Pratt Community College has put its Associate Degree in Nursing program on hold for a year to reorganize the program to increase test passing rates.

Pratt Community College has put its Associate Degree of Nursing program on hold for a year while they try to figure out why students aren't passing the NCLEX exam on the first attempt. The change was presented to the PCC Board of Trustees at their regular monthly meeting May 17.

The college evaluated what they thought the Kansas State Board of Nursing would do about the situation. Their choices seemed to be see how the current class pass rates before taking more action but they felt that was unlikely. The KSBN could just end the ADN program completely. That was a likely choice but probably not their preferred choice, said PCC President Michael Calvert.

The third anticipated choice was to put the ADN program on hold for a year and do a thorough evaluation of every aspect of the ADN program from top to bottom to find the deficiencies and establish a workable program that would produce the desired testing results.

So the college decided to suspend the ADN program for a year to allow its faculty the time needed to investigate the program, find the problems and correct them to return PCC to the high quality program it had been for many years, Calvert said.

The college sent the proposal to suspend the program to KSBN and they accepted the plan. After the year of evaluation, the plan is to return the ADN program in 2018-2019 school year.

"We want to rebuild the program to the shining star is once was," Calvert said.

For the students that have already enrolled for next years ADN plan, the staff is working with those students to find an alternate program. Some students may prefer to wait the year and enroll in 2018.

Calvert said PCC had met with hospitals they work with that supply facilities for practical testing and they are on board with the college as they go through this evaluation.

The National Council Licensure Examination is required of all nursing students before they can become nurses, Calvert said.

For reasons that are unclear, students in the PCC program are not passing the exam the first time with only 31 percent of the class passing. That fails to meet the required 75 percent of the class passing required by the State Board of Nursing.

But when the students take the test again, the pass rate jumps to 85 percent.

"Why the difference is unknown. The data is inconclusive. We just don't know why," Calvert said.

However, the Board only looks at the first time taking the test numbers. For five years, the PCC students in the ADN program have not met that 75 percent pass rate and they were placed on a conditional status.

The college also has a Practical Nurse program that has met or exceeded the required NCLEX pass rates so it will continue operations as normal.

The PN students also have to take the NCLEX. It's not as difficult as the ADN version but students understand what is required of them for the exam. Why the pass rates drop so dramatically for the ADN program tests is a mystery since they know what is coming, Calvert said.

Also unknown is why the pass rates for on-line students a dramatic drop from 77.8 percent in 2014-2015 to just 16.7 percent in 2015-2016.

The PCC nursing program, both the ADN and PN programs, had been exemplary for many years but the expansion of the program lead to a big turnover of 60 faculty members and seven directors over a five year period. During that time, the problems with ADN passing rates continuously failed to meet the 75 percent pass rates on the first time taking the test. During the same time period, the PN program continuously met and exceeded the 75 percent pass rate.

In August, PCC lost its accreditation with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The Kansas State Board of Nursing also lowered the program's status to conditional approval. Again, this was the ADN program. The PN program continues to produce classes with above average pass rates and that program will continue.

While faculty and administration tackle the ADN program issues, they got some strong word of support from the Student Leadership Council and the Student Admissions Representative Panel. A student representative from each program at the college sits on the council and presented their perceptions of the good things and things that needed approval at the college.

A local student, Addie Smith, said her view of the college was much more positive after attending school. A student from Africa said he had been blessed to come to America and attend PCC. Overall the response from the students was very positive.

The college got more good news from the Higher Learning Commission and their Composite Financial Index that shows the financial soundness of the college. The college Index for 2015-2016 is 8.39 out of a possible 10 with 10 being the best. This is down from 9.54 from the year before but still very high compared to other community colleges across the country where the average composite is just 3.

The college lost some payments they had been receiving from Northern Natural Gas valuation after the settlement of a law suit.