Kaplan NCLEX Prep Course Review

Hello again, everyone! I know I promised you a Kaplan NCLEX prep review awhile ago and alas, I didn’t deliver on time…it’s been a whirlwind around here but thankfully I’m slowing down for a bit as I prepare for taking the NCLEX!

I took the Kaplan NCLEX Preparation Course right after Christmas; it’s typically a four day back-to-back class but I choose the weekend class option, so my four class days were split into two weekends. This was the only option that worked with my holiday and work schedule, and I was initially upset that I had to split the classes in that fashion, however it turned out much better than I expected.

Each day we met for 3 hours in the morning, then had an hour-long lunch break, and then met for another 3 hours. In the morning on the first day of class our instructor gave us explicit detail on how the NCLEX works and began to introduce the strategies Kaplan uses to answer questions. After that morning session, every session thereafter was mostly going through and answering questions using the strategies that we were being taught. On the last day of classes, we took a “readiness” test (even though our instructor said it doesn’t indicate whether you’re ready for anything or not) that consisted of 180 questions and then got together in the afternoon to discuss the test questions and answers. The last hour of class we discussed “what to do now” and how to continue preparing for NCLEX based on how many weeks after the last day of class we’d be taking the NCLEX.

The strategies that Kaplan introduces in order to answer NCLEX questions are BRILLIANT. I especially love that with purchase of the prep course I have access to over 2,000 more questions to practice with before taking the NCLEX. I have been doing 150 questions a day and practice tests as I lead up to taking my test. And I have found that even if I don’t know the answer to a question, if I use the strategies that were taught to me I more often than not can arrive to the right answer anyway!

I highly, highly recommend taking the Kaplan Prep Course due to the fact that it’s not just content review but actual STRATEGY to answering questions. The content review comes AS I’m answering the questions every day and as I look up the stuff that I realize I don’t know/forgot!

It IS an expensive course but I just considered it part of being in nursing school…and TOTALLY worth it if I pass the NCLEX the first time, right? All I know is that I don’t want to regret anything should I happen to fail the NCLEX on the first try (crossing my fingers that I DON’T). I want to know that I’ve taken the necessary steps to passing it on the first go-round.

And there you have it! It’s not a super complex review, I know, but in all honesty the class itself it not very complex – but completely worth it!!

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Amber, BSN

Oh yes it’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged, and obviously a TON has happened! I have FINALLY graduated nursing school with my BSN!!!!!

AND I managed to get ALL As this last, final semester. What a way to end things!! My final GPA for my undergrad is 3.823. I’m super, super pleased. My two goals for nursing school were to make no Cs (I didn’t) and for my final GPA to be above a 3.75. Score on both accounts!

I just received my Authorization to Test (ATT) this morning and I have officially scheduled my NCLEX exam. It’s all wrapping up and it’s becoming all too real that I am no longer a nursing student but about to be a nurse (God-willing I pass my NCLEX!). My last shift as a PCT will be on February 5th, and my first shift as a Graduate RN will be on February 23rd – can’t wait!!!

I am in the midst of taking the Kaplan NCLEX Prep Course. I am loving it and highly recommend it – I’ll write a separate post on that later this week. So far I think it’s been beneficial; of course it helps that one of my favorite professors happens to be teaching it and she is just amazing when it comes to explaining ANYTHING.

I’ll leave you with some pictures now to highlight the whirlwind that was pinning, graduation, and graduation parties. 🙂

We didn't want to jinx ourselves by saying 100% RN until we passed the NCLEX! This was our celebratory cookie cake after our last final. :)

We didn’t want to jinx ourselves by saying 100% RN until we passed the NCLEX! This was our celebratory cookie cake after our last final. 🙂

Received my college ring during finals week! I'm so happy to wear it!

Received my college ring during finals week! I’m so happy to wear it!

Got my hair and makeup done before my pinning ceremony...

Got my hair and makeup done before my pinning ceremony…

All dressed up!

All dressed up!

So proud to have him by my side during this journey. So happy he pinned me. :)

So proud to have him by my side during this journey. So happy he pinned me. 🙂

There it is!!! The long-coveted pin!!!

There it is!!! The long-coveted pin!!!

Cardiac cookies for my graduation party the morning of graduation.

Cardiac cookies for my graduation party the morning of graduation.

Nurse-themed cupcakes! And they were GOOD.

Nurse-themed cupcakes! And they were GOOD.

The four amigas...they have been with me from the very beginning and I couldn't have made it through without them.

The four amigas…they have been with me from the very beginning and I couldn’t have made it through without them.

More sweet nursing school friends at my graduation party.

More sweet nursing school friends at my graduation party.

Graduation Cap!! It certainly wasn't the most creative but I thought it was cute!!

Graduation Cap!! It certainly wasn’t the most creative but I thought it was cute!!

Walking down the aisle during graduation!!

Walking down the aisle during graduation!!

We're DONE!!!

We’re DONE!!!

IMG_3399

Smiling with the Chancellor of TWU :)

Smiling with the Chancellor of TWU 🙂

Officially a graduate!!!

Officially a graduate!!!

My GN Interview Experiences

I completed 4 separate interviews and 1 call-back interview before I accepted my job offer, so I thought I could talk about my interview experiences to give you an idea of what might happen/what you may be asked. Now keep in mind that every single interview experience is going to be different for every single person so this may or may not be along the lines of what you experience yourself. But at least I hope it’s a general idea.

Only one of my interviews was a one-on-one interview with just myself and the manager. All others were me with at least 3 people interviewing me, and that first interview that I talked about – the ED interview – was me and two other candidates with the panel of interviewers (that was the one and only time that occurred but it was SO weird!). So don’t be surprised if you interview with other candidates, and don’t be surprised if most of your interviews are panel interviews with multiple people interviewing you. All of the interviews I went to were just the “preliminary” interviews to be followed by “final” interviews if you received a call-back for it. I received 2 call-backs total and only attended one before I accepted a job offer. I do know, however, that some hospitals (like the one I currently work at) only interview once and then base their decision off of that one and only interview. And I’ve heard of some hospitals that interview up to three times before choosing a candidate! So at the end of your interview I would suggest asking those that interview you what the process is on moving forward. When I asked that at each one I learned that there would be a second interview – if they liked me –  and then they’d decide after that.

At each interview I made sure I was presentable, polished, and professional appearing. Unfortunately I’m the type of person that flushes really bad when excited/angry/nervous/pretty much any other emotion, but there’s nothing I can do about that except to pretend like it’s not occurring and move right on along with my interview. I don’t let that one issue affect my confidence, even though I HATE that it’s happening at the time. But it’s a fact of life for me and I promise they are not looking at your physical appearance as much as they are paying attention to your answers…because that’s what counts. As long as you are very-well put together and make a good first impression, your spirit is what matters to them.

Ok so here’s what I know you’ve been waiting for: what was I asked during my interviews??

I’ll put it in bullet-point format to make it easy to read; essentially these were all the questions that I was asked during interviews. All my interviews except for my call-back final interview for the CSU were about 10-15 minutes long (one of the managers called it “speed interviewing,” saying they were really just trying to get an initial first impression to determine whether or not to call-back for a final interview).

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What made you choose the nursing profession?
  • Tell me about the time you made a clinical mistake and how it impacted you.
  • Tell me about a conflict with your coworker and how you resolved it.
  • Why do you want to work on (whatever unit you applied to)?
  • Tell me about a time that you worked with different cultures and how that impacted you.
  • Tell me about a time that you were extremely stressed and how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time that you showed caring behavior for a patient.
  • Tell me about a time when you had communication difficulties with a patient and how you resolved them.
  • Tell me about a time that you did something to boost the morale in your workplace.
  • Have you worked night shift before? (If you’re applying for nightshift they want to know that YOU know what you’re getting into and that you can handle it.)
  • Tell me about a time that you had to find a solution to a difficult situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you saw a coworker doing something wrong and how did you handle it?
  • If you had a patient with a blood pressure of 200/100, a patient with a blood glucose of 47, and a patient who urgently needed to go to the bathroom, who would you see/help first? Give your rationale for your answer.
  • Tell me why we should hire YOU.

I feel like there were more but I will say that a lot of these were repeated at each interview. They’re very behavioral based questions to try and get to know you. I never got a question like “what are your strengths?” and “what are you weaknesses?” so just remember you could prepare all day long for some popular interview questions and yet they never get asked at all (I was ready to go if they asked me these questions, lol!).

Here are some of the questions I asked at the end of the interviews – always ask questions at the end!! Doing so shows that you’re interested in the position and that you’re making sure it’s a right fit for you as well.

  • What qualities/personality are you looking for in a new grad nurse on this unit (whatever unit you’re interviewing for)?
  • If I’m selected to move forward in this process, what comes next?
  • What are the expectations, responsibilities, and duties of the nurses on your unit?
  • What happens when census is low on your unit?
  • How often do nurses on this unit float? And relatedly, how soon in my job will I be expected to float?
  • How do night shift and day shift differ as far as workload and keeping busy?
  • What is the RN/patient ratio when there’s proper staffing? What happens when staffing is low? (Ask for differences between day shift/night shift if you applied to both positions.)
  • What is your average patient population on this unit? What is the acuity of the patients on this unit?
  • Staff: how do you like working on the unit? Do you have good teamwork/team morale? How long have you been working here?
  • Manager: what is your management style?
  • What is the average length of nurse tenure on your unit? (AKA how many years do nurses stay on the unit? If there’s fast turnaround then that’s not a good sign.)
  • What are the reasons given when nurses leave this unit?
  • What type of professional development opportunities are available?
  • How does the orientation process work and how long does it last?

So there you have it! Remember that your interview experiences will differ from mine but the biggest point I hope that you take away from this is that you have to give a good first impression and you need to be prepared! Come prepared with your own questions to ask your interviewers based on the unit you are interviewing for and what you want to know about it. Don’t ever NOT ask questions at the end because it looks like you are uninterested. And if you have time, don’t just ask 1 or 2 questions because then you look like you’re only asking them to fulfill the requirement of asking questions at the end. Have a good list ready and whatever isn’t answered in the interview process – ask!

And remember to trust your gut instinct. If you get a job offer but you had some reservations about the staff and the manager in the interview process, you might want to get more information before accepting that job. Especially if you have to sign a contract for that job – you don’t want to be stuck at a place that you don’t mesh well with for years on end!! The interview process is just as much about them trying to feel you out as it is about you trying to feel them out.

So, next week when I’m done studying for the two tests that I have on Monday (AAAHHH!!!) I will give y’all an update on how my semester is going thus far…Almost done with week 6 already!! WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE???

Graduate Nurse Portfolio

I’m going to apologize now for the quality of these pictures but I only have an iPhone and I was in a hurry when I took them (about to go to my first interview) so you get what you get. 🙂 Anyway, I wanted to write a post on how I put together my nursing student portfolio to take to my interviews; also if you click on the picture of my resume and enlarge it, you can see how I set my resume up. I hope it helps some of you out the way that this knowledge passed down to me did!

I bought 15 leatherette 1″ binders with the intention of taking approximately 3-5 to each interview to give to those interviewing me. In reality I took 5 to each interview but only gave one away each time because they didn’t want to keep my beautiful handiwork! LOL!

So, for your portfolios you’ll need 3 things: a nice presentation binder, resume paper, and sheet protectors. These are what I used:

  • INFUSE Premium Leatherette 1″ Presentation Binder, Black
  • Avery Recycled Economy Weight Sheet Protectors
  • Southworth Exceptional Resume Paper, 100% cotton, 24lb, Ivory

Depending on which hospitals you apply at and what they require with your application/interviews, you’ll want to have these documents ready to go (the order they are listed in is the order that I put them in my portfolio):

  • Exemplar (if your hospital requires you to write one…it’s usually a 1-page essay)
  • Cover Letter
  • Resume
  • References
  • Certifications
  • Awards
  • Letters of Recommendation. I started asking for these through the summer; I’d recommend asking your professors to start writing them about two months before you’ll need them! If possible, ask them to give them to you electronically that way you can print several copies of them for your portfolios. You’ll probably want around 3-5 LOR; all from current/previous managers (if applicable) and your clinical instructors. Hospitals will specify if they want more and if they want them to come from specific individuals.
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Immunization record (I just printed mine off from my school records)
  • Extras: if you want, you could probably put in any publications that you’ve had, a list of organizations that you belong to, etc. But remember you don’t want your portfolio too long or convoluted!

Please also keep in mind that you want everything printed on the same resume paper, and in the same font & format. Please note how my layout is practically the same on every page. You do NOT want to put “titles” on your resume, cover letter, and your letters of recommendation (what I mean by this is putting the word “resume”  on your resume; they will know its your resume when they start reading over it!).

Pg 1 of my graduate nurse portfolio: order of contents

Pg 1 of my graduate nurse portfolio: order of contents

Up close and personal: order of contents

Up close and personal: order of contents

Pg 2 & 3: exemplar & cover letter

Pg 2 & 3: exemplar & cover letter

Pg 4 & 5: resume

Pg 4 & 5: resume

pg 6 & 7: references & certifications

Pg 6 & 7: references & certifications

Pg 8 & 9: awards

Pg 8 & 9: awards

Pg 9 & 10: awards

Pg 9 & 10: awards continued

Pg 11 & 12: LOR

Pg 11 & 12: LOR

Pg 12 & 13: LOR

Pg 12 & 13: LOR

Pg 14 & 15: unofficial transcript

Pg 14 & 15: unofficial transcript

Pg 16 & 17: unofficial transcript continued

Pg 16 & 17: unofficial transcript continued

Pg 18: student health immunization records

Pg 18: student health immunization records

 

What I wore:

  • Hair brushed, combed back into a neat ponytail
  • Stud diamond earrings (only 1 pair!)
  • 1″ non-flashy black heels
  • Grey slacks
  • Black blazer
  • Bright pink/black/grey/purple sleeveless top underneath the blazer for a pop of color
  • Black leather nondescript purse
  • VERY minimal makeup; light mascara & eyeshadow with face powder & concealer
I forgot to take a picture when I was actually WEARING the outfit; but this gives you at least an idea of what it looked like! ;)

I forgot to take a picture when I was actually WEARING the outfit; but this gives you at least an idea of what it looked like! 😉

 

And there you have it! This is my graduate nurse portfolio and I must say I am very proud of it! Hopefully next week I’ll type up a post about the types of questions I was asked as well as which ones I asked myself. 🙂

First Interview Thoughts

Well I thought I’d update y’all on how my very first GN nursing interview went! It’s been SUCH a long week but it’s behind me now and I’m about to start the 4th week of my last semester. HOLY COW!

My interview was last Tuesday for an ER position. I interviewed with two other candidates – which was WEIRD but I actually ended up loving the chance to hear their answers for my future interviews. They were both very smooth and confident with their responses to the questions. I, on the other hand, felt like a bumbling idiot trying to scramble for the words to express what my mind was thinking. It wasn’t pretty. AND, to top it off, before the interview I put on the outfit I was originally going to wear and although the pants fit and the jacket (sort of) fit, the shirt I was thinking of was HUGE on me. It was a tunic! I didn’t really have anything else I liked better but I found a cotton shirt and told myself at least I’d be wearing a jacket over it. Which my hubby told me later looked awful. 😦

So I don’t think I did that well. We were told when we entered the interview room that to make the interview a smooth process we would each take turns answering the questions that were asked of us, with us rotating through who would answer first each time. We were only asked 4 questions before our half-hour was over: “Tell us about yourself”; “What made you choose the nursing profession?”; “Tell us about a clinical mistake you’ve made that has impacted you”; “Why should we pick YOU for this position?”. I feel like if they were to choose out of the three of us, the other two candidates would DEFINITELY be at the top of the list. But hey, I feel like it was a great practice interview…a great one to get the nerves out of my system. AND I learned that I did NOT like my interview outfit, so I fixed that today by buying a new one! And it’s HOT! 😉 We were told that we’d know in about 3 weeks if we were chosen for a 2nd interview. I don’t think I will be, but hey who knows.

But that evening after coming home everything was made better by the fact that I checked my work email and got an email from my boss telling me that the position had been posted for my floor and she was asking me to go apply! If that didn’t make me feel loved at work I’m pretty sure nothing would. I applied right away, of course, and when I checked my application status a couple of days ago I noticed that it said “Interview to be Scheduled.” Sweet!!! I know now that I will SO take that position if offered to me. Crossing my fingers!

I have two interviews scheduled for next week, one for the PCU and the other for a Cardiac Step-Down unit. I really am using these as practice as well since I know that I want to remain on my floor now…but for some reason I’m still nervous about the interviews? Eek. This whole “trying to find a big girl job” thing is nerve-wracking.

I’ll post more later about my first school nursing clinical and my first shifts in the ED at the VA! 🙂

 

Summer Updates

Well I can’t believe my summer is almost over!! As of yesterday, only 5 more weeks until my “last first day of school” – at least for my undergrad! 😉

My summer has simultaneously been busy (aka it’s gone by super fast) and very relaxing. I went to the Dominican Republic for a 10 day medical mission trip almost right at the beginning of my summer – which I’ll post about later this week – and then to Alabama for a week-long family vacation only 3 weeks after getting back from the DR. In the meantime I’ve been working working working (I’ve gone part-time over the summer!) and hanging out with friends as often as I can before school starts up again. I’ve also read an insane amount of books that aren’t school-related. 🙂

I must say I am SO thankful that my last summer while in school came after my S1 semester! I really, truly needed this break after that craziness. I can’t imagine if I’d only gotten winter break after S1 before diving right in to S2. Even though I thought I would’ve rather started nursing school a semester earlier than I did and graduated this past May…I have to say that all things work out just the way they’re supposed to.

So, ready for a couple of exciting updates?

First, June 26th I APPLIED FOR GRADUATION!!!

It’s just so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that after being in school for 5 years – I’m almost DONE! I have actually reached the point where I can apply for graduation…and I can plan for my graduation party in December. INSANE!

Second, I asked my manager at work if she could give me any advice/tips on how to apply for the residency program that my hospital has for graduate nurses and if there was any way that I would end up on the floor that I’m already working on (a progressive cardiac care unit – basically a telemetry step-down from ICU). She told me that I just need to let her know when the residency program started releasing jobs to apply for and she would create a position for me on the floor. WHAT?!?! My jaw literally dropped right there in her office and I was speechless for a moment. She would really do that?! She said that she doesn’t hire nursing students as PCTs without the possibility that they stay on the floor as graduate nurses – as long as she feels like they do a good job, will be a great nurse, and fit in well.

Of course there’s still a possibility that I won’t get it…I think that even if she created the position with me in mind she still has to interview about 10-15 people for the job and she might think that someone will work out better. And I’m still going to be applying for ICU and ER positions at other hospitals as well. But it makes my heart glow to know that she values me to the point that she would create a residency position for me when I graduate.

Speaking of applying to other positions, that brings me to my third update: I finished my resume a couple of weeks ago and I think it looks FANTASTIC. Now I haven’t had anyone professional look at it yet (I’ll do that when school starts back up and there’s a workshop on campus), but I really love the look of it and the fact that I said EVERYTHING I wanted to say on two pages without it looking cluttered and “busy.” Now I just need to write cover letters for each of the hospitals I’ll be applying to (another thing to finish before school begins again) and I’ll be ready to apply as soon as positions start opening up!

Well I think that’s about it for now…things are going to start heating up within the next few weeks as I start to get ready for this last semester!! For now, I’m going to go get a workout in and then hang out with my brother for the day. 🙂 Audios!