NIU’s School of Nursing put plans in motion to elevate the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) pass rates. It worked: In 2019, NIU nursing school graduates have increased their pass rate one of the top in Illinois, 96.3%. NIU’s graduates beat the national average as well.
In order to become a registered nurse, candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN, a computerized 75- to 265-question test takers have six hours to complete. Nursing education programs are often judged on their students’ ability to pass the NCLEX on the first try.
Anne-Marie Kuchinski, NIU School of Nursing undergraduate NCLEX RN coordinator attributes the high pass rate to concentrated efforts the school has made to raise the rates. Those efforts include practice tests, peer tutoring, success courses and review sessions.
NIU nursing students take advantage of the following:
- Standardized practice tests in classes.
- Student success course where things like studying strategies and lifestyle changes to effect test outcomes are discussed.
- Workshops to accompany core courses.
- Peer-to-peer tutoring.
Kuchinski said faculty use the results from classroom practice tests to identify areas were students need more assistance.
“The instructors have also done a lot to change the way they teach. They are constantly changing to get students to think more, and using a lot of active learning,” Kuchinski said.
She added, her colleagues have adjusted their teaching practices, and are meeting privately with students to help them understand their subjects.
“Use of our simulation lab has also been expanded so that students in all clinical courses now spend at least one day caring for a standardized patient,” Kuchinski said. “That setting allows them to accept more responsibility for clinical decisions than they would be allowed with live patients and provides a safe environment to identify and address their strengths and weaknesses.”
Goda Stelnionyte benefitted for the school’s efforts. She passed her NCLEX exam earlier this year after graduating in December 2019 with a B.S. in Nursing.
“NIU did a great job mocking the testing environment for us. They treated it very seriously, so it made you get the same feeling. Those practice exams made it feel like the real thing. It made it a lot easier. I knew what I could expect,” Stelnionyte said.
In addition to the practice exams, Stelnionyte took advantage of peer-to-peer tutoring. She did the tutoring. “It was beneficial to me. It helped me understand the core content by knowing how to explain it to others. It helped me be more confident in my knowledge,” she said.
No matter how confident she was going into the NCLEX, when the test day arrived, Stelnionyte said she was a bundle of nerves and anxiety.
“It took less than two hours to finish but it felt like I was in there for 10 days. Every question makes your soul drop,” she said. “When I learned I passed, it was the best feeling in the world.”