According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) over 5.4 million nursing professionals have taken the NCLEX since April of 1994. That’s a lot of aspiring nursing professionals, and not surprising given that there are close to five million active nurses in the United States. Since those days, when Green Day, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were at the tops of the charts(!), the nursing profession has undergone many changes. Not least of these is the movement to raise the educational and practiced standards of the profession in response to the ever-changing demands of our health care system. Magnet status is now ubiquitous among hospitals and hospital systems a status that requires, among other things, that RN nursing staff working at these facilities have at least a BSN degree. The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP), not really seen before 1999, is now the capstone of the nursing profession. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are over 330 DNP programs in the U.S. with another 100+ in the planning stages.
Stakeholders in the nursing profession recognize the valuable and vital role that the nursing professional plays in our healthcare system and healthcare delivery. That system has been characterized by rapid change, driven in part by the rapid expansion of knowledge required by nursing and other health professionals to function in interdisciplinary teams. The system is increasingly complex, increasingly data-driven, with major emphasis placed on cost-effective and safe delivery of care. Evidence-based practices are de rigueur. These changes have placed new demands for nurses to function at higher levels than ever before as they navigate the increasing complexity of our health care system.
These changes in the landscape where nurses work bring us to “the Next Generation NCLEX” or NGN. A 2013-14 NCSBN Strategic Practice Analysis brought to light the increasingly complex role newly licensed nurses faced during the course of patient care, particularly in the area of clinical judgment and clinical decision-making. The study revealed that many or most newly- licensed nurses were not as prepared as they needed to be to meet the requirements of the modern healthcare system. These findings had serious implications for patient safety, the hallmark of all nursing practice.
If nursing programs need to better prepare nurses for success going forward, it was vitally important that these attributes be measurable by means of the NCLEX, the licensure pathway for all RN and PA nurses. The NGN, therefore, is a research project designed to determine if higher level skills can be assessed by means of a standardized exam. Central to the new NCLEX will be use of new item types, now under research, that are expected to better measure clinical judgment. We will be keeping an eye on this landscape and are working to help prepare the next generation of nursing professionals. Assuming the outcomes of the NGN research demonstrate efficacy in these methods of higher level assessment, the Next Generation NCLEX will be coming to a testing center near you!