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Community/Public/Population Health and the Next Gen NCLEX: What’s going on?

By Regina (Gina) H. Johnson, MS, RN

Community/Public/Population Health and the Next Gen NCLEX: What’s going on? 

Regina (Gina) H. Johnson, MS, RN

Academic Journey: I entered academia nine years ago to teach community/public/population health (C/P/PH). Over the nine years, if I had recorded my journey, a recurring theme would have played over and over: “Some faculty and students do not see or understand the value of community/public/population health because it is not on NCLEX.” This statement has always left me puzzled, curious, and asking the simple question of why this would be the case. 

Solace in ACHNE: While hearing this recurring message, I joined ACHNE in the spring of 2014. I found comfort in a group of committed community/public health nursing faculty advocates advancing population health through education, research, and service. Over the past few years, ACHNE has worked on a strategic plan to move our organization forward. One of the action items was developing new partnerships. As I reflected on the recurring theme of C/P/PH not being on NCLEX and ACHNE’s need for developing new partnerships, I did what we tell our students to do, I looked upstream. 

Looking Upstream: Upstream is where laws, policies, and regulations support conditions for improving health. Naturally, faculty would look to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) if we have questions about NCLEX. NCSBN is “an independent, not-for-profit organization through which nursing regulatory bodies act and counsel together on matters of common interest and concern affecting public health, safety, and welfare, including the development of licensure examinations” ( 

It Takes a Village: Dr. Kathleen Cervasio, ACHNE Education Committee Member, connected the ACHNE Leadership team and the Education Committee with Jason Schwartz, MS, Director of Outreach at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Jason’s role is to share accurate and timely information with stakeholders regarding NCSBN examinations, services, and other offerings. Before joining NCSBN in 2019, Jason spent 10 years with Pearson VUE supporting the NCLEX and other NCSBN programs in various roles at the executive level. He has more than 25 years of experience in high-stakes testing and holds degrees in mathematics from the University of Oregon and the University of California, Berkeley. In our meetings with Jason, he listened to our concerns and helped us plan a Zoom session for faculty who specifically teach in our specialty area. 

Midstream: Midstream is where we use data to inform and guide our practice. In this case, we wanted the Zoom session to provide the data to inform faculty about the process of determining the content that is eligible for NCLEX. Then, we wanted Jason to describe how C/P/PH is presented on NCLEX NGN and consider ways C/P/PH nurses and educators can participate in NCLEX activities. To that end, on Monday, October 3, the ACHNE Education Committee hosted a Zoom session with Jason on Community/Public/Population Health and the Next Gen NCLEX: What’s going on?. Here are a few important points made during the session: NCLEX is based on current entry-level practice; some NCLEX “activity statements” address C/P/PH explicitly; whether a case study or item will be C/P/PH often comes down to the interests/expertise of the item writer (the educator). 

Downstream: Downstream is where interventions are applied with the hope of making positive change. In this case, what we would hope would occur downstream would be a more balanced NCLEX-NGN exam for testing the knowledge, skill, and competencies of future practitioners in C/P/PH. In one of Jason’s closing slides, he states, “The NCLEX Depends on You…Apply to be an Item Writer or Item Reviewer Today.” We had approximately 80 people participate in the live event and over 200 registered. If all or even half of us engaged in being an item writer or an item reviewer, perhaps the messaging might change from, “this content is not on NCLEX,” to “we need faculty with the expertise in C/P/PH because it matters to public health, the safety and the welfare of the individuals, families, and communities nurses serve.”

Stay tuned for the next Newsletter where Jason and I will do a question-and-answer session to follow-up on questions not addressed during the Zoom session.

In the meantime, here are some resources he left with the group:

If you missed the live session, you can still watch the recording.  Click here to register and view.

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