The end of nursing school is a time to rejoice and prepare. This year, newly minted RN’s face uncertainty about testing requirements, work environments, and, surprisingly, job availability. So, it is understandably troubling to feel confusion and anxiety about graduating. Control what you can to make the transition easier. Here are five tips to help you manage NCLEX testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typical Steps Involved in NCLEX Testing
Each state has different requirements for graduates taking the NCLEX, so the first order of business for new graduates is to determine the steps to take to get Authorization to Test (ATT).
The Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB) determines testing eligibility. If students need to know what they need to have or do to be eligible, they must contact the NRB in the state where they wish to practice.
Once students have submitted the necessary documentation to show that they are eligible to take the NCLEX exam, they will get an ATT email. Students can then register to take the exam.
COVID-19’s Impact on NCLEX Testing
NCLEX testing resumed on March 25 at select metropolitan testing centers in the U.S. and Canada. Still, it was interrupted as of April 27 due to measures imposed by federal, state, and local governments.
According to the NCSBN website:
“Some changes will be made to our testing program to enable testing to resume. To the extent that information elsewhere on the NCSBN website may differ or be in conflict with the FAQs, the COVID-19 Impact to NCLEX Candidates FAQs shall control. We are working as quickly as possible to update the NCSBN website and other materials. In the meantime, any questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Both the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN are affected as follows until July 4, 2020, according to the NCSBN website as of May 3:
Minimum number of test items is 60; the maximum is 130
Maximum testing time is 4 hours
No Next Generation NCLEX Special Research Section
The computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) is still in use, and both the difficulty level and passing standard remain unchanged.
Continue reading for information about testing center availability and NCLEX scheduling information.
How to Prepare & Take the NCLEX During COVID-19
COVID-19 has made navigating the steps necessary to be eligible to take the NCLEX more difficult. The following steps will help those who are unsure of what to do about their NCLEX exam:
- Check Your State NCLEX/Licensure Requirements & Contact Pearson Vue
First, know your state’s requirements in ordinary, non-COVID conditions; this is your “baseline” understanding of how the NCLEX testing process works.
Next, determine whether COVID-19 has affected testing procedures in the state where you wish to practice. You can do this by searching for information on the state’s websites and by contacting Pearson Vue.
In many cases, the state will direct you to Pearson Vue for information about testing.
Still, it is best to thoroughly investigate the information the state is putting out, including any executive orders and the Pearson Vue website, because you will want to know if you are still required to take the NCLEX within a certain timeframe.
For example, the New York State Office of Professions Website has a COVID-19 FAQ page to help essential personnel make sense of relevant executive orders. Questions 27 and 28 address the NCLEX:
27. Is New York State waiving the license or registration fees for nurses as part of the state of emergency? Is New York State expediting its nurse licensure process to help address the COVID 19 pandemic?
Answer: New York State is not currently waving licensure or registration fees for nurses. Currently, there is no backlog in processing nurse license applications. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is working closely with other New York State agencies and the Governor’s Office to tackle issues relating to COVID-19. Please continue to monitor the Department’s website for updated guidance.
28. Can I get an extension of my nurse exam ATT?
Answer: For guidance relative to the NYCLEX exam, please contact Pearson Vue. In addition, you should also monitor the Department’s website for additional guidance.
Pearson Vue has a FAQ page where you can find out about open testing centers, scheduling and rescheduling your exam, when you can take the test, and more. Check this page often as it is likely to change.
Pearson View also has a COVID-19 Update Page that changes as the company monitors COVID-19 and associated orders. Here, you will also find information on what is happening to protect test takers and exam proctors.
To find a test center open near you, go to the exam program on the test-taker home page at Pearson Vue and log in to your account.
- Get Authorization to Test (ATT) & Schedule Your Test Date ASAP
Once you know what requirements you need to meet and when to address them by, you can go ahead and get Authorization to Test and schedule your exam. But, do not wait too long to submit your documents, or you may run out of time to test. Many testing centers remain closed, and those that are open are operating at a limited capacity.
COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the plans of those who live in rural areas because they cannot easily access the open test centers. Others are struggling to find an open slot before their grace period runs out.
If you are affected in such ways by COVID-19, you will want to reach out to your school or exam sponsor for information about your next steps as soon as possible.
Mentally Prepare for a Different Experience
Once scheduled to test, you will want to brace yourself for a pandemic testing experience.
You will see proctors and students in masks and PPE. Proctors will ask if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, had flu-like symptoms, or been under quarantine. You will be spaced six feet apart while testing.
According to the Pearson Vue website, you can bring and wear gloves, but proctors will inspect them before and after the exam, and in some cases, you may be turned away if you do not wear a mask. Certain test centers will take your temperature before admitting you to the exam.
The health and safety measures in place at test centers may fuel existing anxiety about the test. Consider this possibility before test day and mentally rehearse what the experience is apt to be like so that you are as prepared as you can be for the unique circumstances ahead.
Take Precautions at Test Centers
As a future healthcare professional, you will want to set a good example (and practice proper safety precautions) by wearing appropriate PPE.
Gloves and masks are essential.
If wearing PPE while test taking feels weird, practice taking the exam at home in your personal protective equipment so that you get used to wearing them.
For instance, gloves can affect how you click a computer mouse, so it is prudent to practice with them at home.
Relax and Do Your Best
All you can do is prepare and try your best. Failing the NCLEX is not the end of the world. You will have an opportunity to retake it, and hopefully under better circumstances. But for now, make the most of the resources at your disposal. You can do it!
Additional Resources for New Graduates
In addition to the NCLEX, new graduates will need to prepare a resume, polish their interview skills, and survive their first few shifts as a professional nurse. The Nurse Backpack mobile app can help you build a professional resume that includes all the necessities and set your career on a great trajectory.