Writing the Biggest Exam of My Life

Over these last two years, many milestones have come and gone for us in the Practical Nursing program at Stenberg. We’ve completed all course exams and enjoyed the end of program celebration on the last day of class, where we ate cake and received our certificates. We’ve also completed our last practicum and last preceptorship. And of course, we’ve gotten dressed up and walked across the stage with our classmates in front of our loved ones. Each milestone was an excuse to look back at all the work we did and sleepless nights we had. Each one of these events was little successes in our journey, although we hadn’t made it to the end yet, it was a chance to take a moment and celebrate and reflect on all that we had completed.

However, the milestones and work ahead weren’t over!

After Graduation

Even though I had completed the Practical Nursing Program at Stenberg and my graduation day had come and gone, there was still the biggest exam of my life looming over my head. The Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Exam (CPNRE).

That being said, I needed a break. I had a lot of catching up to do with friends and family whom I had neglected when I was in school. After having some vacation time, lots of social time, and time off from anything that had to do with “Nursing” or “school,” it was time to hit the books again! I can definitely attest to the fact that it was very challenging getting back into the groove of studying. Keep in mind that I hadn’t been in class for over six months because of the gap of time between completing the program courses and exams, and my final practicum and preceptorship.

Pulling out my textbooks and dusting off my cue cards and notes were exciting but also slightly grim. Even though I had kept up on my reviewing, I mostly focused my work on medications and math as those were the areas which I struggled with. So there was a lot of work and reviewing to cover!

The CPNRE Exam

The CPNRE offers seats to write the exam only three times a year (every four months) with about a month and a half of booking time. There are seats to write the exam all over the Lower Mainland and many parts of BC, and it’s usually held in specific exam-writing facilities. I chose to write my exam in Downtown Vancouver because that’s where I live.

I paid my fees to the British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals (BCCNP) and another fee to the company that organizes the CPNRE. By the time I got to the part of choosing a date to write the exam, there were only a few dates and times left. For this reason, I would highly recommend booking the exam as soon as possible. The last thing you would want is to wait another four months until the next sitting of the exam.

Leading up to the exam, I got more and more nervous. I felt that I was putting in all the work to prepare, but also had the unnerving feeling that I was destined to fail. No matter how many hours I put in each day, and how many practice exams I did, I never felt 100% prepared. I think it was because I knew so much rested on this one exam and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself which made me feel anxious. But for some reason, I kept thinking about the worse possible outcome!

Exam Day

On the day of the exam, I tried to prepare by doing some relaxation breathing techniques, and eating lots of “brain food.” I had a good, protein-filled breakfast and kept my coffee to a minimum so my nerves would be calm (and I wouldn’t have to waste precious exam time emptying my bladder). I sat in front of the exam computer and did my best. It was scary coming to a question that I absolutely did not know the answer to but I tried to remain calm and skip it until later.

When I finished writing it, I took several hours and did absolutely nothing. I was riding the adrenaline of studying and completing the exam that I was so completely exhausted and just needed a rest.

The Waiting Game

It sounds funny, but probably the worse part of writing the CPNRE is the waiting game that happens after you write the exam. Almost daily, I sent or received texts from my classmates asking “Did you hear back yet?” It was excruciating for everybody and I think we all went a little crazy waiting to hear the results. Finally, I started to hear that some of my classmates had passed. I was so happy for them but began to grow even more worried because I hadn’t heard anything. After waiting for a few more painful weeks, I finally got the email. I passed! Finally, I was a full-fledged Licensed Practical Nurse!!!

…Well, after I paid my final fees to BCCNP. (;

All of us in this program have seen the highs and lows of group work, practicums, stress, overnight shifts, preceptorships, midterms, class presentations, tests, and of course final exams. Somehow, I have made it through all of this, within the program as well as the biggest exam of my life.

Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about finding work as a new graduate.

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