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The Flor-Ala

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UNA’s RN program ranked third in Alabama

Nursing student work in the UNA Hospital, a simulated lab on the third floor of the Anderson nursing building. Courtesy of UNA.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH ALABAMA
Nursing student work in the “UNA Hospital,” a simulated lab on the third floor of the Anderson nursing building. Courtesy of UNA.

The University of North Alabama’s Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions recently celebrated the third place ranking of its Registered Nursing program. 

RegisteredNursing.org, a resource that publishes RN program overviews for schools nationwide, ranks the top ten programs in each state each year. For 2024, UNA earned the #3 placement for the state of Alabama, only being surpassed by Auburn University and The University of Alabama. 

This ranking is calculated by analyzing first-time pass rates for the NCLEX-RN, which stands for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. 

“Learner success on the NCLEX is the benchmark for all nursing programs for achieving the minimum standard of competency and quality,” said Dr. Tera Kirkman, Dean of the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. “That’s why they take the NCLEX exam, and that’s why the first-time pass rate is so important.” 

According to RegisteredNursing.org, first-time NCLEX-RN pass rates are analyzed for one to five academic years, with each average pass rate being weighted depending on relevancy – for example, pass rates from 2022 would be worth more than rates from 2019. The combined scores for each college or university are then compared and ranked accordingly. 

Using this calculation, UNA’s RN program has an average first-time pass rate of 96.43 percent. News of this percentage and of UNA’s ranking has been well-received by faculty and students alike. 

“We found out by reading the Courier Journal, and our first reaction was one of excitement,” Kirkman said. “It pretty much affirms what we’ve known, which is that we have exceptional programs, and we have a history of offering exceptional programs within our college at the Bachelors, Masters and now at the Doctoral level. We were filled with excitement for our faculty, our staff and especially for our students.”

Though the ranking only shows the success of those within UNA’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, Kirkman also emphasized the excellence of their programs at the Masters and the newly-available Doctoral level, which launched only a year ago. UNA’s RN program has consistently had high pass rates, and this ranking emphasizes this trend.

“We have always been ranked really high, and we have had a 90 percent or above pass rate for probably the last nine or ten years,” said Dr. Clarissa Hall, the Undergraduate Department Chair for the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Hall believes that presenting the first-time pass rates of students provides the community with an opportunity to see the success of the program. However, the excellence of UNA’s RN program was not unknown to faculty, staff and students.

“We were surprised to see it in the Courier [Journal], but we weren’t surprised that we’re #3 in the state,” said Dr. Michelle Nelson, Associate Dean of the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. “We know how exceptional our programs are, and we know how exceptional our students and faculty are. It just affirms what we already knew.”

 

According to Hall, the success of the program comes through the drive that both the students and faculty have for success. 

“They work as a team,” Hall said. “It’s a collaborative effort between the faculty and students to have this wonderful pass rate. They’re hardworking and dedicated, and they have a passion for nursing.”

Another key part of the program’s success is the academic relationships that are formed between faculty and students during their time at UNA. 

“When students enter our programs, they are like family,” Kirkman said. “We are committed to their success. Our faculty go above and beyond to ensure that students are successful. We of course want to make sure that students meet us halfway. There are requirements, so we can’t do the work for them, but if there’s any way possible that they can be successful, we’re committed to their success.” 

Part of this aid toward student success comes in the form of simulations, which students complete to gain exposure to scenarios that they are unlikely to see in their clinical rotations. By experiencing cases in a controlled environment, students are able to safely practice responses to potentially life-threatening scenarios before entering the workplace.

“We want to be a part of taking care of the community, and part of that happens by having spaces for nurses to come and train in this wonderful facility and then go out and take care of other people,” Hall said. “We, in essence, have a mock hospital on the third floor. We call it the UNA Hospital. We have rooms with mannequins, and the students can practice through simulations to get experiential learning. They get to do things that are high risk but low volume, so that when they are out practicing, they are able to respond appropriately.”

Within the simulations offered as part of students’ training, there are also opportunities for interprofessional collaboration. Students are able to work with respiratory therapists and medical residents to better understand how to respond to the scenarios they might encounter. 

The level of involvement students experience within their classes and simulations helps them to be better able to pass the NCLEX-RN on their first try.

“There’s a national nursing shortage, so it benefits the community and the students for them to graduate and pass the NCLEX exam on their first attempt,” Kirkman said.

The excellence of UNA’s Registered Nursing program, as well as the national shortage of nurses, means that graduates of this program will have an almost 100 percent likelihood of finding a job upon graduation. Kirkman aims to keep pushing students to succeed in order to grow further in the future.

“We still have more work to do,” Kirkman said. “The goal will be to strive to improve our first-time pass rates, not just for a test, but so students will feel confident to take care of human patients and to be practice ready once they enter the workplace.”

The Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions hosts many events that are beneficial to faculty, staff and students. They will be hosting a Mental Health Fair on February 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Harrison Hall. Kirkman encourages students to attend to learn about mental wellness, a prevalent issue among college students.

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About the Contributor
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.

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