Over the summer, the AU School of Nursing and Kinesiology received news that 98 percent of the graduating nursing majors of spring 2016 passed NCLEX, the national licensing exam for nurses. Of the 57 accredited nursing programs with testing graduates last spring, AU’s NCLEX passing rate was the third highest in the state of Indiana, behind only IUPUI-Calumet and the University of Southern Indiana.
The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is a multiple-choice exam administered to graduates with degrees in nursing. A passing score on the NCLEX is required for licensure and the ability to practice as a nurse in the United States. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the 2016 national average passing rate for first-time test-takers was 88.40 percent.
“It’s something that we are proud of,” said Dr. Lynn Schmidt, dean of AU’s School of Nursing and Kinesiology. “[The AU nursing program] has been above the national passing percentile for the past few years, and 100 percent of our graduates passed the NCLEX in 2011. In addition, 100 percent of our graduates have secured jobs that they want to be in.”
AU nursing students are prepared for the NCLEX throughout their time in the nursing program. Students begin to learn the skills needed to pass the exam in their first classes on campus.
“Beginning their freshmen year, we teach students to think like a nurse,” said Schmidt. Students are encouraged throughout the curriculum to think critically and to eventually use their clinical knowledge to make judgement calls in real-world situations.
One 2017 graduate was faced with such a situation as one of the first responders to a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair on July 26. Christianne Boulos, who works in the Medical/Surgical fellowship at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said that her education in the AU nursing program prepared her to respond quickly to the riders injured during the devastating accident.
“The professors have not only taught us the skills and knowledge that come in a nursing program, but they have challenged us to understand the meaning of serving, and selfless serving in that,” said Boulos.
Boulos and a friend were near the scene of the accident when the ride malfunctioned, resulting in seven major injuries and one fatality. When she witnessed a row of seats detach from the Fire Ball, a ride which spun up to 40 feet in the air, Boulos sprang into action.
“I went up to a police officer and told him I was a nurse and asked how I could help,” said Boulos. “He pointed behind him where the patients were lying on the ground and said, ‘go back and help.’”
Boulos immediately took action to stabilize the head of an injured patient, and she calmed other injured patients as they waited for the EMTs to arrive on the scene.
Boulos credited the School of Nursing and Kinesiology professors for teaching her the importance of “looking at a patient as a person, and learning how to relate to them and love them.”
Schmidt also stated that compassion is a critical aspect of nursing, and that the nursing program curriculum is designed to emphasize that to incoming students. “Nursing is both an art and a science. Nurses think with their heads and act with their hearts,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt said the overall success of the School of Nursing and Kinesiology is also credited to the close relationship between nursing faculty and students and opportunities to work in real-life clinical environments.
“The nursing faculty are able to interact with students across the curriculum,” Schmidt said. “The AU advising program really helps us to connect with our students because we get to meet with them, and with ten nursing faculty, students don’t have an instructor just once.”
Several of the nursing faculty also work in the clinical setting, and many nursing students have the opportunity to work as nurse technicians alongside the professors they have in class.
The most recent AU graduating class included 46 nursing students. Of the class of incoming freshmen, 55 plan to declare a nursing major. Currently, the nursing program has 189 students.
“If you meet the admission requirements, there is a seat at the table for you in the nursing program,” said Schmidt. “Some larger schools have 160 freshmen who want to major in nursing, and only 90 seats in the nursing program. Anyone who wants to study nursing here is guaranteed a seat [if they meet the admissions requirements].”
Schmidt said she hopes the high NCLEX passing rates and graduated students’ success in the nursing field will positively impact enrollment at AU in coming years.