Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Memory Techniques for NCLEX Review

Preparing to take on the NCLEX-RN means a whole lot of studying—which means a whole lot of information being downloaded into the ol’ grey matter. Most nurses reviewing for the entry-to-practice exam give themselves at least two months of study time before the big day. So, how do you get all of that information to stick?

The days of being advised to highlight, rewrite, and summarize your class notes are long gone. As it turns out, that approach isn’t really effective. Better is to engage the natural processes we use to synthesize and retain information.

Doodle by Dan Paluska (CC BY 2.0)
Draw or doodle
Although the doodler in class has long been pegged as the “daydreamer” or as someone who can’t pay attention, recent science shows that drawing actually improves focus and memory in a classroom situation. Doodling, far from being a distraction, can be what makes your thoughts come together.

So, while you’re participating in an NCLEX Prep course, don’t be afraid to have an extra sheet of blank paper with you to let your inner Da Vinci out while the instructor goes through the review.

Sleep on it
Although we think of sleep as time for our bodies to recuperate—especially those of us who do shift work—it’s also when our minds get to work making sense of the day. That is, our brains synthesize information while we sleep, creating connections between new inputs and our previous knowledge.

Merely “sleeping on it” can bring solutions or new outlooks to problems and concepts you’ve previously been struggling with. In short: don’t forget to get plenty of sleep in the lead up to the NCLEX-RN—a study technique we can all appreciate!

Do practice questions
Taking a break from inputting the information and instead putting it to work is a way to test that those neural pathways are dug, paved, and line-painted. Doing practice questions is a form of “retrieval practice,” which is proven to be more effective than input-only studying. That’s why during PRIMED’s two-day NCLEX course time is taken to do exam-type questions for each key topic and a 200-page workbook is provided to continue the practice at home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wear For Art Thou, Scrubs?

We touched on what to wear to sit the NCLEX-RN a few blog posts ago, and it’s no secret that NCLEX Prep course often call for a healthy dose of sweatpants and loose T-shirts. And let’s not even discuss nursing school—hello, wearing the same hoodie five days in a row.

When it comes to RNs already out in the workforce, practical and comfortable clothing continues to be the order of the day. However, this definitely wasn’t always the case.

The first nurses in Canada were nuns—Augustinian nuns in early 17th-century Quebec, to be exact—so the first Canuck nurse’s uniform probably looked a little something like this:

Saint Monica Piero della Francesca. Frick Collection.
While stylish, walking around a hospital in a flowing habit is not an entirely practical choice.

As nursing slowly moved into the secular world in the mid 19th century, thanks to the likes of Florence Nightingale, more practical elements were added to the uniform. Inspiration still came from the nun’s habit, so long dresses were still the garb of choice, but a super-starched, large, white apron was added and veils were traded in for smaller caps.

F. Nightingale and Sir H. Verney with group of nurses at Claydon House (CC BY 4.0)
Things changed again the following century, due in part to the World Wars, with long sleeves and hemlines shortened. Up until the 1970s, each hospital designed its own uniform, often differentiating nurses and apprentice nurses by colour of uniform.(1) This is the era many picture when they think of the “classic” nurse's uniform—like Nurse Ratchet's in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

World War II nurses, c. 1943 (CC BY 2.0)
Today, with the strict gendering of the nurse’s dress long gone (buh bye!), the nurse’s uniform has found its latest home in the wide world of scrubs—which is of course what you’ll find most medical professionals lounging around in (read: rushing about in). Whether you go for cartoon cats like Nurse Jackie’s Zoey or cool blue like Jackie herself, just remember to thank your lucky stars you’re not wearing a wimple while trying to insert a catheter.

Zoey from Nurse Jackie

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Taking the NCLEX-RN a Second Time

State Library of Queensland (CC-BY-SA-2.5)

What happens when you’ve made the appointment, done your studying, sat the NCLEX—and you don’t pass?

It’s not a terribly uncommon situation. The most recent pass rates for the NCLEX-RN in the US, for January to March 2015, show that about 15% of candidates do not pass the first time they write.

But there’s no way around it: taking a hit can be hard. The best thing to do when you haven’t succeeded is to analyze what went wrong. Was there an external factor affecting your test? Did you go out the night before the night before, thinking you’d be OK? Did your NCLEX appointment take place during a time of personal stress?

There need to be a least 45 days between your first and second or third NCLEX appointment, which allows time to put this post-exam analysis into study action.

Avoid the temptation to over-study. Instead, modify your study plan—do not simply repeat the old one. An instructor-led NCLEX-RN Prep course not only provides a review foundation, it’s also an objective way to figure out what areas caused you trouble on your first attempt.

If you didn’t before, make a schedule that sets out time for reviewing each concept and area, giving extra time to your problem topics. Never been a fan of flashcards? Maybe now it’s time to give them another chance. Study in 15-minute bursts, instead of hour-long sessions—or vice versa.

If you get butterflies at the thought of re-entering the NCLEX-RN exam room, and have the option, you could give yourself a change of scenery by trying out a different exam centre (for example, Toronto has two Pearson VUE locations, plus there are temporary centres, which you can find here). Or maybe a lucky pair of underwear will do the trick.

Most important of all: Make sure your confidence is where it needs to be before retaking the NCLEX-RN. A positive attitude is just as important as hours of study.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fitting NCLEX-RN Prep into Your (Already Busy) Schedule

When it comes to preparing for the NCLEX-RN, flexibility is often a key concern. Life can get incredibly busy when you’re balancing work, school, friends, family—and who knows how many other things—on top of studying for the NCLEX.

At PRIMED we’re well aware of our participants’ full and sometimes odd schedules, so we offer multiple ways to fit comprehensive NCLEX prep into your life.

In-class NCLEX-RN Prep courses. Our two-day intensive NCLEX-RN Prep course is offered classroom-style in major centres across Canada, from Vancouver to Toronto to Halifax. Our website lists the schedule of when PRIMED hits each city.

Online NCLEX-RN Prep courses. For those who aren’t in major centres or are unable to travel, we offer our two-day NCLEX course through an online streaming platform (the next session is August 8–9, 2015). It’s taught live, so you still get the benefit of interacting with the NCLEX instructor.

Mobile NCLEX-RN Prep courses. Say you’ve got a large group of nursing students in Hamilton studying for the entry-to-practice exam, and you’d rather not travel to Toronto for your NCLEX-RN Prep course. Or, maybe our regularly scheduled dates just don’t work for you. No problem! PRIMED will come to you, no matter where you are in Canada. Plus, the organizing student gets to attend for free.

Privately tutored NCLEX-RN Prep courses. Occasionally, students prefer to go through our two-day prep course on their own, or in a small group of two or three. Like the mobile large-group courses, this can be arranged by emailing info@primededucation.ca, as can hourly private tutoring sessions.

Online NCLEX-RN Prep tools. PRIMED offers a comprehensive online Study Centre, as well as a number of free NCLEX-RN study resources. These tools are the perfect way to fit NCLEX-RN study here and there, for the times when your crazy schedule will only allow you to study in spurts.

In short: No matter what your situation, there’s a way to get you PRIMED for the NCLEX-RN.