Done with the NCLEX, but Never Done Learning!

  • 15 August, 2022

I'm not sure what I thought would happen when I graduated from nursing school, but I was convinced that I was done learning! I'd just completed almost 70 hours of nursing courses, on top of all my general education hours, plus hours and hours of clinical time, and then I passed the NCLEX, proving to the world that I was competent enough to be a nurse. Phew! Done!


If I'd ever stopped to pay a little more attention to Florence Nightingale, I would have known better! Florence put it best: "Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses...we must be learning all of our lives." Well said, Florence. Well said.
Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses...we must be learning all of our lives.
- Florence Nightingale
One of the biggest things to know about being a nurse, or any health profession really, is that you will never stop learning! Learning happens in many ways, sometimes through formal classes, but many times you will pick up new information through your daily patient care.

Done with the NCLEX, but Never Done Learning!

Ways to Learn

1. Hospital/Clinic In-Service - In most settings, you will receive ongoing education related to the specific setting you work in. When new products are being introduced to the facility or unit, education will be provided to ensure products are used correctly and appropriately. Sometimes the product vendor provides this education and will come to the setting to work personally with nurses using the product. A hospital clinical educator may teach how to use the product either through a unit in-service, a required class outside of your regular shift, or an independent learning exercise such as with a computer module and test.

2. Skills Fair - Hospitals are required to prove staff competency in a variety of topics each year, and one of the easiest ways to do this for so many people is through a skills fair. Staff should complete competency activities specific to their work setting, whether that's pediatrics, Mother-Baby, critical care, or surgery. Additional new learning opportunities may be part of the skills fair as well.

3. Required Continuing Education - Most states have continuing education (CE) requirements for licensure renewal. Many of your required CE hours can be earned through opportunities in your workplace. But you may accrue additional hours through activities like your BLS (Basic Life Support/CPR) renewal, ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support), or other specialty certifications required for your specific job. There are many online learning education options to pick up CE credits, there are even a few free credits available from time to time. There are many topics that are applicable to pretty much any nursing setting - infection control, diabetes care and medications, safety, pressure ulcer prevention, neglect and abuse, cultural considerations, and of course HIPAA. But outside of those topics, it is important to focus your continuing education on your area of interest. If you're a nurse in a mother-baby unit, it wouldn't be as helpful to spend time learning extensively about the post-op care of a total joint replacement patient. And if you're a nurse on an orthopedic rehab unit, reviewing education on massaging the fundus would also not be very helpful. If you focus your CE on your area of interest or work specialty, then you'll have credits available to apply towards a specialty certification if you decide to pursue that!

4. Advanced Degrees - I know, you graduated and have sworn off ever going back to school. I get it! But you'd be surprised how your mind might change after a little time! If you graduated from an associate degree program, there are many options for RN (ASN) to BSN. The education you gain in that degree jump will be focused on leadership, administration, applying research to evidence-based practice, and advanced assessment techniques. A Bachelor's degree can often open up doors to managerial or administrative positions you might be interested in, but also applies to career ladder advancement if your facility has that option. There are many options for pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in nursing as well, and you can focus on the education, leadership, administration, or a nurse practitioner (ARNP) option. Don't limit yourself just because you declared yourself "done" for now! The hours you take towards a higher degree can also be applied towards your state's CE requirement for licensure renewal, and in many cases, some can be applied towards specialty certification as well.

5. Informal Education - As a hospital nurse on a med-surg unit, it was not uncommon at all for me to come across a patient's home medication that I needed to look up (fun fact: did you know there are an average of 51 new medications approved each year????), or figure out why that particular patient was taking it, or look up a disease process that I wasn't familiar with. Herbs and supplements were for sure something that I was constantly learning about - what medications might they interact or possibly cause surgical complications with.

Often one of the biggest ways we learn today is by sorting out fact from fiction. Patients have access to a vast amount of information at their fingertips now, and many times they want to believe the information they've found rather than what their provider is telling them. The internet is a powerful tool, but part of our job as nurses is to provide our patients education from credible sources. To do this, it will probably mean educating yourself in the process.

So, hopefully you weren't as naive as I was when I first became a nurse! Hopefully, you had a better understanding of the ongoing requirements involved with a career in nursing! We are lifelong learners because we are also lifelong teachers. Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, recognized this need almost 200 years ago, and it's still true today.

If you have recently graduated from your nursing program and are preparing for the NCLEX or if you're approaching graduation soon, know that your education is not done. Even as you study for the NCLEX, there are still things for you to learn.

One of the best ways to focus on those things you still need to learn or gain a better understanding of is through EduMind's NCLEX review course. A professional will help keep you focused on what you need to know without getting lost in the weeds. Contact us today to get connected with one of our NCLEX specialists to keep your learning journey going!
About the Author: Lana Wilkins, MSN, BSN, RN

Lana Wilkins is a Registered Nurse with over 16 years of professional nursing. She is a nursing educator, consultant, Subject Matter Expert, and writer with a passion for helping students and new nurses. She holds a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma and a M.S. in Nursing Education from Western Governors University. Outside of the world of nursing she can be found managing the chaos of 2 kids, a husband, and a cat, being crafty, or spending time with friends.

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