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After being out of school for 10 years, how can I make sure I pass the NCLEX exam and am competent to practice?

Tuesday October 9, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I completed my RN program 10 years ago. Because of personal reasons, I am just now applying to take the NCLEX exam. When I contacted the board of nursing in California to see if I can still take the exam after 10 years, I didn’t get a clear answer. They just sent me an application. How do I make sure I pass the exam and am competent to practice? Any suggestions?

Delayed NCLEX-Taker

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Delayed NCLEX-Taker,

I spoke to a supervisor at the California Board of Registered Nurses licensing division. She stated that there is no time limit on when you finished your nursing education to make you eligible (or ineligible) to take the NCLEX and you should go ahead and apply.

Because you have been out of school for so many years, I would advise you to take an NCLEX review course to increase your chances of passing the exam. Also, there are private tutors to help with this. Safe and current practice standards have changed a lot in 10 years.

Once you become licensed, it would be advisable to take an RN refresher course to get up to date with skills and knowledge. I recommend you start volunteering somewhere healthcare-related now, such as a free clinic, public health department or American Red Cross. This will help build your confidence, make valuable professional contacts, hone old skills and learn new ones. Volunteering often leads to paid employment.

Once you become licensed, you should join and participate in your area chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). This will help you reconnect to your profession, get up to date with information and trends and provide support and guidance.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.