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Nursing students irked by HESI score requirement

Weed Hall on South Campus is home to many classes for students in the School of Nursing. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell)

Marlon Pitter
Connector Editor

For UMass Lowell nursing students, 850 is the magic number that stands between them and their nursing degrees.

The School of Nursing implemented a more rigorous standard for its students this academic year, requiring that they score an 850 on all HESI exams to remain in the program.

The HESI exam is a standardized test used mainly to prepare students for and predict the likelihood of success on the NCLEX-RN exam required in order to become a registered nurse.

Nursing students take at least one HESI exam each semester beginning in their sophomore year, meaning that their place in the program is constantly at stake from now until graduation. Students take these computerized assessments on various subjects throughout their undergraduate nursing careers.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, basically,” junior Christina Galluccio said after scoring below an 850 on one of her HESI exams last semester. “I tried asking teachers. They didn’t know, and if they did, they were not keeping me informed. So basically, they just told me to wait, and I knew something was going to happen.”

After failing to meet the requirement, Galluccio, like others in the program, received a letter of dismissal, which she appealed in the hopes of returning to the School of Nursing. Her letter came less than two weeks before the start of the spring semester, giving her little time to prepare for this semester after being reinstated days before the semester began.

“I didn’t know at that point whether I was going to be back in the program, so I hadn’t bought my books or read the syllabus and that left me really unprepared for the start of class,” Galluccio said.

The 850 score requirement for HESI exams was determined by School of Nursing faculty, according to College of Health Sciences Dean Shortie McKinney.

“The 850 score requirement may sound high. In fact, a score of 850 is equivalent to a C. This is not an unreasonable expectation for nursing students,” McKinney wrote in a statement via email.

“The School of Nursing has obligations to both students and the public:

  1. Provide a strong foundation of nursing knowledge and advice to nursing students so they have the best chance to graduate and become a registered nurse.
  2. Protect the public by ensuring that nursing students who graduate are prepared to be competent nurses. Everyone wants to know that their nurse is knowledgeable and will provide competent care,” McKinney wrote.

While students normally have to worry about preparing for exams each semester, third-year nursing major Amanda Solari says the HESI score requirement adds additional stress to her life as a student.

“I get it, you need to get a good grade on it,” said Solari, “but at some point, you’re just adding so much stress to people’s lives that they just can’t function.”

For Solari, entire days throughout the semester are taken up to maintain her studies and good standing in the program.

“I literally do nursing from nine to five every day and then I go back to my room and just sleep,” she said. “My social life is non-existent.”

On the other hand, sophomore Sarah Nasuti says that HESI exams are important and valuable part of the nursing curriculum.

“I think it’s a great requirement for us,” Nasuti said. “It definitely is a nerve-wracking test and can seem pointless, but when I think about it, I don’t want a nurse working on me who was unable to pass this test that is based on the fundamentals of what we do. If you can’t pass that test and know what you need to do to help people, then nursing just isn’t the career for you.”

UMass Lowell nursing alum Nicole Hamel, who took 11 HESI exams as an undergraduate and passed the NCLEX-RN on her first try, said she thinks the score requirement is a benefit in the long run but a turn-off in the short-term.

“They’re trying to do whatever they can to help people in the program, but they’re scaring people, so they need to find a way to help students without scaring them out of the program,” Hamel said.

The possibility of being dismissed from the nursing program has been a daunting and surprising threat for senior Elizabeth Montiel since the change in the curriculum.

“We didn’t know that this rule was going to come up. We didn’t know that this was going to happen, so to be stopped so close to the finish line, it’s discouraging,” said Montiel. “If I get kicked out, I don’t have an appeal. I don’t have anywhere to go, and what am I gonna do with my three-and-a-half years of education?”

Looking for a compromise from the nursing program to relieve student stress, sophomore Sabrina Andrews hopes to see additional HESI practice resources provided to students in order to help them pass the exams and stay in the program.

“We should be able to get one of the HESI practice programs that you can buy online for another $200, which I’ll probably end up doing because I want to get a good grade,” Andrews said. “But if that was already presented to us, it would be really helpful.”

Administrators from the nursing program declined requests for interviews from The Connector but plan to address student concerns at the School of Nursing Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday afternoon in O’Leary Library.

Marlon Pitter is a former editor-in-chief of the UMass Lowell Connector. Hailing from Hartford, Conn., he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in journalism and professional writing and a digital media minor in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @marlonpresents.

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  1. Lhais said:

    Students who were seniors in the program were also dismissed. Most of the staff did not want to listen to any concerns or offer any advice. We have 3 1/2 years of nursing under us and thousands of dollars in debt, yet no degree. Our credits do not transfer to any other schools even some post baccalaureate programs will not accept us.

    • Devan said:

      When I graduated from high school in 2012, UMLs nursing program was among the best in this area, which is why I chose, as a NH resident, to pay more money so that I could receive my education and degree from such a prestigious program. Fortunately, the 850 on HESI was never a requirement, but a firm recommendation throughout my career in the nursing program. It was something to strive for, but not once while in the program was I told that I was striving for a C and as a student with a 3.3 GPA, I was not concerned if I scored slightly below the 850.

      After four stressful years, one HESI stood between myself and graduation. It was 30% of my final grade in my last course to be taken in UMLs nursing program and I did not have an appeal left. A lot was at stake. Having being diagnosed with high functioning depression my junior year, I took the medication I needed prior to my last exam only to arrive and find out that it would be delayed for unknown number of hours because they received the wrong exam.

      I am now a public health major at UML because my final HESI dropped my grade below the C+ requirement. Though my score (780) was higher than most of my friends in the program, I admit I did poorly on other assignments, which contributed to my lower grade avg. Nevertheless, after 4 full years, 8 semesters, a full practicum pf 120 hours, 11 HESIs, and 100,000 dollars later, I was dismissed from the program two days before my pinning ceremony, four from commencement.

      My life didn’t go as planned and that’s okay. Because I won’t stop until I get those two letters behind my last name, Devan Lyman, RN.

    • Gretel said:

      You affected students really need to go to the “real” papers & TV stations with this story. This is not right, that you cannot transfer anywhere after all this time & hard work.

    • Nyankiir said:

      This is true. I was kick out in senior year and was not even allow to finish the semester by a clinical instructor who doesn’t care to help or show anything at the clinical. what is the point of having a instructor who doesn’t care about students success. Uml not is supporting nursing school at all. At that point the stress was out my control when seeing one subject messing up my achievements of three years and half.any nursing student in situation are left with so many credits and debts without degree. you can’t even transfer those credits to any nursing school or use them in anything.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Luckily, I graduated right before this 850 rule went into play. Previously, we only were required to get an 850 on the acute care HESI before our last semester senior year. My overall average for HESI was probably around 600-650 and I passed my NCLEX exam first try. No matter how hard I studied, I was not successful on most of the HESI’s and had that rule been in place during my time at UML, I would not currently be a registered nurse. While I understand their reasoning for the requirement, I think it is unfair to implement such a change for students 3/4 of the way through the program. Changes like this should be required as freshmen entering the program so they know what to expect. I think more effort from faculty should be put into helping students prepare for the HESI rather than tearing them down, and more concern should be placed on the actual student’s success, not what makes UML look better with a higher NCLEX passing rate. WHICH, I reiterate, IT IS POSSIBLE to pass the NCLEX first try without getting 850’s on your HESI.

  3. Geoffrey Gosselin said:

    I can see both sides of this situation. As a student of another rigorous health science here at UML, I empathize for students with ever-climbing expectations, and feel badly that there does not sound to be too much support/guidance from faculty with the change, especially students about to finish, where it seems such a monumental change should be implemented at a lower level, so that in one or two years’ time is the norm, rather than a sweeping change that causes loss of students across the board.

    That being said, higher expectations in healthcare-related fields should not be considered out of the blue. More is expected of us each day in class so that we can assure our patients another day. It may have been just a rumor through word-of-mouth, but I had heard that the Nursing program had been struggling recently with graduates not passing the N-CLEX? If that is the case, it is understandable that additional examinations would be wanted, though it strikes me as a problem from both sides, student and faculty, where the exams really only test students.

  4. Brenda Lomanno said:

    These exams are being administered at points in one’s education that are too late. At this late point in their education, If grades (GPA) in the program are where they need to be then why the extra stress associated with taking a high stakes test? You are dismissing seniors, robbing them of their careers and stealing their money. Where’s the teacher accountability? How do you know your students are being taught to the test?

  5. Mikayla MacIntyre said:

    What about implementing the system as such of all of the other collegiate nursing programs with fantastic passing rates? They do not kick their students out of the program for failure to achieve an 850 HESI score, but rather make them keep taking the test over and over again and do not let them move on until it is completed to their specifications. In order for a nursing student to take the NCLEX, the school has to give them permission to do so, so why instead of causing such turmoil of the student body, they be more particular with their permission numbers and not hand them out to those who they don’t believe will pass the NCLEX? There are a variety of solutions to this problem that don’t involve putting this kind of stress on aspiring nurses and their education.

  6. Anonymous said:

    I thankfully graduated UMass Lowell prior to this new rule being placed. I did not get anywhere close to an 850 on my HESI, but I passed my NCLEX on the first attempt with the minimum amount of questions. I also secured a job BEFORE even passing the NCLEX. If UML is so focused on “world ready” students, then stop dismissing them from the program based on this exam!! I can guarantee that the best nurses out there aren’t good test takers. Real life isn’t about multiple choice!!! It’s about critical thinking and applying evidenced based practice.

    I can say for my fours years of nursing school I had no social life. Between classes, clinical, homework and a job to pay for college (and put on my resume!!) I was the most stressed out I’ve been in my life. Adding more pressure to these nursing students is dangerous for their mental health. UML, please rethink your policies.

  7. Anonymous said:

    There is nothing more accurate than what Solari said. These standards put too much stress on students, to the fact that they can barley function. All of our courses require a minimum grade. Isn’t that a big enough stress? I understand the 850 score and why it is essential to our career in nursing AND passing the NCLEX. Howerver, a student SHOULD NOT be kicked out of the program for not passing. What about all the time and most of all money that they put into their time at UMass Lowell. These professors have no comparison or mere care for their students… we are all learning. Yes we make nistwakes along the way, yes we may not always get an 100, but that doesn’t mean we deserve to be removed from the program. This rule is absoueltly outrageous and the fact that students have so much pressure while taking it is enough to make someone not do well in the first place! We should be allowed to take it again for a second try. Not to mention, our professors DO NOT prepare us for these exams. As a sophomore right now in INP, I am not confident in taking the HESI at the end of the semester. My professors have barley mentioned the exam. All we have done is case studies in class. We haven’t done any practice questions or anything to prepare us. If UML wants to have such high standards for the HESI and is willing to quick people out for not scoring the 850 then they might as well prepare us for it correctly!!!!!!!!!

  8. Anonymous said:

    It seems to me that UML is more concerned with being able to say they have a certain percentage pass rate on the boards than they are in educating and helping these students achieve their dreams of becoming nurses!!!! Not everyone tests well the first time around!!! Families are sacrificing a great deal to send their kids to college to have some teachers tell them that even though they have worked hard and have a 4.0 GPA senior year, they are being dismissed from the program because they got a 840 instead of an 850! This is wrong and an outrage!!! The reputation of UML nursing program is going to be tarnished and will drive future students to other schools.

  9. Recent Graduate said:

    While this article attempts to share both sides, it fails to mention that teachers do not make the standardized HESI exams and that a large portion of the junior nursing class was put on academic probation after the poor HESI scores from last semester. Also, we are currently the only nursing school in the area with this extreme requirement. (For comparison: according to a co-worker at UMass Boston, the HESI exam only counts for 5% of their final grade). I am speaking as a recent graduate who averaged in the 700’s on her HESI exams yet passed the NCLEX in 75 questions with ease.

    While I did score high in classes like Acute Care and Pharmacology, I struggled to get get above an 850 for classes like Maternity and Pediatrics. The problem with the junior year HESI exams is that they are extremely specialized and can penalize potential nurses for “failing” a single test in a specialty which they will never practice as an RN. Most of us aren’t taking care of a neonate after our clinical rotations are completed. This is why the NCLEX itself focuses more on safety of the patient rather than speciality specifics.

    The junior year specialized HESI exams do not test on “fundamentals of what we do” and test questions are often extremely specific to the point where even teachers don’t know what the question is asking. Ask the sophomores how they feel about this rule next year when they take two or three HESI exams in the same week. It doesn’t make sense to penalize a student on the Dean’s list that received an 845 on their HESI yet maintained an A- average in the class and may encounter no more than a total of 4 questions on that material on their NCLEX. (This isn’t a hypothetical point, strong students with great grades and clinical performances are currently on academic probation after just missing the 850 mark last semester.)

    I am very thankful that the rule was only set during my Acute Care rotation senior year and wish the best of luck to all current students stuck in the program with no where else to take their credits. Please don’t give up or be discouraged, you can get that RN.

  10. Wow! said:

    WHO in their right mind would send their kid here, knowing they might get kicked out Junior year if they can’t pass ONE test? If so many smart kids are failing, it’s the instructors fault, NOT the kids. What tools are you giving them to help them with this requirement?
    Whoever thought up this “Plan” & implemented it should be fired.This is going to ruin your nursing programs reputation, just fyi.

  11. Wow! said:

    Who would would want to send their child to UML for Nursing if they find out they have a chance of being kicked out Jr or Sr year over ONE test? You really need to re-think this.

  12. Anonymous said:

    I also graduated before this rule took place. I can say that the stakes were still high for my graduating class and the push to do well aka an 850 or better was high. The added stress and pressure of this made my last semester at school miserable. I felt that our curriculum did not anywhere near prepare us for these tests. I personally was never the best at them but still passed my boards on the first try and am currently working as an RN. I have never felt more of a lack of support than I did when I graduated. Instead of being encouraged to do well, I felt as though I kept being told I would never succeed.

  13. Anonymous said:

    I feel that the School of Nursing is falling into an even bigger hole as opposed to instilling a nurturing environment for their students to grow in. Just like the PSAT’s come the HESI’s. However the only difference between the two is that you can take the PSAT’s multiple times while the HESI seems to only be a one shot deal in seeing how well you gauge NCLEX-RN styled questions. Yes, the NCLEX-RN is the end goal of the curriculum to create competent nurses that are able to rationalize cases and critically think about the best solution using “best practice” and “evidence-based methods.” I can completely understand that the stress of nursing school does not even correlate to the amount that a Medical-Surgical Nurse releases daily. But something needs to change

    With the sudden drop in the NCLEX pass rate, it seems clear now that the nursing faculty is out to sift though and find the “cream of the crop” or saying that they have to take the NCLEX-PN test instead. That should not be the case. Instead of group learing taking place, you have more students competing against each other for scaled grades or more face-to-face interaction with instructors.

    It is vital that the faculty instills a peer mentoring program to ensure that undergraduate students have a guiding hand through didactic and clinical courses. Peer-mentoring helps students to understand different topics that are needed of their courses by being coached through the struggles of nursing school with an upper-class nursing major by their side. IT also creates cooperative learning so underclassman can be valued as person through their conceptual knowledge, while upperclassman can reflect on the well needed basic nursing knowledge that are crucial to any skill that is tested upon in clinical rotations.

    Lastly, as compared to many other programs, the admissions for them are low to make sure that the students that are in the program stay in the program. Real learning is met through a critical-thinking approach that makes students feel valued. Stop trying to blindly read HESI outcomes and consider them to be the only way that you can pass the NCLEX-RN. After all most nursing exams that are taken in nursing school already match the basic format of NCLEX style questions. Focus more on the students and less on the the pass rate. Because no one can reverse the pass rate since it is a legal document that can be viewed by the public, but you can reverse the curriculum.

  14. Anonymous said:

    I left UMass Lowell due to being dismissed from the program. I had a 3.377 GPA and was forced to leave because of one test that I didn’t even score badly on. All of my hard work for years down the drain including all the money I’ve spent on tuition/room and board. The only reason UMass Lowell is doing this is because their NCLEX pass rate has been terrible, which is ultimately their fault. The HESI is not a predictor of success. UMass Lowell does not care about their nursing students. I make sure to tell any prospective nursing students NOT to go here.

  15. Anonymous said:

    The HESI requirement was totally uncalled for by the School of Nursing. I was unfortunately dismissed out of the program due to not getting an 850 on the Acute Care HESI with only 1 semester left of school. The faculty shows no remorse for students when you meet them. I was only 10 points away from the 850, but the director didn’t care and I had a B+ in the class. I tried transferring to other schools, but guess what they won’t take your credits. UML is the only school in Massachusetts that require an 850 on the exam. UMass Dartmouth and UMass Amherst doesn’t have that requirement and their NCLEX passing rates are way better than UML. Maybe they should talk to those schools to see what they’re doing right to better prepare students if they’re afraid of having low NCLEX passing rates. The School of Nursing shouldn’t punish their students and like others have mentioned it’s possible to pass the NCLEX on the first try. I have a sister who will be graduating high school soon and my parents are not sending her here for nursing school nor are my friends and relatives.

    • Kim said:

      Try Endicott! Great program, very supportive and helpful instructors. My daughter is thriving and couldn’t be happier. Don’t give up! UML failed you, you did not fail! Don’t forget that!

  16. fbkdjbfksbv kgfbfkmgbk said:

    UML please rethink your testing policies for the school of nursing! This is absurd!

  17. Jane said:

    I appreciate all of the thoughtful comments.
    One side of the equation that is missing is what is the nursing program faculty doing to evaluate the curriculum and to make changes to address the low HESI scores. Seems like it should have a 2 pronged approach…student accountability and faculty accountability .
    Where is the support for these high achieving students?

  18. Jodi Wolfe said:

    My daughter is a casualty of this change in policy by UML. The change is a desperate attempt by UML to rescue its failing nursing program. These are the first-time pass rate percentages by UML on the NCLEX for the past 5 years: 2015 – 63% (the lowest of any Baccalaureate program in Massachusetts); 2014 – 70%; 2013 – 89%; 2012 – 90%; 2011 – 86%. The 2016 NCLEX scores have not yet been posted, but I think it’s a safe bet that UML’s score will be abysmal. So, one must ask, what has changed at UML that would explain these plummeting scores? I’m sure there is no one answer to this question. But, one reason is obvious: class size. In 2011, only 70 students took the NCLEX. Class sizes have steadily increased over the past 5 years while NCLEX scores have dropped just as steadily. Coincidence? I think not. UML is accepting more and more students into the program for revenue reasons. It’s all about money. They know many students will be weeded out during the first couple of years and their hope is that they change majors and remain in the school. $$$ But, to still be weeding out in senior year? It is appalling that any university would be dismissing students with good GPA’s halfway or further during their senior year. You would be hard pressed to find another nursing program that conducts itself this way. Other programs I have spoken with were horrified and I found one common thread that ran through each conversation I had: “The HESI isn’t a predictor of success on the NCLEX.”

    The nursing class of 2017 was made into guinea pigs by a school with no regard for its students or its program. Unfortunately, my daughter was collateral damage. This policy change should have been grandfathered in for the freshman class. Yes, I am aware that the school has the right to change policy at any time. But, that doesn’t make it right or fair. Is it right that I contacted the Dean of the School of Nursing, the Dean of the College of Health Sciences, the Chancellor of UML, and the President of the University of Massachusetts and wasn’t extended the courtesy of a phone call or email in return? My daughter was dismissed from the program in her senior year just 12 credits shy of graduation with a GPA of 3.377. Is that right? Is it right on any level that a group of students were caught cheating on an exam during junior year and they are still in the program, but my daughter has been dismissed due to an arbitrary change in the rules? How does the school reconcile that morally and ethically?

    We have moved on from this and are waiting to hear where my daughter will be continuing her education. She will succeed in spite of UML and will be stronger for it.

  19. lauras4 said:

    U-Mass Lowells Nursing Program is severely lacking morals and ethics!!

    Because of their low pass rate (2nd lowest) on the NCLEX Nursing Boards, UMASS Lowell instituted these brand new Hesi Rules into their program in an attempt to bring up their passing rate and standard at the students expense.

    UMASS Lowell is dismissing Nursing students with high GPA’S and Deans List Students, Excellent Clinical Rotations, and excellent course work all because of not passing a HESI Exam with a score of 850. It doesn’t matter if your a Senior Nursing student with just one semester or 2 classes left. If you don’t pass your dismissed. UMASS Lowell is not taking any responsibility or accountability in the Student Passing the Hesi.

    The HESI is just a tool to indicate where a student may be lacking. It should not be used to dismiss hardworking, devoted, capable nursing students.

    Other nursing programs do not recommend this form of discipline. They also offer remediation and multiple attempts at taking the HESI Exam until you pass.

    The University of UMASS Lowell and their Nursing Program is clearly not a wise choice for any potential nursing student going forward. There are so many other university’s for our future nurses to be educated with accountability and reason that do not have this harsh dismissal policy.

    Our hope is that all current enrolled UMASS Lowell Nursing Students will pass these newly implemented HESI requirements.

  20. Anonymous said:

    850 is a typical score at most schools to be apart of the program, I can see how people would be upset but they’re not asking for much, they want the program to be on a high level. According to this article, the HESI guideline score sheet even says they recommend at least a 900 although an 850 is acceptable. If you’re scoring lower you’re on the far lower end of the spectrum vs the national average.

    • Marilyn T Hudson said:

      That is so true I went through nursing school we had hesi and ATI you had to level 2 with ATI and pass hesi with a 900. i made an 1106 on the hesi, and made level 2 or 3 on all ati test. I dont understand what the complaining is about when 850 is the low end of passing

      • said:

        Good for you Marilyn.
        And if you had failed would have been booted out? With no where to go, since no one will take the credits from UML. After three or four years & many, many thousands of dollars?
        The university & it’s faculty need to support these very smart students. To even get in you have to be the top of your class. I’m not against testing, but they need to come up with a better plan than throwing smart, hardworking kids out on the street. How can the Professors even sleep at night? I’m a wreck about my freshman there & regretting our choice of UML now. So is she.

        • Kathleen said:

          I think the focus here should be on how to make the students better and how to help them achieve this new requirement. Every semester I had to pass several ATIs along with my finals to move on. We also had do or die med calc exams (100% or repeat semester). HESI was added the last semester and the 850 was required to graduate. Some did not graduate and had to repeat the semester. HESI is now replacing ATI in our program and it seems that this is the progression. Stop complaining and figure it out, this will also be required as a nurse. Not many people to whine to when the job gets hard or the patients get difficult, you’ve just got to figure it out. I’ve graduated and passed NCLEX and also landed a Boston Hospital job, and yes I had to take the dreaded HESI with a 850 requirement. You can do this too.

        • Marilyn Hudson said:

          Thank you and yes if I failed I would have been booted out but I didn’t. Unfortunately that’s just how it goes sometimes. I started with a class of 230 and only 15 graduated from my class not many at all. There were regular class test every week along with ATI and Hesi exams. Hesi was 30% of our final grade as it gives you a composite score and a another score I can’t remember. Many people failed, some passed and had to sit out a semester, some left and some failed. I understand your gripe bit all I can say is prepare the best you can. No one wants to fail I totally understand. I went into every test I ever took in nursing school with diahrea due to the stress of failing.

  21. Kathleen said:

    At the risk of upsetting many here, I completed the UMB nursing degree in Dec 2016. I worked, maintained a family, and received good grades in all classes. It wasn’t easy, and many times I thought I couldn’t go on one more day. You can’t rely on your professors to spoon feed you everything you need to know. Go out and get a HESI prep book. Do every HESI/NCLEX question you can get your hands on. Read, ask questions, learn medications, go beyond what your required to know for the exam. When, you ask? In every available second. You’re going to be a nurse. You’re going to have human lives in your hands. 850 isn’t that high of a bar to reach. I agree that throwing it in at the end isn’t fair. But what are your options? Just do it. If you want to rock HESI get the Green HESI book, get the Lacharity book (priortization, delegation) do all questions and look up the questions you got wrong and learn why you got them wrong. And then do more questions. Don’t tell me you can’t do it..I did it with kids, work, and a full load nursing program.

    • Anonymous said:

      Kathleen, UMB policies are totally different from UML. Though both are University of Massachusetts, they are separate entities and have completely different HESI requirements.

    • Anonymous said:

      Kathleen, did you have to take three HESIs and two finals at the end of a single semester WITH the threat of being kicked out of a program for getting below an 850? I did and I succeeded but was nauseated day in and day out that my three years of hardwork and passion may come to a screeching halt due to performing poorly on one standardized exam. My friends and I could barely sleep, eat, or function. I would wake up at 2:00 am searching for my phone to get another 20 practice questions in. That type of stress is not healthy as you would know. And then to know that I will have to do that again for three more semesters.

  22. Anonymous said:

    Marilyn, you may be missing the point that these students have multiple HESIs to take at the end of each semester in addition to other classes finals. I graduated with a 3.9 gpa and if this rule was instilled when I was a junior when I had to take the pharm, gero, and psych HESIs I would have failed, although I have gotten 1000+ on most of my exams, due to one lower score. An 850 is not on the low end of passing. Depending on the exam difficulty an 850 may convert to greater than 85%.

  23. CHEATING said:

    Cheaters are in the program still and haven’t been removed, but good students with morals who have done everything correctly are kicked out. Please look into the group of students cheating on a psychology exam and were kept in the program. The nursing profession is supposed to be based on ethics and morals?? This school has none! I’m reporting this school and they should not have received accreditation.

  24. Anonymous said:

    Marilyn your comment about having to obtain a 900 on a Hesi is acceptable when your talking about one exit Hesi exam. UMass Lowell is requiring an 850 Hesi per course and semester. I am sure for your 900 Hesi exit exam you were offered multiple attempts and online reviews????

    • Marilyn T Hudson said:

      No dear therw where several hesi exams we had to take so the complaining i dont want to hear just go and do your best and let that be it. I dont agree with the failling and putting the students out, i do find that ridiculous.

      • Anonymous said:

        Marilyn, Thank you for clearing up there were several Hesi Exams. Where did you go to Nursing School? I’m sure your entire nursing degree and tuition and career was never placed on the line! UMass Lowell instead of taking accountability and offering remediation they dismiss capable, compassionate hardworking nursing students after a vigorous college curriculum and being completely dedicated! The same dedication by UMass Lowell is not there for their students. They don’t care anything about the student as a whole such as how well they did in their courses or clinicals. And they offer no help or support to help you pass. I’m sure your semester 900 Hesi was a recommendation and not grounds for dismissal if you didn’t achieve. Big difference.

  25. More than "irked" said:

    I would like to clarify for those that don’t know, it seems many people outside of the nursing program think we take ONE HESI and need an 850. We take about 11 HESIs throughout the program. 850 may be the recommended score as far as HESI guidelines but an 850 is not a set C. It can be anywhere from a 78-84 depending on the test. It is not a direct conversion. Faculty is trying to say that the HESI is preparation for the NCLEX when they are in my opinion not similar at all. There are other resources that I found prepared me for the NCLEX far better than HESI ever did. I was continuously unsuccessful on the HESIs yet passed the NCLEX on my first try. If it is suppose to be a preparation tool, then why should we be penalized for something that is suppose to help us? It is hard for people outside of the program to comment on the situation when they haven’t lived it and this situation extends far beyond a HESI score. The program has continued to make stressful changes every single semester on what is already a rigorous program to the point where some of the faculty don’t even know what’s going on. It has taken students months in the past to get clarification on different changes. This HESI score situation is just the tip of the iceberg to all of the problems and unfortunately UML nursing is not the same program I thought I had joined my freshmen year. Instead of being encouraged to succeed, I was constantly made to feel inadequate by certain faculty who cared more about a statistic than their students.

  26. Jennifer Thurston said:

    My daughter was a junior and was kicked out for not achieving the required 850. She is now trying to transfer to another school to complete her nursing degree. Because UML waited until the very last minute to send out dismissal letters she will be a full semester behind, if not more depending on what credits she can transfer. If UML wanted to implement a new policy it should have taken affect for incoming freshman, not for students who were already 2-3 years into the program. In addition, if you’re implementing this policy because of low NCLEX passing rates, perhaps UML nursing should be looking at their curriculum and those teaching, not penalizing students. The fact that no one from the program would comment does not surprise me, I sent an email to all of those involved, including Marty Meehan, and never received a reply. Will never recommend this program to anyone looking to go into nursing.

    • Gretel said:

      Why did you not go the media? Help me Hank! Hello Boston Globe? Then I’d hire a lawyer to write Mr. Meehan. Your story is heartbreaking, I’m sorry for your daughter.

  27. Anonymous said:

    I graduated from UML back in 2005, when our class were the guinea pigs of change as well. Not strictly based on HESI, but we were required to pass HESI as well and passing that test really means nothing when it comes to NCLEX… I passed HESI and failed my NCLEX.

    Take a look at passing rates for NCLEX exam by associate prepared nurses – the numbers are astounding and the numbers are embarrassing compared to bachelorette prepared nurses. Why is that? How can the majority of a class, who are in school for TWO years less, take the same exact exam and pass with flying colors?

    UML’S program has been suffering for YEARS!! It has all just been swept under the rug and what it comes down to is leadership. The NCLEX passing rate, for this four year school in particular should certainly turn heads and raise red flags.

  28. Anonymous said:

    I have spoken to 10 or so nursing graduates of the past 3 years and they all passed their boards and non got an 850 or above on all of their HESI tests. UML has a higher GPA than most for the program….. this should not make or break a students career. PLUS…ALL the money in loans that families have!!!!

    Where is the empathy…UML professors are treating the students like robots with no feelings. Show these kids that you believe in them!!!! So far you’re only showing that they’re important if they get the right score… educators are supposed to be supporters and mentors.

    Please change this back:(

  29. Wow said:

    Most of you haven’t even heard about the cheating scandal where girls who are in the now junior class looked up answers on a psychology test. They should be seniors now, but umass Lowell just decided to keep them in the program instead of dismissing them. This makes the issue of the HESI even worse for me.

  30. Anonymous said:

    I myself was kicked out as a first semester senior for not getting an 850. But I was not far off I had gotten an 837 which which converted to an 80 and did well in the class and had a A- at the time of the HESI. So I got kicked out for technically passing but just not passing with what’s good enough for them! It’s like our grades don’t even matter at this point because all they care about it once test. But we can’t let our grades go down because even if you get above an 850 but your class average is less than a 77 you’re still dismissed from the program!!! As students though there is no support. When I went distraught to head facility after failing they looked at me and said “ahhh well at least you haven’t used you’re appeal before or we would be saying bye bye” in a sarcastic tone, I was baffled. I am graduating in May now (who knows with this program though) and I will be running out the doors so quick. I will not and have already not recommended this program to future students unless they want to be set up with stress, probable failure, and potential of having to transfer wasting thousands of dollars more. this is basically a two tries and you’re out program. As seniors we try to advocate for the juniors and sophomores because this is unfair. Their class sizes have been cut in almost half. Out of that half some may been kicked out for good or kicked out and forced to use their appeal first semester of junior year. They still have three more semesters. If you look at some of our combined HESI scores for pedi/mat and gero/psych a lot of us didn’t average above an 850 on them and would have been dismissed. they are so specific and difficult (THE NCLEX IS GENERALIZED) but here we are passing acute care/ exit hesis with the end in site. Friends I have from the winter session are passing their boards on the first try!! Great RNs that UML would have kicked out cause they didn’t average an 850 on theirs junior year. HESI IS NOT A GOOD PREDICTOR OF NCLEX SUCCESS. Good thing you didn’t kick them out uml? But that’s what their doing to juniors who have the potential to be great nurses. Talk about a program that makes students feel like they are never good enough. Because how I’ve felt since junior year.

  31. Anonymous said:

    I just researched other school policies and here they are:
    No mention at all of HESI in the nursing handbooks at :BC, UNH, St. Anselm, UMass-Amherst, and MCPHS. Only UMass Dartmouth talked about the HESI as being a % of their grade.

    Also – I went back to graduate school as an adult with a family and working and it is very different Kathleen. I appreciate your comment but we have a lot more life experience and coping skills than these 18 and 19 year olds and you will understand when your little ones get there:)

    • Lauren said:

      I went to Fitchburg State (graduated in 2013 so not sure if this is still accurate) but the first HESI we took was 1st semester sophomore year and was only 5% of our grade, and thank god for this because I did absolutely horrible on it (think I got around a 650). After that the psych/peds/mat/medsurgII was 10% each. They recommend getting over 850 but don’t end your career over it. The only one we had to pass was the exit HESI before we could sit for our boards, which we had multiple attempts to do so it wasn’t an end all be all. The hesi tests are very different from what you’re tested on in class and a lot of the questions try to trick you with wording. It takes a while to get used to this style of questions and how to study for it. It’s a lot more practice questions than material that I had to focus on to understand how they could twist a seemingly correct answer to not be the “most correct answer”. My scores increased each time I took it, but a lot of it also was how the teacher helped prepare you. I barely studied for my maternity one and got an 1140, but studied for hours for my medsurg one and got just above an 850. It’s crazy that they were able to change this policy out of the blue and put so much added stress over a test. If so many students are doing poorly then the professors examined more closely for how they can help better prepare their students. What UML is really doing is trying to pad their NCLEX stats for first time passer ratings. The less students taking it, the better chance at a higher passing percentage. It’s really messed up that they care more about this than the thousands of dollars invested by students and their future careers going up in flames

  32. The Great Cornholio said:

    Eyyy does anyone stop to ask WHY NCLEX passing rates were so low for years? Or why the nurses who are PAYING CUSTOMERS have to study from 9-5 all day every day?

    Because the University wants you to fail. I heard that UML nursing students have no control over their academic progression: they can’t, say, take a semester to spend on all of their chemistry courses (lets say this is a challenging area for them), and take their other required courses over the summer, or during the next year. Or better yet, take as much time as they want with a curriculum as demanding as nursing’s in any way they want. There is no freedom or wiggle room with how they recieve their education.

    Again: THEY ARE PAYING CUSTOMERS THAT DON’T GET REIMBURSED FOR FAILING! And are put in positions to fail. The class sizes are extraordinarily large, so students get little individual help, and the professors learning styles are streamlined and suffers as a result. It is normal for students to take 7 courses in one semester.

    Who can learn ANYTHING effectively when you have to worry about learning 6 other intensive subjects. It makes no sense. NCLEX scores are low because UML doesn’t know what its doing, and it blames its own customers for its mistakes.



  33. Anonymous said:

    START CONTACTING YOUR STATE REPS……just spoke to a political friend who said if enough people start contacting then something might be looked into across that Mass state universities…..can they do this independently or is it supposed to be universal….It can’t hurt to make phone calls…start calling and pass it on to the students and families…we can make a difference for our kids who have been let go from the program.

    • Anonymous said:

      That sounds like a good idea! I will start contacting my state reps and hopefully they do something about! I was kicked out of the nursing program my first semester of senior year and have been trying to find other schools to transfer into with no luck. I am currently in Public Health and have a field trip to the state house for Advocacy Day next Wednesday and I WILL talk about the HESI to my state rep. Rady Mom about it. The School of Nursing held a meeting yesterday and it seems to me that they are not going to change the HESI policy.

  34. Anonymous said:

    A new HESI policy like this can affect someone’s decision on entering the program or not. I did not attend the program to have a new policy dropped on me in my senior year. If they wanted to apply this policy, they should have applied it to incoming students, and not current students. Students have to worry about passing their classes and the HESI now. This adds additional stress to their lives when already they are stressful enough. Before, the HESI was just part of a student’s final grade so students still had to worry about doing well on the HESI. The main reason they implemented the policy was because of the poor passing rates. I know people who have graduated from the program who don’t even recommended the program to others now. Having a certain HESI score does not define if you will be a good nurse or not. There are many graduates from this program and other programs who did not have an 850 or higher on every HESI that passed their NCLEX on the first try.

  35. Anonymous said:

    I find it funny how the only student in here that agrees with the HESI hasn’t even been held to the 850 rule yet. The nerve on her to say that students who don’t pass the HESI should reconsider nursing is kind of hilarious.

  36. Anonymous said:

    I cant believe the nursing faculty has the nerve to say that their first year nursing seminar prepares students for academic success, when in actually it’s producing students that are looking at the intrinsic motivation of seeing how much the nursing salaries are for MSN APRN’s. The syllabus is structured to provide foundation test-taking skills to help with student success by discussing them. But what the faculty is failing to see or yet to cover up is that instead of engaging in test-taking discussions we are instead formatting APA papers to help us for graduate school level. Like that should be the focus. The nursing faculty has to be accountable for the fact that they are being to defensive in student responses thinking that we are just fluffing instructor evaluations when in actuality instructors are not following the syllabus. As a result, this creates a tension between nursing faculty and students as now the nursing administrators believe that the students are wrong and not the faculty. Some form of consultation with other SON’s needs to take place in order to prevent this program from falling. Ignorance is the absence of inter-school consultation.

  37. Anonymous said:

    I am disturbed and disheartened over what I have heard and read about this catastrophe caused by UML’s Nursing Program. It sounds like an arbitrary decision was made to implement a very unfair process without proper planning, preparation or provision of a proper education and required resources. UML needs to quickly reverse this injustice and at the very least provide another opportunity to students to retake the tests.

  38. Anonymous said:

    This STUPID school should be reported and prosecuted… they’re committing crimes to people’s careers, I think all the students that got kicked out of the program for absurd reasons and with high GPA should put a petition together to the department of education…these people need to stop ruining people’s lives like that…they need to be sanctioned, and the students they kicked out in Junior or Senior year with high GPA should be reinstated into the school/program without any retaliatory behaviors against them..this is ridiculous and those school administrators and faculty members should be ashamed of themselves for treating/using their students that way!! HORRIBLE!!

  39. Anonymous said:

    Hmmmm how about giving all the dismissed students since 2015 a refund? Of course, this will never ever happen, but I am trying to point out that the faculty at UML Nursing is so busy applying blame to their students that they forget that THEIR STUDENTS ARE LITERALLY THEIR CUSTOMERS AND PUT MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS! So it’s the students fault they they got kicked out, because obviously their high GPA’s and great performances at clinicals says nothing about their abilities as a nurse.

    UML, I pose this to you: If your students aren’t good enough for you (and the way they treat them seems to indicate this), then their money shouldn’t be good enough for you either: GIVE THEM A REFUND

  40. Kim Terry said:

    I think a class action lawsuit is appropriate here. What UML School of Nursing is doing to students 3 years into their successful completion of the program, changing the rules, providing NO supports, and employing a particular professor of pharmacology who seems to take great pride in seeing students dismissed from the program, even going so far as to tweet about it, is utterly deplorable. I am happy to see students and parents standing up, voicing outrage and concern. My daughter was dismissed from the program for the same reason already repeatedly cited. She was dismissed for less than 1%. She got nowhere with the dean, professors, etc. I wrote to the professor and Marty Meehan but got no response. Maybe with all of these voices shouting to be heard, they will have to listen. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. Unlike many of these dismissed students, my daughter was quickly accepted into a far better program, almost all of her credits were taken, and she is thriving with a 3.8 GPA. YOU WILL LAND ON YOUR FEET. DO NOT STOP FIGHTING FOR YOUR DREAM. DO NOT LET UML TAKE THAT AWAY FROM YOU. You did not fail. UML is failing its nursing students!

  41. Distraught Parent said:

    We committed to a $100,000+ education, which we considered to be a good value proposition, for an excellent nursing program at the highly accredited UML. Now in our child’s 3rd year, we regret the choice of schools.
    UML has put a higher value on their NCLEX pass rate than that of their students’ education and well being.
    To institute such a HESI policy midstream into the program whereby a student is dismissed from the program for failing to meet the score of 850 on every individual/specialized course exam is a travesty.
    History has proven that HESI’s are not good indicators of students’ ability to pass the NCLEX or be good nurses.
    UML should right this wrong by immediately repealling the HESI policy, providing the necessary tools and appropriate education to pass, and allowing students to retake the tests.

  42. Anonymous said:

    Just highlight the whole article and comments – paste into a word document – email or mail to your state rep!!!!

    • Gretel said:

      I did send it to my state rep. Here is the reply-
      My office spoke with the Assistant Dean of the Nursing Program at the University, and this is not a cut and dry situation. If a student has never been on academic probation, they can work with the student in the event that the score of 850 is not obtained, however if the student has been placed on academic probation at anytime during his or her time in the program and does not meet the score required of 850 they will be dismissed.
      Still don’t think they should be dismissing Jr & Sr students, especially since this is a NEW rule & the kids in the program should be grandfathered in. Make them do a remedial course or something to help them pass, don’t dismiss them!
      I also know at least 2 people who have scratched the UML nursing program off the list for their high school kids since I sent them this article. Why risk it when other programs around don’t have this crazy rule.

  43. Gretel said:

    THANK YOU to the Nursing Dept Administration who “saw the light” and REPEALED this rule today! I hope any & all students already “dismissed” are welcomed back without prejudice. You did the right thing, these are smart kids who just want to help people.
    Thank you to Marlon for writing this article & bringing attention to HESI.

    • Marlon Pitter said:

      Hi Gretel,

      Thank you to you and everyone else who has commented on this article. Can you provide a source or documentation of this policy being repealed? My email address is Marlon_Pitter [at]


  44. Outraged Mom said:

    Yes, documentation please! We would all love to see it to believe it. This entire situation was a travesty for the students studying Nursing at UML and has cast a VERY NEGATIVE light on the department, which was well deserved. If, in fact, they have repealed the requirement, that is and was the right thing to do. How are they going to remedy this for the students already dismissed and so adversely affected by their actions? They need to right their wrongs and correct this situation for so many!!!!!!

  45. Anonymous said:

    Our students learned an important lesson…..that they have a voice and if they come together and speak out, they can make change.

    I was told by my daughter who attended the meeting that the dept is going to put something in place to help the students learn more about taking the HESI and there will be no extra charge for this….it was also said that students dismissed from the program will be brought back it. I’m sure they will work with each student individually to help them get back on track. My daughter said that they seemed sincere in their apologies and willingness to help the students.

    The whole thing was a nightmare and never should have happened. I can only hope that all will move forward to help and support one another.

  46. Julie Nash said:

    Hello all. I am the vice provost for student success at UML, and I want to thank the students and parents for helping the university understand the impact of this policy change. Students have received word about the new policy and the reinstatement of dismissed students. In addition, we are reviewing curriculum and other ways we an support students both to be successful in class and on those all-important tests. I had the privilege of meeting many of these promising young men and women at last night’s forum and I told them that I have never been prouder of our Riverhawks. They have conducted themselves well and been a voice for positive change. I am also proud of our nursing faculty for listening to them and being open to their ideas. This doesn’t happen everywhere. The university cares deeply about our students and, since this issue has come to our attention, we have been working to right a wrong. After meeting these students yesterday, I am very confident that we are in good hands with the nurses of the future. If you have more concerns, please contact the nursing department. Also, my email is (Good job, Marlin, by the way!)

  47. TN said:

    Hesi policies updated today by the Dean of nursing department on March 10, 2017. what about seniors nursing students that were dismissed in the middle of the semester due to low grades in clinical that determined by clinical instructors as failing the clinical. Who on the earth fail the grade before the end of each semester if is not UML policies that are cemented on the wall. I wonder why UML could change policies for Hesi only while others students had suffer in different ways based on the policies.

  48. Graduate said:

    This rule wasn’t changed because the nursing faculty at uml “heard the students crys.” It was changed because of all the bad publicity the nursing program was getting. They wanted to save themselves. They didn’t care about the student and parent concerns, until it posed a real threat to the reputation of this nursing program. I sat in the faculties offices sharing my concerns about my future uncertain as to what was going to happen with zero remorse from the people that are supposed to motivate and prepare you for the nursing world. These people have flat out told many students they were not going to pass the NCLEX on the first try. The key word here is first try because that’s the only number that matters to them…whether you pass the NCLEX on the first try. They see their students as numbers. I should feel proud of the college I graduated from instead I’m embarrassed. I would never recommend this program to anyone unless something actually changes not just a HESI score requirement. This is not the only downfall of the program.

    • Graduate said:

      Just wanted to say I passed my NCLEX on the first try despite my low HESI scores through out nursing school. I just found out this morning. This is to all the nursing faculty that told me “based on your HESI scores you might not pass the NCLEX.” The HESI is a great tool but not what will determine your success as a nurse. Good luck to all the nursing students at UML preparing for their NCLEX!!!!!

      • Pamela Fitzgerald said:

        Congrats! Shame on your instructors for being so negative. No wonder that department is in such trouble.

  49. lauras4 said:

    I am the mother of a Senior Nursing Student who was dismissed on Jan 6, 2017. My daughter was a devoted nursing student with a 3.34 gpa and also just made the Deans list on the same day she was dismissed. She had excellent clinical performance and was doing well in the program but she did not acheive the 850 Hesi score on her “Semester ” Hesi Exam and was dismissed. The newly implemented 850 Hesi Exam requirement and dismissal caused our family tremendous pain, stress, and anxiety. We did everything possible to try to overturn their decision. We emailed, called, had a meeting with all the heads of the department, called our politicians, and even filed a complaint with the Mass. Board for Higher Education. We finally accepted that her only choice left at this point was to graduate this May with her Bachelors in Language Arts and apply to accelerated nursing programs. The cost of these accelerated programs are exceptionally high at around 75-80k.
    However, my daughter planned to achieve her life aspiration to be a nurse at any cost or burden. She was accepted at Northeastern University and planned to start their program this summer.

    My daughter heard from classmates on Wednesday Evening March 8 that UML was repealing the 850 Hesi Requirement and going to consider each student that was dismissed from the nursing program on a case by case basis. We were in complete utter shock and thought could this possibly be happening and how would this affect my daughter?

    Our world completely changed Thursday afternoon, my daughter was re-admitted to the Nursing Program. She will walk with her 2017 Nursing class and need to make-up the semester she missed in the fall. We are so relieved. We can all sleep and breathe a little better now.

    Thank you UML for correcting your wrong. Thank you for understanding the need for change and ways to improve the program not at the students expense.

    We have Let go of the dismissal and all the negativity, We are so grateful for the opportunity to be re-admitted back into the UML nursing program, and We Look Forward to the future…..

    Very Sincerely,

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