What is the NCLEX-PN®?

by Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

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    00:00 Hello. I'm Professor Rhonda Lawes and I am actually really excited to tell you about the NCLEX-PN examination. Now you might think I'm a little off that I'm excited about this exam, but the reason I want to tell you about it is because you don't have to fear this exam.

    00:19 I want you to understand who makes it, how it's put together, and what types of questions are that you're going to come up against because I know after my 18 years experience of teaching people NCLEX exam reviews, you can do this. So, let me walk you through it. Now first of all, it might be a little confusing. In your state, you might be in an LPN program or you might be in an LVN program. It's the same exam. So if you hear me say LPN or PN, that also includes our LVN students. Right? It's the same license.

    00:55 So you're ready, let's get started. Now first of all, what I want you to kind of get accustomed to or introduce you to is the NCSBN. Now that stands for the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing. Okay, that's a name you want to write down. And you can see why we use NCSBN instead of writing all of that out. But this is the number 1 reason that your licensure exam is going to be very different than your school exams, the ones you've taken in your LPN or LVN program. This test is very different. Now here's why. When you're in your LPN program, your faculty have a lot of different responsibilities.

    01:38 They put your test together but they also teach your classes, they take you to clinicals, they look at your plans, they have a lot of different responsibilities. Not so with the NCSBN.

    01:51 This is their entire focus. It provides a consistent test that evaluates each student for minimum competency and safety. So in order to enter into the practice, your professional practice as an LPN, you're going to have to pass this exam. So, each of your areas whether it's a state, a commonwealth, a territorial board of nursing, they all monitor the licenses of nurses that practice in their area of responsibility. So before I can be a nurse, before I can practice as an LPN or an LVN, I have to become licensed. Now, the rule of these legal bodies, these licensing authorities, again, whether it's in your state, your commonwealth, your territorial board of nursing is to ensure public protection. Okay, so that's the bottom line. Well, they do care about nurses and they invest in nurses.

    02:48 Their number 1 role here, State Board of Nursing, is to ensure the public protection from nurses. So, each of the jurisdiction areas whether, again, state, commonwealth, or territorial board of nursing they have a certain requirement for you to become a nurse in their state. Now in the United States, several states have become compact state so you'll need to contact directly the regulatory body that you'll be applying to to see what all the requirements are. The thing that's the same is that everyone will take the same NCLEX. The purpose of this NCLEX exam is to measure your competency that you need to be safe to practice as a licensed practical or vocational nurse. Okay, so let me back up a little bit. The reason this matters that you understand the difference in this exam is because you're going to need to prepare differently for this exam than some of the strategies you used in your nursing program. So, NCSBN or the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, they are the overseers of the NCLEX exam. Each one of us, myself included, applied to a State Board of Nursing or a Commonwealth Board of Nursing or Territorial Board of Nursing to get our license. Now the first time I applied I had to take the NCLEX, pass the exam, and then I earned my nursing license. For you, it's the same thing. We all have to graduate from an accredited program, one that's recognized by our Board of Nursing, go through the application process, there's always a background check, you pay a fair amount of money to take the test then you take the test and when you pass it you become licensed. So the overseers of the test are the National Council of the State Board of Nursing. Their role, that's to keep the public safe and provide a minimum standard of yours and mine safety and competency as a professional nurse. So, know that all that says is that we have passed the minimum standards of practice. There is still so much to learn everyday in nursing. So the NCBSN is the one who makes that licensure exam. Now there's a lot of steps to get to that your school will help you and assist you to that application process, but there are several things you're going to have to do before you're ready to actually sit for the exam.

    05:19 So, what is this NCLEX-PN? Well, you see there are 2 different types of NCLEX exams, one is for registered nurses which is considered NCLEX-RN, but what we're going to talk about today is the NCLEX-PN. That's for licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses, and let me tell you we need you in healthcare so please hang in there, I know that you can do this. So, these are the people, NCSBN, that oversee your licensure exam or your NCLEX-PN that makes the decision, your final stopover to becoming a licensed practical nurse. Now, when we talk about entry level practice analysis, you might hear some of these words turn around and wonder like "What does that mean?" Well, think if you're going to have to create an exam that measured minimum competency or safety. This is something really cool that they do. The very first step that the NCSBN does is they do what they call a practical analysis. So, what they do is they actually talk to newly licensed practical or vocational nurses and ask them "Hey, what's in your practice? How often do you do these things? What's the priority of learning?" when you're performing nursing care activities. So to me, I think that's pretty cool. The first place they start is they make sure they talk to newly licensed LPNs or LVNs to find out what their practice is actually like. See the goal of the NCSBN is to make sure that the test reflects what you're going to actually do in practice. Now, for the test that is viable until 2023, they talk to 12,000 newly licensed practical nurses.

    07:07 I think that's pretty incredible. So the report of findings from the 2018 practice analysis are what you're seeing on the 2019 test plan and that is good through 2023, the beginning of 2023. So they start with the practice analysis by talking to newly licensed practical and vocational nurses and they take a look at the nursing care activities, they take a look at how often these activities are performed, what their impact is on client's safety and the client's settings and where they do these types of activities.

    07:39 So, that's the first step for NCBSN as I talk to real nurses who are in practice everyday but are newly licensed. So they take this analysis and this is what guides them. They use it as a framework for thinking about what are the most important things for them to use on the NCLEX exam for entry level nursing practice. They want to make sure that what they're testing you on incorporates the specific client needs and what are appropriate for entry level nursing practice. So they also have the nursing processes that are fundamental to the practice of nursing. So you got the entry level practice analysis.

    08:18 The next step is they develop the NCLEX-PN test plan. Okay, are you still with me? I know, that's a lot of words but I promise you it's really important to your success that you understand how this test is put together, who puts it together so that you can understand clearly what the guidelines are to be successful. So you do the entry level practice analysis. The next step is they create a test plan. Now, everyone who takes the NCLEX, their test follows the same test plan as everyone elses. That means the same percentages of content are broken down for each candidate who takes that.

    08:58 So, I'll talk to you about the specific breakdowns in just a minute but I want you to know that the test plan is the guide and the framework. Now they think about all different kinds of variables when they put this together but that's what the test plan is.

    09:11 It's a plan that they work from to create the test. Now I want to stress again what we're going over in this video series is the 2020 NCLEX-PN test plan from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. That means that is our source document for this video series. Everything we're sharing with you is straight from the test plan from the people who are writing your test. Now, this document, this test plan became effective from April 1, 2020 and it will still be effective through March 31, 2023. Now, there are big changes coming in 2023, but we'll talk about that in another video. For now, if you are going to take your NCLEX-PN by or before March 31, 2023, this video is for you.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture What is the NCLEX-PN®? by Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN is from the course NCLEX-PN® Introduction to the Exam.

    Author of lecture What is the NCLEX-PN®?

     Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

    Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

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