New Brunswick

New Brunswick nurses 47% fail rate on NCLEX-RN

Almost half of New Brunswick nursing students who wrote their final exam for licensing last spring failed it.

Nursing association promises 'in-depth' analysis of programs

Nurses wearing scrubs wheel a bed down a hallway.
Nurses in other parts of Atlantic Canada did much better on the test. (Canadian Press)

Almost half of New Brunswick nursing students who wrote their final exam for licensing last spring failed it.

It is the worst showing for students in any province across the country.

The exam is called the NCLEX-RN, which Canada's regulatory body uses to give accreditation to nurses.

Roxanne Tarjan, the executive director of the Nursing Association of New Brunswick, says the numbers aren't good. She doesn't know why the rate is so low. 

"It's too early to tell. There needs to be a very in-depth analysis of the programs," she said.

This is the second time the new exam made by an American company has been administered and the second time New Brunswick got low marks. 

The exam in the spring saw only about 53 per cent of students pass, with much higher success rates across the country and in the Atlantic provinces. 

Falling behind the rest of the region

The combined success rate of the two exams taken so far show New Brunswick earn a 54 per cent pass rate, but Nova Scotia had an 80 per cent pass rate, Newfoundland and Labrador an 82 per cent pass and P.E.I. a 69 per cent pass rate. 

The dean of UNB nursing, Kathleen Valentine says she believes the low marks are not the school's fault. 

"We, of course, would like to see higher, but we are not thinking that this is a reflection of the quality of our program because the quality of the program has not changed. What has changed is the format of the exam," she said.

The exam is based mainly on a pass or fail ranking, not grades. Therefore failing students don't know how well they did.

They do get a breakdown of what areas they need to work on for their next attempt. Students get three tries before being are disqualified from becoming nurses, regardless of how well they did in university.

Students CBC spoke with who wrote the exam described it to us as "terrible," "biased," and "a crapshoot."

Tarjan says she understands those concerns but they will keep the exam for now and work to improve it in the future.

"We're looking at it collaboratively to see where these gaps are and how do we address them."

The next wave of student will write the exam this October.