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DSU's nursing program named 3rd best in state

First-year Dickinson State University students practice skills in a simulation lab. The tech speaks into the microphone, and students interact with the "patient" to practice. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
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Dickinson State University's nursing program was named third best in the state by Registered Nursing, which analyzes nursing schools' pass rates on the national nursing licensing exam for RNs for the past five years.

"It's a wonderful gem of a program from the ground up," said Department Chair of Nursing, Cheryl Lantz.

In 2017, 94 percent of DSU's RNs passed their National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX); the following year, 100 percent passed. These rates put DSU above both the state and national average.

According to the North Dakota Board of Nursing, the state average pass rate for RNs is 88 percent. The national average pass rate in 2017 was 90 percent, and in 2018, 92 percent, as noted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The school's job placement statistics are similar to its pass rates. In 2017 and 2018, 100 percent of RN graduates found jobs within 10 months of graduating.

Abigail Brooks, student nurse of the year at DSU, attributes the ranking to the nursing professors.

"The professors, both in the LPN and the RN program, they bring so much experience and knowledge," she said. "They're really dedicated and really want to teach us and want us to know what to do as nurses."

She also said the professors are very accessible, which Lantz attributes in part to the smaller class sizes.

"The classes get really connected," she said. "They bond and they become quite a support group to one another. ... I think the smaller numbers really attribute to that success and investing personally in the lives of our students, and students getting to know us as well."

Lantz also connects the program's success in part to its relationship with the community.

"We are embedded in our community, which offers us clinical education sites," she said. "We are in just about every place nurses go in our community."

They go to hospitals, clinics, the infusion center, daycare centers, nursing homes and even correctional centers to gain experience in a wide variety of types of nursing.

"With the different standards and the different types of care they want us to learn, we go to different places to be able to experience that, to perform cares, to shadow other nurses, and to gain a bunch of experience in different types of care," Brooks said.

Lantz also thinks the program's model helps make its students successful. In their program, students earn their LPN degree after two years then go on to get their RN degree after two more years.

"UND and NDSU, students go for two years, get all their undergrad courses, and then they come into the nursing program their junior and senior year," she said. "They're only thinking nursing for two years. We get them thinking about it for four."

Brooks said she also thinks this program set up is helpful.

"I appreciate it because you get more experience as you go on," she said. "When you graduate with your RN, you know what you're doing more, more so than somebody who's never worked as a nurse or doesn't have a previous license."