CPNE and Me: Lakeya Collins
“I passed my CPNE on February 4, 2018 at 10:36 a.m. with no repeats…it was the best experience of my life.” –Lakeya Collins
An LPN in Augusta, Georgia, Lakeya Collins began pursuing her associate degree in nursing with Excelsior College in 2014 and after years of hard work, dedication, and personal sacrifice, she reached her goal, passing the Clinical Performance in Nursing Exam at Saint Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y.
Collins knew she wanted to become a nurse when she was eight years old and a dog bite incident landed her in the emergency room. “There were ladies dressed from head-to-toe in white and I was just amazed by how nurturing they were, and at that moment I said I’m going to become one of those; I want to be a nurse,” says Collins. She became an LPN and attempted to pursue her RN, but after the traditional route was unsuccessful, she decided to come to Excelsior.
“I was in a traditional program, I was overwhelmed, I had three children as a single mother and I was working three jobs,” says Collins, remembering how difficult it was to pursue her associate degree by the traditional means. Her friend suggested Excelsior College, citing its flexibility, and the rest is history.
To study for the CPNE, Collins used all resources available to her. She called Excelsior several times a week, used the Excelsior workshops in Atlanta and Albany, and constantly checked in with staff members at the College. She also studied with fellow students. “We did skype, we did anything; we actually would travel and rent hotel rooms and stay the weekend,” explains Collins. Fellow students would travel from three to four hours away, meet at a hotel, and take turns testing each other. “Someone would be the CE, someone would be the CA, and we would drill each other non-stop and that was very therapeutic for me passing the CPNE,” she says.
Throughout her journey, Collins credits Excelsior and her children with being her biggest supporters and source of encouragement. She says of Excelsior staff: “Everyone I encountered was so warm and open, and…everyone cared and that made such a big difference; they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. When I didn’t believe I could pass the CPNE—even when I arrived the day of the CPNE and the CA said, you know this is up to you, and at that moment I said, I will pass this.”
She also wanted to show her two children that despite tragedy, good can happen. Collins’s 16-year-old son passed away on April 24, 2016—the day she took her Focused Clinical Competencies Assessment for the third time and passed. “At that moment, I didn’t think I’d be able to continue with the CPNE with so many horror stories, and the rumors of not being able to pass it,” Collins says. She spoke with her counselor and after discovering she would receive a 60 percent scholarship, she decided to try for it. She says she used the wait time of one year to focus, to breathe, and concentrate on her studies. “At the end, everything made sense; it all made sense when I put it all together and I’m grateful for that. I learned it, I just didn’t remember it. It played a part in how I am as a nurse.”
In the end, she was glad to have shown her children what it means to work hard in the face of catastrophe. “I wanted to motivate them and I wanted to show them more than tell them that tragedy and hurdles may come, but we have to overcome them no matter what they are in life; you may stop and get stuck at that moment, but as long as you continue over—even if you have to crawl over or climb over—don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up,” says Collins.
Before she lost her son, Collins says, her goal was to be content with earning her associate degree in nursing. Now that isn’t enough. His goal was to become a family practice physician and so that’s what Collins is going to do.
“In honor of him and myself, I’m going to go to school for my nurse practitioner degree, and I’m going to become a nurse practitioner,” she says. She wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for passing her CPNE. “I just want my son to know that we did it. We did it,” she says, “…for 23 years I’ve been chasing this dream and…it’s been realized and for that I’m blessed, I’m so blessed.”
More CPNE Tips from Lakeya Collins:
“My advice to anyone that’s preparing to pass, is that’s the first thing: you’re going to pass your CPNE. Take the doubt away, take the fear away, and any negative comments, and remove social media with the negativity.”
“Utilize Excelsior; utilize those content calls, utilize the workshop. I made up in my mind I was going to do the workshops and the care plan class because if I spend $300 on that, wouldn’t that be cheaper than spending another time for the CPNE?”
“If you’re feeling lost or consumed, reach out to someone who’s motivated, and who’s ready and willing to pass this the first time around.”