Monday, January 14, 2008

Nursing school, vicious as Roman Rule

I am in for 17 weeks of hell. Last year, when I was applying for admission to the nursing program at PVCC, I felt that once I was admitted, I could relax a bit. I knew I'd have to work in my classes, but I felt that once admitted, the pressure would drop. I was unprepared for the nursing school round of "Jump through this hoop, or get KICKED OUT of nursing school." "Now, jump through this hoop or get kicked out..." Are medical students and law students threatened in this way?

Nearly 40% of the class failed out after the first semester, mainly due a math test on which you had to score an 80%. You got two tries, and I got a 93% on the first attempt, but the test consisted of 15 convoluted word problems, with extra numbers thrown in deliberately to confuse us. The math itself wasn't hard, it was figuring out how to set up your equation. I've learned, to my consternation, that we must repeat this process every semester, only now you have to get at least a 90% to stay in the nursing program. I'm good at math, I've always been an excellent student, but I am nervous. The test is January 25, and the only preparation we are getting is a sheet of seven practice problems. I would be feel more comfortable if they gave us twenty or more practice problems, since there is so much riding on this one test.

The winter break went way too fast. Last year, I frantically tried to accomplish things over my break. I got my eyes examined, my hair cut, I demolished the old tiles in the bathroom. This year, my single accomplishment was to put the Christmas tree stand away in the basement. Often, it sits out on the back deck for months. Indeed, last year, it didn't get put away until September.

I spent most of my break reading Path to Power by Robert Caro. It's the 768 page first volume of his three-volume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. I read it at a rapid, punishing pace because I wanted it finished before the semester began. I did finish it, and it was good. Caro is a really good writer, and he's not afraid to criticize his subject.


  1. the tests seem so harsh, is it like this at all nursing programs?

    AS a law student (and with my limited experience dating medical students) it does seem like first year (and second year for med students) are traumatic because of the fear of failure. In law school, exams were the friggin nightmare (esp first semester, but turns out second semester sucked too). Then there is the BAR (queue scary music), which fully 30-40% fail the first time they try (and that is AFTER all the debt of school has accumulated).

    40% is an amazing amount to fail out in the first semester- how can the program even sustain itself with that type of failure rate?

    I know there is no way to relieve you of the stress, studying and taking it is the only way- just get some comic relief along the way!
    Keep up the great work and good luck we are (I am) rooting for you!

  2. I think this is the first year that 40% failed, because they made the math test much harder. One way the program is keeping itself afloat is to re-admit students who failed last year, and they admitted a student who transfered from UVA. That swells our ranks by about 7-8 people.

  3. I also went to PVCC Nursing school. I had 3 months left to go. (Peds and OB) I have never once had to retake a math test, scored 100 on every one. Not this time, I forgot to round to the whole number on two IV problems, on a other wise perfect test,got a 80 and kicked out of nursing school. Now I have to re-apply to the program and wait a year (not to mention a waste of 700 dollars plus books)! I was 3 months away and because I didn't score a 90 on a math test by not rounding I have to wait a year! It's not fair. PVCC nursing school is one of the hardest things I have ever done, I expressed every emotion possible and now I feel cheated and disgusted.

  4. I'm a nurse of 5 yrs. I recall my undergrad experience as similarly having a sink or swim environment. From the perspective of the practicing nurse, math does have particular importance in your practice. On the other hand, this seems like an unfair measurement tool for assessing your skills. I wonder how students would do taking the exam without the ultimatum of fail the test fail course looming over their heads with each exam question. I know there is a nursing administrator (dean) that needs to hear this and get this practice changed. Sounds like a case of "nurses’ eat their young" again.

  5. just fyi, at my nursing school we have two math tests. the first you have to get a 95% and the second one you have to get a 100% to pass and continue in the program!

  6. I had googled PVCC nursing program and had come across your blog. I am getting ready to start the program. I was wondering if you ever ended up passing and if you have any advice for a new nursing student.

  7. Yes, I passed Carolyn, but of the 100 people originally admitted to the nursing program, only about 30 of us made it to graduation. The only advice I can give is to stay on top of your work and try to have as few distractions (i.e. kids, job) as possible.