How ADHD affected me in nursing school & how fate was on my side.
During my junior year of nursing school, on November 13, 2012, I was prepared to take my second health assessment exam for the lecture portion of the class (in nursing school you get lecture and lab for some of your classes). Just before that day, I had been seeing a psychiatrist for my recently diagnosed ADHD but I hadn’t applied for disability through my school since I had just been diagnosed and didn’t realize I would need test-taking accommodations.
On exam day, students were handed out the exam, where we were given one hour to complete 60 questions, therefore, 1 minute per question. When there was five minutes left to complete the exam, I realized that I still had about 20 or more questions left that were still unanswered; I had not gotten to them yet.
I then asked the professor if I could have extra time to complete the exam. The professor responded saying that I only had five minutes left. A few minutes later, the professor came up to my desk and asked me, “Do you have ADD?” (This was an assumption the professor made on her own as I had never spoken to her about it). I then hesitantly responded, “I take medication for it.” She then asked me why I had not gone to the Disability Office, and I responded that I didn’t know it was going to be a problem (this is because I had just found out what I had).
To make a long story short, my professor said she would have to collect the exam from me since she had taken the exams from everyone else but that I would be given extra time at a later date. I complied and handed the test back.
Soon after this, I received an email from my professor stating that I, “could not complete my exam or be accommodated” because the Dean said that RULE NUMBER 8 under “Course Requirements” on the syllabus states, “Disability Services: Students receiving disability services must provide the course professor with their needs/accommodations IN WRITING FROM THE DISABILITY OFFICE. This must be provided within the first two weeks of class. It is the RESPONSIBILITY OF THE STUDENT to ensure that he/she gives the course professor AND Disability Office personnel a minimum of TWO WEEKS NOTICE for his/her needs to be met for examination, etc.” So because of this rule, I could not be accommodated even after I had already been told by my professor that I could finish my exam at a later date.
Fast forward to the end of the semester, after trying to fight the decision that had been made by my professor/Dean to get extra time to take the exam, all my efforts had been denied.
To my surprise, after taking my final lecture exam, my grade point average was only 0.5 of a point shy of a passing grade (please keep in mind that had I bubbled in the rest of my answers I would have gotten AT LEAST 1-2 more questions right and would have a passing grade); I was told by the Dean of the college that I did not have to show up to the final lab portion of my exam because I wouldn’t be able to pass (you get a pass or fail for lab exams, not an actual grade so it wouldn’t have helped with the 0.5 of a point that I needed). I was told that I would have to repeat another year in nursing school because of this and that their were NO EXCEPTIONS.
After learning this information, I became depressed; I was crying every day up until the day of the final lab exam, which would be the last day of school. I had already been in school for 4 years (I transferred into the nursing program my sophomore year instead of starting my freshman year). I couldn’t imagine being in school for 6 years only because I failed the class by 0.5 a point on the misconception that I would be able to finish my exam. Still, my determination to pass wasn’t over just yet. I was planning to do a grade appeal after the semester was over and I knew that if I didn’t take the lab final that I would still be told that I couldn’t pass because I hadn’t taken that exam; so even though I was told not to show up, I did, and can I just say, I killed it! I could tell by my professor’s facial expression that she was extremely shocked/impressed. I had studied my ass off despite the discouragement I had received from the Dean. Still though, this didn’t get me a passing grade.
Why fate was on my side and how being at the right place at the right time turned my life around…
Shortly after the semester was over, I showed up to the Dean’s office during the summer to try and fight for my grade one last time. At this point, I was willing to take an entirely new test just to try to get the grade I needed to pass. On the day I showed up to her office, I sat quietly outside because I realized she was having a meeting with the nursing professors of the school and I didn’t want to interrupt.
As I sat there, I soon recognized that the meeting they were having was to determine what students were going to be picked to do extra credit during the summer to pass the class even though they had failing grades. Now I had become furious, I had failed the class by 0.5 a point, just had some of these students, yet they were picking and choosing who they would allow to go on and who would have to stay behind; meanwhile, I couldn’t get this opportunity due to my disability!? I ended up recording the conversation and took it to the dean of student affairs. I’m not stating any names in this blog, but thank you so much to the dean of student affairs who took this matter very seriously and went up with the recording to the dean who had denied my multiple attempts at doing anything possible to get a passing grade.
The next day after revealing this very sensitive information, I received an email from the dean stating that I could retake the exam “whenever I wanted”; and not only did I pass the makeup exam, but I got a 99% on it and continued on to my senior year graduating with honors!
The moral of this story is to never stop trying, never give up even when it seems like you’ve reached the end. I didn’t get to retake the exam in the way that I wanted, but I got to take the exam, which was the most important thing to me. I wasn’t worried about getting people in trouble or taking it to the higher ups, I was worried about accomplishing my main goal and that was to finish nursing school.
Please note that ADHD comes in many different variations, some worse than others. In my case, I only need test-taking accommodations and will use medication if I’m in a class for extended periods of time where a long duration of focus is needed.