Thunderbird Nursing Soars to the Head of the Class

Published: March 11, 2011 | Category: Academics

Southern Utah University’s nursing program graduates the best-prepared new nurses in the state, so says a survey of the 2010 NCLEX-RN test scores across Utah’s colleges and universities.

With a 98-percent pass rate — higher than all other state schools — on the 2010 nursing licensure exam, SUU’s nursing graduates proved the benefits of the University’s educational hallmarks of personalized instruction and experiential education.

According to Nursing Department Chair Donna Lister, this success is largely due to the department’s efforts to “ensure students are getting what they need to be prepared to successfully enter the nursing practice.”

Lister explains that the bar is set high for these future nurses from the moment they enroll in SUU’s nursing program. “Our goal as professors and advisors,” says Lister “is to ensure we far exceed the minimum standards for what a quality educational experience should be.”

That the program demands a lot of its students seems to be a selling point to many prospective nursing majors, at least according to Michelle Mirci, a level 2 nursing student at SUU.

Says Mirci, “After one semester, I already know a lot more information than I expected to learn, and my understanding just continues to expand. I know much more than I thought I would at this point.”

Fellow classmate Jill Nakayama, also a level 2 nursing student, agrees with this and said that even though there is a lot to do right now, in the end she knows it is going to be well worth it.

In fact, many nursing students comment on how welcome they feel during in-service hours at hospitals and doctor’s offices across the state, thanks in large part to how well prepared they are.

According to Nicole Schmutz, a senior nursing student from Cedar City, “I have traveled quite a bit to work in the St. George hospital, and every time, my supervisors have mentioned their gratitude that I took time in advance to ensure I came into the day as well-prepared as I could.”

She adds that compared to students from other programs, SUU’s student always come with books in hand and ready to learn — not afraid to ask questions but also confident enough in their abilities to take initiative and work hard.

Schmutz and her peers all say the high exposure they are afforded to the professional field coupled with the collaborative classroom environment are very much to credit for their testing success.

Assistant Professor Selwyn Layton says this is because SUU’s aspiring nurses do not have to compete as much for clinical experience as most of the other state’s students from much larger schools do.

Assistant Professor Alan Pearson said since all of SUU’s nursing courses involve service-learning, the students are able to learn from “valuable service opportunities at the hospital, clinics and community settings.”

Beyond their own academics, these students are also actively participating in broader professional groups to gain exposure and learn more. According to Layton, four out of the seven spots for the Utah Student Nurses Association (USNA) board are filled by SUU’s nursing students.

In fact, Jessica Jimmerson, a level 4 nursing student at SUU, was the director for the USNA’s annual convention, which was held at SUU in February.

According to Jimmerson, the convention had the best turnout in more than six years, with 205 students in attendance.

With the best test scores, increased field work and a group of supportive professors and peers, it would seem the nursing program at SUU is a no-brainer, at least according to the soon-to-be nurses who just aced their entrance exams.

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