news-category: College of Health Sciences

Gardner-Webb Hunt School of Nursing Celebrates Pre-licensure Exam Rates

On pediatric simulation day, nursing students help conduct mock wellness exams on volunteer patients from age 6 months to 14 years.

Graduates Excel on New Innovative Version of the Test

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—The faculty and staff of the Gardner-Webb University Hunt School of Nursing (HSON) are celebrating the success of their recent graduates on two national nurse licensure exams—the NCLEX-RN and the ANCC Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification Exam. The NCLEX-RN is for graduates of the ASN, traditional BSN, and accelerated BSN pre-licensure nursing programs, and the ANCC Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Exam is for graduates of the DNP program.

Dean of the College of Health Sciences Dr. Nicole Waters, congratulated Director Dr. Tracy Arnold and the HSON team as she announced the scores.  

2023 Pre-licensure Exam Rates (first-time test takers)

  • ASN – 100%.
  • BSN – 95.9% (Traditional BSN and Accelerated BSN).

Certification Exam Rate (first-time test takers) for 2023 graduate students

  • DNP-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) – unofficial student reporting is 100%; the final report is not available until spring 2024.

A new innovative version of the NCLEX, the Next Generation NCLEX launched on April 1, and GWU’s nursing graduates excelled on the updated exam. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), this test provides a better measure of nursing candidates’ clinical judgment and decision-making abilities.  

Jessica McRae, a May 2023 graduate of the ASN program, described being nervous when she sat down to take the test. “I took a deep breath and hit start,” she shared. “The biggest thing about the NGNCLEX is critical thinking and the HSON professors make you do that. My professors were absolutely amazing in helping get the basics.”  

McRae works at North Okaloosa Medical Center in Florida as a med-surg, COVID and stroke nurse. She is also in the BSN program at Gardner-Webb.  

The chair of Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs, Assistant Professor Dr. Jessica Ivey, noted that the nursing school faculty began preparing students for the Next-Gen NCLEX (NGN) several years ago. “The biggest change to the NGN was a transition from traditional multiple choice and ‘select all that apply’ questions, to an inclusion of case studies and alternative question formats, such as drag and drop/ordered response, fill-in-the-blank, etc.,” Ivey explained. “Faculty attended conferences, workshops, and webinars to help us prepare for the transition to the NGN and to get the most up-to-date information about the NCLEX.”  

The nursing faculty also reviewed the curriculum and were confident it would prepare students to succeed on the new test. “We knew our students were well prepared to meet the higher testing standards, and we are excited to see they were able to demonstrate their confidence and knowledge as evidenced by our current pass rates,” Ivey praised. “Our NCLEX-RN pass rates have consistently ranked above the national average and we are excited to see how we compare again this year when the 2023 testing cycle concludes.”  

She added that another NCLEX report would be published in October.  

Members of the DNP cohort earned a 100% pass rate on the ANCC Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification Exam

Associate Professor Dr. Yvonne Smith, the PMHNP program coordinator, shared that both the first and second PMHNP classes to graduate achieved 100% pass rates. She said the program prepares students with assignments that are clinically driven and practice-readiness led. “Students also receive timely and generous amounts of professor feedback, both on their work and additional pertinent anecdotal clinical and practice knowledge from professors,” Smith asserted.  

These aspects of GWU’s program led Shannon Jones to come back for her PMHNP, which she received in May 2023. She has three degrees from GWU: her BSN, Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice in leadership. “Upon completion of each program, I felt prepared and confident to begin my new role in each area,” Jones said. “Courses and assignments are designed to cover all aspects of the career path for which you are preparing and the support from university staff and faculty are amazing. The PMHNP program was no different. The course layout, assignments, professor support, and course materials all combined to cover everything needed for passing the board exam and for beginning my new role as a PMHNP. I received wonderful feedback from my preceptors on my level of clinical knowledge and confidence in decision-making.”  

The graduate program also offers multiple class and individual meetings throughout the semester with students with scheduling arrangements led by the unique needs of working adult nurses. “Additionally, our students develop strong peer relationships and are incredibly supportive of each other which elevates their learning experience and indirectly their performance” Smith affirmed. “Collegiality and professionalism are nurtured and are expectations of every student. Students authentically delight in the progress and successes of each other.”  

Smith said the success of the program relies on the support of the College of Health Sciences and HSON leaders and faculty, as well as Susan Jenkins, clinical site specialist, who works to establish high quality clinical experiences for the students. Smith said that Jenkins forges relationships with facilities and preceptors. “I believe this fully separates our program from others,” she observed. “So many PMHNP programs struggle a great deal finding clinical placements as there are so few PMHNP preceptors. I personally had a preceptor tell me she had been precepting for several years with multiple universities and she had never received a fraction of the support, quality of communication, and overall service from a university as had been received from GWU, through Susan Jenkins.”  

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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