Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

FROM BETA-BLOCKERS TO BOOT CAMP: Preparing Students for the NCLEX-RN

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

FROM BETA-BLOCKERS TO BOOT CAMP: Preparing Students for the NCLEX-RN

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Although it is thought that reviewing essential materials and learning how to answer computer-generated questions are optimal preparations for NCLEX-RN®, strategies that build knowledge, self-confidence, and professionalism of the nurse taking the exam are equally important. A senior seminar course that guides formal NCLEX-RN preparation is presented in this article with specific course strategies and a blueprint of seminar content that can be adapted to the nursing curriculum.

Key Words NCLEX-RN - Baccalaureate Nursing Education - Strategies - Nursing Students - Test-Taking Skills

The days that students can graduate from a nursing program and launch into the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX- RN®) without -preparation have all hut disappeared. Changes in passing standards, the addition of alternative format items, computer-adapted testing, and the growing complexity of information demand a high level of study and practice prior to the exam. MOREOVER, schools of nursing are under considerable pressure by accrediting bodies, school administrations, and the community supporting the school to attain and maintain high first-time pass rates. Prospective students often inquire about pass rates during recruitment functions and may rank choices based on this measure as well as on other program qualities.

To provide support for students and improve outcomes measured by the NCLEX-RN, many nursing programs have developed interventions to enhance graduates' performance on the exam. This article presents one baccalaureate program's method to augment student success with a senior seminar course that guides formal NCLEX-RN preparation. Course strategies are described, and a blueprint of content that can be adapted to the nursing curriculum is provided.

Literature Review Nurses who completed prelicensure programs as recently as 10 or 15 years ago may recall little mention of the need to prepare for the NCLEX-RN examination. Essentially, preparation at that time consisted of satisfactory completion of a program of nursing and mastering the knowledge application process (McQueen, Shelton, & Zimmerman, 2004). The nursing school experience was the two- to four-year studying process that led up to NCLEX-RN as the final exam. At that time, successful completion of a rigorous nursing education essentially assured success with the licensure exam.

In contrast, current changes in question format and passing standards alone require considerable preparation for success with the exam. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) announced a higher standard for passing the NCLEXRN, effective April 2007. The purpose of this higher standard was to better correlate with greater demands in nursing practice and the increasing need for a "safe and effective entry level of knowledge, skills, and abilities than was required in 2004" (New NCLEX Passing Standards, 2007, p. 9). In effect, today's examination is more difficult to pass than the NCLEX-RN exam of previous years. Higher standards as well as changes in the exam, including alternative format questions, computeradapted testing, more questions on delegation and management of client care, greater emphasis on pharmacology, and a more defined focus on priority-setting using nursing principles, add to its difficulty (Aucoin & Treas, 2005).

Because much of the responsibility for NCLEX-RN preparation falls on the shoulders of new graduates, students purchase review books, seek out review courses, and worry about their own performance on the exam and the consequences of failure. This increased emphasis on preparation and performance raises stress levels and, for some, may result in poorer testing ability when associated with all other factors.

Schools of nursing have responded to the increasing need for preparation for the NCLEX-RN by implementing specific strategies that support success. These strategies are almost as numerous as the number of schools granting prelicensure education. …

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