Highly Trusted Content Translates to HESI Success at Brenau University

“I was blessed with a brain that makes it very easy for me to learn. That has always motivated me to help other people learn,” says Laura Wallace, BSN, MSN, PhD, Associate Professor at Brenau University.

Earning her PhD in adult education enabled Dr. Wallace to dive deeper in to learning theory and develop methods to assist learners as much as possible. Dr. Wallace shares this passion for learning with Brenau University nursing students and faculty. And, it’s making a difference.

“I came here to help students become nurses without being inhibited by the amount of work and the level of study that’s involved,” she says. “Not every student has an educational background that translates to straight As and high GPAs. But it doesn’t mean they cannot master the material. So, we take an integrated approach that focuses on student success.”

The integration of highly trusted content with practical, adaptive learning tools has been key. “Obviously, we’re doing something right with 90% retention and high NCLEX pass rates,” Dr. Wallace says. “And that has a lot to do with incorporating Elsevier textbooks with the HESI products.”

“What’s nice has been watching our HESI scores improve as we integrated more and more products, and as the instructors incorporated case studies, patient reviews and Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing into their syllabi,” she says.

Path Toward “Full Solution” Learning

In the early 2000s, Brenau University used the HESI Exit Exam to assist with graduation. This was before patient reviews and Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ) were offered to students. Faculty identified that students who were having trouble passing HESI exams were experiencing anxiety and needed help with test-taking strategies. Despite using another company for help with learning skills, pass rates dipped to a low of 72% in 2013. They started searching for alternatives.

Dr. Wallace turned to Elsevier and found out about HESI. Faculty carefully evaluated HESI solutions against two other providers and chose EAQ and HESI tools. This includes patient reviews, end-of-course tests, and exit exams, which complement the students’ textbook content.

As Brenau University began to incorporate a full suite of online solutions and textbook content in 2015, their NCLEX pass rate improved to 84% in 2016. By 2019, their pass rate soared to 93%.

Nursing Students Teach their Teachers What Works

“We implemented the program in phases. And as we started using the adaptive quizzing, the students helped us figure out what was best because they were the ones using it,” Dr. Wallace says. “With the students creating custom quizzes with EAQ Classic, they taught us that they could get to Level One by midterm, Level Two at the end of the semester, and then to Level Three over the semester break.”

“By the final semester, any EAQs we assign are at Level Three, which is where they need to be when they’re getting ready for NCLEX,” she says.

Students also showed the instructors the best way to integrate textbook content with online tools. This has proven invaluable in helping students develop their clinical judgment skills with detailed rationales and improve their test-taking strategies with tips and on how to best approach each question.

Dr. Wallace and her colleagues learned the importance of starting with the books from the very first semester to guide students on how to study and prioritize content. When they’re studying for their exam, they can focus on the diseases or diagnostic tests that are in there. She also cites the use of consistent verbiage, such as “restless” meaning “hypoxia,” which makes it easier students to learn and retain information.

“In the beginning, with the introduction to nursing class, we use Saunders Comprehensive Review and Strategies for Test Success.  We’re not only using their electronic products, we’re using the books as well,” she says. “Because HESI wouldn’t take that book if it didn’t work for students to pass NCLEX, right? It’s all about the content.”

“In this day and age, it really helps students to prioritize the ‘need to know’ over the ‘nice to know.’ That’s helped a lot especially in med-surg and pharmacology; those chapters are tremendous,” Dr. Wallace says.

Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment: Practice Exercises for the NCLEX® Examination also supports students’ foundational knowledge in management of care and builds confidence in their skills. “We cover the entire book in our leadership class because it includes the questions that are above the passing line for NCLEX,” she says.

By watching their students succeed, instructors have also learned the value of assigning case studies as class preparation and using clinical essentials videos. “That’s been one of our biggest saves for the clinical skills class, as students become more successful with their check-offs,” she says.

Mastering the “Next Generation” of Content

Integrating highly trusted content supports Brenau University’s philosophy of student success in mastering the content.

“Test-taking strategies, the textbooks and EAQ work in combination to help our learners master the content of the nursing program,” Dr. Wallace says. “This is what we have in place for every student who comes into our program. It definitely increases their ability to pass NCLEX, or we wouldn’t have seen such improvement in pass rates.”

Dr. Wallace is confident about preparing students with strong clinical judgment and decision-making aptitude for the Next Generation NCLEX.

“As this transition develops, I know Elsevier will be there to help us prepare and incorporate those ‘next gen’ questions so we can help our students learn how to navigate in the future,” she says.

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