What is the most challenging aspect of the OSCE exam and how to overcome it?

Article by Neha Avashti

The way OSCE or Objective Structured Clinical Examination is conducted for overseas nurses have changed over the years and constantly presents new challenges.

A practical exam that aims to assess the candidates’ clinical and communication skills requires enough time dedicated to understanding the expectations. From my own experience as a candidate and then as an Instructor, I believe a focussed approach is necessary before commencing the hard work towards accomplishing the goal.

There are, of course, other essential factors as time constraints, related stress during the training process, and quality of study resources. The same procedures in a foreign country are often carried out differently and need to be unlearned and learned as new.

Still, the insufficient practice remains the main reason for failure in the exam and challenges faced by the candidates will always be impacted by the variation of OSCE.

How can trainees overcome these difficulties?

My advice for the candidate to overcome the main challenges is to adopt the following strategies:

1. Understand the aim and the expectations of the exam

The trainees must invest enough time to understand the aim and the expectation from this test form. A large body of resources is provided on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the relevant university’s website (where the OSCE test is booked).

It is vital to make good use of all study materials as they provide clear instructions and guidelines on undertaking specific tasks. It also provides the marking criteria that serve as the standards to what a candidate would be marked against.

2. Being pro-active during the training

The trainee will gain the knowledge and skills to take the exam by actively participating during the lectures and demonstrations and seeking clarifications. If in doubt, one must address their questions to the trainee immediately, which proves to be beneficial in acquiring confidence on the topics.

3. Practise vigorously

Thorough preparation is recommended for yielding positive results in OSCE. I would highly advise the trainees to practise individually or in groups (of course, keeping in mind the latest Covid 19 regulations). While working in groups, constructive feedback is highly recommended. In addition, one of the observing candidates could act as an assessor and use a timer to time the different stations. This practice could reduce anxiety on the day of the exam.

4. Strong mind in a strong body

Last but not least, adequate sleep and a proper eating regime should form the basis of any study programme as it will aid in boosting the concentration required for the preparation of OSCE.

Neha Avashti is the QAQF OSCE Head Instructor – an experienced Nurse, who was on the frontline as part of the emergency units during the hardest days of the pandemic. She really invests in her student’s success but expects always a hundred per cent commitment on their side, too.