Making the grade, passing the testChippewa Valley Technical College at River Falls marks a first in its six-year nursing program: It received word this spring that all people in December’s graduating class aced their nursing board exam on their first try.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Chippewa Valley Technical College at River Falls marks a first in its six-year nursing program: It received word this spring that all people in December’s graduating class aced their nursing board exam on their first try.
Nursing Instructor Renee Christensen said the nursing students at River Falls’ CVTC campus earn a two-year nursing degree but take the same state-administered board exam as a nursing student with a four-year degree.
She said about the students’ testing: “They don’t just come out of school and go take it. They really have to work at it.”
The exam may contain a minimum of 75 and a maximum of 250 questions. If a student shows a weakness, the computerized test keeps quizzing them on it to be sure they’re proficient.
Christensen said students go to one of a few designated places where the test can be administered. While it’s offered in the Twin Cities, most students opted for the Eau Claire location, helping them avoid traffic delays and added stress.
Students must first pass their courses with more-than-flying colors: At least 80%. Then they can apply to the state board for permission to take the test plus pay a fee.
Their reward for passing the difficult exam? A nursing license.
Christensen said instructors tell the nursing students: “You’re not gonna pass the state board based on your two years here.”
She said most students get review books bearing thousands of questions then study, study, study. Most of CVTC’s nursing students are working adults, with families and jobs to juggle.
“It’s amazing what they have to do to get through this…,” Christensen said.
She said students often call her after the exam, certain they failed it. Most do not, but some do.
“Generally there’s one or two that don’t make it the first time,” she said. “It’s usually not knowledge based. It’s anxiety based.”
Most students wait about a year for admittance into a nursing education program, according to the instructor. The future nurses’ clinical experiences is one reason why there’s a wait because the places students go for “clinicals” (like hospitals), can only take so many students at once.
Christensen said in a growing market, most of CVTC’s nursing students find work fast.
“We see all of our graduates get jobs. It’s pretty exciting to see where they all end up,” she said.
River Falls resident and CVTC nursing program graduate Betsy Froemming studied for a few hours every night over about a six-week to two-month time period. She said a handful of the students got together and helped each other study.
Froemming was on a nursing-school waiting list 20 years ago, but discouraged by a long wait, she gave up and earned a psychology degree. After moving to River Falls, she got on CVTC’s wait list and began attending about a year later.
She landed a job in the psychiatric unit of the Hennepin County Medical Center.
“It’s intense but I love it,” Froemming said. “We have five psychiatric units, and two of them are ICUs.”
She said it was challenging to balance all the things an adult student must: Work, kids, home life and soccer games as well as other activities.
Students often had to be at clinical labs that were very early and far away. They had to finish homework before the labs and be on time, or risk a failing grade.
She explained that there isn’t much room for error since anything below 80% is failure. Froemming said the nursing instructors used to explain the high standards by saying: “Would you want a below-average nurse working on you?”
She praises Christensen and all the “great” nursing instructors at CVTC. Froemming claims they all bend over backwards to make their students successful and provide them with extra support.
Froemming said about the nursing program and exam: “You gotta really want to be a nurse to get through it. You can’t just kind of do it.”
When asked why she chose the nursing profession, she said it’s the drive to have relationships with people. She thinks it’s well worth all the work if she can even help one person.
December nursing graduate Tami Klatt also lives in River Falls. She said the teaching staff is a big reason that 100% of her class aced the board exam.
“It’s pretty unheard of for all the class to make it like that,” said Klatt.
She used to work in purchasing for a company that downsized and offered her a buyout package. She had completed the Licensed Nurse Practitioner program in 2004 and had been working at Fairview Red Wing (Minn.) Medical Center for an eye doctor.
“I decided at that time to go back and get my RN degree,” she said.
As an LPN, CVTC considered Klatt an advanced-placement student, giving her priority for admittance. She said she still waited about a year to get into the program.
“I just started Regina Medical Center last week,” said the newly licensed nurse.
Klatt and one of her classmates work as members of Regina’s medical-surgical team, which cares for patients between the time they get out of surgery and leave the hospital.
She and a handful of other students paid $500 to take the Kaplan Test, a kind of practice test. It consists of about 30 hours of class review and access to online review questions.
Klatt credits her instructors for the class’ success, as well as CVTC’s administrative staff.
“Personally I just believe each and every one of the instructors at CVTC has a gift…They just go above and beyond…and have a really good teaching style there.”