I graduated December 21st. I had hoped to start work in February. Unfortunately, I couldn't get an NCLEX testing date until February 14th. Okay then. More time to study, right? Not that I wound up studying all that much. Anyway, February 14th, I head to the local Pearson VUE testing center. I leave the house in plenty of time, make sure I have my valid Maryland driver's license with me since Pearson will only accept a driver's license or a passport as ID, and make sure I also have my authorization to test (ATT) from the state board of nursing. I get to the testing center nice and early and wait with the other girl who's there for the test center to open. They finally let us in the door and we begin the signing in process. I finish reading the instructions first, so I'm first up to the desk. I present my paperwork and the following conversation occurs:
Receptionist: *eyeing driver's license and ATT* Hmmmmmm.
Receptionist: Your name on your driver's license...it doesn't have a hyphen in it.
Me: Oh, no, it doesn't. My name does, but the MVA computer system can't handle hyphens. I've fought with them about it a couple of times now.
Receptionist: I have to call my supervisor.
Receptionist: The name on the license must match the name on the ATT.
Me: Do you want to see my social security card? It has the hyphen. *pulls out all sorts of alternate forms of ID*
Receptionist: Go ahead and sit down while I call my supervisor.
So I sit down and try and read a magazine while all sorts of ominous noises come from the receptionist and the phone. After a few minutes she calls me back up.
Receptionist: We can't allow you into the testing center.
Me: Are you serious?
Receptionist: You'll have to appeal to the national council of the state boards of nursing.
Me: I have to repay all that money?! Note: the quest for a nursing license in MD costs approximately $350, between testing fees, application fees, fingerprinting, and background checks.
Receptionist: Appeal to the national council. If they decide in your favor, you won't have to.
And with that, she turns her attention to the next girl in line. I stumble outside and burst into tears. It's really hard to get into your car when you're a) sobbing so hard you can't see and b) freezing to death because it snowed the night before. I dropped my keys twice before managing to get inside and find my cell phone. I call my dad first and he must have thought I'd been in some horrible accident or something, since he couldn't make out a word I was blubbering into the phone. Eventually I manage to calm down enough to explain, although I'm still upset enough that dad asks if he needs to come pick me up so I don't have to drive. I say no - probably a mistake, in hindsight, but I did make it home in one piece. Before I leave, I call my friend Allison who's supposed to be testing two hours after me. I get her voicemail, leave a semi-coherent message, and head home. I hit a patch of ice halfway there, which jolts me back to reality a bit.
I get home and I've just sort of fallen into my dad's arms when Allison calls me back. She hadn't listened to the voicemail, so she was a little surprised when I answer in between sobs. She told me later that she initially thought I'd overslept and missed the most important test of my life thus far. I explain and she promises to come over as soon as she's done with her test. I then get into the rounds of phone calls. I try Pearson first and spend forever on hold. That's actually a good thing, as it allows me to work up to being furious instead of devastated. I get better results when I sound pissed off instead of incoherent. :P Anyway, I'm on the phone with assorted Pearson people for about an hour before they tell me the same thing the receptionist did - names don't match, nothing they can do. About the only good thing that comes from this is someone tells me HOW one appeals to the national council, and gives me a phone number.
The national council headquarters are in a different timezone, so I don't get a hold of a person until about 10pm my time. She's about to take me through the whole appeals process - write a letter, etc - but then she stops. "You know what? Hold on. Give me your name and phone number, and let me make some calls." THANK YOU. And with that, we start the waiting game. Allison arrives soon afterwards, since she was able to start her test early because they had a spare computer. Gee, I wonder how that happened? :P
Allison fields calls from a couple of other friends because I still can't explain without bursting into tears. I pace and play mindless solitaire games on the computer. After the longest two hours of my life, I get a call from Justin at Pearson VUE. He apologizes profusely and tells me a) I should never have been sent away, b) he's resetting my ATT so I don't have to pay again, and c) I can reschedule my testing date whenever there's a slot free. I proceed to collapse in a puddle of leftover nerves.
By some miracle, someone had canceled their appointment for February 16th, that Saturday, at 8am. I snatch up the time slot. Later that day, Allison, Erin, and I go to JoAnn Fabrics and get iron on letters. We make me a shirt that says 'I <3 My Hyphen'. Unfortunately, when I go back on Saturday, there's a different receptionist at the desk and so the joke goes unnoticed. On the plus side, when I tell the receptionist I had problems before, she calls me up to get things sorted out right there and then so I can stop worrying. She frowns at the paperwork and then asks what the problem had been. When I tell her about the hyphen she boggles at me. "You should never have been turned away. If I'd been here, I would have let you test. Don't worry about it - you're fine."
So that's my story. I took the test that day. I passed. And now I have a horror story to traumatize the students on my unit with. Works every time!