Thousands of Florida nurse graduates fail NCLEX each year

More than a third of Florida's nursing students didn't pass their nursing competency exams in 2021 — about 10 percent worse than the national average — according to a report from the Tampa-based University of South Florida's nursing center. 

On a national scale, more than four out of five nursing students passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam in 2021. In Florida, that figure dipped to an average pass rate of 64.79 percent among the 20,000-plus nursing graduates who are required to pass the NCLEX-RN to be licensed as a registered nurse in the U.S., marking the lowest pass rate in the nation. 

The report showed a large distribution throughout the state's region, with some pass rates twice as high as other areas: Northeast Florida had an 82.6 percent pass rate and the Southeast region had 43.34 percent. 

Another sprawling difference was the school type as 83.77 percent passed the exam at state public schools, compared to the 54.82 percent pass rate in private institutions. And non-profit nursing programs saw an 82.16 percent pass rate while their for-profit counterparts noted a 59.1 percent rate. 

In 2020, the state's overall pass rate was slightly higher, at 68.92 percent, but Willa Fuller, executive director of the Florida Nurses Association, told the Tampa Bay Times that conclusions can't be drawn yet. 

"The research hasn't been done and any statement at this point is just speculation," Ms. Fuller said. "But we need to identify the best practices at high-performing schools and make those the norm across the state."

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