Electronic Standardize Testing for Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) Programs

Monday, July 11, 2011: 10:35 AM

Pamela Willson, RN, PhD, FNP, BC, CNE
College of Nursing, Prairie View A & M University, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: Summarize a standardized APRN end of program examination’s predictive validity.

Learning Objective 2: Critique potential contextual implementation strategies for including standardized examinations within APRN programs.

Purpose: A major indicator of nursing programs’ effectiveness is the pass rate on national certification examinations among first-time candidates. Twenty years of evidence supports use of standardized examinations for undergraduate end of program assessment to facilitate knowledge development, ensure competence of their new graduates, and demonstrate organizational and curriculum effectiveness. However, standardize examination use in graduate education lags behind that of undergraduate education, providing limited evidence to guide faculty. The aim of this research was to establish the predictive validity a standardized examination for APRN certification success in a national United States sample and to determine implementation strategies used by their facilities. 

Methods:  Electronic surveys were mailed to directors of 35 graduate nursing schools that administered Elsevier HESI™ Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Exam for Family and/or Adult APRN students during the 2008–2009 academic year. Data were collected regarding students’ APRN national certification examination outcomes and the schools’ implementation strategies and policies.

Results:  Certification outcomes were reported for 141 APRN students, 96 Family APRN students and 45 Adult APRN students. Students with APRN HESI™ scores ranging from 700 to 1039 accurately predicted certification exams pass rates 100% of the time. Few schools had exit policies, established benchmark scores, or counted the standardized exam as part of course grades. The most frequently cited remediation strategy was tutoring—either by live review courses or faculty developed review sessions.

Conclusion:  A national multi-site United States sample of graduate programs has found that electronic standardized end of program assessments are highly accurate at predicting APRN certification success. These findings are consistent with preliminary benchmark setting studies for APRN HESI™ minimum scores of 750 or higher. Faculty’s implementation strategies, policy development, and methods for curricular evaluation will be discussed.