Don’t let test anxiety stop you.
Hannah Leach’s career began at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital as a patient care assistant, treating patients with mental and behavioral health issues. “I loved working there,” she says. “I liked watching the progress of psychiatric patients and seeing them getting better, how their personalities change so much.”
Her supervisor, Kira Jerzerick, RN, knew of Ms. Leach’s desire to attend nursing school. Upon her high school graduation, Ms. Leach had a seat in York College School of Nursing’s Class of 2024. But she turned it down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and began her patient care assistant work instead.
Ms. Jerzerick didn’t want her employee to give up her nursing school dream. “I discussed different options with her,” Ms. Jerzerick explains. “And Beth Finkbiner, the director of the Geisinger School of Nursing, quickly took the opportunity to sit down with Hannah and review their new criteria for admission.”
But that’s when Ms. Leach hit an unforeseen brick wall: a timed, standardized test that became her nemesis.
“I really wanted get into the RN program at Geisinger School of Nursing, but I just could not pass that test,” Ms. Leach says. “The fact that it was timed gave me anxiety. I took it two or three times and I’d get 57 percent or 54 percent — but I needed 60 percent. They wouldn’t even consider me because of this test.”
But her supervisor believed in her. After every disappointment, Ms. Jerzerick would email the nursing school director. At one point, she even brought Ms. Leach’s plight to the attention of Stacey Osborne, RN, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital.
“Nursing is a second career for me, and I feel very strongly about motivating others toward the profession.” Ms. Jerzerick says. “As a supervisor, a large portion of my role is to help staff understand their strengths and how to use their talents to pursue their dreams. Hannah’s motivation, versatility and dedication to patient care showed her potential to be an exceptional nurse.”
“I am looking forward to getting my BSN one day and even becoming a nurse practitioner.”
Why eliminate a promising applicant for being a poor test taker when they’ve got a great transcript or are highly skilled in other areas?”
“Standardized tests just give one little snapshot, not the full picture. And it’s not always about test anxiety,” says Ms. Finkbiner. “Why eliminate a promising applicant for being a poor test taker when they’ve got a great transcript or are highly skilled in other areas? Many universities have begun eliminating the SATs from their admissions requirements for much the same reason.”
“I was really excited to start school,” Ms. Leach says. “I was so frustrated, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I talked to other School of Nursing students and many of them told me it took them three times to pass that test. Now, that’s behind me and I am looking forward to getting my BSN one day and even becoming a nurse practitioner.”
Ms. Leach still works on the psychiatric floor at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital and does shifts on medical-surgical floors, too. “The nurses are so great and helpful on those floors,” she says. “It inspires me to be the best nurse I can possibly be!”
This story originally appeared in PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.
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