Change allows for fuller picture of Nursing applicants

Applicants to the Labatt Family School of Nursing will be able to present a fuller picture of themselves to reviewers thanks to the addition of a cutting-edged personality assessment to standard entry criteria.

In order to be eligible for entry for September 2020, would-be Nursing students will complete an online CASPer (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) assessment. Using this tool in addition to an applicant’s high-school grades will help ensure the school accepts “the best of both” – exceptional grades and solid personal skills, explained Thelma Riddell, Associate Director of the undergraduate Nursing program.

“Grades alone don’t necessarily predict who will be best suited to the Nursing profession,” she said. “We’re not suddenly going to be accepting people with low-entrance averages. But this is a way of further refining who gets into the program.”

CASPer is a 90-minute situational judgment test designed to evaluate applicants’ non-cognitive skills, as well as their interpersonal and professional characteristics. It has 12 sections with a mix of video- and word-based scenarios. For each, applicants must answer three open-ended questions within five minutes.

A different person affiliated with CASPer evaluates each answer so 12 individual raters are employed for every applicant.

In one sample scenario provided by CASPer, a soon-to-be father asks whether he should take parental leave or take on a project that could lead to a promotion. Test-takers must recommend what he should do and why; offer strategies to help him make a decision; and comment on what work-life balance might mean in this instance.

The scenarios are designed to help assess characteristics such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving, motivation and ethics.

There are no pat answers. Questions aren’t nursing-specific, Riddell said, although they ultimately reflect key qualities a good professional nurse must have in addition to academic excellence.

“It’s about the kind of person you are. Do you have integrity? Are you analytical, empathetic, accountable?”

Western’s undergraduate Nursing program is already the most competitive on campus, with an average entering grade in 2016-17 of 91 per cent.

Applicants to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs began using CASPer this year and several other Canadian nursing schools also use the tool.

University Senate approved the change at its regular meeting Friday.