College of Nursing Graduates Achieve Top Pass Rate in State

By Spencer Watson

The 94.7 percent pass rate also exceeded the national average pass rate of 82.5 percent, according to data provided by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. The figure reflects examinations taken from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. Ninety-six graduates from the UAMS program took the exam required for nursing license during this period, with 91 receiving a passing grade for licensure.

Donna Middaugh, Ph.D., R.N.

“These results are particularly worth celebrating since the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Board of Directors raised the passing standard for the NCLEX in December 2012,” said UAMS College of Nursing Dean Lorraine Frazier, Ph.D., R.N. “Our college’s motto for students has been ‘when we admit them, we commit to them’ — something our faculty and staff has truly taken to heart with a focus on student success that I believe has been reflected in the exam pass rate.

“We are so proud of our students and their successes, which ultimately benefit the patients and families under their care.”

The UAMS pass rate has been on a three-year upward trend: 90.3 percent in 2012; 90.8 percent in 2013 and then 94.7 percent. The improvement was in part attributed to increased resources to help students prepare for testing and expanded access to one-on-one support from faculty or academic staff.

The resources included the 2012 creation of the Senior Capstone Course for students about to graduate. After a consultation with faculty members to assess readiness for the certification test, students then take a NCLEX predictor exam. Based on that score, students can access additional review and study resources.

The college’s Progressive Learning Center also was established in 2012 to provide not just additional space for group study and test preparation, but improved access to faculty and staff members for additional support.

“We want to see our students achieve their full potential and ensure that when they take the NCLEX exam they can rely on the knowledge and preparation gained through their academic experience,” said Donna Middaugh, Ph.D., R.N., the college’s associate dean for academic programs.

When the college’s pass rate dipped in 2011 to 74 percent — the only time in the past 12 years it was lower than 87 percent — it allowed the college an opportunity to reassess how students were preparing for the exam and how the college could help. The Capstone Course and access to more practice exams, along with more individualized attention grew out of that period, Middaugh said.

Kris Ashley, R.N., said the Capstone course and other study assistance helped her pass the exam in January. She walked with University Honors alongside her College of Nursing classmates during UAMS Commencement in May, completing a journey that started when she was a single mother, looking in the newspaper’s classified section for a career and saw multiple job listings for nurses.

“I never grew up thinking ‘I want to be a nurse,’ but now that I’m here, I realize this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Ashley, who now works on the night shift at UAMS Medical Center.

Looking back, she said she was naïve in her approach to returning to school, maybe not truly appreciating the hard work and dedication it would require. When she failed a class as a junior, she immediately retook it and said there were instructors and classmates who offered time and support that helped her regain her momentum.

She recalled sitting in her car after the NCLEX exam, not yet knowing her score. “I knew with all the studying and preparation and help that I had, I felt good about the test,” she said.

In today’s competitive job market, more employers require a baccalaureate degree in nursing (BSN) as a minimum qualification for numerous positions — including management or administrative jobs. A professional nurse also must have a BSN degree to qualify for master’s or doctoral degree programs or for admission to nurse anesthetist school or to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Nursing continues to be one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2012-2022 released in December 2013, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2022. The United States is projected to experience a shortage of nurses that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.