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BYU nursing students excel amidst changes

Graduating Cougars see certification percentages rise as national average drops

Despite recent changes nationally on the licensure exam, BYU nursing students have a passing rate of 96 percent. That's 16 and 13 percent higher than the state and national averages.

“It was really good, and pleasantly surprising,” said BYU nursing professor Renea L. Beckstrand. “Our passing rate did not drop at all.”

This year the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses was reevaluated and changed, forcing nursing students at BYU and across the U.S. to step up to the challenge.

Nationally, passing rates declined from close to 90 percent, down to 83 percent. For nursing students in the state of Utah, the passing rate dropped from 90 percent to 80 percent. But BYU students did not see a drop, maintaining a passing rate of 96 percent.

These national and state trends are common. Whenever the NCLEX has changed in the past, passing rates have dropped.

Beckstrand teaches an NCLEX-RN preperation class at BYU. The class is one of many resources within the BYU College of Nursing to help students prepare for certification. She said her process as an instructor didn’t changed much with the changes to the examination. She simply let the students know that the test would be more challenging, and the students responded.

“Everyone kept saying that the test was now harder, and it made me nervous to know that our class was the first BYU nursing class to test the new NCLEX waters,” said Hanna Meinzer, one of the 43 BYU students who passed the NCLEX. “I definitely studied harder, knowing that the standard for passing had been raised. I did nothing but study for a solid month.”

The NCLEX-RN passing standard changes every three years. The national board sends surveys to 6,000 first-year nurses across the U.S. to see specifically what they deal with on the job on a day-to-day basis. They then use that information to reevaluate the exam. Along with the changes to the content within the test, the requirements to pass the exam also become more difficult.

“We just have really great students,” Beckstrand said. “They absolutely stepped up to the challenge”

Since graduating from BYU and passing the NCLEX, Meinzer now works in the shock/trauma intensive care unit at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.

“BYU taught me the basic skills I needed to know going into the field,” Meinzer said. “But even more useful than learning about arterial lines, ventilators and central lines, was the critical thinking I was taught at BYU. The nursing program focuses very heavily on the student's ability to think through situations clearly and make the best decisions for patient care.”

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Story Highlights

  • BYU nursing students have 96% pass rate on licensure exam
  • Nursing students nationally have 83% pass rate
  • Nursing students in Utah have 80% pass rate

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BYU nursing graduates are working in hospitals throughout Utah and the U.S. On the most recent NCLEX, 96 percent of recent graduates received certification.
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