Friday, July 23, 2010
More than 25 years ago, Stanley Harris, assistant professor of Nursing at SC State University, had a dream of one day writing for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), an examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States. Recently, Harris’ dream became reality when he was selected as an item writer by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). As item writer, Harris was responsible for writing comprehensive test questions for NCLEX, which is designed to test the knowledge, skills and abilities essential to the safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry-level. Passing the NCLEX exam is one of the requirements necessary for attaining a nursing licensure.
Harris, who was nominated on the basis of clinical specialty and nursing expertise, was the only African-American among 12 nurses from across the Nation afforded this opportunity. Additionally, he was the only nurse on the committee that represented the Southeast region. “It was really an honor to be selected for this opportunity because I have received many honors and gained a lot of valuable experiences, but this was kind of the hallmark of my career,” says Harris.
Prior to this much anticipated opportunity, Harris found himself applying to become an item writer for the past six years, having to update his application every two years. Two months after being selected, Harris was required to attend a four-day seminar in Chicago, Ill. where each member of his team was given a template and required to write five exam questions per day. Additionally, each question had to be referenced via books and periodicals provided by NCSBN. Harris exceeded the amount of required questions, and produced a total of 45 questions by the end of the seminar.
“Being surrounded by peers and finally realizing a dream come true was amazing,” exclaimed Harris. “I would always say I wanted to write questions for the nursing licensure exam, even when I was in school taking it myself, but to finally have this opportunity is a great blessing.”
Harris reflects on how significantly the nursing licensure exam has changed since he took the then 365 question exam using pencil and paper in 1984. At that time, the exam spanned over a two day period. “When I took the NCLEX, we were only given two opportunities during the year, which was July and February. Today, NCLEX is administered in a computerized-adaptive testing format, which can be taken anytime during the year by nursing graduates for a fee of $240 each time the exam is taken,” noted Harris. “There are generally 75 exam questions, but that number can increase based on the accuracy of the students’ answers.”
Upon NCSBN’s review and approval, questions written by Harris and his group will appear on the NCLEX. Although Harris is not able to serve on review boards for two years to assist his students and others with the exam, he will be able to use this experience as a teaching method during his classes. “Once I told my students about what it entails to be an item writer, they were very excited. They said it was a good feeling to have their professor serve on such a prestigious committee,” says Harris.
Harris, who hopes to be selected as an item writer again in the very near future, has a long track record of nursing experience and accomplishments which he gained throughout his career. In January 2008, Harris arrived at SC State University, and within five months was named Professor of the Year by his peers. Prior to joining SC State, he served as director of Nursing at the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, S.C. He also served as a nurse manager at Wellstar Health System in Marietta, Ga. and at Grady Health System in Atlanta, Ga., in which he served for more than 12 years.
Harris has taught nursing courses at several educational institutions to include: Kaylim Career Center in Atlanta, Ga.; Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.; Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga.; Gordon College in Barnesville, Ga.; Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga. and Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga.
Harris earned his practical nursing diploma from Baldwin Vocational School of Practical Nursing in Milledgeville, Ga. He later went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Albany State University in Albany, Ga. and his master’s degree in nursing from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga. In December 2010, he will obtain his Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix in Glendale, Ariz.
Harris holds professional nursing licenses in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and New York. He is also a certified advance and basic cardiac life support instructor for the American Heart Association.