The "MUST KNOW" Labs for the NCLEX

It is common to see “normal lab values” that differ slightly from what you see in your textbook or at the hospital. Laboratory reference values often vary among reference sources and are highly dependent on the analytic methods used.

The NCLEX will not ask you to identify lab values with only slight variations from the norm because of this widely-known fact! Instead, questions on lab values will be obviously “off” or else you will be told about an abnormal lab result and then tested on your understanding of the implications of that result: can you anticipate the manifestations, the risks associated with it, or how to intervene?

Don’t focus on memorizing every reference range, but do learn the ones that are likely to show up on the NCLEX.  The following labs are specifically listed on the detailed version of the NCLEX Test Blueprint:

• pH: 7.35 - 7.45

• PO2: 80 - 100

• SaO2: 95 - 100%

• HCO3: 21 - 28 mEq/L or 21 - 28 mmol/L

• BUN: 10-20 mg/dL or 3.6-7.1 mmol/L

• Creatinine 0.5-1.2  mg/dL or 44-106 µmol/L.

• Cholesterol (total): <200 mg/dL or <5.0 mmol/L

• Glucose: 70 - 110 mg/dL (fasting) and  ≥ 200 (casual) or  <6.1 mmol/L (fasting) or ≥ 11.1 mmol/L (casual).

• Critical glucose levels are <40 and >400 mg/dL or <2.22 and >22.2 mmol/L .

• Hematocrit: 37-52% or 0.37-0.52 volume fraction

• Hemoglobin: 12-18 g/dL or 120-180 mmol/L

• HbA1C: 4-5.9% (nondiabetic), < 7% (good diabetic control), > 9% (poor diabetic control)

• Platelets: 150,000-400,000/mm³ or 150-400 x10⁹/L.

• Potassium: 3.5-5.0 mEq/L or 3.5-5 mmol/L.

• Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L or 136/145 mmol/L.

• WBC: 5,000-10,000/mm³ or 5-10 x10⁹/L.

• Critical WBC: <2,000 or >40,000/mm³ or <2 or >40x10⁹/L.

• PT: 11-12.5 seconds (normal) or  ≥1.5-2 x control (with anticoagulant therapy)

• aPTT: 30-40 seconds (normal) or  ≥1.5-2.5 x control (with anticoagulant therapy)

• INR: 0.8 - 1.1 (normal) or 2 - 3 (for A - fib) or  3 - 4.5 (for prosthetic valves)

NCLEX Mastery provides lab reference ranges from Mosby’s, 5th Edition (2013) and Mosby’s Canadian (2012). In a few instances, SI ranges have been sourced from Stedman’s Online or conversions made from Mosby’s conventional values, calculated using the AMA Manual of Style SI Conversion Calculator.

For a complete lab resource, broken down by gender and age group, consult any of our nursing apps.

Carolyn Mallon, RN

Dear me,

You can do this, your not studying for that 90%, you are not studying for your family, your teachers, your friends, you are not even studying for you. You are studying so those families, those families that you want to make happy, those families you want to help make feel like there is good in the world, your studying for those kids who will wake up and might be scared, sick, and anxious, you are studying to make them better in every way that you can. You are studying to wake up one morning put on your uniform ride that bus to work and start your day with a smile on your face knowing that you made it and that you are making a difference. You are studying so the kids who you make smile, the families you help heal, the parents you make happy, and the patients you care for, those people know they are in good hands, they are healthy and happy because of you, they are better because of you, you have the knowledge, the power the understanding to actually help them and DO something. And when someone asks you 10 years down the line, 20 years down the line what do you do? You can smile and proudly say I AM A NURSE AND I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

So next time you are in bed with tears in your eyes worried that you don’t understand why you are struggling so hard, next time you feel yourself about to give up, next time you get a 60% on the test you studied so hard for and you feel like it might not be worth it after all. REMEMBER THAT.

Remember that sure you might save 1 life during your life with your CPR and FIRST AID training etc. But as a nurse you could an will save hundreds or thousands a year. Remember that sure you may have it harder then others and yes you may really really struggle but at the end of the day it’s worth it, because even though you don’t reap the benefits just yet and even though you are stuck in your room studying while your friends are having fun, meeting new people, and experiencing new things You will be doing what you love and proving everyone in your life who ever said you “Can’t” wrong.

I’m smiling in the future because you will lead me there,

Thank you.

The H&P Notebook helps you stay organized while taking a detailed history and presenting to attendings! ⠀

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