69. What to do when your Instructor is WRONG?!?

What should you do when you are 100% sure that your instructor is WRONG about their rationale for a test question, but just won’t admit to it? I’ll tell you exactly what steps to take in today’s episode (we’re also going to dissect an NCLEX-style question to figure out how to get the correct answer!)

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Transcript for Episode 69

Welcome to the Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor podcast! My name is Nicole Whitworth, and I’m a BSN RN and Professional Nursing Tutor with over 13 years experience. 

Today I’ll be addressing an issue that you’ll probably experience at least once in nursing school…and that is what to do if your nursing instructor is convinced that you picked the wrong answer on a test question, even though you’re 100% sure that you’re correct. It happened to me way back when I was in nursing school, so I’ll also be telling you exactly what I did when I was in that situation…both the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you’d like to subscribe to my email newsletter to get more tips for nursing school, or if you’d like to find the links for any resources I mention on today’s episode, then you can find them on the show notes page at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode69 

Enjoy today’s episode!


What should you do when you think that your professor is wrong? Especially on an NCLEX style question, and it just doesn’t see the rationale just doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m going to tell you, although I’m going to tell you up front, it’s probably not the answer that you want to hear. But it’s the practical answer that’s going to get you there nursing school competently and calmly, maybe not calmly, but at least it’ll get you through nursing school without getting killed by your professor.

So the reason I was thinking about this today is I was in a Facebook group that I am a part of, and a student posted a question. It was a practice question. So this is not I’m not sharing exam questions here. Okay. Cuz that would be unethical. And I firmly believe that you need to be ethical to be a nurse. So let’s not cheat on our exams. But she was sharing an example question that the professor had used in lecture, and was asking everybody what they thought the answer would be, because she said that the professor said it was one answer. She disagreed. And she had a theory. So she was checking to see if her theory was correct. And it turned out her theory was correct.

So what was the question? The question, first off was pretty vague. It was just which of the following would be the highest priority? And then there was four answer choices?

The first answer choice. And again, each of these answer choices didn’t have a lot of information. We will talk about why that was an issue in this particular problem. But the first answer choice was a client who needs to emulate, to prevent a DVT. Second, is a client who has an isolation and feels lonely. Third, is a client who recently lost her husband. And fourth, is an elderly client who is at risk for falls, who is at risk for falls.

So in this thread, without fail, people were most commonly divided between the first answer choice, helping a client to ambulate to prevent DVT. And the last answer choice, which was an elderly client, who is at risk for falls. Now, I should say to that, because this was an example question being used in lecture. This was within the context of learning to understand Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human needs. Okay, so that’s possibly important when we’re thinking about this. However, it Well, first of all, here’s the thing, I tend to agree that it would be either A or D. Now, this is not the best written question, because technically, A and D are both risks.

And when we’re talking about actual issues, we want to be focusing on real things, not only risks. Generally speaking, if you have a decision to make between an actual problem and a risk for a problem, you’re going to choose the actual problem every time in your priorities. However, this is a little bit of a gray area, because like I said, it’s a bit of a poorly written question.

So the first client, it says, who needs to emulate to prevent DVT. Now, they don’t say this client is at risk for DVT. But technically, that’s what it means this patient does not have a DVT. We know nothing about their history. But if they had a DVT, it would say they had a DVT. And it does not say they have a DVT it says they need to ambulate to prevent a DVT. So that sounds like a risk for to me honestly. However, because they don’t use the words risk four, I always teach students to try to read between the lines for these kind of sketchy questions, because you can’t control sometimes the types of questions that your professors wrote, and you just have to learn to deal with them. So in this case, you need to read between the lines and think, What do I think the test writer or the writer of this particular question is trying to test to be on? And since they did not use the phrase risk for, in fact, they used the phrase needs to, I’m thinking that the test writer is probably trying to emphasize that they want this to be considered a physiological problem, not a risk.

This kind of sounds like a test strategy. And I definitely think that test strategy is kind of gimmicky. Okay, I don’t teach my VIP tutoring students to focus on test strategies. When you are studying for nursing school, the best test strategy, in my experience opinion, is simply to know the answer. Okay? And you can do that by building a firm foundation of nursing knowledge by studying in a way that helps you practice integrating and organizing that information, so that you can analyze and apply it when you get to test questions or clinical scenarios. But you can’t do that when somebody writes a bad question.

I guess that’s probably the one situation where I do recommend some sort of test strategy, but it’s really just trying to read between the lines and say, This is what I would really answer. But what do I think this person is trying to ask me about that. So let’s just get an extra level of critical thinking. Now, if we’re thinking about now, so that being said, that’s kind of like the thinking through the, quote, fake test strategy of this, but we’re comparing the person who needs to ambulate to prevent DVT versus an elderly client who is at risk for falls. If they’re both a risk four, then I would honestly probably choose D, because then I would be focused on safety. And I would say, the client is a safety risk. And often when we come to priority questions, one test strategy, or way of thinking about it, that I suggest to my tutoring students is, if you could only pick one option, and then you had to go home because your shift ended, which of the options would help you sleep the best.

And in this situation, dealing with the an elderly client who is at risk for falls, would be in my opinion, what would help me sleep the best because this client is going to have to get out of bed at some point, you know, to go to the bathroom, to get a drink of water to do whatever. And they’re at risk for falls. So we need to do something to prevent that risk. Versus this person who has is at risk for DVT. Yeah, they might have a DVT ambulation is going to help reduce that risk. It is a circulation thing. But safety Trumps circulation when they’re both risks. Okay, we’re not talking about real problems. This is happening right now we’re talking about risk problems. So it really depends on how you interpret these answer choices as to which one is correct. However, that’s the problem. And that’s what makes this a poorly written question.

Because if you have to interpret the answer choices, so that you can guess what the test writer is trying to test you on, that’s not going to happen on a standardized exam, okay, you’re not going to have to deal with that on ATI exams or hesi exams or NCLEX exams, because those tests are going to be vetted. They’re going to be much better written, you won’t have to interpret in the same way. But for test questions that come from like a textbook, test bank, or from your professor, sometimes you have to do that. Now, all this being said, I’ve been talking about AMD, I’ve pretty much ignored BMC I crossed those out right away, a client who has an isolation and feels lonely or a client who’s recently lost her husband, those are up higher on Maslow’s basic human needs hierarchy, okay, those are with your psychosocial issues, right?

Those are not your basic physiological needs like A and D are. So by default, it should be a nd. However, this nursing instructor said that it was see that was the answer that the client who recently lost her husband was the correct answer. Now I’m not 100% clear on what her professors rationale was for why she chose C. But I think it might be because her professor interpreted AMD as both risks. And therefore since you don’t pick the risk, you pick, the next highest priority would be a psychosocial one. However, I disagree vehemently because a fall risk or the Preventing DVT risk, even if we’re considering them both risks, that’s still very much something that we can do something about to prevent, that would still trump the psychosocial needs. In this situation.

You’re not going to die from the psychosocial needs. In this situation, you might die from the other two risks or at least sustain a serious complication or injury. But now that we’re at this point, it was clear that this student was not going to be able to persuade her instructor that she was wrong. Now, this was just a classroom example. But what if this happens on a test? What do you do? How do you approach the professor when you just know deep down that she’s wrong? And you’re right. What are you gonna do? This actually happened to me once when I was in nursing school. And it was a very similar situation, the question was written in a way that there was a very practical need, that needed to be done for safety. And there was a very real kneeling need. But it was on the psychosocial level. Now, my professor insisted that the psychosocial answer was correct. It had to do with parents who had experienced the death of a child, and we’re in therapy. And they wanted to know the question, if I recall, right, it was something about which of the following scenarios is in a crisis situation? And she insisted that that was the correct answer, because there is nothing worse than losing a child. And while in a lot of ways, that’s true.

That’s not the technical definition of what a crisis situation is a crisis situation, according to my textbook, which I showed her was that you did not have the required resources to meet your current needs. Now, this parent situation, they were receiving therapy after the death of their child, therefore, it could be presumed that they were receiving services that were meeting their current needs. That was the therapy. However, there was another answer choice that had a family after a house fire living out of their car. Now, that particular family did not have appropriate housing, that is a safety issue. That is a crisis, they did not have resources. The problem that they were experiencing exceeded the resources that they had to cover it. Embarrassingly, I actually got into an argument in front of the entire class with my professor. And it got to the point where I realized I was not going to persuade her. So what do you do when you’re in the situation? The fact is, you just swallow it, and you move on. i That hurts my sense of justice so badly. When I know that I am right. 100%. beyond a shadow of a doubt, I can point in the textbook and show you exactly why I’m right. And the professor still refuses to see things.

My way to see things the same way. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done, except to cut your losses, preserve the relationship with your professor, and move on. This is the best way to progress. Honestly. Now, if this is happening on a regular basis, you may have to take it up the chain of command. But this particular situation, let’s be honest, does not happen very often. In my 18 months of my accelerated nursing program, there was literally only one time that it was that this happened, that the answer was so clear cut that my professor had chosen the wrong answer. That that was literally the only time that I experienced this. So it doesn’t really happen as often as you might feel like it happens for one thing, which is why I recommend cutting your losses. Moving on. If you continue to argue, if you bring it up the chain of command because of one single test question, you are going to get on your professors bedside, you’re going to get a reputation for being argumentative and disagreeable to work with. You don’t want any of these things for yourself plus, for your mental health, you are going to be spending way too much time and emotional energy on one single point on one single exam.

It is not worth your time. However, that being said, it’s a lot easier to cut your losses and move on when you are secure in your grades. When I was in nursing school, I had been doing So Well, learning how to study for nursing school and helping my classmates that my program hired me to be the official school tutor. Needless to say, my grades were secure, I could afford to argue a little bit with my professor. But it still wasn’t worth my time. Okay. And it was all I could also afford to take the one last point and move on with my life. In fact, that was a better outcome for me, because I was so secure in my grades.

And that’s what I recommend for you to be doing things now. That help you feel a lot more confident and secure in your grades so that you’re not constantly borderline, so that you’re not constantly worrying that one misunderstanding, one missed question is going to be the thing that prevents you from moving on with your cohort. If you need help to figure out how to get above that borderline status, because I get it, it’s easier said than done. When you’re working so hard that you’re not really sure why you’re not getting better grades for the amount of effort you’re putting in?

Well, honestly, you’re in the majority of nursing students. And that’s why I started your nursing tutor is because the common advice doesn’t work for most nursing students. And you need to change the way you study so that you can make the shift so that you can harness all the hard work and energy, all the things that you’re actually learning and be able to turn around, then organize it and apply it and analyze it so that you can get your exam questions correct. So if you’d like some help with that, you can always join me in the VIP tutoring membership. I also provide mentoring mentorship, beyond just tutoring support, because a good tutor is also like a coach. Okay. And when you find yourself in a situation like this, where you have a test question that you just don’t think that your professor scored right? But she is just not backing down. I can help you talk through the situation. Look at things logically and decide is this really your worth your time? Is this really the hill you want to die on in nursing school? Or do you have greater goals to get through nursing school and become a nurse so that you can turn around and treat the nursing students that come behind you better than that? If so, I’d love to work with you. But in the meantime, good luck on your nursing journey. 


I hope you found today’s episode helpful and informative. If you’d like to get the links for anything I mentioned today, you can always find them on the show notes page for this episode, located at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode69

Before I finish, would you mind doing me a quick, 30-second favor? Would you go to Apple Podcasts and write a 2-sentence Review for Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor? For the first sentence, simply tell me where you’re at on your nursing journey. Then in your second sentence, let me know why you like listening to this podcast. It’s one small way that you can support the mission of Your Nursing Tutor by helping other nursing students discover that it IS possible for “normal people” to get through nursing school without completely sacrificing your family, your job, or even your sanity. 

Until next episode, good luck on your nursing journey!

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