Political science majors have the LSAT, health science majors have the MCAT and nursing majors have the NCLEX. Every nursing major needs to take the National Council Licensure Examination in order to become registered nurses. But this year, there’s a little more pressure with this round of exams.
If ACU School of Nursing’s first graduating class doesn’t perform well enough, the school’s accreditation could be at risk.
Two years after its official launch, ACU’s School of Nursing has inherited the responsibility of placing its first class of graduating students in the workforce next month as it awaits word on its national accreditation.
The school, created in 2012, has already been approved by the Board of Nursing, but the accreditation team ensures the materials being taught in the program are at the same standard as other schools and meet the standard.
“It’s a very long process,” said Dr. Becky Hammack, dean of the School of Nursing. “We’re supposed to know something specific by the first part of May; that’s what they’ve told us and we haven’t heard anything, so we’re hoping everything is great.”
Hammack came in 2013 to finish the proposal started by the previous dean, Dr. Susan Kehl.
A national accreditation team came in November last year, and in January 2013 Hammock went with the provost and president of the university to the BON to present the altered proposal. Then, it went to a committee in March and will go to another committee in April.
Hammock said the visit went well, and it seems there were no concerns in the exit report.
Accreditation hinges partly on seniors’ NCLEX scores. If a high enough percentage passes, the school will be able to admit more students on a semester-by-semester basis.
“If our graduates do well on the national exam, we will be able to start a second cohort in January,” Hammock said. “Up to 80 students is what the Board Of Nursing originally approved us for.”
Madison Martin is among the first graduating class and is one of many who are feeling the pressure to pass.
“The NCLEX is definitely a big deal for nursing majors and does cause a lot of concern,” said the San Antonio native. “Since the beginning of nursing school last year, the professors have all made a big deal about this test since it’s the test that determines whether or not we become registered nurses.”
Aside from accreditation, everything seems to be falling into place.
“We think they will be prepared,” Hammock said. “Actually, we hope they’re more prepared. We’re expecting great things from our graduates.”
Some students have already been offered jobs and internships, and there are students who will go on to work with Cook Children’s and University Medical Center in Lubbock.
As for Martin, she said she has high hopes for her future, though she has had some doubts along the way.
“The biggest concern I had when starting nursing school at ACU was the quality of the program,” she said. “I couldn’t talk to students who previously went through the program because we were the very first class, which also made us the guinea pigs, so to speak.”
But state-of-the-art equipment and technology have eased some of those concerns and promoted learning. Simulation labs and other equipment aid in training students how to perform in real-life medical situations.
“It’s nice because we are able to get the hands-on of nursing without the fear of harming a real patient,” Martin said. “Our instructors who run the simulation lab are also incredible at teaching us and instilling confidence in us.”
Professors were hired through advertisements, though two professors, Dr. Marcia Straughn and Dr. Anita Broxson, were there assisting in the construction of the new program.
“I didn’t have any concerns going into ACU’s new School of Nursing because I was confident they were equipped and prepared to teach us,” said Lauren Montoya, a first-year nursing student from San Antonio. “We are mentored by Christian faculty and taught by practicing nurses.”
The selection process for students wasn’t as open as it was for professors.
In its first two years, the school only took around 50 students a year, whereas other nursing schools admitted students on a semester-by-semester basis. Students must have an overall grade point average of 3.0, complete the Health Education Systems Incorporated Admissions Assessment (HESI A2) exam, be a certified nurses assistant and complete the necessary prerequisites.
The competition to get into ACU’s School of Nursing was just one among the list of concerns for Stacy Campos, a first-year nursing student from Garland.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten in, I wouldn’t be at ACU,” she said. “I would have gone to a school that had a nursing program.”
Before the birth of ACU’s nursing school, students attended Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.
ACU’s school was created in 2012 so students would be able to have the on-campus “ACU experience” while receiving their nursing degrees.
For students such as Montoya and Campos who still have time before they graduate, finding a job is not a prominent concern but is still on the horizon.
“I don’t have any concerns entering the workforce once I graduate because our faculty and staff prepare us for the real world,” Montoya said.
Nursing school faculty and staff help students find a career by connecting them to community hospitals and setting up interviews and job fairs as well as helping them prepare for the NCLEX.
Seniors are also required to participate in preceptorships where they shadow a nurse for three or four weeks.
Additional help from professors and an incomparable facility has balanced out the newness of the program and has even instilled a confidence in students.
“I think I am more prepared than I actually give myself credit for,” Martin said. “Nursing school can’t prepare you for everything you will experience; nursing school just sets the foundation that you build on once you start your career.”
As for first-year students, the same applies.
“I am confident that I’ll be prepared when I graduate, because not only do I have well educated professors to learn from, but I feel God also made it possible for me to attend ACU for a reason,” Montoya said.