OSCE station
An OSCE station. Image courtesy The College of Animal Welfare.

The final RCVS objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) for diploma nurses will be held this month, and in July City and Guilds have theirs. CQ will also have some around the end of term, too.

There are many myths around OSCEs (everyone cries, someone always vomits, you can fail for wearing make-up, etc), but don’t worry. It’s a nerve-wracking experience, but most students feel very nervous before an exam – it’s totally normal.

You simply need to harness the nerves and focus all your energy on passing. Be prepared to be nervous and it won’t catch up with you – just accept it’s a strange situation and remember to breathe.

The examiners want you to pass (there’s nothing more depressing than examining and failing every student). They are RVNs or vets, and all are clinical coaches, so they know what you’ve been through.

However, your appearance always needs to be clean and professional. I suggest:

  • short, clean, unvarnished fingernails (no false nails)
  • appropriate make-up for professional situations, not an episode of TOWIE
  • no false eyelashes
  • a clean, well-fitted uniform (it doesn’t have to be green-striped, and it doesn’t matter if it has your practice logo on)
  • World's most pierced woman
    Remove all facial piercings and keep make-up to a minimum, advises clinical coach Jane Davidson. Image ©iStock.com/Birute Vijeikiene

    have your hair tied back

As for jewellery, make sure you have no facial or visible piercings. It might mean a visit to your piercer to have it removed, but please don’t fail an OSCE for something so simple.

You are allowed a plain wedding band, although it would be easier to remove all jewellery before the start of the exam as you probably won’t remember to take it off once the exam starts. Put it in a pocket or in your bag, which is kept in a safe room for you.

To help you feel comfortable, put in your pockets what you would have at work. A pen and scissors are fine. Calculators, scissors and pens are all provided, but it can feel better if you have your usual work gear with you. I took scissors, normal pen and a board pen – it came in handy when I got an ear bandage.

Overall, the best preparation is practice – whether at work, at college or at home. Read the tasks, know your key steps, practice the ones that worry you and ask for help if you need it. All your RVN colleagues have been through the process.

And no – as an examiner, I’ve never had anyone vomit or cry on me.

Good luck everyone.

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