PENDLETON --- Tri-County Technical College's RN and LPN graduates' National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX) scores surpassed state and national averages in both year-to-date and quarterly reports for 2016.

This is the second consecutive year that Tri-County's nursing students' performances on state board exams exceeded both state and national pass rates.

The College's Associate Degree Nursing (ADN/RN) program reports a 90.80 percent pass rate for first-time candidates licensure exam takers between the period of January 1 and December 31, 2016.  According to the National Council State Board of Nursing, the state average is 87.12 percent and the national average is 84.56 percent. 

Fourth quarter figures (October 1 - December 31, 2016) show Tri-County RN grads scored 94.74 percent, while the state average is 85.64 percent and the national is 77.30 percent.

Practical Nursing (PN) graduates scored a 95.45 percent pass rate on the NCLEX-PN exam between the period of January 1 and December 31, 2016, with the state average being 94.53 percent and the national average 87.30 percent. 

During the fourth quarter, Tri-County LPN students scored a 100 percent pass rate while the state average is 98.88 percent and national is 80.20 percent.

The NCLEX exams for both PN and ADN programs are computerized exams that test a graduate's basic nursing knowledge and decision-making ability on commonly encountered health-care situations. Graduates of both programs must pass the exam to work as registered nurses and/or LPNs in the state.

"We are thrilled and so proud of our graduates who exceeded our expectations for the second year in a row," said Nursing Department Head Jackie Rutledge.  

Julie Vernon, PN program director, added "a thanks to our seasoned and experienced faculty, who have a 'growth' mindset and are willing to try new activities to engage students and promote learning. I feel that, for our nursing faculty, teaching is a passion and choice, not just a job and a paycheck."

Said Rutledge, "We are continuing to build on our strategies for success, which include the incorporation of ATI Nursing Education assessment tools and standardized testing in all nursing classes.  This serves as a way to familiarize students with the NCLEX format and to enhance and fine tune their critical-thinking skills."  ATI Nursing Education is an assessment tool training program to prepare students to take the NCLEX exams.

She said in the final capstone class of the associate degree program, Nursing 221, and Practical Nursing program, PNR 182, the students must take a comprehensive predictor test which encompasses material from the past one to two years.  "It's our first look at how prepared they are to pass the NCLEX on their first attempt.  It also indicates their weaknesses or areas students need to work on to be successful," she said. 

"ATI meets students at their individual levels -  at their own pace and commitment.  It's not a one size fits all," said Rutledge. 

The predictor test is followed by three full days of live review, an intense 8 a.m. -5 p.m. review of content.  "Student like the interaction which supplements classroom lectures and labs," said Rutledge. 

Their last semester of the ADN and PN programs is intense, Rutledge says, with classes, a clinical preceptorship in the ADN program (at area hospitals for seven weeks), simulation labs and the ATI review course. 

"But students see the value," she added.  "Often graduates stop by to say thank you.  They say they were ready for the NCLEX after the capstone course and ATI review." 

She said the nursing department is part of the College's first cohort of HIPS or high-impact practices.  "Last semester several faculty began learning a lot of new ways to engage students in active learning.  We've made a conscious effort to continue this in the classroom settings.  We feel active learning is a contributor to our high NCLEX scores.  It's not just about lecture; it's about actively engaging students.  For example, in our simulation labs, for students, it's as close as they can get to real life.  It's learning by doing.  We are really seeing the benefits."

Tri-County's nursing departments are fully accredited by the State Board of Nursing in South Carolina and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.