Those who dream of becoming a successful nurse spend hundreds of hours attending classes, studying, fulfilling clinical training requirements, and taking tests. The most important exam for any student entering the field of nursing, is, of course, the NCLEX. Once a candidate has met state requirements to sit for the national examination, the weeks and months that follow are typically riddled with stress and anxiety. It’s in these moments that the advice and direction of a professional like Chioma Okeke are most impactful.
Chioma is a nurse mentor who helps teach nursing graduates strategies to successfully pass the NCLEX. Chioma also specializes in assisting practicing nurses with issues such as, stress, lack of confidence, burnout, adjustment issues, and conflict in the workplace.
Awards & Achievements
BSN from San Diego State University
Professional nurse mentor for nursing students and graduates
Recipient of the MBR’s “Ambassador 2016” award
Recipient of “Top Nurse Award” by the International Nurses Association
Author of the book, “NCLEX Exam: What You Need to Know Before You Take the Exam
Author of the book: “52 Things You Need to Pay Attention to When You Are in the Hospital
Published the article: “The 11 Commandments of Nursing School
Published the article: “For the Nursing Student: 6 Tips for Staying Sane
Interview - Question & Answer
Chioma, would you share with our readers a bit about your background?
I was originally born in Nigeria and my parents and I moved here when I was three years old. We moved here for better opportunities. We moved several times when I was younger, but we lived primarily in South Pasadena and then we moved to the Inland Empire where I spent the majority of my middle school and high school years. I did deal with children who did not treat me fairly when I was growing up because of where I am from. I was teased a lot. I graduated from high school and went straight to college to become a nurse.
It must have felt very good to start the process of becoming a nurse…
I actually had to apply to my program three times before I got accepted into nursing school. This was predominantly because the nursing program at my nursing school was very, very impacted. They received thousands of applications every semester but only accepted less than 200.
It's wonderful that you did not become discouraged…
I kept trying because my mom who is a nurse kept pushing me. Nursing school was, of course, very challenging for me, but I was able to complete it and graduate in May 2010 after five years.
It sounds like you received valuable support and encouragement from your mother. Would you consider her your mentor?
Both of my parents were helpful; predominantly my mom who is also a Registered Nurse. They both pushed me to excel. I also have a second mentor who is my business mentor and coach, Angel Coleman. She believed in me as far as my vision to help nurses pass their NCLEX exam and with her help I’ve been able to do this successfully.
What challenged you the most academically in nursing school?
The greatest challenge I originally had in pursuing my education was first, not enough professors to accommodate more nurses into my nursing program so I could be accepted and attend sooner. The other challenge I had was just understanding the material in a way that was easy to understand. Learning nursing was like learning another language. I had to spend a lot of time with tutors, attending office hours, writing flash cards, and studying. However, that is expected for any individual determined to finish nursing school.
What were the greatest emotional challenges you had while in nursing school?
The greatest challenge has always been my interactions with the patients. It is very challenging taking care of patients that you talk to one day and then the next day are no longer living. However, it also made me more passionate to do everything possible for every patient I took care of.
You have so much compassion for those who are just starting out in the nursing profession. What were some of your first experiences as a nurse?
Nursing was very hard for me especially at the beginning. I have always worked predominantly in Medical Surgical and Telemetry/Oncology floors. My first position was a new graduate position in which I stayed for only a couple of months. I left because the stress level was too high and too challenging for me. One of the things I learned from the job is that nursing will teach you how to have tough skin. You need it if you’re going to survive in the field. However, it also taught me not to give up. My next job was also another Medical Surgical Telemetry floor but in a smaller hospital.
How did you react to that environment?
This was great because it allowed me to really see some of the issues lower income citizens deal with which affect their health. I took care of a lot of patients who could not afford health care as well as those who did not speak English. In my next role (another Medical Surgical/Telemetry floor), my competence in nursing grew tremendously. My routine was solid, I began precepting other nurses, I handled emergencies extremely well and I participated in leadership roles. I received patient satisfaction recommendation awards as well as being invited to take on a charge nurse role.
What did you learn in your new position as charge nurse?
I saw what teamwork truly looks like and how much of a difference it can make in patient care as well as nurse retention. I have also participated in one hospital strike, so I was able to witness what all the implications are for the hospital, the patient and the staff.
What other nursing positions have you experienced?
My next role was as an insurance nurse. I was able to see the behind the scenes of what happens when patients cannot afford their health insurance, what happens after they go home from the hospital and how insurance companies play a pivotal role in someone’s life and health. I am now a Nurse Mentor.
Why did you become a Nurse Mentor?
I picked this area because I recognized the need. I recognized that nurses need help passing their NCLEX exam and they need help from someone who is like them and is passionate about helping them. I picked this area because I love to teach, and I not only have passed this exam, but I have lived this exam through all of my work experience.
What are the unique challenges that come with the position?
Now, my greatest challenge emotionally is seeing nurses who have still been unsuccessful passing their NCLEX exam in spite of taking it multiple times and over several years. I have encountered nurses who have still been unsuccessful even as early as the 1990s of their graduation and it truly saddens me.
What does a typical day consist of in your position?
I start my day early in the morning. What I do that day really depends on my focus for that week/month. It can change depending on what day of the week it is. I start my day with prayer then I check any new emails. I then begin doing whatever project I am planning or working on for that week/month. Then if it’s Monday or Wednesday, I will do a scope on Periscope at 12:30 pm PST and I will call this my Nurses’ Scope. My followers know they can usually expect me at this time on Mondays and Wednesdays to do a scope related to nursing.
Then from about 1pm to 2pm I’ll take my lunch depending on how long I finished my scope. After I finish eating, I’ll go back to working on my project/business until about 5pm or earlier. And if it’s Tuesday of that week, I will then hop online from about 5pm-6:30pm or so for a live training study session with my group of students for my Solid Steps to NCLEX Success program where I provide teaching and tutoring online to help nurses pass their NCLEX exam. Then after that I will usually relax. This is what one typical day may look like for me.
What characteristics, do you believe, make for a good nurse?
Integrity; someone who will always do the right thing even when no one is watching. People of integrity who care and will always do what is best for the patient. Also, persistence; you cannot be someone who easily gives up. And if you are someone who gives up easily; you will have to be willing to change, otherwise you will not last in this field.
What do you like most about your job?
Just knowing I get to teach in a way that not only exposes, simplifies and relieves a problem. Also, because I work for myself.
Please share an experience of adversity… How did you react? What helped you through the situation?
I remember a time when a family member of a patient was very rude to me without even knowing anything about me. They questioned my competence as well as my ability to take care of their loved one and they even insulted me. However, what kept me going was believing in myself as well as remembering the amazing team I had who believed in me.
What changes have you seen in the nursing profession?
I have seen that there are more nursing programs available especially online. I think this is wonderful because it is trying to meet the need of the nursing shortage by providing more opportunities to become a nurse. I also see now how important higher-level education is. It appears now that there are less jobs available for LPN nurses than there were 5 years ago and also that Registered Nurses with a BSN degree as opposed to an ADN (Associates Degree) are in much greater demand. I believe this is due to a multitude of reasons with one of them being that people are becoming more ill today, so hospitals are requiring more educated nurses.
Describe one thing would you like to see change in the field of nursing…
More caring teachers. Nursing instructors who are passionate about what they do and truly want the best for their students. We need more nursing instructors to fill the nursing shortage need.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
I hope to accomplish many things however some of them include helping hundreds of thousands of nurses pass their NCLEX exam, as well as provide nursing scholarships to help nurses pay for their nursing education.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself. Keep telling yourself you can do it. No matter what anyone tells you. Don’t listen to any negative people. Just believe you can do it and you will. Anything is always possible to those with vision and to those who believe!
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