A&M International's Four-Year Nursing Graduates Succeed on Board Exam

Dr. Susan S. Baker, director of the Texas A&M International University College of Science and Technology's Dr. F. M. Canseco School of Nursing, has reason to be proud of her students and faculty.

This Summer, the first 21 students to complete the new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) took the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Eighty-six percent, or 18 of the 21 graduates, passed on their first attempt.

Dr. Baker said the high percentage of students passing sets an enviable and historic precedent for the Canseco School of Nursing.

"The big deal was to be able to prove we could do it. Nursing schools are judged on the first time students take the test, while the student actually has three tries to pass. We're enormously proud of our new registered nurses and extremely pleased with the test results," Baker said.

Dean of the College of Science and Technology, Dr. Juan Homero Hinojosa, was equally enthusiastic.

"This is quite an accomplishment, and is indicative of the time and effort that our nursing students and faculty have invested in this program, " Dr. Hinojosa said.

A&M International received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), in 1997 and the League will be coming Feb. 19-21 to evaluate the school for full accreditation.

Baker explained that the NCLEX-RN is a computer-adaptive test meaning that as the student takes the exam, the computer "adapts" to the test taker's proficiency level, based on the performance on preceding questions.

"You answer questions until one of three things happens: you prove you know the subject area, you prove that you don't, or you run out of time. Once you have seen a question, you have to answer it and move on. You can't go back and change the answer later like you can on a paper test," she explained.

The Canseco School of Nursing has adapted its curriculum to help students prepare for the exam, she said.

"The School tries to prepare students for the Board Exam by including a lot of computerized testing in the curriculum. In addition to nursing knowledge, we try to teach students mental gamesmanship and strategies to reduce the anxiety of the test. With substantial support from the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust, we continuously update and customize our nursing computer lab to provide optimal preparation," explains Baker.

Baker said that NCLEX-RN testing is now more convenient, since students can schedule the day and time of the exam. "Before April 1994, Board Exams were only offered a few times a year, in a handful of locations. Now, students can schedule the test at authorized testing centers at any convenient time. The only drawback right now is that there are no testing centers in Laredo. Students must go to San Antonio, Corpus Christi or even Austin," she continued.

Baker was pleased to report that the Canseco Nursing Scholarship covered the licensing and examination fees of all 21 graduates.

"We are tremendously grateful to the Canseco family for making it possible to assist students with this additional expense."

Baker added that scholarships and clinical support from Laredo's two hospitals and other individuals and organizations has also been vital to student success.

Both Crystal Cantu, chief nursing executive at Doctors Hospital and Kristin Palmer, vice president of patient care services at Mercy Health Center, were appreciative of having a four-year nursing program in the area.

"It's very important. Previously we had a high ratio of associate degree prepared nurses to bachelor prepared nurses, but we needed more BSNs. It was very important that we have this class of graduating nurses," Palmer said.

Cantu concurred.

"It's a great asset because we certainly want nurses who want to live and work in Laredo available to us. With the nursing shortage, we're certainly glad to have the University, and the BSN program, there," she said.

For more information about the BSN program or the Canseco School of Nursing, please contact Baker by phone at 326.2450, visit offices in Dr. F. M. Canseco Hall, room 315A or go online: www.tamiu.edu/cson/.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu