ISU’s School of Nursing achieves rare milestone

Perfection best describes the 2023 traditional track graduates from Indiana State University’s School of Nursing (SON). All 34 nurses have recently taken and passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) on their first attempt. A 100% pass rate isn’t just impressive; it’s rare, unusual, and the first time this has happened at ISU since approximately around 1997.

Dr. Jill Moore, Executive Director and Professor of the School of Nursing, “It’s significant. We were thrilled. We knew it would be close, but when the last one passed, it was a huge deal. It is important because we know as a school, we’re preparing our students well to take the exam and be safe, competent nurses. The School of Nursing has worked hard to increase our pass rate; this is a huge accomplishment.”

Additionally, the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) to BSN May 2023 graduates have a pass rate of 96%. The School of Nursing’s second-quarter pass rate is a combined 98%.

The national average and ISU’s previous year pass rate for this exam was 79%. ISU SON faculty strive each semester to meet the 90% benchmark, but consistency, preparation, and effort put forward by faculty and students surpassed that goal.

The NCLEX is the right to practice, so passing the exam is critically important. Future nurses are tested on their higher-level application skills, which include questions about patient care, understanding physicians’ orders, medication knowledge, and much more. This is a computer adaptive test (CAT) that re-estimates their ability at every question answered, choosing the next question based on all the previously answered items. Many myths surround this testing system, such as “If the questions get easier, the student may not be doing well, so the harder, the better.”

Indiana State’s competitive SON programs help to prepare students to be competent nurses, and the NCLEX milestone must be mastered before these students can practice. The student’s first three semesters at ISU, consist of foundational courses and prerequisites to prepare them for the five semesters of the nursing program itself. The basics of nursing are taught in those first four semesters. Their fifth, and final semester focuses on practicum skills, synthesis of nursing, and preparing to take the NCLEX after graduation. The NCLEX-prep course, helps the student to focus on testability, stamina, testing confidence, and overall learning better test-taking skills.

The result may be new, but the work behind the scenes to prepare future nurses has been ongoing for quite some time. Efforts include coaching these students post-graduation up until taking the NCLEX, merging the School of Nursing and Union Hospital to hire a nursing student specialist, constant NCLEX prep course changes based on trends, platforms, and the recent changing of the NCLEX, which started April 1, 2023.

The post-graduation coaching has been happening for several years. Dr. Linda Walters, Director of Students and Professor in the SON, “We try to prevent disengagement. After graduation, you do not just ‘take the test’; there’s a process you must go through, that takes about three to four weeks, ideally, before students can take the NCLEX. There is a group of three instructors that check on these students weekly, reviewing their progress toward NCLEX on two NCLEX prep platforms, looking at assessments and scores, and verifying if they indeed, are ready to test. This is the first semester all the students stayed engaged post-graduation.

Walters adds that she is proud, and the goal is to keep this momentum going as another group of 52 student nurses prepares to take the NCLEX in August.

“I’m very proud. I think it speaks to the hard work of the faculty and to the dedication that students demonstrated. Nursing school is hard, and I couldn’t be happier about this accomplishment. In the future, we hope to continue this success,” Moore said.