never ending. But, here’s the deal, it’s NEVER been about the money or job security for me. It’s been about laying myself and my needs down to serve someone else. To walk alongside someone on what could be the best or worst day of their life. To be the light that shines for them in the darkness or the one to praise the Lord right along with them in the bright days. That my friends is what it’s always been about for me. My God has been gracious and loving and I want to do the same for others. I’m excited for what lies ahead.
Never-EVER Give Up
But in closing, I want to remind you of a few things. Our God is good. There will always be peaks and valleys in life on this side of Heaven. Each peak and each valley will have a lesson. His timing and His plans truly are so much better than you can ever imagine (heck, He gave me the entire summer with my family). You will always have choices and I hope you always choose to get up when you’ve fallen, to lean in to our Lord, and to trust He is with you and will help you fight the good fight! He’s a mighty, loving God, and never ever forget that.
Much love and blessings to you all. Humbly signing for the first time: Brandie, BSN, “RN”
*I also want to add, the NCLEX exam does NOT in ANY way dictate to the kind of nurse a person will be. This is just a step to get through. How you treat people when you’re actually on the floor, THAT will dictate the kind of nurse you will be. And my friends, let me be clear, I AM an AMAZING nurse. God has blessed me with gifts to bless others during critical times in their lives!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it’s various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV