Keene State nursing

Keene State College students walk past a banner on Appian Way promoting the college's nursing program in this file photo from 2014.

After three years on probation, Keene State College’s nursing program has gained full approval from the N.H. Board of Nursing.

This is the first time the program has had full approval since the first nursing students started classes in 2012, as it was granted only initial approval when it began, according to Patricia Shinn, director of nursing at Keene State.

Shinn recently met with the state nursing board and presented data from the college’s Institutional Research and Assessment showing that students’ testing scores have improved significantly in the past couple of years.

The program, she said, also met the benchmark of meeting or exceeding the national pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam for two years, the licensing test to become a registered nurse. About 88 percent of nursing students at Keene State passed the exam in 2018, while 100 percent passed in 2019, she said.

Though the college’s 2018 pass rate was 0.05 percent under the national average, Shinn said the board considered it satisfactory.

“So with that real hard evidence, I think that’s what helped the board say, ‘Look, this program has done what we asked them to do,’ “ Shinn said.

In 2016, the state board changed the program’s approval status to “approved on probation” following a few years of low pass rates on the NCLEX.

In response to its probationary approval status, the Keene State nursing program also updated its curriculum and raised its admissions standards, Shinn said last year, including by increasing its minimum grade point average for sophomores to continue the program as juniors from 3.2 to 3.4. Freshmen must have a 3.2 average out of high school.

The goal now will be to continue building enrollment, Shinn said. When she joined the program in fall 2017, it admitted only 12 students. Enrollment has gone up the past couple of years, with 16 last year and 20 this year, but still hasn’t reached the cap of 24 students, she said.

“I believe that this will help us in recruiting students. A lot of time students will look at us, and maybe they want to come here, but they’re a little hesitant seeing the program’s on probation,” she said. “So hopefully that will help.”

The college is also considering reinstating its RN to BSN program — registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in nursing — for students transferring from two- and three-year registered nursing programs, she said. The program was put on hold as the curriculum was updated.

The department first plans to release a survey to gauge community interest and support.

In a statement, Keene State President Melinda Treadwell praised the nursing program and emphasized the college’s role in bolstering the region’s health care workforce.

“We are proud to educate and prepare the next generation of nurses — this work is critical to the future of our state, region and beyond. The full approval status reinforces the excellence of the program and faculty, and the successful placement of graduates in the field,” Treadwell said. “We look forward to continuing to watch the success of Keene State College nurses for many years to come.”

Shinn emphasized that improving the program was a group effort.

“It took a community. A lot of people look at the work I’ve done, but I couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for all the faculty that I have on board and the support of the administration,” Shinn said. “... It really has been an interesting transition, and I just would want the general public to know that it’s not any one person that does this; it’s everybody.”

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or mmcintyre@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.