MUSC’s Center for Excellence: National Exams of Competence

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MUSC’s Center for Excellence: National Exams of Competence




Guest:  Dr. Jennie Ariail – Education & Student Support, MUSC

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. Jennie Ariail is Executive Director of Academic Support Services for MUSC.  Dr. Ariail, you are also Director of Academic Excellence and Director of the Writing Center.  But, in this podcast, let’s focus on a very special service that you head up, and that’s offering students, from all colleges, extra support services for taking the dreaded certification exams.  Now, I’m assuming that’s things like, in the College of Medicine, the boards that students take twice during medical school, and that the other colleges have their own version of the same.  Tell us about that.


Dr. Jennie Ariail:  Any healthcare provider who leaves here has to pass a national exam of competence.  So, Nursing has the NCLEX.  Pharmacy students take the NAPLEX.  And College of Medicine students, of course, take boards.  PAs (physician assistants) take the PANCE exam. Physical therapists and occupational therapists take an exam.  And, often, because these students have done really well in their coursework, they think they’re completely prepared.  They know it’s a tough exam.  And, they can be either overanxious or overconfident. 


This exam, of course, is given to people all over the world now.  So, we devised a program, and the guinea pigs for this program were the College of Medicine students.  Students in Medicine take two board exams, as do Dental students, after their second year.  So, they come in, in small groups, and we have workshops on how to take the exam, and how to study for it.  Then we give diagnostic exams.  We review those individually with students.  And then we monitor their progress.  We put them in small groups.  If they identify themselves as being at risk, then they’re assigned to a small group and work with someone who’s been through this process.


One of the most depressing, disappointing, things is to have a student return to any of our offices in tears over not being successful the first time.  So, in their head, there’s this play going on of, you didn’t do it the first time; you may not be able to do it this time.  And what we know is, sure, you can do it.  We don’t graduate anybody from this university who’s not capable of doing it.  And, you just have some test-taking strategies or studying strategies that haven’t worked for you.  And we monitor them all along, and it’s amazing to me.  I have a doctor now.  I don’t know how she found us.  She’s from Russia.  She’d like to move to Georgetown, SC.  And she’s asked if we can help her set up a review program to be successful on both of those exams.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Very exciting.  Dr. Ariail, how many students in the various colleges avail themselves of these services?


Dr. Jennie Ariail:  Almost every student who has to take an exam has the option of some form of this.  So, the College of Medicine, all of the second-year students participate in our program.  Next year, there will be 175 of them.  Pharmacy students, we do workshops for.  All of the PA (Physician Assistant), PT (Physical Therapy), and OT (Occupational Therapy) students participate in this program.  And, Dental Medicine students; dentists are fun and laid back, only come when they have trouble.  So, every college has its own personality, or need, and we just try to understand that and figure out how we can fit in with it.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. Ariail, these sound like fantastic programs.  Thank you so much for the terrific work that you and your staff do to help all of our students be successful.


Dr. Jennie Ariail:  Thank you.


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