HESI credited with 100% NCLEX® pass rate for four consecutive semesters at Western Kentucky University

Students responding to teacher in class

At-A-Glance Facts

The Western Kentucky University School of Nursing in Bowling Green offers ASN, BSN, MSN, and DNP programs, including entry level BSN, RN to BSN, and BSN for second-degree students. The school also offers post-masters certification in a nursing specialty.

Since making HESI part of its curriculum, Western Kentucky University School of Nursing has achieved a 100% NCLEX pass rate for four consecutive semesters. A positive attitude and integration of HESI products are seen as keys to success.

“We adopted HESI as a total program,” says Audrey Cornell, PhD, RN, CNE, Clinical Instructor at Western Kentucky University School of Nursing. Since full implementation, the school has achieved a 100% NCLEX® pass rate for four consecutive semesters. “We started using HESI the most in our courses back in 2010, and that’s when we started to have 100% pass rates.”

Making Full Use of HESI

“We use HESI from the first semester through to the last and incorporate it into all of our major courses,” says Cornell. HESI has been part of the assessment, fundamentals, med/surg, and high acuity courses at Western Kentucky University School of Nursing, and now the use of HESI Case Studies and Exams is expanding into OB/GYN, pediatrics, community health, and leadership courses.

Cornell collaborates with Rachel Kinder, PhD, RN, Associate Professor at WKUSON to ensure students obtain the full benefit from HESI. The two teach med/surg and high acuity courses in the third and fourth semesters. “We assign HESI Case Studies and Practice Tests that have not been used in previous courses even though we might not be covering the content,” says Cornell. For example, she includes pharmacology exams and quizzes in her course because they have not been part of earlier pharmacology instruction. “We look at everything they have had up to my course,” says Cornell. “We know that it’s content that they need, and we make sure we have covered everything in our program’s curriculum.”

Cornell and Kinder realigned the med/surg and high acuity content apart so students have information on each system, each semester. “Before the change, half of the book would be covered in one semester and the other half in the second semester, so by the end of the third semester, it had been a year since they heard the first content so they forgot it,” says Cornell. Now, for example, “students hear respiratory through all three semesters; they hear cardiac through all three semesters. In the first semester we focus on chronic aspects, acute stages in the second, and high acuity—all systems fail—in the third.” The two instructors match HESI Exams and Case Studies with the content.

Providing Extra Credit–and a Positive Attitude

HESI is incorporated into a course’s syllabus. Students must score at least 77% on the school’s own exams to demonstrate basic knowledge; Cornell sees HESI as a supplement to the tests. Students are motivated to complete HESI Exams because the extra points they receive after obtaining the minimum 70% score are factored into their exam grades. “They see it as a way to get more points.”

“We give students one point for every HESI Case Study and each Specialty Exam, once they have successfully completed our own exams,” says Cornell. She estimates that the maximum increase is 4% to 5%. “If you had a high B, you could get bumped up to an A.” However, students who score in the middle or lower range of a grade would not be able to move up to the next one. “We wanted just enough spread so if they were close to another letter grade it would put them there, but we didn’t want grade inflation,” Cornell says.

Students are also motivated by what HESI can do for them. “Students tell us that they will do the assigned Case Study as preparation for what we cover in class, but then complete it again before the course’s final exam as a review,” says Cornell. Students report the review helps them with the faculty’s tests. “They say it’s forcing them to stay current.”
Students also take HESI quizzes at the end of classes, which Cornell says she has had a “good response” to. “If they do poorly on the quiz, I can meet with them and we can use HESI for remediation and a review.” Although remediation isn’t required, “we highly recommend it,” says Cornell.

WKUSON faculty members foster a positive attitude towards HESI. For example, students are permitted to retake the test to achieve the 70% passing score, a strategy that Cornell says helps students view HESI as “a help rather than something that was going to penalize them. We tell them that this is for you to use to help you prepare for class and for NCLEX, and they see it positively.” We tell students about the positive results (100% pass rates) we have had since starting with HESI.”
“Faculty have to be positive about this and have to present it in a way that it doesn’t penalize them,” Cornell adds.

Tapping into HESI Benefits

“The HESI test questions really stimulate critical thinking,” says Cornell. “The students say the Case Studies fit well with what is covered in the exams.”

Those who don’t do well on the faculty’s developed exams don’t do well on the school’s custom mid-curricular HESI Exam that is given at the end of the third semester and before the fourth. “HESI validated our exams,” says Cornell. “The level of difficulty was about the same.”
Students must complete the HESI Live Review course during the last week of the semester. Because of logistical challenges, the school is considering the online review course. “We feel that’s going to meet our needs much better,” says Cornell. “That way it’s not all lumped into one review at the end. It’s spread out over 16 weeks and logistically will work better for the students.”

“We’re just really excited about the product,” Cornell summarizes. “The company is very responsive to our feedback on how it can best meet our needs and the needs of the students.” Cornell ends by saying that HESI helps “activate” students, a term Kinder uses. “We feel that every time we can get students activated, the more successful they will be.”