CPNE and ME: Heather Wolfe

Heather Wolfe, of Adrian, Michigan, wanted to be a nurse since she was a child. It seemed the career was meant for her because she carried around a Fisher Price medical kit and practiced nursing on her Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Wolfe pursued becoming an RN several times throughout her life but experiences always got in the way. Now she’s closer to her dream than ever before, having passed the Clinical Performance in Nursing Exam on November 11, 2018.

Wolfe currently works the night shift at United Methodist Communities, an assisted and independent living retirement community offering long- and short-term care. For the past four years, she has specialized in sub-acute rehabilitation, which is less intensive inpatient care for someone suffering from an illness or injury. When she first gets to work, Wolfe assesses her patients, administers medications and treatments that are due, and then meets with her coworkers. She also takes care of various other jobs and tasks that need to be done, like checking on equipment, cleaning, etc. At the end of her shift, which is from 6:30 p.m.to 7 a.m., Wolfe is certainly tired, but she finds the work meaningful. “I feel accomplished that I’m able to help somebody even if it’s just a little task. I find nursing really rewarding,” she says.

Wolfe graduated from Jackson College in 2002 as an LPN and completed all necessary prerequisites for the college’s LPN to RN program. Unfortunately, the school wouldn’t accept her many credits and informed her that tuition would be out of pocket. She had previously learned about Excelsior College’s generous credit acceptance policies and decided to enroll in the associate degree in nursing program. “The program allowed me to work full-time and go to school at my own pace,” she says.

Wolfe was eager to take the CPNE so when a test spot at St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, New York, opened due to a cancellation, she jumped on it. With the exam date six weeks later, she kicked her preparation into high gear “It was very intense…I practiced literally four hours every day,” she recalls. Her family was understanding and gave her space and time alone to study and train. Sometimes they pretended to be her patients so she could practice on them. She even had a teddy bear that had an IV.  “My living room was a disaster for six weeks. I had papers all over the floor and a makeshift bed on the couch,” Wolfe says, remembering how much effort went into studying.

Her coworkers were supportive in letting her practice and use medical equipment at work and at home. At work, she used a room set up just like a hospital room with two “patients” in hospital beds, complete with supplies. “I would randomly pick four AOCs [areas of competency] and keep going through them until I felt confident,” she says. It was beneficial and helpful to use the tools there because the direct care environment meant for a more hands-on learning approach.

Wolf has always wanted to obtain a nursing degree and become an RN, but there have been setbacks. First, her mother became sick with cancer so she had to stop going to school. One of her children also passed away and so she took some time to recover. And then her husband was diagnosed with cancer, but he insisted she finish her associate degree. Wolfe says he was her biggest support throughout her journey and even when he had surgery in fall 2018, he still encouraged her to fly to New York to take the CPNE.

Wolfe, who earned her degree from Excelsior in early 2019, passed the National Council Licensure Exam (N-CLEX) and now is officially a RN. She plans to stay with United Methodist Communities until she completes a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “My long-term goal has always been to at least have a bachelor’s in nursing,” she says. Wolfe plans to be an instructor but not necessarily a classroom teacher. She’d rather focus on the more hands-on clinical aspect of nursing. “I would like to be a clinical instructor or [pursue] some form of teaching that I can do with the bachelor’s,” she says. Through her perseverance and determination, she has come far and now the possibilities are endless.

More Tips from Heather Wolfe:

  • Wolfe flew into New York state a couple days before the exam and studied, but the night before the CPNE she didn’t do any studying or reviewing. “I went out and saw a movie by myself and I went to dinner,” she says, noting sometimes you can’t study, and suggests doing things to try and relax.
  • Wolfe advises other students to watch the Excelsior nursing videos so they can learn what is expected of them in the CPNE environment. She warns that just reading the guides won’t prepare you. Memorizing the steps for each area of competency is also very important, says Wolfe, “That’s the biggest thing. Otherwise, you’re not going to make it.”
  • Flashcards can be helpful. Wolfe used hers a fair amount in studying.