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With high passing rates, WITC grads ready to work

Alexia Birchmeier, daughter of WITC ADN instructor Becky Birchmeier, plays patient while ADN students Kelsie Turnquist ( from left), Robyn Bouchard and Rebecca Marquard check the youngster’s blood pressure. Students of WITC-Ashland’s ADN program learn to work with patients of all ages and sizes.

(9/14/10): The results of recent national certification exams prove without a doubt that Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College graduates are prepared for successful careers in the health care field. Graduates of WITC's nursing and Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) programs recently sat for national boards and exams, and an overwhelming majority passed.

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy recently reported to the college that 100 percent of the WITC students who took the exam last year passed. According to OTA Program Director Mari Jo Ulrich, in 2009, the OTA program had 19 test candidates with 100 percent pass rate on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Exam. The national average pass rate during this time was 86 percent.

"I'm very proud of the students and their efforts," Ulrich said. "This is the first step to practicing as an OTA." In the state of Wisconsin, OTAs must also seek a state license.

This is the third year in a row that Ulrich's students have had a 100 percent pass rate. Ulrich and the other program instructors strive to ensure their students' success on the exam by providing them with the knowledge and skills they'll be tested on.

"We're given a 'blue print' of the exam," she said. So they know what sort of competencies their students will be tested on during the four-hour, 200-question multiple choice exam. She said the program also models their tests after the national exam, mirroring the multiple choice critical thinking questions used by NBCOT.

The state's nursing program is also designed to give its graduates every opportunity to succeed on their national boards. The efforts have paid off — the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College pass rate for National Council Licensure Examination- Practical Nurse (NCLEXPN) was 97 percent of the 127 candidates who took the exam during the past 2 years, while the national average was 86 percent.

The WITC pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) was 92 percent of the 171 candidates who took the exam during the past two years, while the national average was 88 percent.

"As a new member of the WITC Associate Degree Nursing team, I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the program and of the students that are committed to personal success," said Becky Birchmeier, an ADN instructor for the Ashland Campus. "I believe that the success of the nursing program here at WITC is a direct reflection of the hard work put forth by administration, the academic deans, the instructors and the excellent support staff."

As in the OTA program, the nursing program instructors are given a national exam blueprint, and all of the nursing program exams are modeled after the national exam, according to Birchmeier.

"Additionally, we administer ATI exams throughout the program to prepare the students for the national exam, as well as serve to inform the students and instructor of the student's strengths and weaknesses in specific content areas," she said.

Both occupational therapy assistants and nursing professionals will be in high demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand for OTAs could grow by as much as 30 percent by 2018. While employment for LPNs and registered nurses will grow by 21 percent and 22 percent, respectively.