September 7, 2023
Northland Community and Technical College prepares students to step directly into their careers on day one after graduation. Northland grads enter the workforce with skills mastered in the classroom and tested in real-world settings because the stakes are often high for the types of careers these young professionals choose to pursue.
For Northland’s nursing students, the on-the-job stakes couldn’t be higher. Patient lives depend on their skills and experience. But there’s another component to caregiving that has gained widespread scrutiny in recent years — clinical judgment.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), entry-level nurses are required to make increasingly complex decisions while delivering patient care. These decisions routinely require the use of clinical judgment to care for patients safely and effectively.
The NCSBN determined the ability to make difficult decisions under difficult, often time-sensitive conditions is so important that it updated its NCLEX exam — the world’s premier nursing licensure exam — in order to accurately measure students’ clinical judgment.
The NGN Project
The Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) project began after researchers examined information gathered during the 2013-2014 NCSBN Strategic Practice Analysis, which showed newly licensed nurses are increasingly expected to make complex decisions while caring for patients.
However, the current NCLEX exam couldn’t measure decision-making skills. The framework needed to test such skills didn’t even exist.
So, NCSBN researchers developed the NCSBN Clinical Judgment Measurement Model (NCJMM) to measure clinical judgment within the context of a standardized, high-stakes examination. The updated NGN exam launched on April 1, 2023.
Northland’s nursing program has long been relied upon to train both registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (PN) to help fill critical vacancies in healthcare systems throughout the region. The American nursing shortage is a serious challenge, so why now raise the bar? Why raise expectations?
“The fact is, we all will likely find ourselves relying on nurses to care for us in one way or another,” said Kari Koenig, AD Mobility Nursing Program Director at Northland. “Not only will we rely on their technical knowledge, but we will count on them to make the right decisions in the right order and at the right time. The national exams have always taken into account high-stakes scenarios, but we now have the peace of mind in knowing the Next Generation NCLEX is accurately measuring how well our students can work through those scenarios in a manner best suited for the patient.”
Since the launch of the NGN exam in April, Northland nursing students have already demonstrated they possess the poise required in clinical settings. Compared to the 88.89% pass rate for RN students in 2022 who tested under the traditional model, the first Northland students to test under the NGN model passed at an impressive rate of 96.15%.
Similarly impressive results came from the practical nursing students. In fact, the first PN students to test under the new NGN model returned a perfect 100% pass rate (compared to a 95% pass rate in 2022 under the traditional model). Both programs far exceeded the respective national average pass rates.
“In our region, it’s really no secret how well-prepared our nursing students are for the real-world clinical setting,” said Dr. Sandy Kiddoo, President of Northland. “We embraced the updated exam testing methods, and our faculty has done a tremendous job adapting their teaching methods to meet the needs of today’s healthcare demands. The larger goal is improving patient outcomes, and Northland has stepped up to ensure our nursing graduates are equipped with the right skills and confidence to make the right decisions when it counts most.”