Kyle Leffel
Kyle Leffel
March 23, 2016 - 4 min read

Interview With A Travel Nurse: How to Recover From Failing the NCLEX

Travelnursing.org interviewed travel nurse Kyle Leffel, RN about his experience with the NCLEX.

How long did you prepare/study?

I actually took the NCLEX twice. I think that is partially because I didn’t take enough time nor did I prepare for the test the right way. After I failed my first attempt at the NCLEX, I took the second attempt much more seriously. I dedicated over three weeks to prepare for it and most importantly I learned a valuable lesson of reaching out and getting some help. I never liked asking for help. I felt like it made me look weak and incompetent. But as I learned during my career as a nurse that asking for help is actually a very strong and respectful attribute.

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What resources did you use that really made a difference?

When I was preparing for my first attempt at the NCLEX I thought I could study on my own. So I used several different types of books out there. I even made my own flash cards. But after I failed my first attempt I learned that what I did before was not enough. So I did some research and enrolled myself in the Kaplan review course. I think that really helped me. During the course they helped me identify my weak areas and explained how to approach each question. It also gave me all the study materials needed in order to be successful. I really enjoyed the flash cards they provided me because I would use them while I was at work, or if I went out to eat with my family. I would sit down and drill myself everywhere I went. I used the practice tests they provided to me as I got closer to taking the exam. I also enjoyed the practice tests and questions from the Saunders NCLEX review books. I think those questions most closely resembled the actual NCLEX questions, at least when I took it.

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What resources were of no help?

Honestly, the worst resource for me was my “on the job” work experience. This is because sometimes the real world and the NCLEX world differ. So while I was answering the NCLEX questions, I was picturing and using the experience from the hospital to answer the questions; which was actually the worst thing for me to do.

How was the actual test taking process?

The overall process of applying, scheduling and taking the test was pretty simple. But the worst part was preparing for it. It was brutal and difficult. I still give me chills just thinking about taking that test. Going into the test, there are so many unknowns. You have no idea how many questions you are going to get asked, and you have no idea what type of questions it is going to ask you. All you do know is that you are expected to take a test with up to 300 questions, with the possibility of it ending after answering 75 questions. I have always been a person where I like to know things and plan ahead, so not knowing something drove me crazy. So this didn’t help my test anxiety.

Did everything go as expected? (If no, what surprised you)

Yes and no. During the end of my nursing program, they did a good job of explaining what the test was going to be like. So taking the test was just how I pictured it would be, but I did not expect to fail the first time. I really felt like I had the knowledge and the “on the job” work experience to prepare me for it. So it was hard on me not passing the first time around. But when I did pass it, it was the biggest feeling of relief I have ever felt. I remember after running around in my backyard as fast as I could run, until I was too tired to continue my little celebration run. After spending years of dedicating myself in nursing school I finally reached my goal of becoming a Registered Nurse.

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If you could go back in time, what is one thing you would do differently either in preparing or actually taking the test?

Nothing, because I don’t think I would be as lucky the second time around. My mistakes have made me who I am today. I am a big believer in that making mistakes makes us better at what we do. Ultimately we never want to make any mistakes, especially potential mistakes that could do harm to others. But the fact is that I was able to recognize and own my mistakes, which has always put me in position to learn from them. By doing this I was able to triumph over them, as Henry Ford has said “Those who never make mistakes work for those of us who do. “

Any advice on how to survive the NCLEX?

As a nursing student, the NCLEX will be the most difficult test you will ever have to take. But once you pass it, just know that you will (hopefully) never have to take it ever again. Take your test prep as if you are about to run a marathon. People who are running marathons don’t sprint threw the whole race, nor do they take prepping for one lightly. It takes days, weeks and sometimes even months of preparation for one. The more you prepare for it, the more likely you will pass it. Take practice tests to help you identify your weak areas. Once you have done that get use to sitting down in one spot answering question after question. Focus and do everything you have to do, in order to pass it the first time around. If you don’t pass it the first time, don’t freak out. Refocus and recognize that you need some help.

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To learn more about Kyle and his decision to become a travel nurse, check out A Journey into Travel Nursing.

For more on this series:

Interview With A Travel Nurse: Preparing to Travel Before Nursing School

Interview With A Travel Nurse: Preparing for a New Facility

Interview With A Travel Nurse: Sure-fire Signs You Are Working With The Wrong Company

Interview With A Travel Nurse: How To Prepare To Be A Rock Star Travel Nurse – Before You Are One

Interview With A Travel Nurse: What Was Your First Travel Assignment Like

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