If I were to walk among the multitudes of other nursing students, clad in my white uniform, I think I would blend seamlessly in the picture that no hint of any distinct feature would leave its impression upon an observer. During college, I could not be described as any more than ordinary, normal, and unimpressionable. I graduated with no particular distinction; and I probably went by college with no stellar goal but to finish my course within four years, and survive each day answering exams, attending duties and doing Nursing Care Plans. Fortunately, I did manage to earn my BSN degree, even though I hardly read any chapter of my voluminous nursing books.
I do not mean to glorify my less than exemplary means of finishing college. For months before graduation, the talk of the June board exams would cause my stomach to churn, knowing how deeply unprepared I was. And being with nursing people almost every day, it almost never fails to rub itself on my consciousness. Add to that my failure to attend most of the review classes, as I took the privilege to ‘rest’ during some of the scheduled concepts, I knew that if I took the June boards, I would probably fail-- or pass by a slim margin from the passing rate.
From a sociological point of view, I would now be considered a deviant, because I decided to take the November board exams. The feeling of dread of the possible outcome of taking the June boards was just too acute for me to ignore. As it was considered almost a norm for FEU-IN students to take the June licensure exams, a lot of people were asking me, including my parents, why I chose to postpone taking the exam. My reply would usually be “Sobra kasi ang pressure ng June eh” or “Hindi pa ko talaga prepared”. Yes I was pressured—because I was really ill prepared.
Having much time on my hands, I took the earliest review schedule in RCAP, which was slated during the weekends. During the beginning of my review, I realized that I did not want to proceed with studying the same way I did during college. Although it may be less taxing to allow yourself to just be swept by circumstances, it certainly felt defeating to see yourself in a position where you just basically let other things, besides yourself, to dictate where you should be. From that point, I decided to really focus my energies on something, which is, ambitious as it may sound, topping the board exam.
It might have seemed too fearless of me to actually set my eyes on something which thousands of nursing students from the Philippines are coveting. I convinced myself that I might only take the NLE once, so I might as well make the best out of it. Minsan lang ako mangangarap, itotodo ko na.
As if from God’s divine intervention, I found myself opening and reading my textbooks, which by their state could still fetch a good price in Recto. I adopted reasonable study habits, reading on my own during weekdays and attending review classes during weekends. Of course I would have to thank my parents for allowing me to hole up in my room for almost four months. By October, my room could have successfully been a candidate for a room design/overhaul show as Manila papers filled the expanse of one of my bare walls. During the last weeks of reviewing, I made sure to finish answering past board exam questions and reread earlier notes.
Of course it wasn’t as smooth sailing as a contracted summary would allow. There were times that I had to drag myself to read, force myself out of the comforts of my bed, and prevent myself from turning on the PC, lest I get soaked up in web surfing that I put off studying for tomorrow. Although I had to make adjustments on my study schedule every now and then, I made sure to finish much of it as I could. My social life, which is practically minimal to start with, was cut off much more.
I must have prayed for the board exams more intensely than any time in my life. When I find myself losing focus on what I was reading, or had no drive whatsoever to study, I usually prayed to God to guide me in having the will to do so. I perennially asked Him to help me top the board exams, and to have the heart to accept the results whatever it may be. I realized that achieving something great is beyond human efforts; no matter how we try to take things into our own hands, success is only possible through God’s providence.
To be honest, I do not remember much of what came up during the board exams. My mind was caught in a whirl of finally taking the licensure and answering most of the questions as correctly as I could. In the end, I was just relieved that it was over, not so much thinking of topping it whatsoever, but just happy that I finally got through with it. It was as if a huge load was removed from my back.
After enduring almost two months of tormenting anticipation, the results finally came out. And by God’s immense blessing, and months of studying, I passed--and ranked fourth among 88 thousand takers.
My family, friends, relatives and especially myself were overcome with happiness. Apart from the extreme elation that it has brought me and my parents, numerous opportunities also presented itself. I was offered a scholarship, asked to join a game show on TV, and thrown an acknowledgement ceremony. Not too bad for an ordinary nursing graduate.
If I may share anything with future board exam takers, it is that success is the little things we do every day. Success stories could not have been initially written as such; it sprang from small struggles and victories that taken collectively conjure a bigger picture of accomplishment. No matter how seemingly difficult the board exam may be, it is a surmountable task which anybody may take on with flying colors. It is only a question of how much you want it, and how much you are willing to give to have it. The challenge lies not on achieving a one-time miracle, but on doing the littlest things everyday that shall lead you to your vision.
The board exam is everybody’s game. There is no glass ceiling to break, and you do not have to graduate with Latin honors to be a board topnotcher. But while this is true, working hard for it is a requirement which could not be divorced from the equation. Only prayers, hard work and determination turn the impossible into something inevitably attainable.