By Quincey Taylor
Student Michael Scott studies ATI to prepare for the NCLEX.
NCLEX-RN. Even mentioning the name of the National Council Licensure Examination makes most aspiring nurses nervous. That is not true, however, for the students at the College of Nursing at BYU. For the past two quarters of 2018, BYU students have passed the NCLEX and received their nursing licenses at an astounding 100% first-time passing rate. This is an amazing accomplishment considering the average passing rate for U.S.-educated registered nurses in those same quarters was only 89.5% (Utah average was 88.32%). College officials explain how the members of the program have achieved this above-average rate and why students should see the value in the (sometimes arduous) ATI testing.
Students in the College of Nursing take multiple Assessment Technologies Institute exams during their stay in the program. Most undergraduate BYU faculty use ATI material as an integral part of their curriculum starting with the second semester students. They are provided with a textbook, online study guides, flashcards, and other useful aids. This is great practice because in many ways ATI mirrors the style of the NCLEX, which is nothing like usual school exams that test mostly for technical knowledge. The NCLEX, on the other hand, tests students’ ability to analyze situations and apply this same knowledge. Critical thinking skills are needed, and the questions require test-takers to make the kind of judgments they would face in the real world.
All Utah nursing programs NCLEX passing rates. See the link for more information https://dopl.utah.gov/nur/rn_pass_rates_2018.pdf
When asked why the ATI exams are important for student preparation, associate teaching professor and undergraduate program coordinator Dr. Peggy Anderson says, “It’s a good predictor, and that’s why we keep it. We can kind of tell where your knowledge base is and where it’s lacking.” She also added that it is a great tool professors can use to know what information they need to go back and readdress to help their students.
Additionally, professor Dr. Renea Beckstand offers an NCLEX prep course for students to take during their capstone. Her class simulates what taking the test really will be like. Even if students do poorly on the practice exam, in many cases that is the added motivation they needed to take an extra study class or to dedicate more time on their preparation, helping them pass in the end. For those students who might be struggling a bit, associate teaching professor Karen de la Cruz teaches a study skills course to add to their tool belt. It focuses on the fundamentals of studying, like how to interpret questions and have a good test-taking strategy.
While low ATI scores by no means guarantee a low score on the NCLEX, in almost all cases the nurses that did not pass the NCLEX the first time around had poor ATI marks. Associate Dean and associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill comments, “I looked at it across several semesters, and the people that did not pass the NCLEX had lower scores on their ATI’s all the way across the board.”
For the graduating classes of December 2017 and April 2018 who passed the NCLEX the first time around, faculty want to say congratulations on such a remarkable achievement. Merrill adds, “I am so proud of them and it shows the kind of quality we are producing. Being a brand new nurse is hard, so they should be proud of passing the NCLEX the first time around.” She also urges those alumni to pay it forward and find ways to help the younger generation of students along the same journey.