Post Traumatic Test Disorder or "How I felt after the NPTE"

by Ryan Hamic PT DPT


A Special Rehash for all of those who took the Boards yesterday!

"How am I going to tell my wife that I failed this..."

That was the first thought I had one year ago today when I exited the exam room breaking into a slightly nauseous cold sweat. The sun was exceptionally bright as I stumbled towards my car and sat in the car looking at my keys trying to remember what I was supposed to do next:

"What should you do now that you are certain you failed the test that you spent the last 5 years gearing up to pass?"

A. Drive car into wall, allow wife and daughter to collect life insurance.

B. Take the test again in two months, do not pass go, do not collect $10k, likely fail again because I have no idea how to study for that fustercluck

C. Call future employer and tell them you are going to take some time off before starting about 3 months...yea that should do it. Nothing to see here. Just going to take a trip to Europe for a last hurrah. That's the ticket! I certainly didn't fail my boards! No problem. See you on the other side. Sell all possessions and become the crazy old guy living in a hut in Sri Lanka.

D. A and C but not B

E. A B and C but not B

I sat in my car for 35 mins with the engine off noticing how my peripheral vision was closing down tunnel visioning my steering wheel. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and I had the distinct feeling that I had absolutely no viable course open to me.

"What the hell happened?"

I had never failed a test before. Normally when I left a test I knew the 4-5 questions I was unsure about, the reason I was unsure and was able to pinpoint what I didn't know. After this test I felt as if I had somehow completely slept through my entire education. Seriously, does anybody know how far the transducer is supposed to be from the skin during underwater ultrasound?!?! Does anybody still even do that? Did everyone else in this room know that?

Predictably my loved ones asked me "How was it?" to which I could only reply "Hard". I tried to explain to them that I don't know what happened but I was pretty sure I was going to have to take it again. Everybody assured me I did fine, but they weren't there. They didn't know. This was it. This was the time it all caught up to me and I came up lacking.

I had 3 weeks to go on my final rotation and of course my patients and CI had to ask "How did boards go?". Could I even treat these people? Should I just leave instead of faking like I was actually about to be a PT? I felt so hollow, like a shadow of myself. Dead man walking.

I frantically checked the facts again...90% first time pass rate stared at me. How on earth was I the 1 out of 10? When did the other 9 learn that information? What did I do wrong?

People continued to tell me it would be fine. I couldn't even muster the energy to explain to them how terrified I was. The certainty with which I knew it would not "be fine". I was going to see "failed" next to my name. I was going to have to tell everyone. I was going to have to know that I failed it forever.

The results were scheduled to be released the morning of our graduation. Seriously we have to find out at Graduation that we didn't pass? Oh that will feel awesome being the one person that is shattered on a day that should feel like smelling air again for the first time after spending years stuck in a gulag. Good thing I am not going to my graduation!

The results came early. Facebook post "board results are up." I nervously went to check. Of course mine weren't posted yet. "Of course, they will report the fails later". F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 try to take a walk, check from phone, refresh,refresh, refresh.

I passed. You probably did to.

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