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Pre-licensure students will take new summer prep course

woman taking notes from laptop

Students who are entering UIC College of Nursing pre-licensure programs this fall will take a new summer course to prepare them for the rigors of the nursing program.

The six-week course, Pre-licensure Readiness Education Program for Aspiring Registered Nurses (PREPARE), will be delivered online to students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing for non-RNs on the Chicago, Urbana and Springfield campuses.

The program is being developed by clinical assistant professor Amy Johnson, PhD ’18, RN, director of the BSN program; clinical assistant professor Robin Johnson, DNP ’17, MS ’13, CPNP-PC, director of the MS program; and associate dean for academic affairs Liz Aquino, PhD ’13, RN, with a $148,000 grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Thanks to the grant, it will be offered free of charge to all students starting a pre-licensure program in 2024.

“We know students come to us with different educational backgrounds,” Aquino says. “We really want to make sure we’re setting them up for success. Through this program, we’re able to try to level the playing field by using assessments and creating a comprehensive preparation of the curriculum. [The goal is] to really help them have that strong foundation before they even start the nursing program.”

Faculty say they hope the course helps to increase student success in challenging first semester courses, improve retention rates throughout the program and boost pass rates of the NCLEX licensing exam.

The grant funds will allow the college to purchase two programs from ATI (Assessment Technologies Institute), which offers a suite of virtual nursing educational programs. UIC Nursing already uses some of ATI’s software offerings, but the new additions will include a prep program, called Launch, and an assessment program, called TEAS. In addition, the grant will cover faculty facilitation and study skills, writing skills, UIC College of Nursing resources, and an introduction to basic nursing concepts.

“We know in the literature that there are key factors, such as having a foundation in anatomy and physiology and other science-intensive courses, that really make a difference in a students’ ability to do well in the program,” says Amy Johnson. “They’re the predictors. ATI’s valid and evidence-based program covers a lot of that science, as well as math and English and language use.”

Because students enter the traditional BSN program as juniors, they can satisfy the requirements for prerequisite courses – such as anatomy and physiology – at various institutions. The same is true for the master’s program for non-RNs, who already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject and are now seeking a nursing degree, says Robin Johnson.

“They’re meeting our expected qualifications to get admitted and are still having challenges that first semester,” she says. “What we’ve been seeing is that those who don’t come in with that strong base, they continue to struggle throughout the program. This will help them become safe and effective nurses.”

Faculty also plan to bring students to campus for at least one day as part of the summer program so they can begin to form connections with classmates.

Another benefit of the new program is that faculty will have a better understanding of a student’s strengths and weaknesses before the semester begins, so they can try to customize a path for each student.

“We’re creating individualized success plans, based on the data we’re collecting, so that we’ll really know where students will stand, and can help support them in that first semester,” Aquino says.

Faculty will evaluate the effectiveness of the new course based on first exam pass rates, student knowledge before and after the course, first semester failure rates and NCLEX pass rates. Although all pre-licensure students will take the course in 2024, in future years, the course may be offered as an optional credit for students.

See: All College News