MCCC Dean Linda Martin, Ed.D, Utilizes
Dissertation Data to Bolster Nursing Program


West Windsor, N.J. - Earning her doctorate in Higher Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University allowed Linda Martin, dean of Health Professions and director of Nursing Education at Mercer County Community College, to accomplish two goals. She was able to achieve her academic objectives, while compiling data to bolster the success of the college's Nursing program. Martin received her Ed.D. in December, 2009, following the completion of her applied dissertation, "Predicting Academic and NCLEX-RN Success in an Associate Degree Nursing Program."

Prior to the start of the study, as part of the Nursing program's ongoing evaluation process, two areas were identified as in need of improvement: retention rates and scores on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam for graduates. Utilizing data from 450 students admitted to graduating classes from 2005 through 2007, Martin examined selected variables and their ability to predict student success in the nursing program and on the licensure exam. Her multi-year project yielded valuable data, providing substantiation of existing practices in the Nursing program and support for changes that were adopted in fall, 2009.

Martin examined five relationships: the applicant's grade point average and subsequent nursing program success; the applicant's grade point average and licensure exam success; progressive standardized test scores and nursing course grades; standardized test scores on a comprehensive predictor exam and licensure exam success; and standardized basic skills test scores and nursing program completion. A last question looked at which of these predictors were strong enough to be incorporated into the MCCC Nursing program.

Analysis of the data revealed that the grade point average of the applicant and his/her standardized test scores were strong predictors of nursing program and NCLEX-RN exam success. The study also revealed basic skills tests (TEAS) to be a useful evaluation tool for program admission. Martin notes that she used existing literature to help her interpret the findings and that they were consistent in most cases with previous research.

Prior to Martin's study, the college had no empirical data to support the use of progressive testing or a change in the nursing program admission criteria. "This study provided the necessary data to support change," she said.

As a result, the Nursing program has increased the grade point average for students entering the professional phase of the program from 2.0 to 2.5 and will continue to use progressive standardized testing throughout the program to identify students in need of academic assistance. Further, the program will continue to use the comprehensive predictor exam prior to graduation to allow students to identify areas of weakness prior to taking the national licensure exam.

"This knowledge will help faculty members identify students who are at risk for academic difficulty much earlier in their program of study," Martin said. "With early intervention we expect attrition rates to decrease and scores on the national licensure exam to increase. These outcomes will help our students and promote the reputation of the nursing program and the college."

Currently, Martin is gathering data from students admitted under the new criteria to compare success rates with prior years.

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