When all of Union College’s 2015 graduates passed the NCLEX-RN national nursing licensure exam on their first attempt, graduate Amber Alas knew it wasn’t a fluke.
“I knew the material. I remembered learning it in class,” she said. “I talked to friends from other schools, and they told me they hadn’t seen half the stuff on the test.”
Nationally, only about 85 percent of nursing graduates pass the NCLEX-RN—an exam all nurses must pass to receive a license to practice—on their first attempt. Union’s first-time pass rate for 2015 is the best in the state of Nebraska.
“This achievement demonstrates the hard work of our students as well as the high-quality professors who teach in the Union College nursing program,” said Nicole Orian, chair of the Division of Nursing. “The NCLEX-RN is a challenging exam and we are very proud of all our students.”
“The NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate is based on two things—the ability of the nursing admissions committee to identify students who are prepared to complete the nursing program and also the rigor of the curriculum that prepares students foundationally for the practice of nursing,” said Brenda Kuhn, a chief nursing officer of Kettering Health Network.
As the one responsible for all nurses at the Adventist-owned health system in southern Ohio, she values graduates from programs like Union’s. “When a school gives a strong foundation to students, the nursing graduates start at a higher level of performance and critical thinking than those from schools that don’t have high pass rates. Graduates from strong schools tend to have consistent knowledge, skills, and attitudes over time—qualities employers count on when selecting the best nurses to work in their health care organizations.”
Now set to start her dream job in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital back home in southern California, Alas felt very thankful for the preparation she received at Union.
“When I was 13, my grandpa passed away from cancer after spending two months in the hospital,” Alas remembered. “I was very interested in what the nurses were doing and as we got to know them, I saw how much they cared for my family. I wanted to be that person for someone else’s family. I felt God calling me.”
Although she grew up in southern California, Alas decided to visit Union at the suggestion of one her mother’s coworkers. She was attracted to the Christian atmosphere, the track record of success and the friendliness and openness of the students and teachers she met. “I decided that if I was accepted, I would attend Union.”
A month later found her unpacking and making friends in Rees Hall, halfway across the country from home.
Making good grades proved a little harder than making friends. “I never considered myself a good student,” she said. And even though she experienced some setbacks, she quickly learned to count on her nursing professors and Union’s academic coaches at the Teaching Learning Center for assistance.
“They always encouraged me and prayed with me,” she said. She also learned study and organization techniques that helped her improve test-taking skills along the way. “I knew that if I worked hard enough, sacrificed and put school first, I could do it.”
The December 2015 graduates are the second class to graduate under a new curriculum launched in 2013 to better prepare students for a dynamically changing healthcare environment driven by technology and information. “It’s quite uncommon to roll out a new curriculum and experience such immediate success,” said Orian. “Typically, a nursing school would expect to see a temporary decrease in the NCLEX-RN scores while minor revisions are being made to the curriculum. The time spent by the nursing faculty to systematically develop each and every nursing course to include standards of best practice and meet the expectations of our accrediting bodies is a testament to their commitment to provide excellence in nursing education. This dedication has proven to be beneficial to our students and has provided them a strong foundation to be successful nurses.”
“I am very proud of Union College. These scores are a testament to the quality of the nursing program and the way students are prepared for nursing practice,” said Judy Blair, Senior Vice President/Chief Clinical Officer at Adventist Health System.
“A strong program like Union’s definitely makes a difference for the graduates coming into the nursing profession,” continued Blair, who oversees nurses for one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the U.S. “If a school has focused on intentional preparation—the true science and art of nursing practice—the students are better prepared when they graduate. It’s about more than just books; to be leaders at the bedside, nurses have to understand how to make decisions about what is best for the patient in real life.”
After passing the NCLEX-RN, Alas was selected for a competitive residency program at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. “The first three months of the program are intense training for the NICU—classroom, skills and clinical studying,” she said. Then she’ll become a floor nurse. “I’m really happy to receive this training before going out on the hospital floor.”
During the selection process, the interviewers were intrigued by an Incident Command Structure certification on Alas’ resume—part of her Disaster Nursing course. “You have a very impressive resume,” they told her. “You’re the first person we’ve interviewed with this kind of training.”
“I like to think that is one of the reasons I was selected for the residency,” Alas said. “It’s unusual for a new graduate to have an opportunity like this.”
Union College offers a five-semester Bachelor of Science in Nursing program accepting a new class of students every semester. Usually, after three semesters of prerequisite and general education courses, students can apply for the nursing program and graduate in a total of four years. Now, high school seniors accepted into the Early Admission Track can guarantee a spot in the nursing program right away if they keep a high GPA through their first three semesters. Combined with significant general and nursing scholarships and no waiting list, Union has proven to be a great choice for many aspiring nurses.
For Alas, a first-generation college graduate, the small classes and personal attention from the instructors made all the difference. “I didn’t realize how important my professors would be until I was in the program,” she said. “They really care about you as a person. That makes a difference because when you’re struggling, they will encourage you, help you and pray with you. I don’t think I would have been able to graduate if I didn’t have their support.”
If you would like to experience a top-notch nursing program with consistently high first-time NCLEX-RN pass rates, check out Union College. You can visit for free and we’ll even help pay for the trip. Learn more at www.ucollege.edu/nursing.