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UTPA and STC among top schools in preparing nurses
By Jennifer Berghom, Public Affairs Representative
Posted: 12/20/2012
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Yvette Ellis, a registered nurse, decided to continue her education at The University of Texas-Pan American to further her career and take steps toward becoming a nurse educator.


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Students graduating from UTPA's Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program celebrate the culmination of their hard work during a pinning ceremony Dec. 14, 2012. UTPA BSN students who took the National Council Licensure Examination between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012 had a 96.94 percent passing rate, placing UTPA's program among the top third in Texas.

Ellis began her studies in nursing at UT Pan American, then transferred to South Texas College and earned her associate degree in nursing (ADN). She passed the challenging licensure exam — the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) — and worked for the McAllen Heart Hospital for a few years before deciding to return to UTPA to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

"I feel I was well-prepared at STC," Ellis said, adding that faculty members at UT Pan American saw her skills and entrusted her to take on more leadership roles during clinical rotations. "When we went to the hospital I was able to have some students following me. It was really good for leadership and management. Once I came into the program I was already able to step up to be a leader and they gave me the opportunity for that."

Ellis is one of many nursing students well trained by UTPA and STC. In fact, both institutions have a high percentage of their students passing the NCLEX.

Between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012, students in UTPA's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program had a 96.94 percent passing rate with 95 out of 98 BSN students passing the exam, placing the University's passing rate in the top third in the state. STC had a 92.9 percent pass rate on the NCLEX, with 144 out of 155 students passing the exam.

Dr. Carolina Huerta, chair of UTPA's Department of Nursing, said UTPA and STC's nursing programs have had a good working relationship for a long time. UTPA's nursing program was one of the first to sign an articulation agreement with STC, offering STC graduates a smooth transition to UTPA. One of UTPA's faculty members serves on STC's advisory board for nursing and STC officials have attended meetings held by UTPA's nursing advisory board.

Jayson Valerio, STC's ADN program director, said program faculty and staff guide students in determining what prerequisite courses they need to take to enter UTPA's BSN program. Classes the ADN students take at STC also can be counted toward credits in UTPA's BSN program.

If students complete their courses for their ADN, they are informed about additional classes they can take to fulfill prerequisites for UT Pan American, he said.

"What we usually tell our students starting from day one is that we invite the culture of don't settle for your ADN degree; we want them to attain a higher degree," Valerio said.

In addition to honing their skills, nursing students are encouraged to continue their education to ensure their positions in the workforce based on new recommendations set by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The institute suggests that 80 percent of registered nurses should have at least a bachelor's degree by the year 2020, Valerio said.

"As nurses, because nursing is so dynamic, we instill lifelong learning," Valerio said. "There is also a faculty shortage, the higher degree one attains opens doors to more opportunities and one of those opportunities is nursing education."

To learn more about UT Pan American's BSN program, visit the department's website.

To learn more about STC's ADN program, visit its website.