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How to Find or Keep a Nursing Job While Preparing for the NCLEX

Austin Robertson Nursing and Student Advice

While you’re preparing for the NCLEX, it can sometimes be hard to focus on anything else. After all, you’ve got only weeks to months, and so much depends on how you do on this one test. Since there’s such a demand for LPNs and RNs, many graduates can land their first jobs as CNAs, PNs and GNs. Others get hired after they’ve gained their nursing license.

No matter which group you fall into, finding or keeping a nursing job can be tricky without the NCLEX looming large in the background. The following guide will help you focus your study sessions, streamline everyday essentials, and even build connections with professional colleagues as you prepare to pass the NCLEX.

Consistency is King or Queen

If you want to meet any goal, unless it’s winning the lottery, you must be consistent. Even if you can only devote 30 minutes per day to study, you’ll be able to review critical concepts frequently enough to keep them fresh in your mind for the test and professional practice. If you’re fortunate enough to have a job as a CNA, PN, or GN, constantly filling your mind with nursing facts can help you notice these concepts in action and solidify your learning through reflection.

Daily or almost daily study sessions also have the benefit of reducing your stress levels. There are a few reasons for this. When words and ideas become familiar through repetition, recalling them becomes much more manageable. Think back to a time when you observed a young child. As toddlers learn to speak, they repeat new words many times, and sometimes they misuse them. When they do, it’s not a big deal. A parent corrects any mistakes, and they continue talking. Encourage your “inner-parent” to treat you kindly as you work on discovering the landscape of nursing.

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Consistent practice also helps you maintain the mindset of a professional nurse. If you’re frequently thinking about nursing language and ideas, you don’t have to make a vast cognitive leap between your everyday life and your life as a nurse. Nursing concepts become a part of the way you think all the time. The same is true of skills. One day, you’ll find yourself automatically counting someone’s respirations on the elevator because they look a bit dusky. After a while, these concepts become almost instinctual.

Becoming more consistent with studying is a choice you make based on your priorities. Make up your mind to study and put your sessions into the calendar each day. If you don’t have a continuous hour or 30 minutes, study for 15 minutes at least twice per day. Please don’t plan on putting in eight hours per day for a week or over the weekend right before the test. You won’t remember the concepts enough to apply them to the situational questions that predominate the test.

Streamline Your Workday Routine

There isn’t much spare time when you’re interviewing for jobs or making it through your preceptorship. Both require complete focus while you’re there and quite a bit of preparation during off-hours. When you add even a modest NCLEX preparation program to the mix, it is easy to become overwhelmed.

While you might be tempted to skip interviews or quit during orientation, either of these approaches will only buy you time for a few weeks or months. They’re also terrible ways to begin any career.

When you have fixed commitments such as a job or job search, you need to work with the other items in your schedule. One of the categories in which you have quite a bit of flexibility is your daily routine. While doing laundry or preparing food won’t win any awards for excitement, they just might be the key to winning the war against this mammoth test.

Let me explain. In my experience, most people are trained in household maintenance by people who work during the week. On the weekend, laundry can sit in the dryer overnight, or several back-to-back sessions with the instant pot or slow cooker can create main dinner dishes for the week.

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If you’re a nurse, getting two days off in a row is possible if you trade with a coworker or are on vacation. Typically, nurses get two or three days off per week, but they aren’t always the same days from week to week. Fortunately, living well on a nurse’s schedule will help give you the time needed to prepare for the NCLEX and your career.

For many nurses, consistently keeping work hours on days off is a help. This can keep you in a routine and ensure that your most alert hours coincide with your work schedule.

Another nursing essential for many is batch housework. Batch housework is simply lumping like-tasks together. For example, when you chop a pepper, take a few more minutes to chop pepper strips from the rest of the bag. Then, freeze or refrigerate them for later.

Outside of the kitchen, batch housework can streamline your process, rescue you from decision fatigue, and give you more time for studying for the test. Once you’ve passed, it can also free up to several hours per week to spend with your family or on a hobby. While an extra half an hour per day might not sound like much, you’ll be happy to have a few quiet minutes when the census is up, and everyone else is busy, too.

I devote a few minutes each day to decluttering and cleaning any messes in popular areas of the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. These are the public areas of the home. If you have school-age or older children, train them to keep their rooms clean. For batch cleaning, I spend half an hour to 45 minutes dusting the most visible areas of the house. On another day, I switch this task to vacuuming. I save larger tasks like cleaning windows for a day off from work once a month.

If you have teenagers, you can make them responsible for the housework. You can train them to be efficient and capable adults. Be sure you plan to take 15 minutes to half an hour to supervise their progress and provide any additional instruction. When you involve your children, you’re providing them with an excellent work-life balance and sparing your own sanity.

Review Work Performance and Cultivate Professional Relationships

If you’re completing your preceptorship, you should take full advantage of the situation. While you’re caring for patients, you have a high level of on-the-job access to an experienced nurse. When the opportunity arises, please take a few moments to ask them about one or more patients. Try hard to get their perspective on their care priorities and the rationales behind their nursing care decisions.

While asking another nurse about patients currently under your care is the best way to learn how to think like a nurse, if you don’t yet have a nursing job, you can learn a lot from patient care situations that occurred during nursing school. Fortunately, an NCLEX tutor can help you review the content as you connect it to your experiences. This is a great way to understand nursing concepts better, whether you already have a nursing job or not.

If you’ve yet to find an entry-level nursing position, such careful reflection can make you stand out as a thoughtful individual who is very concerned about patient care. Preceptors also note reflective new nurses and often continue to mentor new nurses who show this kind of commitment to the profession. When you take steps to prepare for the NCLEX consistently, carefully, and conscientiously, you’ll become the kind of nurse I want on my unit.

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