First-time in MGH Institute history; new test format focusing on patient experiences aligns well with IHP approach to nursing education

It’s the all-or-nothing test that generates jitters among even the best nursing students: the National Council Licensure Examination, known as NCLEX, a multi-hour, stress inducing, all-encompassing assessment. If you want to work as a nurse, you need to pass; it’s that simple.

The MGH Institute’s Master of Science in Nursing’s Class of 2025 cohort has accomplished a feat few other nursing schools can boast about: its entire class – all 87 students – passed this rigorous exam on their first try. A 100% pass rate.

“It’s pretty amazing,” marveled School of Nursing Dean Ken White. “I never experienced this before in my nearly 50-year career in health care, nursing, and higher education.”

News that the entire class (also referred to as the Direct Entry Nursing program) passed the NCLEX on their first try might be surprising to most, but not to the students involved.

“I'm really not shocked because when we first came here, we saw that everyone is just so brilliant,” gushed Natasha Nary. “Everybody was super motivated when they came here. A lot of teamwork was happening, and we just worked so incredibly hard. We got there working with the instructors, and we got there working with each other. I think everybody really had each other's backs during the entire process; it was a really a supportive environment in which to succeed.”

“I'm not surprised,” said Associate Dean Rebecca Hill matter-of-factly.  “The students are fantastic. And our faculty are the best of the best; they worked incredibly hard to prepare themselves for this new NCLEX which then in turn prepared the students. So, it's not surprising to me. I am confident we will continue this same trajectory with future cohorts.”

To mark the milestone, the School of Nursing held a celebratory event in the Catherine Filene Shouse building, where most of the labs, classes and learning takes place. The event featured a catered lunch, sparkling celebratory blush, specially made cookies that read, “Congratulations!! 100% NCLEX 1st Time Pass Rate!”, comments from White and Hill, and plenty of laughs and smiles to go around.

“I feel very relieved having this out of the way - it’s very nerve-wracking a couple of days leading up to it,” said student Thong Ta, who is also a student representative of the Class of 2025 cohort. “I actually changed my NCLEX date to a week earlier because I just couldn't wait another week to take it.”

As Hill noted, the NCLEX underwent revisions this year, with an emphasis on clinical judgment. The idea behind the new exam is to get new grads, who are novice nurses, to think like a nurse, to prioritize and identify the most important issues when caring for patients. If they can correctly identify these issues on the NCLEX, it’s expected that will then translate into practice. In addition to the standard multiple-choice questions, unfolding case studies take students through changes in the patient, whether they're getting better or worse, identifying the rationale for changes in the patient’s condition, and how to intervene.

“I think our emphasis in getting students to think like a nurse in the classroom setting, in the lab setting, and in the clinical setting, is a critical factory in their success,” noted Hill. “We take a patient situation and we think about what’s the best-case scenario, what’s the worst case, and what are you going to do in either of those trajectories?”