“My experience as a Penn Nursing student has been colored by both triumphs and challenges that together became the foundation of my resilience as a nurse. One particular challenge occurred during my second year when I did not pass my first high-stakes pass/fail simulation assessment.

I had prepared by taking notes and practicing, so naturally, I was devastated when I did not pass and received a grade deduction as a penalty. I asked myself, “How could I, someone who diligently studies and focuses in class, not pass something in nursing school?”

This hadn’t been part of the plan; I had never “failed” anything in nursing school. However, I allowed myself to embrace my disappointment and reflect on my feelings as I always do, and before I knew it, it was time to prepare for my re-assessment.

I consistently practiced and prepared myself for any scenario that could occur, even the worst possible outcomes that I dreaded. At that moment, I had channeled my devastation into resilience and deservedly passed my re-assessment. From every assessment onward, I worked rigorously to prepare, frequently referring to class notes and reminders I had written down from my very first unsuccessful attempt during my second year.I learned more from my mistakes than I could have ever imagined during that time and eventually grew to love the simulation environment.

As a passionate peer mentor, I have used this experience to help other nursing students prepare for their assessments so that they can learn from my mistakes, and their own, and perform their best. I served as a peer advisor for all three years after my first year and maintained long-term relationships with my advisees. I have dedicated my time as a nursing student and registered nurse to serving not only patients but also the students who will follow in my path.

Empathy is the trait that drives my passion to guide and support the younger students as I imagine them feeling the same anxiety and apprehension while preparing for challenges like the high-stakes pass/fail assessment. I have served on panels, written tip sheets, advised mentees over a meal, and have reached out personally to other nursing students to provide guidance and well wishes.

Although I have graduated and no longer have the “peer advisor” title, I plan to continue mentoring students and eventually new nurses throughout my nursing career.

The experience of not passing my first high-stakes assessment was certainly not an entirely positive memory of my Penn Nursing experience, but I am proud of the way that I was able to transform this obstacle into a pathway to resilience for both myself and nursing students to follow.”

– Breanne Mastromarino, RN, Nu’19
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing