If you want to be a nurse after graduating from nursing school, the next step in your journey is to take the National Council Licensure Exam or NCLEX. This is the standardized test set by every state’s Board of Nursing, which aims to determine whether you have the skills and knowledge to pursue a career in the world of nursing.
The exam is only open to those students who have completed a nursing program. It covers several nursing areas of practice and has two variations: NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and NCLEX-PN for practical nurses. However, the exam content and registration process of these exams are similar.
Essentially, NCLEX is structured around the philosophies that are involved in addressing the needs of the patients. Students are tested on various topics like the digestive tract and other topics related to obstetrics, medical, surgical, and pediatric. It consists of 4 primary sections and a total of 8 subsections, which include the following:
- Safe and Effective Environment
One of the primary categories in the NCLEX is ‘Safe and Effective Environment.’ It focuses on achieving outcomes through directing and providing nursing care that improves the protection of healthcare providers and clients. Under this category, there are 2 subsections:
- Management of Care – The questions under this subsection are related to client rights and advocacy, quality improvement, informed consent, continuity of care, ethics and confidentiality, and client care assignments. This subsection also accounts for the 20% of the NCLEX questions.
- Safety and Infection Control – This subsection accounts for the 12% of the NCLEX questions. One of the main topics it covers is accident and injury prevention. This pertains to how an RN should understand safety procedures, how to make appropriate room assignments depending on the patient’s cognitive and physical impairments, ways to provide a method on how a patient can signal the staff members when necessary.
This subcategory also covers standard precautions, incident reports, ergonomic principles, restraints, home safety, safe equipment use, and security.
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
This category focuses on the development and normal growth across a person’s lifespan, early detection and prevention of health problems, how nurses prevent infection, and ways to achieve good overall health.
This category makes up 9% of the NCLEX. There are several topics covered under Health Promotion and Maintenance. Here are some of the most notable ones:
- Aging – One of the most significant areas is aging. This topic deals with the aging process and how an RN can assess the patient’s reaction to various age-related changes.
- High-Risk Behaviors – Another category is high-risk behaviors, which involves the role of the RN in determining any high-risk behavior on the patient’s part. The RN is expected to evaluate the lifestyle of the patient to determine the risks that may influence their overall health, provide education about prevention and treatment of high-risk behaviors, and encourage patients to determine such behaviors that may increase their risks for disease.
- The other noteworthy topics under this category are: care for infants and mothers, self-care, developmental stages, and disease prevention.
- Psychosocial Integrity
The category tests the knowledge of the nursing student on mental illness. This section focuses on the mental, social, and emotional factors, such as chemical dependencies, stress, and abuse, that may influence the health of the patient. Here are some of the notable topics to keep in mind:
- Behavioral Interventions – This topic covers behavioral interventions that the RN may implement. The RN evaluates the patient’s psychomotor behavior, mood, and appearance and determines abnormal or inappropriate behavior while orienting the patient to reality.
- Family Dynamics – This topic involves how an RN should assess the stressors and barriers that may influence family dynamics, evaluate the chosen form of discipline of the parent, and create a nursing care plan. The RN may also encourage the patient’s participation in a group therapy or family therapy session.
- Some of the other topics this category covers are: religious beliefs, cultural sensitivity, coping mechanisms, behavioral management, drug dependency, sensory alterations, and more.
- Physiological Integrity
Physiological Integrity is another main category in the exam which focuses on promoting wellness and health by providing comfort and care. Below is an enumeration of the 4 subsections in this category:
- Basic Care and Comfort – This topic covers waste elimination, sleep, hygiene, hydration and nutrition, comfort interventions, mobility issues, and assistive devices.
- Pharmacological Therapies – Most of the questions under this topic are about drug administration, dosage calculations, pain management, and unexpected and expected effects of the medications.
- Risk Potential Reduction – In this subsection, questions evaluate the ability of the student to monitor the changes in the vital signs, evaluate lab results, run diagnostic tests, apply therapeutic practices, understand complications from procedures and tests, and so on.
- Physiological Adaptation – This subsection involves the changes to the physical condition of the patient, which may take place in the hospital setting such as allergic reactions, electrolyte imbalances, and blood flow.
How To Prepare When Taking The NCLEX
Passing the NCLEX may be difficult, but there are ways for you to prepare yourself before taking the test. One of these is to avoid cramming. It’s not a good idea to study too much at once. Take a break often and get enough time to recharge your mind. Otherwise, hunger and exhaustion may limit the information you retain for the NCLEX. Make a study schedule months before the test. It’ll help you stay on the right track, without the need to cram.
More importantly, determine your style of learning. Every individual is unique in terms of studying and learning. To prepare for NCLEX, you should understand what studying style helps you learn better. Some aspiring nurse practitioners may prefer studying alone or using flashcards, while other might do better in group settings or more interactive sessions. If you don’t know what works for you, try out these different methods and figure out what’s best suited for you.
With proper preparation before the NCLEX, it’s not impossible for you to nail every question included in the exam. Just make sure to pay attention to the primary topics covered by the exam. Build on your strengths and address your weaknesses. Make sure to create a sustainable schedule that won’t harm your mind or body.