Nursing graduates at OCCC have been getting better and better at passing their state licensure exam to become registered nurses.
Deborah Myers, nursing school director, said the nursing program had 222 candidates pass their exam on the first try in 2012, which made the pass rate for OCCC a high 96.85 percent.
The students in the OCCC nursing program take the same state board exam as students at four-year colleges and major universities. However, OCCC students come out with an associate degree in nursing, versus a bachelor’s degree at a university.
“We have the largest single-site program,” said Deborah Myers, nursing school director. Single-site programs only have one campus, whereas other programs have multiple campuses in various locations throughout the state.
The second largest single-site program for undergraduates is at the University of Oklahoma.
“Our pass rate has obviously been very good … it has steadily increased over the last five years,” Myers said.
The increase has been attributed to a number of factors, including the number of staff, increased simulation activities that give the students a feel of real situations in the patient-care setting, active learning that gives the students hands-on experiences, and curriculum-supporttesting programs which also help students prepare for state board exams.
The large staff includes 20 full-time and 48 part-time professors.
“We have many of our faculty that actually started in an associate degree program … and have been true career ladder students,” Myers said. “Some of the teachers even went through the program here at OCCC.”
The emphasis of the program is on direct patient care, Myers said. Upon graduation, students can step right into a job taking care of patients.
Their skills sets are perfected by the time they graduate.
“Our students are every bit as prepared, if not more prepared, than the baccalaureate students for direct patient care,” Myers said.
Although the starting salary is the same for both an associate degree registered nurse and a bachelor’s degree registered nurse, students are encouraged to continue their education after receiving their associate degree.
“We tell our students from day one, this is not the end of your journey, this is the beginning,” Myers said.
Many local hospitals will give tuition assistance to associate degree nurses who want to get their bachelor’s.
Many degree programs are completely online, so they can be finished while working full time as a nurse, Myers said.
“I think that the associate degree affords students really the best of both worlds,” she said.
“The problem with our program is that it is very competitive. It is difficult to get in,” Myers said. “The program usually takes three years to complete, because of the wait to get accepted.”
There are typically around 200 to 235 applicants for the fall, and 155 to 195 for the spring, Myers said.
In both sessions there are only 72 spots available.
The acceptance rate for fall is 30 to 36 percent, and the acceptance rate for spring is 37 to 46 percent.
She said students usually use this time to take care of their general education classes.
Taylor McNeill, who hopes to enter the nursing program, has attended OCCC for one year.
She said she plans on applying for the program in the spring.
Like many other students, she has been working hard so she will be fully prepared when applications are due.
“I’ve taken all my classes and tried to make good grades in all of them,” McNeill said.
She said she chose to attend OCCC instead of a university because it is cheaper and she believes the program will give her the knowledge to become a successful nurse.
“I feel like they know what they’re doing,” McNeill said, noting how well OCCC nursing graduates have scored on the state board exam.
As the program directors encourage, McNeill plans to get a job after graduation, and then continue her education at a university to finish up her bachelor’s degree.
Myers said, last fall, the program implemented a change in curriculum to be better correlated with the issues going on in health care now: reform, safety, and quality.
The national nursing board exams also have changed. Myers predicts there will be a drop for the national average of about 10 percent.
“We know that we will have a drop in our pass rate for the year 2013, as will everyone, not only in the state, but in the nation,” Myers said.“We’re going to be real happy if we stay in the 90s,” Myers said of next year’s pass rate.
For more information, contact Myers at 405-682-1611. ext. 7138, or visit www.occc.edu/health/nursing.