10+ years using HESI pays off with high NCLEX® pass rates, effective outcomes evaluation at University of Arkansas – Little Rock

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At-A-Glance Facts

University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Nursing offers an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) completion program. The hybrid BSN program includes online delivery with scheduled faculty-student-class meetings either online or face-to-face.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Nursing has incorporated HESI into its ASN program for more than a decade, resulting in ongoing data analysis of students and curriculum, early identification of students who need help, and high NCLEX first-pass and retake rates


“We have been using HESI for well over 10 years, closer to 15 years, throughout the entire nursing curriculum” says Ann Schlumberger, EdD, MSN, RN, Professor and Chairperson for the Department of Nursing, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). “We consistently meet or exceed national benchmarks for first-pass NCLEX rates, and almost 100 percent of our students who have to retake the NCLEX exam, pass.”

Promoting a history of success

Schlumberger says UALR’s Department of Nursing first piloted the HESI Exit Exam in the school’s capstone course. Pleased with the information it provided about the curriculum, the school implemented a mid-program Custom Exam to “diagnostically let our students know where they were with our foundational information as they went into the second year of the program,” and then continued to expand its use. “We use a HESI specialty exam in all of our nursing courses so we now have data specific to each specialty,” says Schlumberger.

Identifying students who need help

“We were seeing a correlation of how students did on the HESI Custom Exam at the end of the first year with how they did on the HESI Exit Exam,” Schlumberger says. That correlation prompted UALR to engage in more proactive interventions to help students. “We are using HESI testing to help students gradually grow their knowledge base and start working on – areas for development early instead of waiting until the end of the program,” Schlumberger says. “Like any nursing program, our goal is to retain students,” adds Schlumberger. “We use data from the HESI tests to help with retention.” For example, the Student Success Coordinator meets individually with students to review exam results, highlighting the areas they scored well in — and those they did not. Remediation is mandatory. Integrated use of HESI promotes that type of evaluation throughout the program. Faculty also use the data provided by HESI to evaluate student learning outcomes and the curriculum.

Analyzing ‘powerful data’ from HESI key to maintain quality program

“Data is powerful,” says Schlumberger. “It doesn’t help you if you just put it in a book or post it. We are very assessment oriented.”

Schlumberger recommends examining subscores in both the HESI Custom and Exit Exams. “When a subscore was lower than 850, we revisited the content in our curriculum.”

Her faculty meets twice a year to review HESI data for all courses. “We review areas of deficit and refer issues back to the teaching teams or the Student Success Coordinator to revise curriculum based on the data.” The faculty also meets on an annual basis to discuss the data as it relates to the curriculum and how students are performing.

Schlumberger points to the physical assessment component as an example of how the department uses HESI data. “We noticed a trend of lower scores that caused us to go back and revise how we were teaching physical assessment, where it was placed within our curriculum, and what we were doing to ensure students were retaining that content.” The changes ultimately improved student scores.

Schlumberger adds that instead of just having a subjective “sense” that students aren’t grasping certain parts of the curriculum, “HESI data gives you an objective measurement.”

Keeping up with nursing education

Schlumberger praises Elsevier for “keeping up” with nursing education trends, such as integrating competencies from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Quality and Safety in Education for Nursing initiative. “In nursing education, we are being held accountable for student outcomes, so it’s been very valuable to have the HESI data linked to performance indicators in those areas,” she says. “I think any school can identify subscores in these categories and use the data to help measure their student outcomes.”

“As the program administrator, products like HESI that can give me information for program improvement are valuable to me, to my faculty and to our students,” Schlumberger concludes.