Nursing students are required to pass the NCLEX-RN examination in order to obtain professional licensing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or other states. Therefore high pass rates (90% +) are a stated objective and high priority of the Department of Nursing at RMU. The cumulative first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate for RMU Nursing students since the inception of the Nursing program at RMU at 2003 is 84%.
The NCLEX-RN data has provided the faculty and administration of the Department of Nursing with a rich store of actionable information that can be used to formulate strategies for improvement. A number of new strategies have been implemented to improve the pass rate and others are under consideration.
The assessment results identified subject areas where students were having difficulty on the NCLEX-RN examination. The Department started by surveying its faculty in June, 2007 in order to determine where and how it was teaching these subjects across the breadth of its curriculum. A task force composed of five faculty and administrators evaluated the results of the survey and created an action plan that was presented in several sections to the entire faculty of the Department. Several improvement measures have already been implemented:
- Admission standards to the Nursing major have been increased for both freshman and transfer students.
- The Nursing curriculum was rearranged to free up enough credits to create a new course devoted solely to NCLEX-RN preparation. This activity had previously been dispersed throughout the Nursing curriculum.
Several additional measures are under consideration by the Department's faculty:
- Subject to faculty approval, the Nursing Department has entered into an agreement with Kaplan, Inc. to provide a formal NCLEX-RN test preparation course for every senior Nursing student. Participation in the review course will be voluntary but seniors will be strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity. Kaplan will also provide predictive test instruments for students to take which provide them with an indication of their expected performance on the NCLEX-RN examination.
- Course grades in Nursing are determined based upon student performance on examinations and other course-level assessments. A student's grade in a course is a composite of their performance on this mixture of assessments. The Department is considering establishing a minimum level of student performance on the examinations given during a course as a passing requirement.
- Nursing students can gain exemptions from their final examinations by achieving high levels of performance on predictive test instruments given during the semester for that particular course. The Department is considering an increase in the level of achievement necessary to win such an exemption.
- The Department is considering implementing a course or further instruction in medical terminology, an area of NCLEX-RN that has been particularly troublesome for its students.
- Several other improvement measures are under consideration, including:
- Establishing faculty partnerships for test development
- Improved screening and counseling measures for at-risk students
- Surveying alumni who have passed NCLEX-RN to see if they have any advice
- Improved training for full-time and part-time faculty and clinical preceptors
The Nursing Department will continue to monitor the results of future NCLEX-RN examinations in order to improve its students' pass rates on the examination.