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OSCE Tips from an OSCE Expert

Passing the OSCE test isn’t easy but it’s essential if you want a career in nursing. We discussed this with the OSCE training specialist Helen Romnes who runs My Nurses Life – a specialist OSCE training service for international nurses.

  • What is the best tip you would give to nurses preparing for the OSCE?

Start preparing at least 6 weeks before your exam, it’s much easier to learn the complexities of the OSCE stations over a longer period than in a short time as you may become overwhelmed by the amount you need to take in.


  • What is the most common mistake you see nurses making when sitting the OSCE? Nurses who fail usually don’t fill in charts in assessment correctly or completely. Also, they leave vital parts of planning out, or they just haven’t learnt all the steps of a particular skill well enough.


  • How do you think nurses can work best together in study groups to help each other learn?

They can do this with each other if they live together or can meet up, practicing each skill, with one nurse assessing one another – they therefore become critical of themselves and help their study buddy. This can also be done virtually, over the internet if they don’t live closeby


  • In your opinion, have the post Covid19 changes to the OSCE Assessment station impacted on nurse outcomes for the OSCE?

No, I think nurses still face the same issues, if they do not really understand the charts they must complete, this becomes a problem at the exam when under pressure. In some ways it’s easier, as they don’t have to face a live actor, and build real rapport with them, just a manakin, who is expressionless.


  • How do you get the balance right between teaching the nurses good “exam technique” but still ensuring they do not come across as overly scripted in the test? There is a formula to each station, that needs to be learnt, rather than a script. if they know the formula, they do not need a script, and they become more natural and are definitely more relaxed.


  • What is the best way for a nurse to practice for the OSCE at home?

I believe they must have good materials to work from and our online OSCE training sets them up perfectly for the exam, and further face to face assessments. They should be acting the scenarios out and demonstrating them to either a friend or partner, or recording themselves and self-assessing.


  • In your opinion, what station catches out nurses the most and why do you think that is?

I do think it is assessment and I think nurses maybe feel they know this station without focussing on it, as taking obs, giving health advice is the most common thing we do as a nurse. I think maybe they feel they do not need to try and learn or practice it as much as the skills stations, but ultimately it’s usually the chart being incomplete, or wrongly filled in that they fail on.


  • What advice would you give to nurses who are especially nervous about sitting the test?

Just practice repeatedly until you can practice no more, so it becomes second nature to you and you don’t need to keep double checking everything. Also, do not put off starting your learning and leave until it you come to the face to face training, as you will feel very nervous when others seem to know each step.


  • How do you best prepare nurses for OSCE stations involving depressed or anxious patients given this type of care can vary quite a lot between countries?

Showing compassion is very important in the OSCE, practice telling the patient you understand their worry or concerns – you don’t need to give any examples of your own life experiences – just state you do understand and will support them. Use the right tone of voice and ask if there is anyone they would particularly like to help support them at this time.


  • Is there anything else you think it would be relevant to share given your expertise in the OSCE?

Yes, don’t become overwhelmed, don’t refuse support from people who offer it and don’t just learn it theoretically, be able to demonstrate it as well.