8 Things You Need to Do During Your Last Semester of Nursing School
The last semester of your nursing program is a busy and exciting time! You've already made it through at least 3 semesters of nursing courses, and the finish line is in sight! But what you do during this last semester will kick off the start of your career as a registered nurse.
1. Meet with your advisor
Before the start of your final semester, schedule a meeting with your advisor to review your transcript. You want to do a full review to ensure you will have met all requirements for graduation by the end of the semester. Without a full review, you may get ready to file for graduation and discover you are missing a course or short on the number of credits needed, which will delay you being able to graduate. Often the missing courses are general education courses and can easily be added to your last semester. Students who have transferred into a program partway through also need to verify they have enough hours at the current institution for graduation. If these issues are addressed at the beginning of the semester, you can add any classes needed and be ready to go!
2. Start your NCLEX review
The time to start studying for the NCLEX is now! While some students do wait until the last minute to study, if you develop a plan now and schedule your study times, you will save yourself some stress and set yourself up for success. Carving out just 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week will prepare you to pass the NCLEX. Your review could include taking practice questions, using flashcards, calculating doses, or reviewing difficult concepts. Spend extra time reviewing concepts from subjects you may not be using on a regular basis, such as maternal/fetal care, pediatrics, or mental health.
3. Check with your nursing regulatory body for application requirements
Each nursing regulatory body (NRB, also known as your state board of nursing) has its own requirements for applying for licensure as a registered nurse. Most nursing programs will provide this information to students during the final semester, but it is ultimately your responsibility to know requirements and be prepared to meet them. Requirements should include fingerprints and a background check. If you have any legal history that will need addressed, this is a good time to find out what you need to do to get NRB approval.
4. Submit an application to your nursing regulatory body and Pearson Vue
You will need to apply to the NRB in the state you wish to be licensed in. This is recommended to be done 2-4 months before you graduate in order to have time for processing. Application processing time varies throughout the year, but spring has the highest volume of applications. A separate registration process is required for the NCLEX testing through Pearson Vue. The registration link can be found here.
You will need to look up the program code for your nursing program prior to applying. The testing fee of $200 is due at this time, so start planning for how you will pay for this. Your NRB will also have a fee for application.
5. Ensure the transcript will be sent after graduation
Most nursing programs automatically send transcripts to the NRB in the state the program is located. If you are applying for licensure in a different state, it is your responsibility to ensure that the transcript gets sent to the correct NRB. Your transcript will get sent once final grades are posted for the semester, so this isn't the time to start slacking off in your studies - grades still matter!
6. Review your job options
Now it's time for the fun part - it's time to find a job! Hospitals will begin hiring new graduates during the last semester. They may want you to start now as a nurse technician or may wait until you have graduated before you can start as a graduate nurse pending licensure. Spending a little time as a graduate nurse while waiting for your NCLEX test date is not a bad thing!
Throughout your nursing education, you've had many different clinical experiences, hopefully at multiple job sights. Which experience did you enjoy the most? Which experience could you see yourself going back to every day? Do any of the facilities you are considering offer tuition reimbursement, hiring bonuses, or have other benefits? There are usually more night shift positions open than there are for day shift, so are you ok with working overnight? Talk to any nurses or other staff you know at the facility you are considering finding out inside information. Then start applying for positions! You can (and should!) apply for more than one position. If you get multiple interviews, that's great! Go to all of them and see which you feel best about. But one of the great things about being a registered nurse is that you are never stuck in one area. If you start in a specialty but realize it's not really your niche, don't be afraid to talk to your manager about trying to change.
7. Schedule a review course
Although you've been studying for months now (right???), taking a review course just after graduating is a great idea. A review course will help you clarify any concepts that you are still struggling with, such as pathophysiology or dose calculations, and help you remember some of the concepts you may not have covered recently. Review courses also supply insight on how to address certain question types on the exam and get you in the right frame of mind.
8. Schedule your NCLEX
This is it! The last step! Once you have graduated, your transcript has been sent to your NRB, and once the NRB has approved your transcript and application, they will notify Pearson Vue that you are an eligible testing candidate. Pearson Vue will then send an Authorization to Test (ATT) so you can schedule your test! Follow the instructions on the ATT form to schedule your testing location, date, and time.
There you go! If you take care of these 8 steps during your last semester of school, you will be ready to start your career as a registered nurse very soon after graduation. But don't forget to keep focused on your classes as well! Grades still matter, and there's still a lot to learn these last few months!
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