Advice and development

If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying

Failing his final exam was a huge blow for nursing student Grant Byrne, but it made him all the more determined to achieve his goal of becoming a qualified nurse.

Failing his final exam was a huge blow for nursing student Grant Byrne, but it made him all the more determined to achieve his goal of becoming a qualified nurse 

When I started my nurse training in 2010, I was brimming with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get out on the wards. However, my experience since then has been something of a rocky road.

I didn’t have an easy time during my studies, and in 2015 I had to leave my course after failing my final exam. But this wasn’t the end of my nursing journey - I am re-applying this year and hope to return to nursing in 2017, so it’s just a speedbump along the way to achieving my goals. 

Failing isn’t easy to deal with, but it is important not to be disheartened. When I left university I questioned whether nursing was right for me, and whether I was right for nursing. Thankfully, one of my lecturers helped me through this by encouraging me to apply elsewhere and offering to give me a reference. 

Take time out 

The biggest barrier for most when studying nursing is financial, whether you are applying for the first time or re-applying, like me. One of the main reasons I failed the first time around was because I was working all hours. I didn’t choose to work, I had to, which left me little time to study and even less time to relax. My health and my grades suffered as a result. 

This time around, I have spent a year saving. Don’t be afraid to do the same; having savings set aside will allow you to take the time off you need to study for your exams or finish an essay. Postpone your application if you need to. Believe me when I say the time will fly. 

Taking some time out has also given me the opportunity to learn to drive, which I would advise all would-be nurses to do. I can spend 10-15 hours a week travelling on buses. Driving gives you the freedom to pick the quickest route and makes it easier to take up lucrative agency shifts, minimising the time you spend working by maximising what you earn.

For everyone out there struggling, remember that failing an exam does not make you a bad nurse or stupid. It just means you’re not quite ready yet. 

Don’t give up 

You wouldn’t give up on driving because you didn’t pass the first time, and nursing is no different. Of course grades matter, but we won’t all pass on our first attempt. My peers have gone on to become fantastic nurses and in time I hope to catch up. 

If you are struggling, the most important thing you can do is ask for help. I regret not going to my university lecturers when I needed to – if I had, the outcome might have been different. Most universities are supportive, mine certainly was, but if you don’t ask for help they can’t provide it.

Nurses aren’t known for giving up, so don’t give up on your studies just because you are finding it difficult. Nurses come in all shapes and sizes and with varying levels of academic ability, but what unites them is the drive to deliver the best possible patient care. 

About the author 

Grant Byrne

Grant Byrne is a former nursing student from Scotland 


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