Clinical Experience

There is a great deal of debate about whether a lot of clinical experience is needed or valuable before taking the NCLEX. Unfortunately, there are no clear cut answers to these questions. Whether you should gain more clinical experience before taking the exam depends on you, the kind of training and education you received, and how ready you are to take the exam.

There are several paths a student can take when becoming a nurse. If you're on the path to becoming an RN and you have earned a bachelors degree, you can take heart knowing that more than 92% of NCLEX RN candidates pass the exam the first time they take it. Most four-year programs include many hours of clinical experience. Combining this experience with your classroom work should adequately prepare you for the exam. One way to determine whether you're ready is to take a practice exam. If you're successfully answering most of the questions, chances are you're ready.

However, not all students, whether they're becoming an RN or LPN, earn a bachelors degree. Some choose to get an associates degree, or attend an accredited nursing school rather than getting a degree. While these programs are required to offer clinical experiences, the clinical hours may be fewer than in four-year programs. This may not prevent you from taking the NCLEX, though. You should still take a practice exam to determine whether you're ready. You still may be able to pass it, despite the shorter program.

Clinical Experience

The question still remains though, as to how important clinical experience is to you when it comes to taking the exam. The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to clinical experience and the NCLEX is that the exam is looking for textbook answers to the questions. One of the reasons for this is that there are thousands of hospitals and healthcare systems across the country and each has its own policies, procedures, and methods of operation. There are often many treatment options available and hospitals choose what ones they will use based on their resources, including the skills, abilities, and recommendations of their medical staff. In order to standardize the questions on the NCLEX, it relies on answers presented in textbooks, which are based on best-case scenarios, assuming no limitations of resources. These answers don't match, in all cases, what occur in the clinical setting.

That doesn't mean your clinical experience isn't important when it comes to the test. Clinical experience provides you with the forum for assessing patients and making care decisions, which are primary abilities being tested by NCLEX. Without this experience and practice, your ability to assess real patients may be limited. Thats why it takes both classroom and clinical experience to become an RN or LPN.

Last Updated: 05/19/2014

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