After raising three children, working in real estate and insurance and owning a restaurant for 15 years, Tina Custer, RN, BSN, decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
Attending Grand Canyon University in Phoenix was an easy decision, said Custer, who was drawn to the schools Christian philosophy and success in helping graduates pass the NCLEX-RN.
“They have the credentials,” said Custer, an ICU staff nurse at John C. Lincoln Health Network in Phoenix. “It doesnt do you any good if you get your bachelors [degree]and cant pass the NCLEX. Theyre doing something right.”
At a time when the economy has many new graduates struggling to find work, Grand Canyon also boasts a 90% job placement rate, with 100% of graduates working within six months, said Anne McNamara, RN, PhD, dean of the college of nursing.
“I think theres a couple of factors,” McNamara said. “First, all we graduate are baccalaureate degree nurses. We do know that baccalaureate students and graduates are getting hired before associate degree [graduates]and thats the employers choice.”
Nursing students at Grand Canyon also are encouraged to make the right contacts at hospitals and other facilities while they are in school to increase their chances of employment later, McNamara said.
“When students enter their senior year, we have a very intentional conversation with them about starting to volunteer or work in the healthcare facility they would like to get a job in,” she said. “The employer gets to know who they are and they get to know the employer. I think that makes a huge difference.”
Among the facilities Grand Canyon partners with is St. Josephs Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which is part of Dignity Health and offers an on-site BSN program. The school also has a campus at Scottsdale Healthcare.
Created in 1982, Grand Canyon Universitys College of Nursing has had an NCLEX pass rate of 90% or higher in the past two years, with pass rates of 95.79% in 2011 and 2012, said Cheryl Roat, RN, EdD, associate dean.
McNamara credits the schools high NCLEX pass rate to a strong emphasis on test preparation. By their second semester, McNamara said, students are tested at the end of every course they take as part of the colleges Total Testing Package. Questions are written in a similar style to NCLEX questions to help students become accustomed to the format.
Students also participate in a mandatory three-day NCLEX prep review to give them an idea of how theyll do on the exam. McNamara said students approaching graduation should be answering 50 to 100 practice questions a day until they take the exam.
Although the school of nursing had about 1,200 students when Roat started in 1987, the college has grown to about 6,500 students — a majority of whom are first-time nurses pursuing BSNs. The school is in the process of revising its curriculum to include a greater emphasis on various components of healthcare reform — such as preventative care — and working with patients at home and in the community.
To Roat, its not just the universitys instruction and real-world preparation that makes graduates attractive to employers, its the spiritual foundation Grand Canyon nurses take into the workforce.
“People say our graduates are different,” Roat said. “They get a very holistic perspective of patient care. We put a lot of emphasis on the spiritual aspect. That is something that is very important to us.”
Custer, who graduated in August, was enrolled in Grand Canyons fast-track program, which allows students to attend classes year-round and complete their degrees in 20 instead of 30 months.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I really feel like I was called to the profession.”
For information, visit www.GCU.edu/College-of-Nursing.php.