By Lisa Garrett)

PENDLETON --- Students in Tri-County Technical College’s associate degree nursing and practical nursing programs continue their status of surpassing state and national pass rates on the state certification exam – amid the challenges of shifting to remote learning mid-semester in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I am so proud of our students and faculty for their dedication and resilience. These are challenging times.  We all just had to do it a different way this semester,” said Jackie Rutledge, nursing department head.

The College’s associate degree nursing (ADN) program reports a 93.18% pass rate for first-time candidates taking the NCLEX-RN (Registered Nurse) exam for second quarter reporting (January 1 - June 30). 

According to the National Council State Board of Nursing, the state pass rate is 91.34% and the national average is 88.93%.

The second quarter score for Tri-County students taking the NCLEX-PN (Practical Nursing) is 100%.

The state average is 96.25% and the national average is 84.52%.

Since 2016 this is the third time that both programs exceeded state and national averages on the certification exams.

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 RNs and/or LPNs in the state.

 In mid-March the pandemic required College officials to shift the classroom-based spring course offerings to an online format. Tri-County transitioned to online instructional delivery with the goal of all students completing the spring semester. Course content, including labs and clinicals, was moved to an e-learning format.

One of the bigger challenges was finding innovative ways to meet program learning outcomes of clinical labs for the College’s health education students without compromising standards.

Rutledge and her instructors were tasked with finding creative solutions for both lecture and lab clinical requirements for students. After researching various delivery modes, instructors identified Collaborate Ultra, a real-time web conferencing tool that allows faculty to synchronously communicate online with students anywhere in the world and users to schedule and record a session right within Blackboard itself.

 “We banded together as a team and were determined to make this work,” she said.

“The clinical labs were more challenging but we did it,” said Rutledge, who teaches one of the Nursing 221 clinical labs, a senior-level class.  She observed and graded students via virtual simulations.

For example, there is an ER simulation exercise, where a student has three patients and must prioritize them.  “This gives a vast variety of patient complications and situations that nurses deal with in real life.  Students must engage in critical thinking, prioritizing, delegation, management of care, teamwork, therapeutic communication, leadership and collaboration with health care members,” said Rutledge.

It has been successful, she said, because “students are willing to learn in this arena and they are technologically savvy.  Our instructors are always there for them.”

Rutledge added, “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.

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.


About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study,