Report: Florida nursing exam passage among the lowest in America

by | Dec 16, 2022

  • A new report published by the Florida Center for Nursing shows that the state of Florida had one of the lowest nursing licensure exam passage rates in the country 
  • Just 64.7 percent of first-time testers passed the Registered Nursing exam, while only 62.5 percent passed the Practical Nursing test 
  • Of Floridians seeking an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, only 58.7 percent received a passing score
  • The low test scores, all considerably lower than the national passage rate, indicate a trend of fewer qualified individuals entering the nursing workforce 

A new report published by the Florida Center for Nursing, a statistics and analytics firm operating as part of the University of South Florida, details that nursing licensure exam passage in Florida is among the lowest in the country.

Before a nurse may obtain a license to practice, certain requirements must be met. These actions include earning a degree from a program that is recognized or authorized, fulfilling the prerequisites established by the Florida State Board of Nursing, and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

In 2021, just 64.7 percent of first-time test-takers passed the NCLEX for Registered Nurses (RN), 17.6 percent lower than the national rate and a decrease of nearly four percentage points from 2020.

The Practical Nursing (PN) exam scores saw even lower numbers with 62.5 percent of Floridians passing. Like the RN exam, this year’s scores saw a decrease compared to 2020 by 4.5 percentage points.

The state PN scores also lagged behind national numbers by 17.1 points.

Of Floridians seeking an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), only 58.7 percent received a passing score.

The measure is a full 20 points lower than the national pass rate and shows a five-point decrease compared to 2020’s numbers.

“The 2020 and 2021 statewide pass rates for both NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN candidates in Florida are much below the national average. In 2021, Florida’s pass rate on the NCLEX-RN for first-time candidates was 64.7 percent and Florida’s pass rate on the NCLEX-PN for first-time candidates was 62.5 percent. Both state and national pass rates have decreased from 2020 to 2021,” reads the report.”

The number of candidates passing the NCLEX is typically used as an indicator of the number of new nurses entering the nursing workforce, with the NCLEX first attempt pass rate often used as a measure of prelicensure nursing program effectiveness.

The Florida Center for Nursing posits that the educational effects of COVID-19 and the subsequent restriction measures on schools and educational institutions have contributed to the depressed scores.

“This may be because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on nursing education, the need to pivot to 100% online education, suspended clinical experiences with direct patient care experiences, and candidates’ ability to schedule tests in a timely manner,” says the report.

The state’s low rate of passage on licensure exams is only the latest cause for concern when it comes to the nursing workforce.

Despite sustained efforts to mitigate the severity of Florida’s current acute nurse shortage, hospitals continue to encounter recruitment and retention issues.

In an attempt to reduce long-term consequences, medical association officials and some Florida universities have initiated a number of medical education efforts to provide additional professionals to the state’s medical sector.

The Florida Hospital Association this year conducted a survey of its member institutions, finding an alarming Registered Nurse turnover rate of 25 percent. FHA projects a deficit of 59,100 nurses in Florida by 2035.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for nurses in Florida is expected to grow by 21 percent, while 40 percent of nurses will approach retirement age in the next decade.

Should the shortage continue to burgeon amid a booming state population, healthcare facilities in major urban centers around the state could be rendered inconsistent or inaccessible.


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