Studies put on hold as students fail test

Auriel Brown

This year, ten students will not be attending what they thought would be their senior year in the nursing program.

After the nursing department enacted a new policy, the students were dropped from the program after failing a required exam.

Students, having no backup plan, were left with their academic careers hanging in the balance.

During finals week of fall 2004, many nursing students signed a contract that would later change their careers at Southern.

The contract stated that the students not only needed to attain a higher grade point average, but would also be required to take an exam created by the Health Education Systems Inc. of Houston (HESI).

The students needed to pass the exam in order to proceed on to their senior year. They were given two opportunities to pass the exam.

With only 76 percent of nursing students passing during the 2003-2004 fiscal year, the department was faced with losing its accreditation and had to come up with an effective solution.

The department decided to go with the HESI exam, which is designed for the students to better prepare for the NCLEX-RN, the nurses’ certification exam taken after graduation.

Andrew Fridley, senior nursing major who failed the exam, said the new requirement contract was “sprung” on him and other nursing majors during this period. He said they were off-handedly told during the spring semester that they would have to take the HESI test before entering the next school year, but the consequence of being kicked out of the program was not emphasized.

“We were already under a lot of stress because of our finals so we just kind of just signed the document not knowing what the hell we just signed,” Fridley said. “We started our curriculum and this was never mentioned in the prerequisite. They said make the grades, do the clinical hours and nothing will hold you back.”

When the 18 students that failed the exam in May returned to take it in August, only eight passed. The other ten were immediately dropped from the nursing program.

Grace Ayton, interim head of nursing said the purpose of the HESI was to give the students a diagnosis of what they needed to study before taking the test again for a second time.

“Between the May test and the August, test they were given a document that described to them their weak areas they can review,” Ayton said. “And they had case studies that were purchased by the department for them to review all different areas of content.”

Ayton said she strongly feels the problem is not the addition of the test, but some students not following through with the remedial recommendations necessary for the second writing of the test.

“Students don’t want to put in the effort to spend the time to do all the numerous assignments that we believe are necessary to get that content,” Ayton said. “I think they cram too much and in a profession that requires a licensing exam, the content has to be learned over time.”

Jessica Head, former senior nursing major, said the admission of the test may not solve the department’s problems.

“The problem is not necessarily the students,” Head said. “I feel that every student can succeed if given the proper instructions by the teacher and I think some portions of the nursing program are lacking.”

Both Head and Fridley said they received little help from the department in preparing for this test.

Because of the timing issue of the test, as of Sept. 7, all ten students have been notified that they can return to Southern and prepare to take the exam for a third time in December, but they must respond by Friday.

The students will still be required to make a score of 850. Ayton said the purpose of the exam is only meant to benefit the students. The course of action may have been a little late for some.

With nearly a month into the fall semester, Head is now a student at Pittsburg State University and is preparing to enter the nursing program there.

Fridley will receive his bachelors of general studies in December and then he will join her.

“PSU knows the situation and they customized our senior year based on their program just for us,” Head said. “They saw our grades. They saw our academic achievement. They saw our potential.”

Aside from recent events, Ayton said just as much focus should be put on those who did pass the exam and the nurses who have come out of Southern and have went on to become practitioners.

She said the recent events are a trip in the road.

“None of this was done to be punitive,” she said. “It was all to provide them with the best chance of passing the INCLEX-R exam and be licensed and be able to practice as registered nurses. And we will continue to stand firm on that issue and continue to provide a quality program.”