HESI Integration Improves Knowledge Retention at Caldwell University

students smiling and raising hands in classroom

Paying special attention to student knowledge retention not only helps with test scores but sets students up for successful careers as health professionals. For Dr. Kathleen Kelley, Director of Undergraduate Nursing Education at Caldwell University, students need a strong foundation of knowledge just like the patients they’ll be seeing.

“Students to me are like a patient but their diagnosis is knowledge deficit, so you have to overcome the knowledge deficit,” Kelley says. “We want our patients to be educated so they can care for themselves and my students need to be educated so they can practice.”

Over the last eight years Kelley has been able to contribute to the growing BSN program at Caldwell from its inception, with her role changing to guide the integration of Elsevier products. With the help of HESI and Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ), Caldwell has seen pass rates rising to the high 90s consistently for the past two years.

Becoming a HESI Champion

In 2015 Kelley became a HESI champion in Caldwell’s nursing program, making sure Elsevier products that Caldwell uses in their nursing program are fully utilized by faculty and staff. Kelley makes it her goal to make sure students and faculty are on the same page throughout their time at Caldwell.

Kelley bundles products for students and works alongside them to make sure they understand the benefits of the products they’ll be working with for the next two years in the BSN program. She creates folders for students that house all their different Elsevier content and works with faculty on how to best integrate those resources into their course.

“What I’ve found is a lot of time there’s some resistance is because [faculty] don’t have a good understanding of the product or how to integrate it, they don’t have the time,” Kelley says. “That’s where I come in and I can help them utilize and integrate these products so that the students can be successful.”

Integration of Elsevier products throughout their curriculum helps Caldwell see how they stack up against the national benchmark. With data from HESI exams, faculty continue to adapt their curriculum and shape the courses around the gaps that need to be addressed in student learning. By analyzing the data from HESI exams, Caldwell can build on their student success.

“We need to take a look at where do we need to focus on the coursework for next time and where do the students need some focused remediation to make sure that they’ve gotten all the material correctly,” Kelley says.

As part of her job as HESI champion, Kelley provides faculty blueprints for the HESI exams so they can see what topics will be covered and how they can be covered in their courses. Kelley says it’s important to look at the course in the lens of exam topics.

“The health assessment HESI and fundamentals HESI are really the tenants of nursing, they’re the basic building blocks and the students have to excel in those two areas. It’s a big part of the NCLEX,” Kelley says.

Addressing Gaps in the Curriculum

When Kelley joined Caldwell in 2012, their BSN program had just started, developed from a hospital-based nursing program. Because test scores were not where they initially needed to be, faculty sought out how they could help increase student success in their program. They were able to recognize the gaps in their curriculum by examining data from HESI exit exams, which helped structure the changes they needed to cover topics on the NCLEX effectively.

“Using that data we were able to see that the students were really forgetting a lot of their basic knowledge, they were focusing so much on the class they were in that the knowledge retention was poor,” Kelley says.

Focusing on how to fill the gaps in their program, knowledge retention and knowledge preparation became a priority for Kelley. She implemented retention activities for students over breaks in the semester with the NCLEX 36-month Adaptive Quizzing package that helped solve the problem.

Independent Study Remediation

A remediation strategy that sets Caldwell apart in their knowledge retention is their independent study course. Students work outside of the BSN program for 15 weeks, utilizing the NCLEX 36-month bank. Kelley works with students going over quizzes specific to their areas of weakness to prep them coming back into the nursing program.

“If a student takes a HESI exam and don’t meet benchmark of 850 what they do is they look at their remediation packet that’s available to them through their bank, they bring it to me, I’ll work with them utilizing the products that we have from Elsevier,” Kelley says. “I make them custom quizzes and I’ll put together a schedule of activities for them so that they meet benchmark.”

Although retention is important for any nursing program, Caldwell’s focus on high retention ensures students have successful nursing careers.

“Student nurses that have worked so hard to get here deserve a chance to come back,” Kelley says. “Everyone has had a bad time in a course.”

Student Engagement with EAQ and HESI

Because today’s students are more tech-forward, Kelley says students like having the immediate feedback of rationale to understand what they missed as well as the technological update to traditional workbook exercises. Kelley says integration of different Elsevier products has helped student testing as well.

“Since they’ve integrated [EAQ] into how they study, the HESI is just a natural progression to do well,” Kelley says.

Kelley’s recognition of the differences in today’s nursing students has been a driving force of student retention. To recognize students who go above and beyond on HESI testing, faculty developed the HESI 1000 program. Students receive a pin each time they score 1000 or higher on any HESI exam that they wear any time they put on their academic robes, like pinning or graduation.

Preparing the Next Generation of Nurses

Kelley says HESI exams prepare them for their entry into practice and will help them develop essential skills required for their entire career. She says passing the NCLEX is the first hurdle, but they still have to focus on what it takes to practice and develop their clinical skills.

If she could pass on any advice to faculty members for student engagement, Kelley says faculty should try to be the type of faculty they wish they had while they were in nursing school.

“You need to understand that these students have a completely different life that I know I did when I went to nursing school years ago,” Kelley says.

Click here to learn more about Elsevier's HESI