100% of Cecil College nursing graduates pass NCLEX


NORTH EAST, Md. – The Cecil College nursing program is one of Maryland’s most coveted nursing schools, with its graduates highly recruited in the nursing profession. For the third time in five years, 100 percent of the graduating class successfully passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to acquire their registered nursing license.

“What makes this achievement so amazing is that the Class of 2022 completed all of their courses online, with the exception of their clinicals, due to the pandemic,” said Dean of Health and Human Sciences Nancy Norman-Marzella, D.N.P. This was the first-time complete distance learning was required in the history of the program.

When the pandemic shut down the region’s colleges and universities in March 2020, the Cecil College nursing faculty and staff began brainstorming new procedures to facilitate learning for current students. In a matter of days, classes were modified, and faculty members worked hand-in-hand with the IT personnel to utilize all tools of the existing online learning environment.

“We were exploring all kinds of innovations. We created virtual simulations, recorded lectures, uploaded PowerPoint presentations, developed virtual escape room learning environments, and other interactive activities. This allowed students to go back and review the material repeatedly, as necessary, to grasp the lesson,” said Dr. Norman-Marzella.

To keep the students on track with their academic requirements during the pandemic, the nursing faculty and staff arranged to run labs non-stop from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday while following the Center for Disease Control guidelines that were in place at that time. Each lab was restricted to five students per session, with everyone wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The College’s housekeeping staff sterilized the labs between each session.

Cecil College’s nursing program has consistently been among the highest-performing schools in Maryland, with the highest pass rate in 2018, 2019, and 2022, according to the Maryland Board of Nursing.

“Community College nursing programs are critical to meeting the workforce need for nurses in Maryland. Such an outstanding pass rate indicates that Cecil College is preparing nurses to meet the challenges of today’s healthcare environment,” said Cecil College President Dr. Mary Way Bolt.

Cecil College’s nursing program pass rate was higher than the pass rate for the other 14 community colleges in Maryland and the 12 four-year universities offering a bachelor’s or pre-licensure Master of Science degree in nursing. The next closest programs were Chesapeake College, with a 95.45 percent pass rate, and Hagerstown Community College, at 90 percent. For the entire State of Maryland, the pass rate average was 82.11 percent compared to the national average of 80.82 percent, according to the Maryland Board of Nursing.

“We have a lot of support for our program at Cecil College. The Board of Trustees, Administration, faculty, and the Cecil College Foundation ensure we have the most up-to-date equipment and supplies, provide financial support for the students, and provide professional educational opportunities for our nursing faculty,” said Dr. Norman-Marzella.

Cecil College has several vital elements to its success formula. The first is the dedication of the faculty, with four of the six full-time members holding doctorate credentials. The full-time faculty include Assistant Director Dr. Roxanne Rash, Dr. Lauren Dawson, Amy Smythe, Dr. Shirley Gharbin, Mary Knarr, and Dr. Cynthia Horton. In addition, 11 adjunct instructors with advanced degrees are full-time practitioners in health care.

“Our faculty’s commitment to the program and students is a magical formula,” said Dr. Norman-Marzella. “The faculty know the curriculum and can help students because they understand the rigorous demands of the nursing program and nursing practice. They know where students traditionally are stressed, and they provide additional learning resources and extra time for topics that have proven to be more of a challenge.”

The second ingredient in this formula is the addition of a nursing student success coordinator, who performs one-on-one and small group study sessions to prepare students for exams or clinical preparation. The faculty and nursing student success coordinator works with students on test-taking techniques, stress management for nursing school, and various other proven success strategies.

The final ingredient is the curriculum, which incorporates theory and practice in each nursing course. This learning formula provides students with hands-on training and experience beginning in the first semester.

Cecil College’s nursing program is fully approved by the Maryland State Board of Nursing and nationally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Cecil College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).


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