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  • May 8, 2013 -

    2013 NCLEX-RN Passing Standard Change

        The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a high stakes test administered by state boards of nursing to nursing graduates to determine if a graduate has the ability to practice competently (National Council of State Boards of Nursing [NCSBN], 2013).  Due to the transforming role of the nursing profession, amended public policy mandates, and rise in acute and chronically ill patient mix, the NCSBN changed the NCLEX RN passing standard on April 1, 2013 to meet the challenges of 21st century health reform. The change raises an important question, are nursing graduates, US schools of nursing, and universities prepared for the standard change?

        Prepared means, did the institution anticipate the passing standard change and prospectively provide knowledge acquisition opportunities for nursing students that focused on trends in safe, entry-level practice. Prepared also means, will nursing graduates be academically ready to take the NCLEX-RN examination knowing that the passing standard has been raised and that competencies have changed from the last time the test was administered to a colleague in 2012? Having knowledge of the change may facilitate first-time exam pass success.

    Effect of the NCLEX Passing Standard Change 

        According to the NCSBN, nursing practice is in a state of continuous change requiring licensing agencies, responsible for public safety, to assess whether the passing standard cut point reflects the minimal ability to practice nursing. In December 2012, the NCSBN board of directors determined that due to a higher level of patient acuity, graduates needed to demonstrate a higher level of knowledge and competencies than was required in 2009. As a result, the passing standard for the RN test was changed from -0.16 to 0.00 logits  (NCSBN). The modification in pass-fail measurement units, called a logit, causes nursing graduates, administrators, and educators fear because with the changed cut-point comes the potential for a national drop in passing results that may diminish reputational value and regulatory status for nursing programs across the country.

    Utility of the 2013 NCLEX Blueprints 

        In order for new graduates to prepare to sit for the 2013 RN licensing examination, it is important to review the 2013 NCLEX test blueprint to identify specific areas of weakness to focus study before taking the test and to take a formal NCLEX test preparation review with a reputable education service or with a professional NCLEX tutor or coach.

        In order for universities to prepare for the changed NCLEX passing standard, it is important to use the 2013 test blueprint as a topical outline checklist for RN education programs. If a topic in the blueprint plan is missing from the curriculum then it is important to add the content and plan ahead now for more changes in three years. If the university or school has curricular revision rules, this is an opportunity to teach the institution about the importance of revising curricular documents that map to the NCLEX blueprint and safe practice trends in entry level nursing.

        A delay may cause the first-time pass data to drop which means that the nursing program may not meet the required first-time NCLEX pass benchmark set by regulators. In addition, waiting until the next round of curriculum revision dates may mean that nursing students will not be learning what is needed to pass the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt and the failure would reflect on the student, the community, and future organizational success.

    Prepare for Innovation and Continuous Disruptive Change 

        With economic policy reform and full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nurses who practice in the US health system will see innovation and disruptive change strategies emerge coupled with a surge capacity of insured public stakeholders entering health networks that will need a higher entry-level skillset. The US health system will continue to be in flux and as a result the NCLEX-RN passing standard will continue to be reviewed by regulators to protect the public. To stay ahead of the next disruption, nursing educators and leaders will need to produce cycles of prospective, curricular document revisions to match progressive change to provide nursing graduates the cognitive tools that will facilitate high stakes test-taking success.   

     

    References 

    National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (2013). Passing standard. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncsbn.org/2630.htm 

     

    About the Author: Linda Carl, Ed.D, RN has a passion for communicating solutions to challenges faced by providers and networks related to health reform, technology, advanced practice, and ethical-legal decision-making and is a full time online nursing professor at the Kaplan University, a health policy reform subject matter expert, a freelance writer, a public speaker, consultant, tutor, and coach. Dr. Carl's research and experience focuses on NCLEX-RN first time pass-fail attempts, technology and patient outcomes, nursing education program evaluation and change, appreciative inquiry, disruptive change, administration, risk management, and organizational redesign. Dr. Carl has consulted, published, and conducted podium and poster presentations worldwide and provided leadership for the Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform Foundation (TIGER) open door project initiative in 2012.

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