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Health professions licensure exam pass rates set OHIO apart

Finding the best educational program is a major decision. The decision is a financial, time-consuming and emotional investment that can influence a career and future. There are many aspects to consider when weighing higher education opportunities.

When Anthony Yamnitsky was searching for a doctor of physical therapy program, he considered cost, experiential learning opportunities, curriculum offerings and a program that fosters a positive social culture among peers. To narrow down his search, Yamnitsky also considered graduates’ first-attempt licensure exam pass rates. 

Licensure exams are industry standard examinations that accreditation and licensure boards use to measure knowledge for trained individuals to enter licensed medical practice. Following graduation from Ohio University’s (OHIO) Doctor of Physical Therapy program, graduates must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to become a licensed practitioner, allowing them to seek employment as a practicing physical therapist. Assessing a program’s pass rates can be telling of the program’s quality and the preparedness of its graduates.

“When looking at a school with higher passing rates, I felt confident in that university,” Yamnitsky said. “At Ohio University, I’m confident that what I’m studying will prepare me for my ultimate licensure test – I know I’ll be prepared for this exam because all the previous cohorts have been prepared.”

At OHIO, many of the health programs within the College of Health Sciences and Professions are ranked among the highest in the state in first-time licensure exam pass rates, including the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. OHIO physical therapy graduates score considerably higher than the national average on the NPTE systems areas including cardiopulmonary, integumentary, musculoskeletal, and neuromuscular, as well as evaluation, differential diagnosis and prognosis, interventions and non-system domains content areas. For the class of 2022, the first-time pass rate was 98 percent while the national average was 85 percent.

In most academic programs, students can take the test multiple times to achieve a passing score. However, doing so is expensive. It costs $200 - $715 per attempt, depending on the exam. If a student does not pass, they cannot be licensed. That means they cannot become a practitioner in their field. 

“The longer it takes for you to pass that exam, the longer it is before you are licensed to gain employment,” Patricia Snider, associate director for Athens campus Undergraduate Nursing Programs said. “It’s important to be able to pass the first time to join the workforce as soon as possible, avoiding lost wages or spending extra money.” 

First-time pass rates were consistently higher than the national average for graduates of the bachelor's in nursing program on the Athens campus in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Snider says these rankings are a result of the program’s design. In 2021, the Athens campus  Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates had a 96.55 percent NCLEX pass rate for first-time test takers, which was best in the state among public universities.

“We have wonderful faculty who take great care in making sure we teach appropriate content from day one,” Snider said. “And from their first nursing class, students are exposed to NCLEX style questions.”

The success of the bachelor in nursing program exam rates can be attributed to curriculum that prepares students for the exam through relevant classroom learning and clinical opportunities to contextualize their studies. Students are encouraged to utilize test preparation resources provided by the program including mock examinations and test preparation courses.

Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine students are shown in a clinical lab

At the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, students sit for three board examinations through the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States. COMLEX passage is required for both licensure and graduation. 

The COMLEX exams test students in a competency domain and a clinical domain assessing the minimal level of skills one needs to be successful as a physician. Students sit for a COMLEX test in their first, second and third years of medical school and must pass each exam to proceed in the program. The Heritage College’s Pathways to Health and Wellness curriculum aligns with these domains and expands beyond them by providing a clinically integrated, learning-centered osteopathic medical education continuum for students, embracing diversity and public service to improve the health and well-being of underserved populations.

“The Pathways to Health and Wellness curriculum is designed to give students a strong foundation in biomedical sciences,” John Schriner, Ph.D., Heritage College associate dean of Admissions and Student Affairs and assistant professor of social medicine said. “And through the curriculum’s integrated nature, it’s designed for students to apply biomedical sciences to clinical applications and its impact on patient care.”

Following their clinical years, most students seek medical residencies. When reviewing applications, residency program directors consider many factors and data including an applicant’s board scores. 

“Many of these residency programs are uber-competitive. It’s imperative to have competitive board scores to be a viable candidate for these competitive programs,” Schriner said. 

The Heritage College class of 2021 had a 99 percent first-time pass rate for COMLEX Level 3, compared to the national average of 97 percent.

When looking for a health profession educational institute, both Schriner and Yamnitsky agree that it is important to consider the curriculum, how students are supported and the opportunities the program offers along with alumni data. 

“It's important to find the right fit,” Yamnitsky said. “Doctorate level classes are rigorous, but if you have faculty and peers who are in your corner, you’ll be supported.”

April 26, 2023
Holly Ittel