The results are in, and they are great news for Mid-Plains Community College and its Health Occupations Division.
Pass rates are "through the roof" for MPCC's 2015 Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) and Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) graduates who recently completed their national board examinations.
All nursing candidates in the U.S. and Canada must pass a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before they can receive a license to practice.
In 2015, the pass rate for MPCC Associate Degree of Nursing students who took the exam was 92.59 percent. That's according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which lists the 2015 average pass rate in Nebraska at 86.88 percent and the national average at 84.53 percent.
"Statewide, our Associate Degree of Nursing scores were higher than all but one school," said Kathy Harrison, director of nursing at MPCC.
The pass rate for MPCC's Licensed Practical Nursing students was also exemplary. It was 95.24 percent as compared to the state average of 89.53 percent and the national average of 81.89 percent. A total of 20 out of 21 of the college's LPN students took the exam and passed it.
"We teach our LPNs alongside the RNs, so we prepare them at a higher level," said Harrison. "The last group of nursing students is out practicing now. A lot of the LPNs are going back to get their RN degrees and the RNs are working on getting their bachelor's degrees. One former student is working on a master's degree."
Nursing students Sarah Cardenas, Ann Van Lieu,
and Sionie Ball practice attending to a newborn baby in the Health and Science
Center at North Platte Community College .
She and Marina Makovicka, MPCC Health Occupations division chair, attribute the success of the ADN students to a series of changes in the college's nursing program in the past year.
Those include raising the acceptable pass rate standard to 78 percent for each course the students had to take. A computer-based learning system, the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI), was also implemented. The program uses high fidelity simulation to develop clinical reasoning skills.
"Basically, ATI provides a series of modules and tests for each piece of content that we have," said Harrison. "At the end of the program, our students take a comprehensive predictor exam to determine how they might do on the boards."
ATI then takes those scores and develops a customized virtual study program for each student based on that student's strengths and weaknesses. Students work within their individualized study programs until they get the "green light" to take the boards.
"We're also doing more with flipped classrooms rather than traditional – more hands-on instead of lecturing," said Harrison. "I feel good about the changes we've made so far, and judging by the pass rates, they appear to have worked."
Both she and Makovicka acknowledge that the changes couldn't have been successful without the support of the college's nursing instructors.
"We're always throwing something at them, and they've done an excellent job of jumping on board with us," said Makovicka.
Nursing students at NPCC listen as Marina Makovicka, MPCC Health Occupations division chair, explains some of the complications that can occur during a baby delivery. Pictured left to right are: Ann Van Lieu, Sarah Cardenas, Makovicka and Sionie Ball.
Historically, MPCC has maintained a long tradition in graduating quality nurses with exemplary training into the region's health care field.
"For decades, Mid-Plains Community College's nursing graduates have been highly-recruited by the region's hospitals, care centers and medical offices," said Ryan Purdy, president of MPCC. "This recent success rate just reiterates the fact that our graduates will enter our West-Central and Southwest regions of the state adequately trained for their employment into high-paying health care careers. Our job in creating nurses and other health care-related support staff is paramount in maintaining quality health care in our local communities and in helping to stabilize rural economic development."
So what's next? According to Harrison, the next step is to raise pass rates even higher.
"I know we produce quality nurses, but it's a personal goal to be at 100 percent," said Harrison. "I would like for us to be above the national and state averages every year."