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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Are You Afraid of Failing the NCLEX?

October 13th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Ok, you’ve finished nursing school. But you’re still not licensed – there’s yet one more hurdle in your way: the NCLEX. But some nursing graduates have a recurring nightmare: failing the NCLEX. Regardless of which program you graduated from, registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN), to be allowed to practice nursing, to have a nursing license, you have to pass your NCLEX .

How many nurses fail?

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the failure rate was not that high for NCLEX-RN the first months of 2010.

The results for first time exam takers, US educated are:

- Diploma RN prep pass rate to end of June 2010: 91.56%

- Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN): 91.55%

- Associate degree in nursing (ADN): 89.13%

- Other: 71.43%

This makes a total of all first-time exam writers, educated in the U.S. of 90.11%

Nurses who rewrote the NCLEX-RN, the pass rate was lower, at 51.92%

For practical nurses educated in the US, there was a pass rate of 85.75% the first time they wrote the NCLEX-PN. However, for those who were rewriting it, the pass rate was only 40.52%.

These pass rates for the RNs are better than that of all of 2009, while they were even between 2009 and 2010 for LPNs.

During 2009, nurses who wrote the NCLEX-RN exam for the first time and who were educated in the U.S., had a pass rate of:

- Diploma- 90.75%

- BSN- 89.49%

- ADN- 87.61%

- Other- 83.20

For a total passing rate of 88.42% for the NCLEX-RN

For the NCLEX-PN, 85.72% passed the first time, while 41.40% passed rewrites.

So, what do those numbers tell you? Most people pass the first time around.

Passing the exam is your goal, so you’ll need to work at it. Study hard. Use NCLEX prep materials, if possible. Find the study routines that help you best. Some nurses prefer to study alone, others in groups. Ask for help if you feel stuck. But remember -  you’re not alone in this and the chances of you passing are much higher than you failing. Good luck!

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Posted in Nursing School

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Calcium Requirements

October 12th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  How much calcium do women need?  What is the best way to get it? 

Women should get 12-1500mg of calcium daily to prevent osteoporosis.  Getting calcium in one’s diet is ideal, but many calcium supplements are also available.  Dairy products are the best source of dietary calcium, with 8 ounces of milk or yogurt providing 300mg.  Other foods such as vegetables, beans, fish and nuts,provide lesser amounts.  Some foods such as breakfast cereals and orange juice may have added calcium which will be listed on the nutritional label.   You can find a detailed list of calcium rich foods on the website of the International Osteoporosis Foundation.   This site also has a calcium calculator which allows you to customize your age, gender, as well as factors such as pregnancy, breast feeding, and menopause.  You can then enter information about your eating habits and find out if you need to add a supplement.

Calcium is especially important during the adolescent years because these years of rapid growth are critical in developing bone density.  Poor nutrition  during the teen years may lead to problems later.  Vitamin D is also important for bone health, with a minimum of 400 units daily recommended.  Calcium and vitamin D are often packaged together in supplements.  Many women also tend to be iron deficient during their menstruating years.  A women’s daily multivitamin typically has both calcium and iron, and for many women gives just the added boost needed to meet those important requirements.

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Re-starting Your Nursing Career

October 11th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

I received my BSN and worked as a registered nurse for about 5 years, but then went into a different career. I am interested in reactivating my practice as a nurse. How would you suggest I go about doing this?

Jumping back into nursing after having a years-long hiatus does not have to be difficult. There are a couple different options available depending on where your nursing license currently stands.

If you kept your license up-to-date with completed continuing education units during the time you took off, then you might just need a refresher course in the hospital or clinical setting. I would apply for “new grad” positions at the hospital or setting you desire. Even though you might not be a new grad, the courses and introduction into clinical nursing will be helpful in jump-starting your practical skills.

If you let your license lapse and expire, you will need to sign up for the NCLEX. Taking an NCLEX review course would be very helpful in preparation for the exam. Make sure to check out Medi-smart’s nursing certification directory for more information about types of licensures offered once you pass your NCLEX!

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Posted in NCLEX, Nursing School

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15 Interview Tips for that Nursing Job

October 11th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Well, this is it. You’ve graduated and are now the proud holder of your very own nursing license. You’ve applied for jobs and now you’ve got yourself an interview. So, why are you panicking? There’s no need to panic – if you follow some simple rules, the interview should go just fine.

1- Wear decent clothes

Whether the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office seems casual or everyone wears uniforms, you’re there to prove you’re a professional and you can do the job. This means dressing professionally.  Clothes don’t have to be expensive, but they should fit you well, be pressed and clean. Keep the jewelry and make up to a minimum. If you have tattoos, you may want to know what the hiring policy is about tattoos before you make them visible.

2- Be early

You don’t have to be a half hour early for your interview, but give yourself plenty of time just in case you get hit with traffic or something happens to hold you back. You don’t want to be late.

3- Have interviewer contact information

It’s always a good idea to have the contact number of the person who will be interviewing you in case something happens to prevent you from showing up or if you will be late, despite precautions. A quick call to apologize or to explain may allow you a second chance rather than you not showing up.

4- Be on your best behavior even before you get to the interview

You never know who you are going to meet on your travels. That person you cut off in the parking lot? That could be the person about to interview you. The person who came behind you in the door and had it close in his face? That could have been the nurse manager whose floor you’re being considered for. The point is that you should be polite to anyone and everyone, not only because it can come back to bite you if you’re not, it’s the right thing to do.

5- Go to the bathroom

Needing to void while you’re interviewing is extremely uncomfortable! Make sure to make a pit stop on  your way to the office.

6- Turn off any electronic gadgets

No-one is important enough to have to answer a cell phone during an interview. Turn it off. Don’t just ignore it as the ring tones can be annoying. Put it in silent mode or turn it off.

7- Bring your nursing information with you

Bring your license and an updated resume with you even if you have already filled out an application. Sometimes the interviewer doesn’t have the up-to-date application information in front of her.

8- Be prepared

Know about the place you want employing you. Do a bit of research to know how big the place is, what type of nursing they do, what kinds of patients they have, and so on.

9- Be confident

- Do stand tall and smile when you are called into the office.

- Do have a good, firm handshake.

- Do speak clearly and address the interviewer by name.

- Do make eye contact.

- Don’t sit until the seat is offered or the interviewer sits.

- Don’t fidget.

- Don’t slouch.

10- Ask questions

When the interviewer says, “do you have any questions,” have at least one. Prepare ahead of time to ask something related to nursing and the hospital, whether it’s if the nurses work 8- or 12-hour shifts, how many units of what type of specialty, and so on.

11- After the interview, ask for the job

Thank the interviewer for her time and be sure to tell her you want the job (if you do!). Many people don’t say it; they feel it’s assumed. And while it is assumed, the people who directly say they want the job have a bit of an advantage over those who don’t.

12- Thank you card

A thank you card goes a long way. Send one (paper) either by mail or by dropping it off the next day at the reception desk. A thank you is a way to help the interviewer remember who you are. It may seem gimmicky, but thank you cards to make a difference.

13- Relax

Once the interview is done, there’s not much you can do about it. You have to remember though, that not everyone can get the job. The interviewer may be seeing two nurses or she may be seeing 25. Whatever the number, only one of them be offered the job.

14- Stay in touch

If you don’t get the job, be sure to let the interviewer know that you are still interested in working at the facility. Sometimes the first people hired for jobs are not the right people or they don’t want to stay. If you made a good impression and stayed in touch, you could be the lucky one to get the call.

15- Learn from  your experience.

Every time you interview, think back to how it went. Think about questions you weren’t sure about or things that may have happened that maybe shouldn’t have happened. Use every interview to hone your interview technique and, eventually, you will be landing one of those coveted jobs.

Good luck!

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Professional Memberships

October 9th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  I am a student vocational nurse.  What associations can I go ahead and join? 

Every nursing association encourages student nurses to join at reduced rates and to participate in activities.  This gives students a great opportunity to interact with nurses in practice, to learn about the issues facing nurses in the workplace, and to be involved in both service and educational activities that organizations sponsor.  Involvement with professional and/or community associations is also helpful for your resume!  For vocational/practical nurses, one association to consider is the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES).  Student memberships  in this organization cost $10.00 yearly.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Students Nurses Association (NSNA) offer memberships to students in registered nursing programs from associated degree programs through doctoral level programs.  Specialty nursing organizations may or may not require that members be RNs.  Many organizations, for example, the Oncology Nursing Society, offer associate memberships to health professionals who are not registered nurses.  The faculty at your school should be able to direct you to  organizations in your local area that may be of interest to you as well.

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Posted in General

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Nursing School Financial Aid

October 8th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How can I get help with financial aid in nursing school? What do you mean by FAFSA?

Financing nursing school can be the biggest barrier for many students seeking a higher education. As tuition payments for schools sky-rocket, many students are forced to pay more for their public or private education. Payment options for school can become fewer and farther between, ranging from parents and family members to government and private lenders.

FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an application that is made available to all students. You can find it online here. There are certain aspects that make a student stand out as needing governmental financial assistance: parental income, individual income, assets, and current debt.

Remember these important tips when applying for financial aid: how much money you are requesting to borrow, the amount of time you will be in school, the salary of the job you are hoping to acquire after school, and interest rates of the loans you acquire. Be careful of how much debt you accrue, because if you apply for further education after nursing school, there is a cap to the amount of loans you can take out.

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Posted in General, Nursing School

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Should Nurses Get a Flu Shot?

October 8th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

The question rolls around every fall: Should I get a flu shot? While everyone is different and people may have good reasons for saying no, in general, having a vaccination against seasonal influenza is usually a good idea, particularly for nurses and nursing assistants.

But I never get sick

You may rarely – if ever – get sick. But if you do get infected with the flu, you’ll likely wish you had the vaccination. Unlike the “gastric flu” or “stomach flu” (which aren’t a type of flu at all) that many people claim to have, true flu or influenza is a serious respiratory illness that can have very serious consequences.

For those who get off the easiest, they’re knocked off their feet for a few days. For those who are hit harder, they could end up with severe consequences, such as pneumonia and sepsis. Most importantly, people die from influenza, particularly those who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and those who are already ill with chronic diseases.

I’m not at risk though

Nurses and nursing assistants are the front-line workers in health care. They are the ones who see the patients most often and provide the hands-on care. While it could be that you never get sick and if you do, you bounce back quickly, did you know that if you do contract influenza, you are contagious around 24 hours before  you even know you’re sick? That means you could be contaminating the vulnerable patients you are caring for, plus the nurses around you.

Vaccines don’t always work

It is true that the flu vaccines are not as effective some years as they are others. The experts have to decide what they feel is the most likely virus to head towards the western world in time for them to come up with a viable vaccine. Sometimes they guess right, sometimes they don’t. But they do guess right much of the time. And, if you do get influenza despite the vaccine, usually it is a much milder case than if you had not been vaccinated at all.

Vaccines will make me sick

This is a myth that has been circulating for years and even some nurses believe it. They either know someone who became very ill with the flu the day after a vaccination or they felt sick themselves after being vaccinated.

Vaccinations don’t work the day you get them. It takes a few days, up to a couple of weeks sometimes, for the vaccine to have its full effect. Therefore, if you’ve been exposed to the flu just before  you received your injection or just after, you will still come down with the illness – it’s not the vaccine that did it.

Should you get the flu vaccine this year? Of course, the choice is yours. But if you’re on the fence, if ever knew of someone who was previously healthy and who died from having the flu, you wouldn’t be wasting time trying to decide.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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Specialty Certification

October 7th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  What type of certification do I need for cardiovascular nursing in Colorado?  I’m already enrolled in a nursing program. 

To practice in Colorado, you will need to obtain a Colorado nursing license.  The process for obtaining your license in any state can be found by going to the website for the state Board of Nursing.  If you have a license in another state, you may be eligible for reciprocity.  If you are a new graduate from a nursing program you will need to pass the NCLEX exam and apply for licensure.

Certification in a specialty field such as cardiovascular nursing is  done through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The ANCC is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.   This certification establishes your expertise and experience in a specialized field of nursing practice, but is not regulated by the state in which you practice.  In order to be eligible for certification in cardiovascular nursing, you need to hold a current RN license and to have been in practice for the equivalent of two years full time as a registered nurse.   A minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the  field of cardiovascular care is needed.  You also need to document 30 CEUs in cardiovascular nursing and successfully complete the certification exam.

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Safe Medication Administration and Pharmacology Tips

October 6th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Hello! I am curious about how to get more knowledge about pharmacology and how to better my nursing skills in regards to medication administration in the clinical setting. Thanks.

Administering medications is quite possibly the most important thing you will do to a patient as a nurse. Medication administration typically requires two nurses, or health care professionals, to approve the administration after you receive the prescription order. This system of double-checking helps with quality improvement measures and assures patient safety.

I would recommend reading your institution’s formulary on a daily basis, especially if there is a medication one of your patients is taking and you’re not sure what the indication is. Carrying around a small, pocket-sized updated medication handbook isn’t a bad idea either.

When administering medications, always remember the 5 “rights”: check for the right patient against their hospital bracelet and a verbal name recognition, check for the right medication that is being administered (some drugs have similar names, like Celebrex and Celexa, so be cautious!), check that it is the right time and frequency of administration (good to distinguish between “TID” and “q8h”), check that the right dose is being given (discern between 40mg and 40mcg or 40g), and check that the drug is being given through the right route (PO vs. IM vs. SQ). Remembering all of these steps will ensure a safe and correct medication administration!

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Posted in General, On-the-Job Fears

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5 Tips for Nurses Going Back to School

October 6th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Deciding to go back to school can be a natural career course or it can be a tough decision. Some nurses go into nursing knowing they’ll return to their studies to either get another designation or move up the degree chain. This could mean going from LPN to RN or RN going on to BSN or BSN to MSN – or higher.

Going back to school can be challenging and/or it can be frightening. For nurses who have been out of school for a while, the idea of attending classes and writing papers and exams may be paralyzing, but with the right help, this doesn’t need to be so.

If you are thinking about stepping back into school, here are some tips that may make it easier to ease into it:

1- Ease into school

Even if you can go back to school with a full load, this isn’t always the wisest move. The definition of full-time studies may differ from college to college, so if you are going full-time, it may be wiser to take the minimum load possible. If you’re going part-time and working, don’t overdo the course load. Start with one, if possible.

Easing into it is often recommended for older students because they may have to take some time to regain their school skills. It gives you a chance to focus on fewer topics, deal with fewer teachers, and give you more time for the assignments you do have.

2- Consider On-line nursing education

Online nursing programs have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The ability to study at home during odd hours can be very appealing for nurses who have to juggle jobs and family.

3- Lower your standards

This may sound scary, but it does make sense. If you were an A+ student when you were young and single, you may not be able to reach those goals if you are working and caring for a family. While there’s nothing wrong with striving for that goal, you have to understand that it may not be possible in your present life. Work as hard as you can, but be reasonable with your expectations of yourself and your abilities.

4- Ask for help

There are times in life when we just need to ask for help from those around us. If you’re studying and find yourself struggling, don’t be shy or afraid to ask for help. Chances are that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. If possible, join study groups and take advantage of any extra help offered by your instructors or teaching assistants. If you’re really struggling, be sure to speak with your instructor. Your problem may not be as severe as you think it is, given a little help.

5- Take breaks

If you’re working and going to school, you may need to take some time for yourself. Be realistic with your workload and if you have to take a semester off to recoup, then it’s likely best you do so. Better to slow down your progress than to burn out and never finish.

Going back to school is a big endeavor and a lot of work – but the results are worthwhile. Keep at it and before you know it – you’ll be at the end of the road.

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Posted in Nursing School

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.