Inside Syllabus: Q&A with Philip Dickison, CEO of NCSBN

Inside this Syllabus Edition:

  • Meet the New AACN Faculty Scholar Grant Recipients
  • Q&A With Philip Dickison, CEO of NCSBN
  • Apply Now for the Inclusive Excellence in Nursing Education Award
  • AACN Member Institutions Honored at Academic Nursing Leadership Conference
  • Register Now for 2024 Diversity Symposium
  • Upcoming Conferences and more!

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Philip DicksonAbout Philip Dickison, Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing

Philip Dickison, PhD, RN, assumed the duties of Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) on October 1, 2023. Previously, he had served as NCSBN’s chief operating officer (COO), a post he had held since 2017. In that capacity, he traveled extensively representing NCSBN across the globe. He has nearly four decades of experience in organizational leadership, strategic planning, and not-for-profit business operations working with government regulatory bodies, licensure testing, and educational institutions both nationally and internationally. Prior to his appointment as COO, he served NCSBN as chief officer, examinations, for 7 years. His knowledge and experience in testing have made him a renowned leader in the world of psychometrics and an in-demand speaker on the subject. Dr. Dickison is a registered nurse with a lifelong dedication to patient care. Active in the certification and licensure community for more than 30 years, prior to joining NCSBN in 2010, he was director of health professions testing at Elsevier, Inc. and associate director at the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. He also served 11 years in the United States Air Force as an emergency medical technician, paramedic, and a medical service specialist.

Q&A with Philip Dickison

What motivated you to become a nurse?

I was a military medic for 11 years and a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force in charge of a neonatal intensive care unit. I worked closely with nurses, and I will say that from watching them and learning from them, it inspired my passion and gave me confidence that I could be a nurse. From those experiences, I was able to understand the role and importance of nurses in the healthcare system. Nurses provide holistic care and see the whole person not just the illness or injury.

What are the main priorities for NCSBN?

On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare environment continues to evolve at an exponential pace. How NCSBN can respond to these changes is a priority in light of the nursing shortage approaching crisis levels. I believe that NCSBN and nursing regulation need to remain agile and flexible in order to respond effectively. NCSBN is steadfastly dedicated to its mission of public protection. NCLEX, the world’s premier licensure examination, needs to continue to evolve to reflect current nursing practice. We will continue to champion regulatory solutions to address borderless healthcare delivery through the Nurse Licensure Compact and the APRN Compact. Cutting-edge research in the area of nursing workforce data has become a hallmark of NCSBN and will continue to be significant area of inquiry for us.

What goals do you have in mind as you begin your tenure as CEO?

NCSBN’s mission of public protection is so crucial that I want everyone to know what we and our members do in pursuit of that mission. We know that when someone is sick or hurt, they place their trust in a nurse to provide the highest quality of care, safeguard their well-being and be their advocate. In this relationship there is respect, empathy, and compassion. NCSBN works every day to ensure that the nurses caring for these patients are safe and competent to do so. NCSBN leads regulatory excellence by fostering innovation in education and practice, and facilitating policies that protect and promote the welfare of the public. It makes the nursing workforce safer through the use of premier licensure examinations, disseminating trailblazing research, and spearheading advancements in regulatory science.

How can nurse educators and students help to advance NCSBN’s priorities?

I would like for educators and nursing students to embrace NCSBN’s mission of public protection and carry it with them through their academic career and into practice. To recognize the special relationship of trust and respect that occurs between a patient and a nurse and to continually work toward enhancing  and strengthening that relationship.

What was the impetus behind launching the Next Generation NCLEX® (NGN)?

The new iteration of the NCLEX exam, which has as its core the NCSBN Clinical Judgment Measurement Model (NCJMM), was more than a decade in research and development. We know that entry-level nurses are required to make increasingly complex decisions while delivering patient care, and that these decisions often require the use of clinical judgment to care for patients safely and effectively. NCSBN knew that changes needed to be made in the NCLEX to obtain a valid measurement of clinical judgment and decision making within the context of a standardized, high-stakes examination. NCSBN undertook the creation of an exam that accurately reflects the increasing acuity and complexity of client care and the role of the nurse in safely managing that care. NCSBN made the world’s premier licensure exam even better through increased precision and items that look more like real life nursing practice.

What has been the impact of changing the NCLEX exam?

NCSBN successfully launched the NGN (Next Generation NCLEX) on April 1, 2023. Anecdotally, reports were that candidates liked the new format and responded positively to the changes made in the exam. When the first quarter passing rates for the NGN were released many were pleased to see that there was an increase in the number of both registered nurse and licensed practical/vocational nurse candidates who successfully passed the exam (exam passing rates for April 1 – June 30, 2023 and July 1 – Sept. 30, 2023, can be found here.) These passing rates are similar to statistics reported prior to the pandemic.

Do the 2021 AACN Essentials and the move to competency-based education align with NGN?

These AACN Essentials were included in the research on practice and in the practice analyses that informed the development of NGN. The Essentials call for clinical judgment competencies, and clinical judgment is at the core of the NGN. To put it succinctly, they align quite well.

How can AACN member schools work with their respective state boards of nursing to protect against credential fraud?

AACN should collaborate with their member schools to partner with regulators and NCSBN to develop best practices  on credentialing and fraud. The Nursing Code of Ethics is a great basic foundation from which to build. We need to keep those who are ethical and honest, and then address those who want to commit fraud. Obviously, innovation in security measures also needs to be part of that equation.

What are the biggest challenges facing professional nursing today? 

There are many, including the mostobvious one – the nursing shortage. The world is changing rapidly and, along with it, health care. Nursing and nursing regulation need to be flexible enough to not only weather the changes but use them as a springboard to change the profession, so it is able to meet the challenges of the future.

What advice do you have for nurses who aspire to leadership positions, whether in education or practice?

I think you need to include regulation as part of the leadership in the nursing profession. Nurses should aspire to lead in regulation. It is important that we have insightful leaders to evolve regulation to ensure that all those in the profession are safe and competent to practice now and in the future. I also believe that all nurses regardless of their title are leaders, and we should encourage them to think that way. For those who aspire to leadership roles, my advice is to seek out individuals you admire, watch what they do, and consider why they do it. Ask someone to serve as a mentor for you. Don’t be discouraged if they say no. Seek out different points of view from a variety of people and be open to innovative ideas and different opinions.