Chamberlain College of Nursing uses best practices to reap full benefit of HESI

Two students talking as they walk

At-A-Glance Facts

Chamberlain College of Nursing, which has seven campuses in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia, offers associate degree, baccalaureate degree, and graduate degree nursing programs.

Chamberlain uses the complete suite of HESI Testing & Remediation products, from the Admission Assessment Exam (A2) to the Exit Exam (E2) because it needed a proven system to provide consistency across all its campuses and achieve an effective NCLEX pass rate.

“Nursing is an evidence-based profession and we are an evidence-based college, so it makes sense to use an evidence-based program like HESI to help us make sound judgments,” says Judy Driscoll, MSN, MEd, Chamberlain College of Nursing’s National Dean of Academic Success. “We started using HESI in 2002 and immediately saw dramatic increases in our NCLEX scores.” Those scores have been in the 90% to 96% range.

Driscoll says that HESI is the only program of its kind with independent research (published in the peer reviewed journal CIN: Computers Informatics Nursing) documenting the reliability and validity of its exams.

Driscoll adds that best practices are essential to effectively integrate HESI products into a college’s curriculum. “It’s important to set up best practices so that you get the maximum benefit,” she says. Best practice starts with admissions and carries through the curriculum.

HESI Helps Make Effective Admission Decisions

“The HESI Admission Assessment Test (A2) is an important part of a matrix we developed to make decisions about admissions,” says Aaron Buck, MSN, RN, CPNP, Dean of Academic Affairs for Chamberlain College of Nursing in St. Louis.

Buck says Chamberlain switched to HESI A2 in fall 2008 because “Its effectiveness was supported in the literature, it was a better fit for our program, and Elsevier provided excellent customer support.”

The HESI A2consists of four sections-English, Math, Science, and Learner Profile-and the entire test takes about 4 hours to administer.  A study in the peer-reviewed journal CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing found that the HESI A2predicted students’ academic ability to succeed in baccalaureate and associate degree nursing programs. HESI A2scores for students who completed an ADN program were significantly higher than those who didn’t complete the program, and HESI A2scores were significantly correlated with 89% of nursing course grades in BSN programs.

After applicants apply for admission to Chamberlain’s College of Nursing, they meet with a counselor who helps them gather transcripts and other needed items and sets up a time for applicants to take the HESI A2onsite at Chamberlain.

Test results are then included in a subscore for the admissions matrix. “Applicants receive a certain number of points based on their A2score and their grade point average (GPA),” says Buck. “We rank order the students based on those two criteria prior to the applicant files being reviewed by faculty at the Admissions Committee Meeting.”

Next, other factors are considered, such as whether the student already has a degree and their progress in other courses, before a final decision is made.

Students accepted to the program are encouraged to sign up for remediation courses or individual tutoring in areas of HESI A2 where they only met the minimum criteria, says Driscoll.

Chamberlain also uses the Learning Style section of HESI A2. “We suggest instructors look at what types of learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) make up the incoming class so they cover the major areas,” says Buck.

“Unless you concentrate on learning styles, we (faculty) tend to develop exercises and a class that meets our learning style and doesn’t reflect the make up of the class,” says Driscoll. “We are using shells to establish consistency across our campuses so that specific exercises are developed per learning style.”

A2 launches students’ experience with HESI-an experience that continues throughout the nursing curriculum.

Best Practices Produce Best Results

In addition to the detailed admissions procedure, other HESI best practices include consistency, report analysis, and setting expectations.

Multiple campuses make consistency essential. “We have seven campuses, all accredited under one curriculum,” says Driscoll. “HESI helps us show our accreditors that we are functioning as one curriculum.”

Chamberlain ensures consistency by using the complete suite of HESI Testing & Remediation products, including HESI standardized specialty tests as the final exams for nursing courses.

Any resistance from faculty over the change to standardization dissipated once they experienced not having to grade tests (HESI tests are automatically graded and provide instant feedback) and didn’t have students arguing about the answers. Faculty also became committed to HESI as they saw how well the Exit Exam predicted pass rates.

Analyzing individual and summary reports from HESI is another best practice Driscoll says.  “We use them as a curriculum check and an internal benchmarking tool.” For example, she says, “Once faculty understand the analysis of their course exam, they can assess areas of difficulties for their students and collaborate with other faculty to see if they also are having the same difficulties.”

Some of that collaboration occurs during twice yearly face-to-face meetings. Faculty teaching the same course on all the campuses “review how the course is going and share new exercises and challenges,” she says. “The HESI reports help identify issues across campuses.” If needed, Chamberlain can also turn to aggregate reports that compare its students’ results to national statistics.

Deans at each of Chamberlain’s campuses can access online reports of mean results as one part of faculty evaluation. “If the mean score for an OB course is in the 700s and you have one campus doing worse than others, you know you probably have a campus specific issue.”

A final best practice Driscoll cites is setting expectations for students and faculty. “Students are told up front-even before they file an application form-that they will have to pass the HESI Exit Exam to graduate,” she says. This information is in the school’s catalogue, and counselors reinforce it with students. Once students enter the program, they sign an agreement attesting that they have been told about the requirement, and each course syllabi includes a statement as well. “We don’t want there to be any surprises,” says Driscoll.

Students are also told up front that the HESI Specialty Exams are used for final testing in the courses. “We explain that the computer testing gives them optimum practice before they take their state boards,” Driscoll says.

HESI Is Integral to Nursing Program

By using best practices, HESI has become an integral part of Chamberlain’s nursing programs. “For those of us who have been working with it for a long time, we have seen that what HESI says it can do, it does,” says Driscoll. “For example, it helps our students develop the critical thinking skills they need to practice successfully as a nurse.” She adds that the college is also highly satisfied with the customer service they receive from Elsevier. “Whether it’s a curriculum question or a technical issue, they respond right away.  They are a team oriented company.”