Published May 24, 2018
By Scott Edger
The Nursing program at Dodge City Community College has received the honor of having the top LPN program in the state of Kansas.
The ranking comes from the nursing advocacy organization PracticalNursing.org, which has evaluated nursing programs across the nation since 2014, publishing the rankings in an annual report. The group is dedicated to championing transparency in researching vocational and practical nursing programs.
The recognition comes as a result of continuing efforts of the faculty and administration of DC3 to advance and develop top-level nursing instruction, and further demonstrates that students who complete the Dodge City Community College nursing program are successful in achieving industry-standard licensure – and subsequent employment in their field.
Mechele Hailey, director of Nursing and Allied Health at DC3, said hospitals from as far away as Salina reach out to recruit DC3 nursing graduates.
“The quality of our program and our high pass rates are making our graduates a commodity,” she said. “In certain places, just putting our name on their resume will get them looked at before others.”
The group’s ranking methodology is based heavily on an individual school’s pass rate for students taking the National Council Licensure Examination. Data was analyzed from results over the past five years.
Hailey said that in addition to the hard work of DC3 nursing students, a renewed focus on rigorous curriculum and quality instruction have led to greatly improved student outcomes and higher marks on national board exams.
First-attempt NCLEX exam pass rates at Dodge City Community College have risen significantly in just the last few years – from 61.9 percent in 2013 to 95.83 percent in 2017.
Hailey said enabling most students to pass the examination on the first attempt saves the students lots of time and money. Students in the DC3 nursing programs are highly sought after; most are recruited and offered jobs contingent upon successful completion of their board exams. Stringent program requirements and a dedicated staff help ensure that students finish on time, and with the necessary skills.
“They have to pay every time they take the exam,” Hailey said. “It’s also very time consuming as well because they have to wait 45 days before they try again. If they have a job waiting but they aren’t able to pass boards then they might actually lose that position.”
In 2015, the college began implementing a new curriculum and support package for the nursing program that allows for more rigorous application of the material and provides intensive live review and test preparation.
Grade-point average and entrance exam score requirements for admission to the program were also increased. Hailey said student outcomes are now measured more individually, enabling instructors a deeper analysis of a student’s actual knowledge.
The program is now experiencing a surge in requests from hospitals for DC3 nursing students to conduct their clinical studies in their facilities.
“We get contacted all the time by clinical sites wanting us to bring our students,” Hailey said.
For students hoping to enter the Nursing program at DC3, the process is streamlined by having a pre-Nursing advisor and Success Coordinator who performs screenings and interviews to ensure potential applicants have completed the requisite coursework and understand the pathways toward graduation and licensure, while also providing intensive tutoring to current nursing students.
“That’s unique,” Hailey said. “Not all nursing schools have a position dedicated to student success like ours.”
The NCLEX exam is used by all 50 state boards of nursing to test proficiency and grant nursing licensure. Many state boards of use NCLEX exam pass rates as a primary criterion to approve or deny a school’s ability to provide nursing education. According to the group, NCLEX rates are one of the best ways to determine how well a school is preparing their students for a career in nursing.
In Kansas, LPN programs at 18 nursing programs across the state were studied by the advocacy organization. Of those, only five scored high enough to receive a ranking, with the Dodge City Community College LPN program garnering the lone 100 percent score in the state.
Accreditation and review from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is also a major factor in determining program ranking. In March of 2018, the board of commissioners at ACEN determined that the Dodge City Community College program is in full compliance with accreditation standards.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts strong growth for LPNs over the next decade, with an estimated 12 percent growth through 2026 – faster than all occupations. In Kansas, more than 7,350 people are employed as LPNs, with a median wage of $42,260.
PracticalNursing.org is a leading education research group that provides a comprehensive guide to hundreds of nursing programs across the country, as well as career and training resources for the LPN community.