HESI Helps Faculty Solidify Data and Earn 100% NCLEX Pass Rate

Students in computer lab listening to teacher

At-A-Glance Facts

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College – Rice Lake Campus offers a two-year Associate Degree of Nursing program. WITC’s Nursing – Associate Degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN) and approved by the Wisconsin State Board of Nursing.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College ADN program director shares how HESI and Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ) allowed her program to gain data driven insights and earn a 100% NCLEX pass rate.

Data is what makes Alicia Strong, ADN program director, tick.

Since 2015 when her program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) was cited during the ACEN accreditation process for two standards (curriculum and data collection), Strong has been a champion of change advocating for tools to increase the faculty’s accessibility to data.

“We were doing the right things, but we weren’t collecting the data,” Strong said. “We were utilizing ATI products at the time, but we wanted to find something that made sense for our students to keep up our NCLEX pass rate, help us provide a predictor, as well as house our data of weak areas in the curriculum so we could go back and show here are the weak areas and here’s how we tried to strengthen our curriculum.”

Strong set out to find an option to meet her program’s various needs. She previously used HESI during her teaching hours for her master’s degree in which she helped compile HESI data to evaluate its effectiveness as a predictor of student success. Because of this prior exposure, Strong began advocating for a change to HESI.

“I really think that we should give [HESI] a try,” Strong told faculty. “We have to do something to change for accreditation and this is going to be the easiest way to track it.”

Ultimately, WITC’s dean of nursing and prior program director decided to implement HESI with Strong acting as the program’s HESI champion for faculty needing help adjusting. WITC requires students to take a HESI Specialty Exam each semester, and, at the end of the capstone course, the HESI RN Exit Exam.

“The first semester with our students was rough because of change,” Strong said. “We held a lot of high standards. However, every single student that has graduated has said, ‘I didn’t like the work from Evolve at the time, but I’m really glad you had it in the curriculum. I’m really glad you made me do it because I’m a better nurse from it.’”

With the implementation of HESI, the program incorporated a benchmarking process for the RN Exit Exam. If a student does not achieve a score of 900 or above, he/she receives an incomplete. The student gets four more attempts and if he/she still has not passed with a 900 or above, the student’s grade is changed back to the letter grade he/she received in the course. Strong said her program has found this to be helpful with preparing students for NCLEX.

“Last semester we actually went back through our data and we looked at every person who has ever taken the RN Exit Exam and we found that 100% of students who passed the RN Exit with 900 or above, passed the NCLEX,” Strong said. “So, it’s a really good predictor.”

In addition to HESI exams each semester, students are also required to complete Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing in order to pass each course. During the first and second semester, students must pass level one mastery; during the third semester, they must pass level two mastery; and lastly, during the capstone course, they must pass six level three mastery quizzes.

“We have found that students that aren’t able to achieve that are weaker students,” Strong said. “There is a direct link with the data we’ve had.”

For students who are struggling, the faculty has a tiered remediation policy in place. Based on a student’s HESI score, he/she is assigned a specific number of 15-question custom EAQs focused on their areas of weakness. See chart below for tiers.

Student HESI Score # of 15-Question Custom EAQs Assigned
900 or above 1
800-900 2
700-800 3
600-700 4
500-600 5

In addition to the adaptive quizzing, Strong said faculty also assign case studies and other materials for students to review to reach the required amount of remediation hours.

“The lower the score, the more remediation [students] have to do,” Strong said. “They do additional remediation by going over all of the materials that are available in the remediation package, such as quiz questions at the end of the book or adding additional EAQs. We are solely utilizing Elsevier products, so everything is consistent between their textbooks, EAQs, case studies, and online homework.”

As for Strong’s goal to strengthen the curriculum based on data, the faculty have been able to compare the results from the HESI RN Exit Exam and the HESI RN Med-Surg Exam to national norms to determine students’ weak areas. They’ve then compared those weak areas to students’ NCLEX results and the data has shown those are the same areas students are consistently struggling with on NCLEX.

“We’ve gone back to add additional Evolve assignments to those weak areas to try to strengthen those and track the results,” Strong said.

The faculty’s success in implementing these various changes has reflected upon the program’s NCLEX pass rate. WITC’s NCLEX pass rate rose from 78% in 2015 to 100% in 2017.

“We’re on track with accreditation,” Strong said. “I think that having the resources and tools to help solidify the data has been great for us.”