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Congratulations, RNs! I passed! But...

Yesterday, August 23, 2012, was the happiest day of my life. After 53 days of anxious waiting, I learned I passed the Philippine Nurse Licensure Examinations held on June 30 and July 1, 2012. I was ecstatic; nothing could be bad that day. I was listed #19,950 of the 27,823 who passed the exams out of the 60,895 who took it. My prayers were answered! My parents are proud of me! That was all that mattered.

What elated me more though was the fact that our school was among the top performing nursing schools for that examination, yielding a 98.82% passing percentage. We also had five topnotchers who occupied highly-coveted spots in the top 10. Of course I wanted to be among the 50 or so topnotchers from all over the country (some of whom were also my classmates and friends), but passing the exam was my first priority. And so I did, and although I didn’t make the top 10, I had finally become a nurse. A nurse, finally! after having endured four years of a hellish battle and sleepless nights in college, no exaggerations there.

And so came August 24, 2012, when the board ratings were released. Board ratings were in percentages and in increments of 0.2 points, since we took a 500-item exam. With the top 10 placers garnering 83.80%, I was worried about my own rating. If I got below 80% (passing rate was 75%), it would be give me a harder time looking for a job in this country, which was already suffering from an immense surplus of nurses. Although I had a scholarship in college which would see me working in a hospital in the next two years, I knew I had to have at least 80% for me to ensure my survival in the field. I went to the see the results on the website, praying once more that I did not just manage to scrape a pass, but obtained a more decent score.

And there it was.



My heart skipped a beat, and then I felt it sink.

I had just received the biggest surprise of my life. I never expected much of myself, seeing that 60,000 people took the same exam and the best I could offer myself was in the top 10,000. But just 0.2 point, one test question, that kept me out of the top 10? It was not real to me. 

One 0.2 point! That is one test question, most likely. Just one inch short of a foot.

I could not believe it. I was numbed, I could not process this information. This number, this brutal number, 83.60, ended it all. They don’t print 11th placers, they are just like every other passer who isn’t the top 10.

I am not trying to be bitter, in all fairness I do not want to complain about not making it to the top when thousands of other examinees had much less luck. I do not want to whine about my situation when others could only desire to be in my place. I 'm not discontented, just satisfied, albeit with an undeniable twinge of disappointment and a pang of regret. I'm not jealous at the others, I'm appalled at myself. But everything that has transpired, my elation and frustration, had to be channeled in some way; it all boiled down to this blog entry. 

I worked hard, hard for it. I spent four years with hardly any sleep and social life. I reaped what I sowed, I graduated. Then this one last hurdle, the licensure exams. My prayer was to pass; my deepest desire was to top. To come within the very point of just nearly making it to the top and coming in just short, was very, very frustrating. Whereas I had been at my happiest point 24 hours previously, the world fell upon me at this point. Just one more test question answered correctly, and my life would have been changed. Why? Because your rating will dictate your future. Near future, more likely. Because if you are a topnotcher, you are something. You are not just a passer. You outshine the others. You do not only get praises and credits, but jobs will chase you and not the other way around. You could easily land a staff nurse slot, or get a chance to coach students in review centers. Everything will be so much easier. Endless opportunities and a sure future ahead. That is why I needed to be a topnotcher. Which was why it was so frustrating.

I mean, what could have been? When I went home after taking the exams, I anxiously perused books on items that I could have answered wrongly. Of course there were, but I did not anticipate this; now, half-satisfying, half-disappointing rating in hand, every wrong answer was a step away from certainty. And I had one wrong answer too many.

Maybe I did not work hard enough. A good few times I skipped review classes the summer before the exams because my brain was just too exhausted. A few good times I postponed studying so I could watch a 90-minute movie, which was a rare commodity for me that time. A few good times I chose to slack off or chat with friends when I could have imbibed myself important information from my thick books and piles of notes. A few good times I had a good night’s sleep.

What if I spent just one more hour at the coffee shop or McDonald’s? Maybe I could have read about the normal values of serum amylase and I would have gotten it right in the exam. Maybe I didn’t pray enough. Maybe I procrastinated too much. Hell, I had to take a break too! But then maybe I should not have.

What if? That is the most enduring question I bear right now, and probably the heaviest question that will burden my heart for the rest of my life. What if I was able to answer just one more question right, and voila, a separate, alternate reality with all the cash and career and fame and fortune?

No use crying over spilled milk, the adage would say. There is nothing I could do with my ‘what ifs,’ but today I learned an important lesson the hard way. I knew I didn’t give my best, I am guilty of it. This experience, this predicament that has stained my humanity forever, will always bear its consequences on me. That everything I do, I have to give my best.  I am living proof that things like this could happen. I look at two separate lives ahead of me, and now I could only imagine what that other life could have been, because of some petty mistakes I committed in the past. The past made my present, and my present will make my future. Everything from now on will be different. I will not be obsessive-compulsive, but I will be more careful, more determined, more prayerful, more prepared for life. This experience scarred me, and the scar will stay. But with a stronger self, support systems in the form of family and friends, and faith in Him, I can be better, I can be on top. It’s just not my time. I prayed to God for me to pass, and I did. I passed the test, and that’s what matters.

P.S. It's slightly after 12 midnight, so I might have have misspellings or wrong grammar or profanity. Sorry!