Dakota Nursing Program surpasses national success rate

October 30, 2015

Total pass rate gives program bragging rights throughout the nation


Dakota Nursing Program

A nursing program that consists of a consortium of four of the five community colleges in the North Dakota University System recently hit a record that showcases the program’s excellence.

Three of the four campuses in the Dakota Nursing Program hit a 100 percent pass rate again earlier this year when testing commenced at Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau, Lake Region State College and Williston State College. Overall, the consortium scored better than the national average by at least 10 percent.

Two of the program’s leaders believe they know where that success can be attributed. Julie Traynor and Karen Clementich respectively serve as the director and a coordinator for the program at LRSC. Since 2004, the four campuses have been equal partners in the delivery of the program when they were approved to deliver the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program and the Certificate in Practical Nursing (PN) offerings. The N.D. Board of Nursing approved the certificate and program later that year and by 2005 the first group of practical nursing students had graduated. They were followed to program graduation one year later by the first group of ADN students.

As programs grew, from 2005 until now, so too has the attendance. The first group of graduates from the three-semester certificate program totaled about 65 students among the four campuses. For the ADN program, which provides nursing students a clear, but challenging, path toward becoming a Registered Nurse, the first year total was 41. Last year’s graduating classes respectively totaled 96 and 90, which translated into increases between 30 and 50 percent. While class sizes can fluctuate, last year LRSC had the largest of the groups in the PN program and Williston State had the largest for the ADN group. Altogether, the schools produced 1,621 graduates through the past decade who are well-trained and working in medical facilities throughout the state.

Once students complete the certificate program they can take the licensing exam to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). From there, they can move directly into the two-semester associate degree program.

The programs prepare the nursing students on their path toward the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, a nationally-recognized standardized test that each state’s board of nursing uses to determine if a candidate is ready to enter into nursing practice. According to Traynor, graduate nurses may not practice as nurses until they pass the exam. According to Traynor and Clementich, admissions requirements kept the program competitive. Students must have a 2.75 GPA and take a benchmark entrance exam. Much like a job interview, candidates have to submit references and a written statement, and go through the interview process.

The program is helping to address ongoing needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of RNs in the U.S. is currently 2.7 million and is expected to grow by 19 percent (512,000 additional nursing jobs) by 2022. To help fill that current and eventual need, the program has also partnered with two public and one private universities: Minot State University, Mayville State University, and the University of Mary.

According to Traynor, the DNP has articulation agreements that allow for the transition of qualified graduates from the community college AD program directly into RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.

Karen Clementich, Dakota Nursing Program coordinator at Lake Region State College, showed Chancellor Mark Hagerott one of the program's simulators during a recent tour.

Karen Clementich, Dakota Nursing Program coordinator at Lake Region State College, showed Chancellor Mark Hagerott one of the program’s simulators during a recent tour.

“The students are able to complete the practical nursing certificate (42 credits), associate degree in nursing (31 credits), and baccalaureate degree in nursing (47-51 credits) in a total of 120-124 credits and four years,” Traynor stated. “Using this ladder approach allows the student to work as a nurse while going to school. Students are also able to stop out during the process, work as an LPN or RN and then come back in when they are ready.”

In order to educate nurse candidates who can go anywhere and practice nursing, the programs focus on safe and effective practice. Clementich noted that in the first semester, students spend many hours in a basic skills lab learning safe techniques and practicing therapeutic communication. Following that, students complete clinical practice to prepare them for the workplace.

“During the clinical practice hours students are evaluated on their student learning outcomes which includes teamwork and communication; professionalism and leadership; client-centered care; evidence based practice and nursing judgment; quality improvement and safety; and informatics,” Clementich said. “Students also have the opportunity to participate in simulation laboratories in which they practice high risk skills in a safe environment. The high fidelity simulators have heart attacks, strokes, traumatic injuries, and eventful childbirth. Students are required to manage these events as nurses. This practice increases their critical thinking skills and ability to manage in a stressful situation.”

According to a recent study by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, such simulations helped students prepare for the real world – those who used simulations had the same high level of outcomes as those who practiced in clinical areas. But to get there, they have to pass the test and DNP students are doing just that. Combined, the RN programs in North Dakota create an average higher than the national average. That didn’t come without great instruction from the faculty and staff, or without the will to succeed from the students.

“I would like to commend the faculty and students for their hard work and dedication to the profession of nursing,” Traynor added. “It takes many hours of study and clinical practice to graduate from a school of nursing. This latest 100 percent pass rate show our students not only survive, they thrive.”

“The LRSC faculty are excited about our ongoing excellent pass rates,” Clementich said. “Faculty invest great time and energy into the program. The students work hard in the classroom, labs, and clinical. The students’ commitment to being safe and effective nurses shows in the program outcomes. We are very proud of our students.”