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Nursing program: 100 percent first-time pass rate for RN test

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Cuesta nursing students are able to get hands-on experience with class simulations.

Cuesta nursing students are able to get hands-on experience with class simulations.
Photos by Sameer Wahba / Cuestonian Photo Editor


By Rachel Barnes
Editor-in-chief

Cuesta College’s nursing program is one of the top performing nursing programs in the state of California.

For the fourth year in a row Cuesta College’s nursing program ​had a 100 percent pass rate for first-time test takers for the National Council Licensure Examination. This exam allows students to take the next step and begin practicing as a registered nurse

“The RN curriculum is based on caring,” Toni Torrey, nursing and allied health division chair said. “A variety of clinical settings and diverse faculty give students a well-rounded education as they participate in community-based internships and preceptorships.”

With the current national health care crisis, Cuesta is taking steps to provide the community with qualified and eager nurses to give care to patients.

Torrey said that the nursing program is always looking at ways to teach smarter and involve students in real world preparation.

For example, the program has students participate in simulations where students can perform and observe other students practicing procedures that they would in the job field. Afterwards, students are able to have a conversation about their experience in the simulation and debrief with other students.

“We’re preparing them for the real deal,” Torrey said.

The program offers students access to a variety of internships and preceptorships to local hospitals.

With the success of Cuesta’s nursing program brings increased interest from students in the area. According to Torrey, the program has 46 seats and they get around 230 applicants per term.

The program worked with the Chancellor on the application to require prerequisites and predict a successful nursing student. Due to their dedication, they have a graduation rate of around 90 percent or higher of nursing students.

“We don’t want to brag about it, but we don’t think it is an accident,” Torrey said.

She said that the faculty feel a responsibility to provide a program that fully prepares its students to pass the NCLEX and match the rigor of the RN job.

A few years back, the board of registered nurses increased the difficulty of the state board test and added a wider variety of questions. Due to that, Cuesta’s program made their tests harder to match.

“We’re really proud of a really high pass rate for the state board,” Torrey said

According to Torrey, when the difficulty for the NCLEX went up the majority of programs had a declining pass rate, but Cuesta’s rate went up due to intense dedication and preparation.

With the increase in difficulty comes stress for students in the program. The program has a success specialist dedicated to the nursing students named Ursula Bishop. According to Torrey they emphasize the importance of being “lovingly invasive.”

“We don’t wait until a student is struggling to intervene,” Torrey said.

The program has six full time faculty and many other part time faculty as well to provide help to students.

Cuesta students practice their nursing skills in the program’s on-campus lab, which replicates a real emergency room.
Cuesta students practice their nursing skills in the program’s on-campus lab, which replicates a real emergency room.

Torrey recalled a student named Claudia a while back who was one of 17 siblings who was the first to get a degree in her family. She went on to work with her at Mee Memorial Hospital in Kings City. Torrey said she is amazed at nursing students’ ability to maintain lives that are unbelievable and continue to succeed in the nursing program.

“To me, they’re all success stories,” she said.

Torrey herself is an alumni of Cuesta’s nursing program and believes it has made her life what it is today.

“This program is just a jewel of the community,” Torrey said.

Nursing student Christina Mideiros has been in the program since 2011 doing prerequisites and she is graduating spring 2018. She said that the program offered a lot of information in a little time.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, it’s a program that will definitely test you, but as long as you stay on top of your homework, studying, and clear up any questions it’s definitely manageable,” Mideiros said.

Mideiros said that her favorite part about the program were her teachers. She said they all are very knowledgeable and have similar teaching styles.

“It made [the classes] very consistent while going through such a hectic program,” Mideiros said.

Mideiros said that during her experience both the teachers and her peers in the program were very helpful. She said that the staff are always open to talk if a student needs help or just someone to talk to.

“They are all going through the same thing you are and it can feel overwhelming at times, but to know you aren’t doing it alone, and that there are people there to support you is really helpful,” Mideiros said.