Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duquesne Nursing Students Fight Graduation Requirement

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duquesne Nursing Students Fight Graduation Requirement

Article excerpt

A group of Duquesne University nursing students is petitioning the school to change a graduation requirement that prevented more than a fifth of this year's class from graduating on time.

"We do not feel that the Duquesne University School of Nursing should be able to decide if we are competent and knowledgeable enough to practice nursing based on the results of a single standardized test," said the petition, which had 389 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

The school required that, in order to graduate, students score a 925 on the HESI Exit Exam, a test designed to prepare students for the NCLEX, the board exam required for nursing licensure. Out of 156 prospective graduates, 34 failed to meet that cutoff score, said the school.

They were informed days prior to graduation weekend, on May 12 and 13, that they had not fulfilled the requirement.

"It was devastating," said Paul Furiga, a spokesman for the students and their families, who do not want to be identified for fear of retribution from the school and out of concern for job prospects. Mr. Furiga said many students were unaware of the requirement, which was "buried in a 160-page handbook."

The school disagrees with that contention. Students whose score on a diagnostic test showed that they were in danger of not reaching the cut-off score were "clearly flagged as needing some additional work and warned that their scores put them in some jeopardy," said Duquesne provost Timothy Austin. Students were given a practice test and then two opportunities to pass the test, said Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare.

Five or six years ago, Duquesne instituted the policy in its nursing school to require a cut-off score on a NCLEX preparatory test as a condition of graduation, said Mr. Austin. Three years ago - after the current graduating class had matriculated - that cut-off score was increased to 925 on the HESI, he said, in response to concern that the NCLEX was becoming harder and more difficult to pass. Neither he nor Ms. Fare could recall what the previous score was.

The change was effective immediately, he said, and although previous graduating classes have had some students who didn't pass in time for graduation, the number in this year's class is significantly higher. …

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