Colleges of Nursing
Health Education Guide


The NCLEX Nursing Exam

The NCLEX, National Council Licensure Examination, is a nursing certification exam for licensing in the United States. There are two types of tests, the NCLEX-PN and the NCLEX-RN. To ensure high standards in the nursing profession, each state board of nursing requires candidates for licensure to pass the appropriate NCLEX examination, NCLEX-PN for vocational or practical nurses, and the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses. The NCLEX is administered as a computer-based exam, taken at a Pearson Professional Center. Each NCLEX exam contains at least 90% multiple-choice questions.

In recent years, the NCSBN has added new format questions include identifying and selecting a particular area of a drawn body part, free response medication calculations, and ordering the steps of a nursing procedure. Questions can also make use of pictures as the answer choices, instead of words. Each question will appear one at a time on the computer screen, and will not be repeated.

Test takers will have a maximum of six hours to complete the exam. There is a mandatory 10-minute break about 2 ½ hours into the exam and another optional break after about 4 hours of testing. It is acceptable to take breaks at any time during the exam, although break time reduces your total available test time. The NCLEX is graded by comparing the responses to a pre-established standard. Those individuals who meet or exceed the standard pass the exam, those who do not fail.

NCLEX Exam Content

The Physiology category contains the majority of the questions on the exam, about 43%-67%. This section of the NCLEX covers adult medical and surgical care, pediatrics, and gerontology, the study of the medical effects of aging. There is a different focus pertaining to the pediatric client. Topics may include growth disorders, human development, birth abnormalities, child abuse, common infectious diseases of children, and childhood traumas such as burn injuries and fractures.

Effective Care Practices make up 21%-33% of all NCLEX questions, covering safety issues in patient care, particularly in the administration of medicines. You will also be tested on knowledge of measures to prevent further injuries and infections, safety for pediatric patients, and special precautions for patients with psychiatric disorders. This portion of the exam may include questions on laboratory tests, and nursing procedures associated with test results. Questions on these topics are randomly spread throughout the exam.

Health Promotion questions are 12%-15% of the NCLEX examination. Questions under this category deal with birth control measures, pregnancy, labor and delivery. Also covered is infant care, and sexually transmitted infections. If a patient is pregnant, it is very important that the nurse be able to act as a teacher and/or counselor. Knowledge that will be tested also includes proper nutrition, development of the fetus, signs and symptoms of complications, and certain pregnancy-related procedures.

Mental Health test areas constitute a final 12%-15% of the NCLEX test, pertaining to patients with psychiatric problems. In addition, this material may cover psychological coping mechanisms that fall short of psychiatric illness. Questions cover information on depression, schizophrenia, organic mental disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, and anxiety. Also included in this section may be questions about crisis intervention, and substance abuse.

Nursing Specialization

Surgical Nursing specialists are highly-qualified nurses that have completed additional training to be able to provide critical care during the different stages of surgery. Based in hospitals, they work primarily within operating rooms and associated recovery areas, but may also be involved with certain procedures on wards, clinics or in other areas such as cardiac catheterisation units.

Pediatric Nurses deal with a range of situations, including babies born with heart complications, teenagers who have sustained broken limbs, and child protection issues. Health problems can affect a child's development and it's vital to work with the child's family or carers to ensure that he or she does not suffer additionally from the stress of being ill or in hospital. Neonatal nurses work with newborn babies who are born sick or prematurely. Often, premature newborns have respiratory problems, which can be life threatening if they are not treated promptly and monitored. Also, ill babies need to be fed in a specialised way in a highly controlled environment that is kept warm.

Geriatric Nursing entails work with older adults with diverse health conditions, both chronic and acute. Geriatric nurses must juggle numerous priorities simultaneously, and make use of all manner of interpersonal skills to improve the quality of patients' lives, sometimes in difficult situations. Work may be based in hospital wards, clinics or community settings and you be required to perform shift work, in order to provide 24-hour care. Learning disability nurses work in partnership with them and family carers, to provide specialist healthcare. Their main aim is to support the well-being and social inclusion of people with a learning disability by improving or maintaining their physical and mental health; by reducing barriers; and supporting the person to pursue a fulfilling life. For example, teaching someone the skills to find work can be significant in helping them to lead a more independent life.

Mental Health Nurses are trained to care for people suffering from metal illness, regardless of age or background. Conditions range from personality and psychological disorders to neuroses and psychoses. Nurses who choose to specialise in the mental health branch of nursing, a complex and demanding area, work closely with psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists.

Nursing certification

After completing your nursing education, you must be licensed by the state in which you'll be practicing. The state boards of nursing each have their own specific certification criteria. In general, the requirements include completion of a degree in nursing, and board certification by the relevant accrediting body. The two biggest certifying bodies are the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The license period varies by individual state, but is usually valid for either two or three years, at which time you'll need to renew.

Registered nurses (RNs) are not required to be certified in a certain specialty by state law. For example, it is not necessary to be a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) to work on a hospital Medical-Surgical (MedSurg) floor, and most MedSurg nurses are not CMSRNs. Certified nurses may earn a higher salary than their non-certified nursing colleagues. In the US and Canada, many nurses become certified in a particular specialty area. There are well over 200 nursing specialties and subspecialties.

To keep your license current, you must take continuing education courses, and renew your license every few years. In any event, you'll wish to stay up to date on the newest advancements in nursing. There are a fixed number of credits that each state requires, and if you work in a hospital facility, these courses may be offered on-site.

Nursing Duties

Education to become a nurse is rigorous and requires advanced coursework to become a registered nurse (RN). Curriculum includes courses in epidemiology, physiology, pharmacology, differential diagnosis, laboratory diagnostics, radiology, statistics and research methods, health policy, leadership, chronic disease management.

Nurses treat both physical and mental conditions through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, and ordering diagnostic tests. Duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Nursing diagnoses, evaluation, and management of acute and chronic illnesses.
Obtaining medical histories, and conducting physical examinations.
Ordering, and performing diagnostic studies (routine lab tests, bone x-rays, EKGs).
Requesting physical therapy, and rehabilitation treatments.
Recommending prenatal care and family planning services.
Providing child care, including screening and immunizations.
Providing care for patients in acute and critical care settings.
Performing or assisting in minor surgeries and procedures, such as biopsies, suturing, and casting.
Counseling services, and educating patients on health issues, self-care skills, and treatment options.

US Nursing Organizations

American Nurses Association
National League for Nursing
Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses
American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
American Board for Occupational Health Nursing

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Nursing Tests
Basic Nursing - Test 1
Basic Nursing - Test 2
Basic Nursing - Test 3

Paramedic 1
Paramedic 2

Cellular Biology 1
Cellular Biology 2

Psychology - Test 1
Psychology - Test 2

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