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2 reviews planned of Northern's nursing program

Nursing board, Texas educators to talk to students, faculty


October 7, 2013

Three advisers are scheduled to come to Montana State University-Northern to take a look at the nursing program to see if they can find issues that need addressing

Dr. Cynthia Gustafson, the executive director of the Montana State Board of Nursing, will conduct an on-site review of the program Oct. 16 and 17, according to a press release from the university.

Gustafson will meet with students, faculty and administrators to come up with recommendations on what the school can do to maintain the quality of their nursing program, the release says.

In addition to Gustafson, two outside nursing educators will be coming to do the same thing as Gustafson. The two educators are from Angelo State University in Texas; Chancellor Jim Limbaugh’s former place of employment. They are scheduled to be on campus Nov. 12-15.

Limbaugh was the vice president of strategy, planning and policy at ASU. He also held positions of interim provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at ASU.

According to a nursing faculty member, who asked not to be identified, Gustafson was asked to give the evaluation by the nursing faculty themselves after the two outside consultants were called.

Nursing faculty feared a conflict of interests brought the request.

“Dr. Gustafson is aware of this visit and is in full support of an analysis by dispassionate, impartial educators, whose reports will complement her findings and, together, will make recommends,” the press release said.

The release said the main reason for the calling of the outside sources is that success rates for the nursing courses are down and students are finding the coursework too difficult. Around 55 percent of students completed the program in 2012, according to a self-evaluation made by the nursing program.

This is down from 2011, which saw a 67 percent rate, but it is still higher than the low rates 2009 and 2010 saw; 43 percent and 33 percent respectively.

Another issue the consultants will have to address is the overburden of work for the limited staff at the College of Nursing. A full-time professor in the program teaches 24 credit hours, but many of the faculty are taking on more than 30 credit hours, according to employees in the nursing department.

“It’s difficult to find instructors for the program,” Said Jim Potter, MSU-Northern Director of University Relations. He said that this difficulty is in part due to the higher wages potential candidates can make if they choose to practice their skills instead of teach them.


Reader Comments

ARN writes:

I am actually a graduate of this program with the Class of 2012 and I have to say that this has caught me by surprise. This program is VERY challenging and forces many of the students to come close to having a nervous breakdown with the constant demands being placed upon them. In 2012 with a class of 40 students, we had two that failed to pass the NCLEX the first time. Both students passed the second time around, so perhaps some long term analysis of the program's numbers need to be done.

nursingstudent writes:

As a current nursing student, I do recognise that the course work is difficult but it is very manageable depending on the time put into it. I feel that students going into nursing need to be challenged because one day they will be dealing with peoples lives. I also believe that the instructors are overloaded causing lack of availability for us students to address question with them. Every year this program is required to accept more students but denied more faculty.

APnurse writes:

I am an advanced practice nurse, who has taught nursing school 1. last year's graduating class had a pass rate of approx. 67 % for national board. Nursing schools that follow evidence based, rationale focused education have close to a100% pass rate across the country. 2.The 55% failure rate of the current class demonstrates that the current faculty is not teaching or testing effectively. Less than 10% of students will fail in a well taught class.

Student writes:

Yes the course work is hard. It takes focus and dedication to complete and pass. However the teachers are doing a great job and it is totally understandable that they are stretched thin teaching at other campuses. Students need to focus on the work and themselves. There are plenty of programs to help study they just need to use their rescources. I would rather have a few really good nurses than a lot of possibly incompetent ones.

Patient writes:

I sympathize with the concern from the students that the course work seems difficult. I bet providing excellent nursing care in a real world setting is also difficult. I, as a potential patient, would hope that the university and board of nursing support a rigorous curriculum. It's nice to pass everyone. It's even nicer to have competent nurses.

Duh writes:

Sounds to me like the pass rate is low on account of an open door policy, maybe? Or does Northern have standards that prevent weaker students from entering the program?

concerned writes:

It's unfortunate that the release fails to mention the driving force behind Chancellor Limbaugh bringing in two outside investigators was the nursing students themselves. A long list of student concerns was brought to his attention as well as the Department of Nursing late September of this year. I struggle to understand how a 55% pass rate is acceptable in any academic forum. It seems to me the scope of the issue may be much larger than difficult course-work.


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