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June 4, 2011

State Board of Nursing gives highest marks to ULM Nursing Program

Recent graduates of the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Nursing outscored students from all other bachelor degree programs in the state, according to the spring issue of The Examiner, a quarterly publication of the Louisiana State Board of Nursing.

The scores are based on the performance of first-time nursing school candidates who took the NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2010, and includes graduates of both private and public schools of nursing.

The test is considered among the final hurdles in a nursing student's career and is a requirement for professional licensure.

At a 96.74 percent passage rate, the scores of ULM nursing students are well above the 80 percent cutoff deemed "passing" by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing and also above the 89.67 percent combined state average for graduates of all state bachelor degree programs.

The overall passage rate of all associates, baccalaureate and diploma programs combined is 90.88 percent.

"These numbers confirm the exceptional quality of our nursing program, which was established over 50 years ago. The school not only continues to be a source of pride for ULM, but is also a vital link in filling the healthcare needs of our community and state," said ULM President Nick J. Bruno.

"Both the students and faculty are to be commended for their effort."

Bruno added, "This is only one of the many degree programs at ULM that have a long tradition of academic excellence."

Outstanding faculty and students are the key to the high passage rates, according to ULM Interim Director of the School of Nursing Dr. Emily Doughty.

"We rarely have to recruit qualified students to our program. We try to take as many as we can, but sometimes we have to turn them away, depending upon the available resources, both financial and human," she said.

Doughty said ULM students are continuously tested from the time they are admitted to the program right up through a final exit exam that is administered at the end of their course of study.

"The scores on the exit exam are usually a strong indicator of how successful the student will be at taking the NCLEX," she said.

The individualized testing and remediation, if needed, combined with a rigorous eight-semester program of study that includes practice in real-world clinical settings preps the students so well that ULM students as a whole have scored a 95 percent or better on the NCLEX for several years, according to Doughty.

"In fact, on four separate occasions since 2008, ULM nursing graduates have scored 100 percent on their NCLEX, including the 34 members of the December 2010 graduating class," said Doughty.

Members of the May 2011 graduating class will not sit for the NCLEX until the state board approves their completed course of study, which usually takes a few weeks, Doughty said.

Registered nurses are the largest segment of professionals working in healthcare today and are among the highest earners, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The AACN indicates that average RN salaries run about $66,700, and the job offer rate is 94 percent for new nurses entering the workforce within four to six months after graduation.

The AACN data is supported by Doughty's many years of teaching experience at the college level.

"Our graduates are very sought after," she said. "We very rarely hear of someone not being able to secure employment. Those who don't are usually those choosing to wait for personal reasons."

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