Getting the Most Out of HESI: Every Class, Every Semester

Using HESI tools can revolutionize your classroom. Ohhh yeah, it can also revolutionize your curriculum. But for now, let’s stick to the classroom. Most nurses would agree that we need to have a mindset of continuous quality improvement (CQI) when it comes to what and how we teach. It is for this reason that I encourage faculty to consider how to bring HESI to every class.

HESI Case Studies
Recycle and Reuse — Using HESI Case Studies has been shown to improve outcomes across the curriculum. To take this a step further, try reusing them. We see that many students in pre-licensure programs struggle with fundamentals on the NCLEX exam. The reason for this is that fundamentals is the most important course in the curriculum, yet it is often long forgotten by the time students graduate. To counteract this, use a couple of the same case studies in both your fundamentals and final nursing courses. Letting fundamentals students access some of the case studies during class, as a group or individually, is a very powerful way of realistically learning new concepts (e.g., oxygenation). Then reusing the same case studies in the final semester of the program can help remind students of these crucial concepts, and subsequently reinforce key content found on the NCLEX.

HESI Specialty Exam Outcomes
Student Know Thyself — When students use HESI Specialty Exams as finals in their classes, ask them to bring their personal report to the first day of the next course. Next, have students use the report to identify their three weakest concepts (e.g., biophysical concepts or NCLEX Client Needs) and make a note card for each of these weak areas. On the note card, they should list the concept and three or four bullet points about that concept. Throughout class, pause the lecture and have students CARD each other. Here are the steps to getting carded:

  1. Students review a case study in the textbook, one of the HESI Patient Reviews, or one of the HESI Case Studies.
  2. Students hold up their three cards and a peer randomly picks one of the three cards.
  3. Students discuss the relationship (actual or potential) between the concept on the card and the case study.
  4. Both students card each other and collaborate on the connections between the card and the case study.

This activity allows students to regularly collaborate on current content by reflecting on weak areas, as identified by a HESI exam they took last semester.

Faculty Know Thyself — HESI exam results are not meant solely for systematic plans of evaluation or accreditation. They can also be used for continuous quality improvement in each learning experience. Faculty should discuss HESI results monthly. This can be facilitated in numerous ways. Here is an example where each faculty member gets involved in the discussion and subsequent interventions:

  1. Pick a different faculty member each month to deliver a ten-minute presentation about a strategy they are piloting with students that’s related to cohort needs as identified by a previous HESI exam.
  2. After the presentation, have faculty members partner with each other to discuss how they could do something similar.
  3. Ask one or two members to share other ideas or ask for clarification.

It is important to note, these discussions are not meant for mandates or curriculum revisions. They are designed to promote the sharing of ideas and informally “pilot” studies based on data collected on the cohort in question. Doing this on a monthly basis reminds all faculty members about gaps in that cohort of students, and helps them consider strategies to quickly implement with their own students.

HESI Handoff for Clinical Judgment

HESI Patient Reviews (PRs) are realistic patient scenarios that challenge students to flex their clinical judgment muscles. This is vital, as just this year NCLEX is building new exam components that will do an even better job of testing graduates for higher order processing. It is for this reason you will want to use Patient Reviews for a HESI Handoff in class.

To do this, assign two or three patient reviews as a ticket to class. Then, as the first activity in class, put students into groups of two or three and assign PRs to each group. Have the groups create an SBAR handoff for their client. After five to ten minutes, ask groups to stand, find a group with a different PR, and give each other their report. The group receiving the report offers a critique in the 2+2 format (2 compliments and 2 critiques/suggestions/questions). While students are doing this exercise, the faculty member walks the room and asks questions to individual groups. Once the groups have completed the handoff and subsequent 2+2, randomly choose one or two people to share what they discussed and the critique provided. This is a powerful way to have students engage in high-level clinical judgment during class.

My best advice for fellow faculty is to dream big, start small, and begin now. HESI gives you the tools and trusted assessment data to improve your lesson plan today. Help empower students with these tools by demonstrating how using them can positively affect not only their grades, but their clinical practice as well. Remind students often of the clinical connections and how HESI is very much geared towards clinical practice as a way of preparing them for NCLEX in every class across the curriculum.

Tim Bristol,


For more tips and resources from Tim Bristol, click here.
To learn more about the next generation of HESI, click here.

The next generation of HESI is now available for RN and LPN/LVN.

Contact your Elsevier Education Solutions Consultant to learn more about the next generation of HESI.