Helping Illinois’ Students Pass NCLEX — Illinois’ Colleges of Nursing React

As discussed in our most recent post, resiliency, accessibility, and NCLEX pass rates are closely linked. Advisors across higher education recognize that GenZ is different than previous generations, with unique challenges that put pressure on both educational institutions and healthcare facilities. Institutions of higher education are grappling with how to provide enhanced student support services and accommodations at a scale not seen before. Generational challenges, compounded by challenges faced by students during the pandemic, are contributing to sliding NCLEX pass rates across the state (and nation). Further contributing, a new format of questions — Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) — rolled out in April of 2023. When fewer students pass NCLEX, fewer nurses enter the workforce, contributing to a nursing shortage that is already at critical levels across the country. 

Educators have responded to student needs in a variety of ways. Below, find thoughts from leaders across Illinois’ institutions of nursing higher education. 

What strategies are you employing to help students improve their ability to pass NCLEX?

1: Institutions are incorporating NGN-type questions into exams and curricula earlier in a student’s academic journey.

“We have embedded NGN-type questions throughout our curriculum; they are included as a part of ongoing testing within each course. And, we have offered training/education to our faculty to make sure they understand and can write NGN-type questions.” – Judy Neubrander, Dean, Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing

“Although the NGN-type NCLEX questions are different, we have been preparing students by adding many NGN-type questions to our unit exams in each course. We also use a variety of Elsevier products, such as adaptive quizzes and NCLEX review programs, that also include NGN questions.. We are hoping this preparation will assist students in being successful as they have been in the past.” – Tiffany Greer, Associate Dean, School of Nursing, Olivet Nazarene University

“We have had NGN-type questions integrated into our exams since August 2022. We have been using KeithRN case studies in our curriculum since 2021. We are now moving towards a greater focus on clinical judgment in the clinical setting over clinical homework.” – Brittany Lawson, Dean of Nursing, Lakeview College of Nursing

2: Institutions are leveraging technologies and enhancing support services in order to help students study and prepare. 

“We implemented ATI in our coursework. We also hired student success coaches to assist students in their classes and studying for NCLEX. We practice intrusive mentoring (when we think students need help, we reach out). We also hired student coaches to help with study skills, time management, and other life skills.” – Eileen Collins, Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago

“We begin Kaplan at the Sophomore level, each student has a faculty mentor, and at the senior level the mentor works with the student with NCLEX questions weekly.” — Brenda Beshears, President/CEO, Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences

“We have a matrix of support services for students at each level that includes free anonymous well-being services for all students, individual tutoring, sophomore study tables, a professional tutor for HRSA scholars, a math workshop, PASS program, Senior Enrichment, and Kaplan Review for graduates.” — Jeannine Haberman, Chair, Undergraduate Nursing Programs, Lewis University

3: Institutions are developing new courses specific to NCLEX, and mimicking NCLEX-style exams in testing across the curricula.  

“Aside from using Kaplan resources and benchmark testing throughout the program, we have a “Transition to Nursing” course dedicated to NCLEX prep.” — Holly Farley, EdD, RN Chair School of Nursing, Eastern Illinois University

“We have embedded an Elsevier NCLEX review course in the last semester as well as the use of Compass, a readiness tool that offers personalized coaching.  In addition,  we have incorporated alternative format questions throughout the curriculum.” — Sue Brown, Dean, Undergraduate Program, Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing

“NGN-type questions are included in every course, we leverage computerized testing and case studies on exams and in in-class exercises.” – Elaine Hardy, Dean of Academic Affairs, St. John’s College

4: Institutions are providing professional development for faculty.

“We have implemented active teaching strategies and are incorporating NGN-type questions on exams. We provided education for faculty regarding the creation of NGN-type questions (Nurse Tim faculty development program last spring.” — Sue Brown, Dean, Undergraduate Program, Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing