DU takes hard look at all aspects of nursing

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 6, 2016)  – A self-imposed assessment period in which admission has been frozen to the popular and historic DU School of Nursing is designed to look at all facets of the program, with the ultimate goal of improving the student pass rate on the state board exam, officials said.

Dr. Sharon Hutchinson, chair, said the time will be used to examine curriculum, admission criteria, student learning outcomes and integration of technology, clinical experiences and faculty instruction.

Already, visits have been made by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, and the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, or LSBN, on Sept. 26-28. The school is currently accredited by ACEN and has conditional approval from LSBN.

“We are resolute in our commitment to reestablishing a world-class nursing program at Dillard,” wrote Dr. Yolanda Page, vice president for Academic Affairs, in her April announcement of the university decision to suspend admissions.

The decision has no effect on the approximately 100 students currently enrolled as nursing majors.

“In fact, I believe it will enhance their experience,” Page said.

Dillard’s nursing program, begun in 1942, was the first program in the state offering a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, or a BSN. Throughout the years, nearly half the freshmen who arrive at Dillard want to be nursing majors, although many eventually end up in other programs.

Page has pointed out that nurses comprise the single-largest segment of health-care professionals in the nation and shortages are expected, yet less than 10 percent of nurses are black. Therefore, she said, “It is critical that our HBCUs continue to develop quality nurses.”

The problem has been student performance on standardized testing: the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN, which each state board of nursing uses to determine readiness for entry-level nursing practice.

Hutchinson said the pass rate in 2015 for Dillard’s first-time NCLEX test-takers was 50 percent. That compared with 51.25 percent in 2014; 48.28 percent in 2013; and 88.89 percent in 2012, according to the DU website. The Louisiana State Board of Nursing requires a pass rate of 80 percent.

Page noted previously that Dillard University is not alone among historically black colleges in facing this issue. She pointed out that Grambling State University, Bethune-Cookman College and North Carolina A&T State University, among others, have faced in recent years either suspension or loss of accreditation of their nursing programs.