May 2023 graduate Teddy Manase nervously refreshed the website that would tell him whether or not he passed the NCLEX-RN, the national licensing exam for nurses. “When the page finally loaded and it said ‘passed,’ I said a short little prayer thanking the Lord,” he said. Then he texted his classmates to see how they had done on the exam.
Not only did Manase pass the NCLEX on the first try, but so did every single one of Union College’s May 2023 nursing graduates. “We were really excited when we found out that everyone passed, especially since it was the first time Union graduates had taken the exam with the new questions,” he said.
Manase’s cohort was the first to take the Next Generation NCLEX, an updated version of the national exam. The new version places a higher emphasis on clinical judgment abilities and real-world decision-making. While these skills are harder to study for, Union students are set up for success: simulation is built into every level of the nursing program, meaning students practice their clinical judgment abilities from day one.
“A 100% NCLEX first-time pass rate is a real testament to the hard work and dedication of our students and professors,” said Elysia Ockenga, nursing program director. “It indicates that our graduates are well-prepared to practice nursing. It’s a reflection on the academic rigor that we have here in the nursing program and tells us that we’re teaching the right things and that we’re preparing our students in the right way.”
For Manase, receiving his license to practice nursing is an incredibly rewarding achievement. Although he started his college journey as a business major at a community college, his plans changed. He said, “I chose nursing because of my grandpa. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and after surgery to have it removed, his health went downhill. I was still doing my prerequisites at the time, but I was able to help him with basic needs. I wished I could have helped more. When he passed away, it gave me a push and a motivation to pursue nursing as a career.”
Manase chose Union primarily for its proximity to his home in Great Bend, Kansas. “I knew that Union had a good nursing program, but I didn’t realize that it was one of the top nursing schools in Nebraska,” he said. In fact, Union has the best NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate average in the state over the last five years.
“Nursing school is hard,” said Manase. “I remember struggling with taking exams because I just didn’t know how to study. So I went to my teachers and I worked with them. The great part about Union is that your professors want to talk to you; they want to connect with you. They want to build a relationship with you where you can tell them when you’re struggling. My professors took the time to sit down with me and help me figure out a way to study effectively. They were a really crucial factor in my success in the nursing program.”
“One of the strengths of our program is our small class sizes,” said Ockenga. “That provides us with opportunities to make individual contact with each student to help and support them in their professional journey.”
Soon Manase will be starting his new job as a nurse at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission hospital in Merriam, Kansas. “I can’t wait to get out there and start working,” he said. “I know there’s going to be patients in similar situations to my grandpa. Being able to help them and knowing I made a difference in their lives will give me such a sense of fulfillment.”
by Annika Cambigue, senior communication and English major