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SIUE School of Nursing implementing holistic admission process

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s School of Nursing (SON) has long been committed to diversity within the school to both enhance learning and produce a more diverse nursing workforce. Pathway programs to recruit and retain underrepresented minority (URM) students have been in place for 35 years.

Through a $97,000 grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the School is now developing a mission-aligned admissions process that looks at an applicant as a whole, taking into consideration experiences and attributes in addition to academic metrics such as GPA and standardized exam scores.

“Holistic admission is an effective strategy in diversifying the nursing workforce,” said Co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) Ann Popkess, Ph.D., RN, assistant dean of undergraduate programs. “This can additionally address disparities in healthcare access, given that a high percentage of graduates return to provide care in their communities.”

“Holistic admission avoids looking only at academic metrics, which is what we have been doing for a long time,” said Co-PI Amelia Perez, Ph.D., RN, associate professor and chair in the Department of Family Heath and Community Health Nursing. “This will lead to a more equitable admission process that broadens opportunities for potential students to be evaluated beyond GPA.”

To begin the process, co-PI Jerrica Ampadu, Ph.D., RN, associate professor, coordinator for diversity, and director of the WE CARE Clinic, conducted a retrospective study of 660 graduates of SIUE’s nursing program to identify predictors of successful first-time pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Her team evaluated 41 predictors, including prerequisite grades, nursing grades and demographic data.

Of those, the most compelling predictors correlated to success in specific nursing courses rather than current admission criteria. Students were 4.5 times more likely to pass the NCLEX on the first attempt if they received a higher grade in the foundations course. They were 3.9 times more likely to pass on the first attempt if they had a higher grade in mental health courses.

The next step was to develop a process and instruments to implement holistic admissions, employing a toolkit from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and evaluating strategies reported in the literature and from other nursing schools.

“We then established outcome measures, including the admission, retention and graduation of URM students, as well as ways to measure their performance within the nursing program,” Popkess said.

SON will also continue to emphasize pathways into the program as a means of increasing the number of URMs. A new pathway initiative, the Summer Success Program, launched in 2022.

“The summer success program is designed to introduce students to the School of Nursing and provide educational resources to be successful in their courses as incoming first-year students at SIUE,” Ampadu said.

The School of Nursing’s programs are committed to creating excellence in nursing leadership through innovative teaching, evidence-based practice, quality research, patient advocacy and community service. Enrolling more than 1,700 students in its baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs, the School develops leaders in pursuit of shaping the nursing profession and impacting the health care environment.

SIUE’s undergraduate nursing programs on the Edwardsville campus help to solve the region’s shortage of baccalaureate-prepared nurses and enhance the quality of nursing practice within all patient service venues. The School’s graduate programs prepare nurses for advanced roles in clinical practice, administration and education.

SIUE photo: Students take part in the new SIUE School of Nursing Summer Success Program.

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