Nursing Examinations: When you get a supplementary

For all the trepidation that comes with getting one, the truth is that supplementary exams are a part of the flora of nursing school. The risk factor for this potentially debilitating condition is something  that is the bread of butter of pursuing a degree in nursing: nursing examinations. 

“You know her?”

” Who? “

“That one who got a sup.”

(momentary silence)

“And they way I thought highly of her going by the way she carries herself! Mmmh!”

(smirk of the lips ). 

We used to call them sups. And god! Didn’t we dread them. Oh! The shame. Oh! the fear of failing again on the retake. What will my parents say if they find out? What reputation am I building among my colleagues? Dear future nurse; You got to have the right mentality within your arsenal to overcome the gloomy days of nursing school. Otherwise, you’ll be walking around paranoid, replaying such deluded conversations in your mind. Make no mistake. Such tribulations that make you doubt yourself -supplementary exams-  are part of the price to pay for earning the honor and perks of nursing career.

The character of a nurse is as important as the knowledge they hold

By design, nursing examinations are designed to challenge you. Moreover, that are intended to push you so that you can learn the gift of giving and giving. Why? You might wonder. Because nursing is a job whose roles and responsibilities are best summed as giving. And then giving some more even if no one else is giving. 

Brother, nursing examinations are made to squeeze out that pride that can be blinding (thus missing a nursing diagnosis). Extinguishing the so called god mentality that comes with acing stuff right, center and left.

In this regard, supplementary exams are bae. Why? You might wonder. My explanation? Overcoming supplementary exams in the high pressure calderon of nursing school requires character.

to experience the joy of nursing, you have to pass your nursing examinations
Uhuru park, Nairobi, Kenya: A nurse role plays with a street boy during demonstrations in the June 2017 nurses strike.

First, all nursing Students need to know that sups are normal

We start this conversation on supplementary exams with a revelation. I persistently implore my mentees – some who’ve bravely borne the confidence sapping brunt of the supplementary – to acknowledge that failing a nursing examination is normal. If it weren’t normal, there wouldn’t be the second chance. It is a statistically normal occurrence thus the effort made to make retakes, otherwise known as supplementary exams. Otherwise, the options would be binary. Either you pass – Yeah! Or you fail – Boo! Please sod off. But that’s not the case.

One you acknowledge that taking a supplementary exam is normal – meaning that it can happen to any one – that defeatist nagging voice in your head asking: “Why me?” takes a hike to the Himalayas never to return. This transformation in mindset then becomes your elixir to success in all the nursing examinations you’ll face and ace moving forward.

To fully appreciate what one can expect in nursing school, refer to my distilled take on hacking nursing school which covers more breadth. From dating to satisfying examiners and even our radical advice on running a side hustle.  To that list, we’d like to add our road map to handling nursing examinations and particularly supplementary exams. But before we get there, here are the major three ways that one ends up with a supplementary.

Ways by which you end up with a sup

Pursuing Bsn and RN programs, means tackling examinations almost ad infitum. The energy sapping nursing examinations can be either written or oral. The areas covered includes both nursing theory and clinical nursing. While different nursing schools have different examination rules, in general, these situations account for a majority of supplementary exams in Bsc. in Nursing and RN programs.

When a nursing student fails short of these requirements (or by fate finds him/herself in these situations) retakes are almost inevitable. Take note of these situations as some are avoidable:

Avoid These Situations and Sups Wont See You

A student may want to deferred their nursing examinations. Subsequently they rightly make a request for deferment. However, they preemptively make the wrong bet that their request will be granted. In most cases, permission to defer partaking university exams is granted on concrete reasons such as death in the family or major sickness.

Check with your nursing school on procedures and processes. With the assistance of your school’s dean of students, you can even defer your exams in less ’emergency’ situations. Though not encouraged, I’ve heard of cases where students in some nursing schools defer exams for simply not being ready.

The more common reason -and the one that carries more stigma- is partaking of supplementary exams by students who failed a unit by no more than five per cent of the pass rate (usually a mark of 45-49). This requirement depends on university senate provisions. As you realize,  the difference between passing and taking a supplementary can be marginal. A mere five percent! So don’t be so hard on yourself.

Where a pass would complete all academic requirements for the degree or the unit failure would significantly impact on one’s academic progress.

NOTE: If you miss nursing examination without prior sufficient notice as spelt out by your nursing school governing body, it is taken that the student willingly forfeited the exams. This usually warrants a serious sanctions such as being forced to repeat a whole year.

Such volunteer work such as acting on the board of your alumunus could be the differnce maker in clinching some nursing jobs
The Author, Anne Kharunda, at her alumnus Kibabii Girls Primary School in Bungoma County where she voluntarily serves on the board.

My Experience: Of Love letters and nursing examinations

The practice in many accredited nursing schools is to write letters to eligible students inviting them to re-sit nominated supplementary exams.  In my nursing school, we christened this letter: The “love letter”. Notice to pick a “love letter” often came via a text message from the school registry. The letter in itself consisted of a single line under the school letter head, well referenced and signed off hurriedly by the nursing school head of department. Folded on itself once and sealed via a single staple pin, receiving this A4 paper meant your fate was sealed.

Upon receiving your love letter, you were required to respond by a given deadline. You were to confirm by then whether or not you were willing to take the supplementary nursing examination. Given the obvious incentive to keep this away from your parent, the biggest hurdle was the small examination fee required.

Though it isn’t our intention to encourage blindsiding your parents, even if your folks are cool and are willing to assist, having them paying this supplementary exam fee is a sure way of them demonstrating their faith in you. Truth is you need a strong social support network to hack nursing school and thereafter navigate the rigors of hunting for a nursing job. Therefore, you better make or know your allies early enough.

Satisfy Your Examiners

The second truth is that many African parents might see your supplementary as a sign of irresponsibility! It can be worse if you are a first born who’s expected to lead by example. Tragic when you are one of those guys who the whole community chipped in to get you into nursing school. What better way to take charge than to commit to making this misdemeanor go away?

Yet again, I urge caution. Do not be distracted. Your primary role is to ensure you ace the supplementary exams. In the event you are unsure of your ability to honor this fee obligation, talk to your friends, mentors and dean of students. For many of my classmates, the proceeds from side hustles (that we discussed in detail in our guide to hacking nursing school) came in handy in catering for this fee.

Nursing examinations: The cardinal rule with supplementary exams

Retake all supplementary exams on time and get your final grades before proceeding to the next stage. If your nursing school has arrangements for remedial classes for the units failed, please attend them 100%. Don’t let failure define you! Fight! If possible, approach your instructor for the units that you failed for guidance. Remember, it’s not out of malice that you did not make the grade. As we said earlier, it is not about you. Retaking nursing examinations can happen to anyone.

Nursing examinations

“Call for help!” In any emergency situation, as health professionals, we are mandated to call for help first as the initial intervention. The secret to passing nursing examinations supplementary exams is no different. Do not hide in shame!

In most cases, not until a nursing student completes the retake, can they get a complete result. Because an incomplete result can prevent a student from enrolling in some units. For example one can’t be allowed to enroll for midwifery II with a fail or incomplete result in Midwifery I.

How to always ace your nursing examinations: The irreplaceable role of mentors in nursing school

By now you should have realized that faculty staff are potential colleagues, mentors and coaches. When the times come, it is from this pool that you will get referees for your CV. Possibly even recommendation letters to your potential employers.

Always put your best foot forward. Do everything in your power to satisfy your faculty. Don’t be mistaken, satisfying your faculty is the reason why you are in nursing school. Think of this journey as an audition to be a member of a certain tribe. Learn their ways, customs and rituals.

Other tips

Keep all school property like student IDs, library cards, school fees receipts etc properly to avoid unnecessary inconveniences. Sometimes you might get kicked out of the examination room simply because you’ve failed to properly identify yourself for lack of a school ID. Besides, safe custody of all school property including ID’s will ensure you get your caution money refund on completion.

On caution money, this is not the money to party with celebrating your academic milestone. This is the seed money that will kick off your nursing job search.

anne kharunda

Finally, while in nursing school, develop a personal reward system. Treat yourself to ice cream or whatever your poison is after your exams. Get an extra hour of sleep if you need it, Spoil yourself with a nice meal etc. Motivate yourself!  Don’t fall for the lie that you are too busy studying for a Bsn degree to have some fun. Always engage in extra curricular activities that will make you a better person. Make sure you get enough sleep. Exercise routinely. Pray. Be comfortable in your skin. Live within your means.

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