Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana State University-Northern’s nursing program graduates hit a major mark in testing for licensing in the last year almost all graduates passed the test for licensing as a registered nurse. “It’s the highest rate for RN’s in the state,” said Mary Pappas, director of nursing at Northern. Pappas said 94.7 percent of the graduates of Northern’s Associate of Science in Nursing program 37 of 39 graduates passed the NCLEX examination and became licensed Rns. The state average is about 85 percent, she said. The licensing rate last year was close to the state average, Pappas said, but she and the faculty and staff at Northern’s Nursing Department are hoping to keep to the higher number. “That is just one of our biggest goals to have a high pass rate,” she said. The nursing program, which also has a waiting list for admissions, is undergoing some changes, but the curriculum has not changed in recent years, Pappas said. There will be a new curriculum implemented next year, adopting a statewide nursing curriculum which will make it easier for students to transfer between units of the Montana University System. Pappas credits hard work by faculty and students for the high pass rate of the NCLEX this year. Hard work in clinical studies by the students as well as work in pharmacology studies probably helped the pass rate, she said. The program has had continuity in the faculty teaching the classes, which, along with the faculty’s efforts, has also probably improved the rate of passing the NCLEX, she said. She said the program is in high demand, as are its graduates. The program has to turn away applicants. “We are full,” Pappas said. “We have been full for the last few years.” The program has about 100 students at the campuses in Havre, Great Falls and Lewistown, she said. About 47 students are expected to graduate this year. Those who are admitted and graduate have a pretty easy time finding jobs. Pappas said the program has about a 98 percent placement rate for graduates. “I think there are good paying jobs in the community for nurses,” she said. Many of Northern’s graduates also go on to receive their bachelor’s degree in the nursing field, she added, with many continuing their studies through Northern. The bachelor’s degree is offered through an online course, allowing the studies to proceed wherever the nurse is working. “They can be in a small hospital in eastern Montana and get online to take classes,” while doing clinical work locally, Pappas said. She added that the online bachelor’s program has grown in recent years, with about 70 students now enrolled. Pappas said work is continuing to try to expand Northern’s nursing program, but finding qualified instructors is difficult. “I have advertised nationally in the past and not received any applications,” she said. An effort the program is using now is to try to get faculty with local ties. “We are encouraging people in the community to go back and get a master’s in nursing,” she said.