Everything You Wanted to Know About the NCLEX-RN

After years of nursing school, you have finally completed a recognized nursing program and are ready to begin your career. Before you are able to officially scrub in, you must take the NCLEX-RN, otherwise known at the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse. Created and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the NCLEX-RN is an examination that nursing students are required to pass before beginning their professional careers. To ensure public safety, this exam assesses the knowledge, abilities, and skills that are necessary to effectively practice entry-level nursing.

Content on the exam covers categories of patient needs, including safe, effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. The safe, effective care environment category includes topics dealing with infection control and management of care. The health promotion and maintenance category includes the topics of growth and development through the life span and prevention and early detection of disease. The psychosocial integrity category includes coping and adaption, and psychosocial adaption. Finally, the physiological integrity category addresses basic care and comfort, reduction of risk potential, physiological adaption, and pharmacological and parenteral therapies.

The exam is conducted through computerized adaptive testing, or a CAT format, which selects future questions based on how one has answered previous questions. This makes it so that if an examinee answers a difficult question correctly they are then presented with a more difficult question, but if an examinee answers a difficult question incorrectly, a simpler question is presented. To accurately answer questions, examinees must apply their knowledge and use cognitive abilities, such as memorization, recalling, analysis, and application. While most questions on the exam appear in a multiple choice answer format, some may ask broader questions which cannot be answered through multiple choice. These types of questions might require examinees to look a picture of a body part and identify a particular area of it, or make a mathematical calculation to answer a question related to medication dosage. Other questions may pertain to medical procedures and require that the examinee arranges actions in the correct order.

Nursing students only have three chances to pass the NCLEX-RN, but typically passing rates are positive. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 88.42 percent of the students educated in the United States who took the NCLEX-RN passed it the first time they took it in 2009. Of those who had to repeat the exam, 55.87 percent passed it when they took it a second time.

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