Originally Published in Insight Newsletter Spring 2015
It was the second day of winter break. I was relaxing on my couch at home, anxiously waiting for my pharmacology professors to post the final grades. Having passed all of my other classes, I was somewhat confident that I would also pass this course. When the awaited moment arrived, I quickly calculated my grade and, to my dismay, I came up short. My heart started beating faster, and several thoughts popped into my head, most along the lines of: Oh, no. I actually didn’t pass pharm. Does this mean I’m not meant to be a nurse? I might as well just drop out of nursing school, now. I worked so hard to get this grade up this semester, how could I possibly come up short? A lot of e-mails were sent out, including one to my pharm professors and another to the BSN committee chair. I needed to know if it was actually true that I didn’t pass, and what I could do to rectify the situation.
I was informed by one of the professors that all grades were entered accurately, and that the final grade posted was the final grade. The BSN committee chair informed me that I could retake pharm in the spring semester (this current semester). While I was relieved for a second chance, I was still hopelessly angry at the fact that I couldn’t pass it the first time, afraid of what my peers would think of me, and scared for my future in nursing school.
As this semester winds down, I am proud to say that I am now solidly passing the course after a second go-around. If anything, I have gained a lot from having to study all of the material again. I better understand the medications covered in the course, and I am a lot more confident on exams in other classes in which medications are mentioned. I have decided to see my failure not as something that defines me or my career as a nursing student, but as an opportunity to turn my attitude toward academia around, and to come out stronger.
If you have never failed a course (or, for some, an exam), I will tell you that it is not a pleasant experience. It hits your GPA, your mental health, and your ego all at once. But if you have failed at anything in your nursing school career, it is important to keep a positive attitude. By reminding yourself that this is a bump in your road to being a nurse, and not a cliff, you should be able to continue on, and learn from the experience. This is not the end, but try to see it as a new beginning.
Here are some tips for surviving a failure:
1) Take a breath. It will take a little bit to sink in. Before you angrily start composing any emails to your professor(s), just let it sink in for a bit. You will be angry and hurt, but this is just your ego talking. Don’t let your recently bruised ego be the one talking to your professors.
2) Keep your composure. Depending on your temperament, you may be penning rather combative emails. Try and write your email(s) as if you are talking to them face-to-face. You may end up actually having to meet with them face-to-face, and it’s best to keep your composure consistent and calm.
3) Talk it out. You should definitely attempt to communicate with people like your professors to discuss what could have been done better. But it’s also helpful to talk to another trusted faculty member, friends (not just nursing friends), family members, a counselor, etc. about your general feelings on the matter. You may be feeling extremely hurt at this point, and you should not feel as if you need to suffer alone.
4) Make a plan. Were you overscheduling yourself with extracurricular activities or work? Were you generally disorganized? Did you not take adequate notes in class? Figure out what didn’t work this semester, and plan on changing things for next semester. This is where #3 is also important. Maybe you cannot see that you are overstretching yourself, or that you were spending time on Pinterest when you should have been paying attention in class.
5) Think about the goal. This has really helped me. It has also made me more motivated, and realize that I want to be a nurse more than anything. Nothing will stop me from graduating and taking my NCLEX exam.
Keep your head up, work hard, and I promise you that this is not the end. And though it may seem like the end of the world, you will be successful.
Pictures from the Huffington Post, Duquesne University, and Wikipedia