When it came to taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, Misericordia University nursing school graduates excelled during the past year, with a 98.08 percent pass rate.
First-time nursing exam test takers also exceeded state and national pass rate averages over the past year at Misericordia, Luzerne County Community College, University of Scranton and Marywood University. A fifth area school, Wilkes University, had pass rates below both the national and state averages.
According to results released this week by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the national average for pass rates for first-time test takers was 84.29 percent in the past year. Pennsylvania’s average pass rate was 86.22 percent. Wilkes pass rate was 72.58 percent.
The exam was made more rigorous this year, and the results showed both nationally and statewide. There was a 6-point decrease in the national average while the state average dropped by 4.5 percentage points.
“More rigorous standards are in place and represent a sign of the times in health care,” said Cynthia Mailloux, professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Misericordia University. “Nurses face additional responsibilities in both hospital and clinical settings, so the updated licensure examination reflects those added challenges.”
With a pass rate at 92.59 percent, LCCC Provost Dana C. Clark said, scores have been high thanks to more stringent admissions requirements and a high minimum grade for passing courses. Failing a course leads to removal from the program.
The combination of stricter requirements, coupled with improved curriculum, has led to the high pass rate, Clark said.
A state Board of Nursing requirement calls for nursing program pass rates to meet or exceed 80 percent. Failure to do so means the program will be placed on provisional status with an urging to get the scores up next year. That happened to Marywood last year. In 2006-07, only 59.65 percent of Wilkes graduates taking the test for the first time passed and the program was placed on provisional status but its scores climbed in subsequent years.
Two years below the 80-percent pass mark could lead to a program’s accreditation being revoked or suspended by the state, said Ron Ruman, a department of state spokesman.
Mary Ann Merrigan, associate dean and chairwoman of the Wilkes University School of Nursing, also referenced the rigorous NCLEX exams as a reason for the down scores but applauded the stricter standards. Wilkes pass rate was 86.54 a year before.
“A tougher exam means higher standards for the nursing profession – standards that we embrace at Wilkes University,” Merrigan said.
She said the lower scores last year will “provide us with an opportunity to identify areas for improvement in our program. The faculty in the School of Nursing already is developing a plan to address the issues identified and working to ensure that our students are ready to meet NCLEX standards when they take the exam.”