Exam lapse jolts Hampton U.’s nursing program

By Ashley Nicole Rouse

Since 1943 the nursing faculty of Hampton University has continually provided high-quality professional nursing education at the Bachelor of Science degree level. In fact, the nursing doctoral program at Hampton is the first such program to be fully implemented at a HBCU.

It wasn’t until this past October when William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University, acknowledged the nursing school is “fixing a problem.”

At issue: All graduates of the baccalaureate nursing program were eligible for admission to take the national licensure examination to practice professional nursing. This examination was where the problem surfaced. Performance on the NCLEX-RN was lower than 80 percent, the minimum required by the Virginia Board of Nursing.

“Within the past couple of years or so, the Board of Nursing changed the regulations on how long the scores could remain below 80 percent,” said Hilda Williamson, assistant dean of Academics Affairs at Hampton’s main campus.

The substandard scores only applied to Hampton’s main campus and not the Virginia Beach campus. The undergraduate programs for both of these campuses are approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing in which they obtain separate board numbers.

“The Virginia Beach campus’ test scores have remained above the required percentage and without any problem,” said Williamson. “The two campuses are separate.”

According to HamptonU.edu, the primary service to society rendered by the School of Nursing is the preparation of excellent professional practitioners. The undergraduate education program at Hampton University is designed to include general education content, professional content, and clinical experiences.

The Nursing Program e-mailed a letter to all nursing students pertaining to the school’s status which reads, “As of July 26, 2011, a consent order has been entered between the Virginia Board of Nursing and School of Nursing stating new students will not be able to enter into the nursing program for two full academic school years while faculty and current students prepare to fix the problem.”

When prompted with the question, what is the Nursing Program doing differently to improve test scores, Williamson responded, “Nothing that we haven’t already been doing. We have a mentorship program which started two years ago, and we are reviewing different standardized testing options for our students.

“As of November, we have changed the curriculum, and we have also been reviewing our mission policies.”

There was much resistance in getting students to speak about their experience at Hampton University as nursing majors. Karen Wright, director in Office of Academic Support at Hampton’s main campus, told a group of students on Dec. 5 not to respond to any questions concerning their school.

There haven’t been many students expressing their concerns to people outside of their classmates because they fear getting into trouble, or possibly getting kicked out of the program.

As of this writing the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs at both Hampton University campuses are fully accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The School of Nursing is also an agency member of the National League for Nursing, the Nursing Council of the Southern Regional Education Board, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications