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How to conquer conditional status to achieve 100% pass rate

May 28, 2021, 12:02 PM
<6-min. read> Confused students look for shortcuts to avoid actual learning. With the right tools and support, though, they can achieve that “aha” moment.

Challenge students: If they want to succeed, there really is no 'secret sauce'

Michelle NewtonMichelle Newton, MSN, RN, had nearly 35 years of nursing experience when she became Director of Jefferson Regional Medical Center School of Nursing, a facility with which she was intimately familiar. She’d worked at the hospital in Pine Bluff, Ark., since 1986 in a variety of positions.


While she had taught online, she had never worked in a classroom environment. She knew, then, that leading the program would understandably present challenges. But even the most veteran director may have been daunted by the demands of JRMC School of Nursing:

  • The recent transition from being a diploma to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program
  • Pass rates below the Arkansas State Board of Nursing threshold that had put the program on conditional status for several years.
  • variety of NCLEX preparation tools that resulted in students “going in too many directions.”

“Hurst looks different than HESI, which looks different than Kaplan,” Newton explained. “All those products look different to the student, although we know they’re all mapped to the NCLEX blueprint.”


Wanting to provide students with a cohesive experience — and address other issues — Newton began looking at options.

Michelle Newton quoteDuring meetings at the state board of nursing, she said, “There were other deans and directors who talked about how much ATI could do for the school, especially if you’re a Complete Partner.”

Faculty further encouraged her inquiries. “Some of the teachers here had experience with ATI. Some had worked at ATI, and others had family members who were nursing students at other schools that used ATI. So, they wanted ATI,” she explained.

Newton, though, wanted more information before deciding, so she requested a meeting with an ATI client executive. She soon understood the wide support for the company’s resources.

“ATI has a very structured implementation,” she said. “ATI’s products start from the very beginning, go throughout the program, and end with the NCLEX review products.

In October 2018, within 2 weeks of her meeting, Newton — with the support of the parent organization Jefferson Regional — signed the School of Nursing as a Complete Partner with ATI.


ATI’s client team of educators and integration specialists was soon diving in to the school’s challenges. The goal was to improve its NCLEX pass rate as soon as possible. Steps included:

  • Reviewing the curriculum. An ATI nursing education consultant helped the school revamp the new curriculum, identifying gaps and integrating ATI solutions. The consultant explained that tweaks might still be needed. “And that’s really all that we’ve had to do,” Newton said. “It’s very well put together.”
  • Focusing on virtual simulation. Enhancing students’ clinical judgment was a priority before the pandemic hit. When clinical sites, closed, however, the reliance on simulation to work on this goal became that much more important. “The pandemic forced our hand to utilize every ATI product to the fullest extent possible,” Newton said. “The [virtual] clinical replacements were great clinical judgment developers.”
  • Putting up guardrails for students. Newton said she and the faculty continually emphasized to the students that there were no shortcuts for learning. “You have to engage in active classroom learning, read your textbook, complete the ATI exercises, and use all these tools to prepare yourself for the exam,” she explained. “There is no secret sauce. The only secret is full learning engagement through reading your assigned content and using the resources we recommend to understand and apply nursing theory.”
How to conquer conditional status

To circumvent students’ shortcuts, faculty took advantage of the flexibility ATI’s solutions offered. For example:

  • Controlling student access to assessments. ATI tools allow faculty to decide when assessments are available. “We use the ability to open and close assessments to keep the students in the content we are teaching at the time,” Newton said.
  • Determining when and where students take practice exams. “We set aside classroom time, and the students take the tests here, with a teacher in the classroom.” (During the pandemic, students met almost continuously in person, following strict protocols. Most made the request to be back on campus soon after experiencing the limitations of remote learning.) Having students complete practice exams with faculty nearby allowed them to keep students on the right track. “We want them to remediate on their deficits, not on what they may have looked up on the computer,” Newton added.
  • Pulling items from prepared question banks. Faculty can create assessments by pulling from an expansive ATI Item Bank. “We chose to use the ATI testing platform because the questions in there are secure,” Newton explained.
  • Implementing tools to increase students’ comprehension.The Virtual-ATI 12-Week Review is impactful on its own,” Newton said. “The Capstone Comprehensive Review and Comprehensive Live NCLEX 3-day review adds to that preparation. The remediation associated with the practices and then the proctored ATI Comprehensive Predictor is very beneficial for their success.”

Students were satisfied with the reviews, too. “They all shared with me that ATI prepared them,” Newton said.

“The result of our 100% first-time pass rate speaks for itself,” Newton added.


Getting to that 100% pass rate was no joy ride.

“Students were very frustrated with continual remediation,” Newton said. “Faculty and I would have to tell them they had to complete their ATI remediation to progress to the next course.”

But the results proved the effort was worth it.

“Our passage rate with each cohort is improving in relation to our use and implementation of ATI products,” she said.

And while the pandemic was a difficult time, even that hurdle didn’t impede the program’s ultimate progress. Seven months after COVID-19 began, the entire October 2020 cohort passed — all but 3 on 75 questions.

“They were all very happy; they were over being angry regarding the remediation,” she added. And every student attributed their success to ATI’s remediation. “It really served them,” Newton said. “It’s a testament to ATI’s product.”

The School of Nursing is not the exception in seeing such success.

ATI’s research has proven similar results. A 2010 paper showed that users of ATI’s RN Comprehensive Predictor tool passed at a slightly higher rate than the national reported pass rate for both ADN and BSN programs types.

Michelle Newton quote

Another paper, a few years later, showed similar results for ATI Live Review users. In that study, students’ overall first-time pass rate was 97% — substantially higher than the national first-attempt pass rate of 91.23% for RN and 83.7% for PN students during the same period.

And recent statistics show that such results continue to hold true, specifically regarding users of the ATI Comprehensive Live NCLEX Review. Data released by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (based on numbers from July to September 2020) showed that students’ national pass rate for taking the NCLEX-RN was 85%. That compared to a 95% pass rate for ATI Live Review Students. Results were similar for PN students. Their national pass rate was 83% compared to 95% for ATI Live Review users. Similarly, users of Virtual-ATI had pass rates well above the national average.

This School of Nursing has set its sights on eventually achieving 100% pass rates on a regular schedule.

“We want to reach an average of 75% for 2 years in a row and then keep increasing from there,” Newton said. With access to ATI’s full arsenal of resources, such a goal seems eminently achievable.

“We’re glad to use ATI products the way we’ve been able to,” Newton added. “We want to stay Complete partners.”


Being a Complete Partner provides the School of Nursing with seamless access to all of ATI’s services and products. Some of the tools Director Michelle Newton mentions as being particularly helpful include:


Early in the pandemic, ATI introduced a guide to using simulation for clinical replacement. The manual identifies and explains the use of virtual scenarios and modules in specific ATI solutions as part of its Online Clinical Plans tool. (Contact an ATI Account Executive to get a copy of the Online Clinical Plans tool.)


This online review option pairs students directly with a virtual coach for a 12-week study program. Working at their own pace, students gain knowledge, support, and feedback so they can pass the NCLEX.


Capstone is tailored to each program and integrated as a supplement to pregraduation curriculum. Its customized integration helps students assess and remediate on important content while increasing their accountability.


This all-inclusive, live study session covers essential nursing content aligned with the NCLEX blueprint. Students who complete an ATI Live Review have a substantially higher NCLEX pass rate than the national average.