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For Kellee Hayes, Kankakee Community College Director of Nursing, improvement means continuous changing, tweaking, and evolving.
“We keep making up ‘new rules’ every semester,” Hayes said. “We make changes every semester and I think wow, when are we ever going to get it right? But that’s part of improving. The changes have been incredible.”
Hayes, who has spent her entire 15-year nursing education career at Kankakee Community College, notes that the resources now available to her have come leaps and bounds compared to when she first began teaching.
“Obviously EAQ and HESI have been huge changes,” Hayes said. “We didn’t have anything like that and we relied on our students buying NCLEX® review books, so they could get those questions. We relied on coming up with ways of our own.”
Kankakee’s nursing program began using HESI Exit Exams in 2006 and continued to add additional Elsevier products since then:
Since adopting EAQ in 2014, faculty have made this tool mandatory for students by assigning points for EAQ assignments. Hayes explained that this erased any worry about gaining student buy-in as every assignment point is crucial to her students.
“I think the biggest void that EAQ has helped fill was actually having that bank of questions that we could have students utilize,” Hayes said. “Since their licensure exam is computerized, we want to make sure we have them doing tests on the computer and EAQ provided that.”
There are several ways Kankakee uses EAQ for pre-class assignments, post-class assignments, and preparing students for exams. The first way is by using it as a “ticket to class.” For example, Hayes said she requires students to complete an EAQ on specific chapters before class.
“I make them get to a Level Two before they come to class so they are at least exposed to the terminology,” Hayes said.
The second way Hayes and her faculty use the tool is by making EAQ assignments worth quiz points and requiring students to “level up” on certain chapters after they’ve been to class. Thirdly, Kankakee faculty use EAQ as part of remediation.
“For example, if students failed the antepartum test, they would have to go in and create custom quizzes on that area and continue taking the custom quizzes until they get an 80%,” Hayes said.
Lastly, they encourage students to use EAQ to prepare for their HESI Exams and, ultimately, the NCLEX. After students have studied for their exam, including reviewing lecture notes, listening to audiotaped lectures, and reading textbook chapters, faculty tell students to use EAQ to see how many questions they can get correct prior to taking the exam.
“Students use it as a self-check to see if they really understand the content,” Hayes said.
Faculty also encourage students to be doing as many EAQ questions as possible and tracking their areas of weakness throughout the program.
“We tell all of our students — for NCLEX prep reasons — they should be doing lots of questions and they should be keeping a journal of the areas they are weak in throughout the entire two years,” Hayes said. “Then, they can go back and focus on EAQ questions over those areas.”
Hayes advises faculty new to using EAQ to encourage students to use it as much as possible because it really helps the students learn.
“I think it’s so valuable,” Hayes said. “I wouldn’t be continuing to use the Evolve products if our scores were bad, but they’re not. They’re staying very steady, so I do think we have a good thing going.”
Kankakee’s NCLEX first-time pass rate has consistently remained around 90-91%.
Hayes’s favorite thing about HESI is the data she receives in the reports because it helps her compare her students’ scores against the national average and identify areas in the program that need to be adjusted.
“I print out a summary for each faculty member and I expect them to look through the questions and look through the areas we are weak,” Hayes said. “A lot of the faculty spend a great deal of time doing that, then they adjust their classroom time for the next semester to emphasize areas we were not as strong in delivering the message the previous semester.”
An example of this is that faculty realized fourth-semester students were struggling with fundamentals because they had not seen that material in more than a year. Hayes and her faculty decided to administer a second version of the HESI Fundamentals, Pharmacology, OB, and Medical-Surgical Exams to students in the last semester to ensure they retained the information.
“It has helped a lot and we’ve put some meat behind it by giving it points,” Hayes said. “When [students] take these second versions, they’re worth three points but that’s a lot in their world so it’s in their best interest to go back to their HESI remediation study packet and see what they missed before they take it for the second time in fourth semester.”
Additionally, Hayes said every semester she keeps a spreadsheet for each cohort that tracks student scores on HESI Specialty Exams, Exit Exam, CAT Exam, and A2 Exam. She has seen several direct correlations from HESI scores to student success.
“Our department figured out that anyone below a 75% on the A2 was not going to be successful in our nursing program and that helped us raise our benchmarking from 70% to 75% because there was a direct correlation between those successful in the program and their score on the A2,” Hayes said. “But I’m also seeing a direct correlation with their scores on the HESI Specialty Exams and the CAT exam. It’s amazing the correlation is so strong. If they’re doing well, chances are they’re going to pass the boards with no problem.”
For tips on optimizing your use of HESI data, click here to watch the webinar Best Practices in Data Analytics by Marguerite Ambrose, PhD, RN, APRN-BC.