Success Story

Faculty’s Hard Work Pays Off with 200-Point Increase in Mean HESI Score

Student in library studying

At-A-Glance Facts

Texas A&M; – Texarkana offers two degree programs in nursing: Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing and Masters in Science in Nursing – Administration. Within the BSN program, it offers two tracks – a traditional BSN and a RN-to-BSN track. All programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Texas A&M; – Texarkana’s faculty experienced a 200-point increase in students’ mean HESI Pathophysiology Exam score over the course of a year. Sheila Moore, assistant professor of nursing, shares what they did differently to earn these results.

For Dr. Sheila Moore, assistant professor of nursing at Texas A&M; – Texarkana, witnessing the “ah-ha!” moment on students’ faces is the reason she does what she does.

“I love it when they [students] see something in clinical that we’ve talked about in theory and it all makes sense,” Moore said. “I have a lot of former students that keep in contact with me. When they call me or text me saying, ‘You’re not going to believe what I saw and I remembered us talking about it in class and I knew what it was!’ That is really exciting – what we did in class made a difference in practice.”

Recently, Moore – a nurse educator of eight years – has been able to witness a lot more of those “ah-ha” moments. From August 2017 to August 2018, her program’s mean score on the HESI Pathophysiology Exam rose from 636 to 831 – nearly a 200-point increase. So what did she do differently?

Previously, Moore’s program administered the HESI exam as an extra class exam to prepare students for their ATI final exam. Students’ HESI scores ranged from 435-775. While this range was not ideal, it was better than the ATI final exam scores she was receiving.

“We had a bunch of students that scored higher on the HESI than the ATI,” Moore said. “Students liked the HESI test better than the ATI test. They thought the questions were easier to understand.”

However, with 100% of students’ HESI scores falling below the “recommended or acceptable performance” benchmark, Moore recognized continuing down the same path was not sustainable.

“Because scores were so bad, we had to make a change,” Moore said. “We heard about Sherpath and decided to give it a try to help decrease attrition rates.”

Her program switched to using HESI as the pathophysiology final exam and began incorporating Sherpath modules and adaptive quizzing each week.

“I told them I know it’s a lot of work but we’re trying to get you ready to pass the test,” Moore said.

The hard work paid off. Moore started seeing better scores on unit exams and, ultimately, HESI scores improved to a range of 563-1229.

“When the students were testing and I had two of them score over 1200, I was absolutely amazed,” Moore said. “We went from zero percent in ‘recommended or acceptable’ to 44% in that range. I really think the inclusion of Sherpath was a big part of the increase in the HESI scores.”

Moore assigns Sherpath modules to be completed before the students come to class. Typically, these modules account for 10-15% of a student’s grade. Students are allowed to repeat these modules as many times as needed; however, they only have one chance to take the Sherpath quizzes. By using this approach she says she is able to cover more material in class because her students are arriving prepared.

“I felt like it [Sherpath] really made a difference with the students, so it made a huge believer out of me,” Moore said. “The other instructors could see the statistics, so we started incorporating it into just about every class that the juniors are taking. We’ve incorporated it into some of the classes for the seniors and into the RN-to-BSN and some of the master’s classes.”

Additionally, Moore has a remediation plan in place for students that are unsuccessful on their HESI exam. For students scoring below a 75% on a HESI specialty exam, Moore requires them to meet with her to review a list of questions to determine what may have caused the low score. Example questions may include:

  • Did you read all assigned content?
  • Did you get a good night sleep before the exam?
  • Did you arrive early enough to the exam so you were not rushed beforehand?
  • Did you complete the Sherpath modules related to the exam?

“Based on the answers and test, we look at the areas of weakness,” Moore said. “Let’s say we were studying respiratory and there’s a particular area [the student] was really weak in. I’ll say, ‘I would like for you to go back and look at this area. I want you to do X number of NCLEX Review questions about this topic, or if there is a Sherpath module, I want you to go back through this module.’”

Because Texas A&M; – Texarkana’s nursing program is a brand-new program (cohort two is currently its juniors), Moore explained she is still determining what works and what doesn’t work for the program. However, she knows one thing for sure.

“We want to build a strong program,” Moore said. “We’re using all of the HESI assessments and some HESI custom exams for Adult Health 1 and Adult Health 2. They’re wonderful – I love them. I am just a big HESI person at this point.”