I stopped in to see a friend yesterday and heard this charming story — well, I found it charming, and it made me laugh, so I’m passing it along. As I’m retelling it, please remember I got the “proud papa” version in case you want to quibble with details.
I’ve known Sara since she was a small tyke. Actually, I’ve known both her parents since we were all big tykes, junior high if not before. Sara has always been a good kid, even now, when she’s not any kid at all. She’s been well-behaved, a hard worker, respectful of her elders — she’s a beautiful person inside and out.
When she set off for college, she was perhaps not any more or less focused than her peers, and I believe she tried two other schools before she ended up back at home at Western Not State. She got her degree, something along the lines of sports therapy, started looking around at career options, and ended up back in school, this time working toward a nursing degree through classes in Montrose, I believe offered by Mesa Not State Not College out of Grand Junction.
Between, over and around classes, she was putting in practicum hours at the Gunnison hospital, and she did some home health care. My friends the Barils were among her home patients, and it was hard to know who loved who more: the Barils thought she was great, and she just loved them.
She also continued her waitressing job at a Main Street eatery, and somewhere found time to fit in with her brother some of those awful, he-man, she-woman physical challenges where you cart logs up hills and giant rocks down them. (I didn’t say she was perfect, mind you.)
She got straight A’s in her nursing classes and graduated this spring. Which left taking the nursing certification test. Recently she and her father drove clear to Casper, Wyoming, so she could take this test. Apparently this was the earliest possibility of taking the test in any sort of proximity (if you’re going to count what, eight hours one way, as proximate) to Gunnison, so there they drove.
On test day, the two of them got up early; she went for a run, he for a walk, they had breakfast, she went to take her test. An hour or so later, her father decided he wanted some more coffee, so he headed for the motel lobby, where he found his daughter, in tears. She had failed the test.
“How do you know?” he asked.
This computerized test, which I did five minutes of research on this morning, isn’t like a lot of other tests. It asks you multiple choice questions, like other tests, but apparently it’s also testing your responses. If you get a question right, it asks a slightly harder one next. If you get it wrong, it asks a slightly easier question.
When you have answered enough questions correctly, it shuts off. The people who breeze through it answer somewhere around 75 questions. Sara’s dad said it will ask up to 130 questions; the internet says 265, which seems pretty darn forgiving.
Well, Sara’s computer shut off after 60 questions, the bare minimum that have to be answered correctly, and she knew — she just knew — that she had provided some incorrect answers. Clearly, she had failed.
Her dad suggested she call a friend who is already a nurse, and the friend told her what nursing candidates do to see if they’ve passed is wait a short amount of time, say an hour, and then try to register to take the test again. If you have passed, you aren’t allowed to re-register. If you can register, you failed the test.
Sara tried to re-register, unsuccessfully. Then she tried again. And a third time. She was not allowed to register, therefore she had passed. Or so her dad tried to tell her. But she didn’t believe him. She had only answered 60 questions, after all. It was a long drive home.
There is a limit to every dad’s patience, and his was reached when the State of Colorado sent Sara notice of her certification, and she still didn’t believe she had answered 60 of 60 increasingly difficult questions correctly. I doubt he exploded too bad at her, but he was a bit tired of her not believing what many of the rest of us have no trouble at all fathoming. She had, indeed, become a registered nurse. Certified and everything.
Perhaps by now it has sunk in, since yesterday was her fourth day on the job at the hospital in Alamosa. She had offers from Gunnison and Montrose, but opted for Alamosa, a couple hours south of Gunnison, where she will work four days on, four off, or eight on, eight off.
I assume we’ll see her back in Gunnison on many of those days off (I believe the boyfriend is still here, along with dad and grandparents), if we can catch a quick sighting among all her activities and interests.
Sara has been a good student (and obviously a great test taker), and with her genuine compassion for the people around her I have no doubt she will be an outstanding nurse. Maybe some day she will look back at her test day and remember not the doubts and insecurities, but the part where she got the best score any nurse can ever get, and she will say, “Why yes, that’s exactly what I did. Good for me.”
You go, Sara, R.N.