SHU Nursing Students Score Highest Pass Rate on National Exam
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Sacred Heart University)
According to the Chicago-based National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s (NCSBN) most recent quarterly report on testing results nationwide, Sacred Heart University nursing students scored a 95% pass rate on the organization’s National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX - RN). The average national pass rate is 87.1%.
“Our minimum benchmark is a first-time pass rate of 80%. Over 90% is our accepted rate,” said Dr. Anne Barker, the chairperson of SHU’s nursing department. “This recent rate is exceptional and historically high. And in comparison to the national rate, our students’ achievement is truly remarkable.”
NCLEX is the cap of SHU’s First Professional Degree program, which targets students who want to make nursing a career. The test is given at Sylvan Learning Centers and can be taken by a student any time after they graduate. Most students take it within the first six weeks, according to Barker.
The exam determines a student’s accumulated knowledge from their four years of study, Barker explained. “It’s intensive and one of the most major tests they will ever take.”
It is one way the NCSBN ensures that nursing students have the appropriate competencies, skills and credentials to practice safely, and that the public is protected. To be eligible to take the NCLEX - RN, a student first needs to sit for their bachelor’s degree. Successful passage of NCLEX then allows a student to obtain their Registered Nurse license.
While the high pass rate is great news, it’s not surprising given the depth and quality of the faculty at SHU. To begin, Barker, who was the Chief Nursing Officer for the Veterans Administration for 15 years and holds a Doctorate of Education from Columbia University, has been with SHU for 25 years. She oversees 29 faculty and nine staff members.
Of course, teachers need students and the general workplace demand for good nurses has driven program development and expansion. “The nursing program has grown significantly over the years, particularly over the last five years,” Barker said. “For people wanting to enter the workforce, nursing is seen as an attractive career opportunity. It offers a good entry salary and is projected to be a top career in terms of need for the next decade and beyond. It’s certainly a growing field.”
SHU has a full complement of program opportunities for every level of nursing. To start, its RN to BSN program is an undergraduate program for nurses with an associate degree in nursing who want to get their related bachelor’s degree. It’s offered in two different ways: online and onsite at hospitals like Yale-New Haven, St. Francis in Hartford and Midstate in Meriden. Approximately 250 SHU students are currently enrolled in this.
For graduates, there is a Family Nurse Practitioner program, which helps prepare nurses for advanced practice. It is offered with courses online and on-campus. One hundred students are currently enrolled.
Another online/on-campus graduate program is Doctor of Nursing Practice, in which 43 students are presently enrolled. Started in 2010, it gives students two different tracks: clinical and leadership. “Students come to campus twice a semester for intensive classes; the balance is conducted online,” said Barker.
Three other graduate programs, in which another 300 students are participating, are offered exclusively online. The first is Patient Care Services Administration, which helps prepare nurses to be managers. The second is Nursing Education, preparing nurses to do university or facility based education of nurses. Finally, Clinical Nurse Leader helps nurses assume a new leadership role in nursing.
“We enjoy an excellent reputation both regionally and nationally for the quality of education, faculty and curriculum,” summarized Barker, about SHU’s nursing program. “We live the principle of the university: where personal attention leads to personal achievement.”