GRCC revamps nursing program, resulting in perfect passage rate

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Student Turkesha Hankins, left, and faculty member Sara Workman see a patient. Courtesy Grand Rapids Community College

The Grand Rapids Community College nursing program saw a 100% pass rate on state license exams last year.

All 104 students who took the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) passed their exam, and all 42 students who took the National Council Licensure Examination for Licensed Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) received perfect scores.

Shelly Richter, nursing program director at GRCC, credits the work of all the faculty members and staff.

“The work that goes into this is absolutely the work of all of us, not just one person,” she said. “The passion from all of the faculties and their willingness to help a student learn and pulling them out of this ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ kind of phase was the fun and exciting part, to see what is happening and see it come alive. While we have a lot of full-time faculties, we hire a number of adjunct professors who are also very passionate about this program. They guided our students and helped to bring them to the level they were at and to be ready to pass the boards and become employed in the community.”

Richter said the passing rate within the program always has been in the 90s. However, the perfect pass rate comes after they were compelled to develop and create an entirely new curriculum in 2016, in part, because there was a national pass rate decline due to, what some believed, were changes instituted in the licensure exam, but also, Richter said, it was simply time for a change.

The nursing program implemented a concept-based curriculum to give students a broader view of things so when students and professors are discussing illnesses, diseases and nursing interventions, they don’t simply just focus on memorizing signs and symptoms for one particular disease.

“We are focused on understanding the broader picture and how it impacts the patient holistically,” Richter said. “When we understand that bigger picture, we can apply that same concept to multiple diseases or multiple exemplars. For example, if you are talking about oxygenation within the body, it is related to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and other things. While we teach about each one of those individually, we are always referring back to how it affects the body based on that concept of oxygenation.”

Along with implementing that broader concept, Richter said they are using more simulations. GRCC had been using simulations previously, but it is using much more, including low-fidelity simulations, where students practice on their peers, and high-fidelity simulations, which involves breathing manikins that have a heartbeat and the ability for students to draw blood and insert an IV.

With the new curriculum, Richter said they are dedicating more time and effort in courses by using more simulations, which will allow the concept and exemplars to become more interactive for nursing students like Mustafa Ajanovic.

“I like the sim labs they provide here because they throw you into a situation and make you critically think and try to organize your time and priorities,” he said.

Another concept GRCC is using in its nursing curriculum is the Adult Learning Theory, a Malcolm Shepherd Knowles model, which allows the program to draw from the experience of their students.

Some of the students who are pursuing registered nursing degrees have experience in the medical field, which allows them to enroll in its RN Advanced Standing program. Students who are enrolled in that program are nurses who have worked a required 2,000 hours as an LPN and have garnered the necessary experience and skill set.

“Applying an Adult Learning Theory in a college setting simply makes sense because our students are adults,” she said. “We really focus a lot on their experience and bring that into the (classroom.) The types of backgrounds and experience they have; we can use it to relate the content to help them learn and process it a little bit better.

“That has been really fun because one of the strengths of our program is that our students come from a variety of different backgrounds, and they bring a variety of different experiences to the table and they are all different ages.”

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