What Do You Do When You Get Cold Feet Before Taking the NCLEX-RN?

Congratulations! You have successfully completed nursing school.  You managed all that reading and all those care plans and made it out the other side. And then, PANIC!  Your inner voice just won’t give you peace.  You just keep thinking, “All that work means nothing if I can’t pass the NCLEX-RN. This is all a terrible mistake.  I’ve wasted so much time and money.”  Ok, deep breaths.  You will get through this.  You’ve gotten cold feet before taking the NCLEX-RN. All you need is a little plan of action to get you back on the path to success.

Feel it

Yes, you read that right.  Stay right where you are for a day or so.  Cry, scream, eat a pint of chocolate ice cream. Let the emotion of it all have its way for a bit.  It’s ok to feel nervous and overwhelmed.  I know I did. Think through all the worst case scenarios running through your head. “You’ve wasted so much time.  College was so expensive.  You can’t believe you made it this far (and not in a good way).” Feel it.  Let your emotions have a way out. Then, prepare to…

Shake it off

Taylor Swift has this one right. Sometimes you have to just push aside the voices of all of those people who doubt you, especially when it is you doubting yourself.  You did not get here by accident.  You worked hard to get through all the challenges that nursing school presented.  You could have quit but you didn’t.  Now’s the time to combat all of the negative emotions that you allowed yourself to feel.  Use positive self-talk to drown out the voices that cause you fear, hurt, and anxiety. Think of all the reasons you wanted to be a nurse to begin with. Do you want to spend your days helping others? Are you excited about the opportunities that come with getting your RN license? Are you looking forward to a career and earning a living to support your family? Tap into all the positive things about how you got to this place.

Action Plan

You have taken a day to feel overwhelmed and followed it up by changing what you tell yourself. This is where the real work begins.  It’s time to make a plan. Sit down and write out your concerns and then follow it up by writing a specific solution to your problem.  It will look something like this.

I feel anxious because I don’t know what will be on the NCLEX-RN.
Visit the NCLEX-RN test plan website to get a list of major topics.
I am nervous because I don’t know how to register for the test
Visit your State Board of Nursing website or look here to get the registration steps.
I don’t understand the kinds of questions that I will be tested on.
Find a test preparation class/service that can give you practice questions or a tutor that can work with you one-on-one

Continue listing your concerns and possible solutions until you feel you have a way to take actionable steps to move you forward on your journey toward becoming a nurse. If you have a challenge you can’t seem to find a solution for, seek out the help of a trusted friend or mentor. Talk it through and think of ways to address any lingering sources of concern.


You’ve made your list and now it’s time to do it! Taking positive steps usually leads to more positive steps.  Start crossing things off of the list. Get the information you need, register for your test, and prepare yourself for the exam.  You have made it so far and now it’s time to take the final step.  If you need to, revisit your action plan.  Add to it if you need to but keep working toward your goal.
The pressure of one, big test can be hard to deal with.  You have done the work and now is the time to use what you have learned. Believe in yourself and trust your learning.  As a nurse, I can tell you, I have been where you are and the rewards are amazing on the other side. Nerves are natural but don’t let them to hold you back.