R.N. Q&A #3: How can I pass this class?

Nurse Coaching Questions

Dear Robb,

I have been a LPN for 36 years. I have been earning my pre-reqs at a local community college. My problem. I cannot seem to get a grip on my A&P class. I've failed twice. I've had to drop twice. I'm always the oldest student in my class. I've had health issues the past 2 years (cancer). I really want my RN. I I've never felt so discouraged and unsure of myself. How can I pass this class without the nervousness?

Thanks, Rose

Dear Rose,

Firstly, I want to give you credit for how well you are asking your question. When we get challenged, often in our frustration we end up asking questions with a negative slant.  “Why is this so hard” or “Why am I having so much trouble with this” or “Why does this keep happening to me”. Instead you asked a positive question “How can I pass this class?” and then you made it even better by adding what I think is a really powerful qualifier at the end - “How can I pass this class without the nervousness?” Well done, Rose, well done.

The great thing is that once we start asking questions, our brains will start looking for answers. If you ask a negative questions, "Why is this so hard for me?", then your brain is going to find answers to that. And if you ask a positive, solution-oriented question (like you have), it gives your brain permission to get creative and start figuring it out.

So you are totally on the right track, we just need to keep going until we find an answer.

Now, unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I’m not a mind-reader, and I’m not sure what the answer is that is going to be the most helpful for you. All I can do is offer a brainstorm of guesses to get your brain going, and it will be up to you to evaluate them as possible solutions or to let them spark your own creative ideas. But since we have clearly identified your goal - passing the class without being nervous - this process becomes much less emotionally fraught and much more focused on finding a practical strategy that will work for you.

So what do you think it will take? Studying more, maybe with set hours every week? Finding a study group? Do you learn better writing things out or talking them out? I remember I had an anatomy coloring book that really helped me remember things. Could you talk with the instructor and get their advice? (They are going to be able to tell you exactly what they expect of you.) I always learn best by teaching, do you have a friend or a dog or maybe a photo of your friend’s dog that you could explain everything to after you study? What if you took fewer classes this semester so you could focus getting over this block? There is no denying it is a lot of information, but in your experience how do you best learn? What will it take for you to be able to learn and retain all of that information?

Let’s take it one step further - what would it take for you to be at the top of the class? How hard would you have to work to get 100% on everything the entire semester, and how willing are you to work that hard? That may not ultimately really be your goal, nor does it need to be. But ask yourself, what would it take? If you can answer that question, then it should be easy to dial it back a little if your real goal is a little less ambitious. Figure out what you need to do so that passing that class becomes inevitable. It will take effort, but think how good it will feel when it is done. If this is something you really want, then make sure that passing the class this time is not optional. Make it the priority, and make it happen.

And the really good news is that if you start coming to class not only prepared, but overly prepared, the nervousness is going to fade away all on it’s own.

But just to address it a little, here is what I’ve found about the emotions we don’t want to feel. If you focus on getting the nervousness to go away, to try to squelch it or ignore it or bottle it up, it will probably only get worse. That's just how our brains work. And why is being nervous so bad? It is a pretty normal and common feeling. What if it is ok to be nervous sometimes? What if you acknowledge that it is there, doing it’s thing, and decide that it’s ok? If you think it is a problem, it is going to be a distraction. But if you just let it be, knowing it is a normal part of the human experience, meanwhile focusing on getting prepared for the classwork, I bet the nervousness is going to abate without you really having to do anything about it.

I know you can do this. And, more importantly, it seems so do you. After all you’ve been through, you are still here, you are still trying to make it work. You haven’t given up because deep down you know you can do it. Like most nurses, you are optimist at heart, which is a pretty badass superpower to have. You know the goal, so get clear on your strategy to learn what you need to learn. And you are gonna pass this class, feeling proud and strong and empowered.

Thank you for the question, I hope this helps!


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