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Our View: Address problems at Northern's nursing program

Two reviews of the nursing program at Montana State University-Northern will be held in coming weeks.

It seems like there is a bit of a rift over the operation of the program, which is a long-time staple at Northern.

Dr. Cynthia Gustafson, executive director of the Montana State Board of Nursing, will be on campus, talking to faculty and students.

At a later date two faculty members from Angelo State University in Texas will be in town to do the same kind of review. Angelo State is where Northern Chancellor Jim Limbaugh hails from.

The nursing department staff is apparently edgy about the reviews, and Limbaugh is apparently getting word from students that all is not well in the department.

There are apparently differences over grading and questions about how tough courses are. The retention rate in the program is lower than administrators would like, and retention if now a key focus in the Montana University System.

We can’t tell from this viewpoint what should be done, but we hope all involved understand the importance of the nursing program to the Hi-Line community.

The program has always been important to Northern. More important, it is a lifeline to the Havre area.

Local hospitals, clinics and doctors offices are full of Northern grads. Many nurses today say they never could have moved away to college, and couldn't have gotten their degrees anywhere but at Northern.

We hope whatever glitches are in the department will be taken care of quickly. And we hope the community that has been so well served by the program will take part in the discussion that is now taking place.


Reader Comments(16)

Mamsan writes:

Smitty, I agree with Concerned Citizen.... I STILL STAND BY MY BASIC TENET AND THAT IS THAT IT IS THE STUDENT'S RESPONSIBILITY TO LEARN THE INFORMATION. MSU-Northern's nursing program graduates GOOD nurses,and they do this task very well. Personally, I want a nurse that knows what he or she is doing and not just one that can pass tests. Yes, tests are necessary but practicality needs to be considered as well.

Smitty writes:

This University, specifically the Nursing program teaches are failing to accomplish the most basic right of their students; to be educated. The University is undergoing an investigation, the results are forthcoming. I hope that it is not to late for some of the students. This is my last opinion on this subject. Thank you for listening and giving feedback. See you at the SUB...Smitty

Smitty writes:

The majority of students failing are not wrong here. LPN’s have years of practical experience as a Nurse but they too are struggling to pass this course. There are problems with the written tests that the teacher has developed and how the course is being instructed. All students expect more from a University and their teachers. They spend thousands of dollars to be academically taught so they can go out into the world and become successful in their careers.

Smitty writes:

Concerned, valid point, teaching to the tests should not be done for the nursing program. The students are responsible for all course material. With that said, passing is graded on test scores only!!. 66.3 % of students are not obtaining a passing score on the tests. The failing student majority are not wrong here. Yes there is 18-25yo in class as well as mature licensed LPN’s in the second year. 66.3 % of students are not obtaining a passing score on the tests.

Concerned writes:

Smitty, I must admit that as an insider, you're info and conclusions are wrong.2/3 of a class not passing is not 75% failing.The issue of teaching to the tests just to increase passage rates results in incompetent professionals who haven't LEARNED the material only briefly memorized it for a test.You act as if an 18-25 y/o student is totally blameless in this scenario.When do students take responsibility, act like professionals and get the job done?Even IF the teacher isn't great, it's no excuse

Smitty writes:

We are not discussing the nursing program as a whole. The issue is with ONE CLASS taught by one teacher at the three campuses. Nursing students undertake numerous courses for the Nursing Program. If the students fail one class...and only ONE class, they are out of the program in Jan regardless if they pass all of the other classes being taught. Having that said, if the majority of students are passing all of their other classes but one, then there is a problem !! Give the students a chance.

Mamasan writes:

I believe the statement that if the students fail level 1, they cannot go onto level 2 is correct. If they cannot grasp the concept on level 1, why would they be able to grasp the concept on level 2? Responsibility still lies with the student to study the material they are given, and what you are suggesting sounds to me like you want the program dumbed down....

mamasan writes:

Smitty, Thanks for your comments, but the reason I am answering you is because the point I am trying to make is that the STUDENTS need to be responsible for their own accountability. The same textbook is used on all 3 campuses so it makes me wonder if the students even read the textbooks. I have heard from other sources that the tests are textbook tests, hence the reason they should be studying the textbooks. I don't know your background but textbooks tests are difficult.....

Smitty writes:

CONT 2: The MSU-N Nursing Program currently is under a “warning” for their Accreditation. As this is a State University, losing accreditation for the Nursing Program will have far reaching results. In this instance the “majority” (nursing students) are correct. Let’s give the nursing students a fair chance to succeed. FIX THE PROBLEM!!!

Smitty writes:

CONT 1: If the students fail a level 1 course, they cannot go onto a level 2, which makes sense. However, this means that any student who fails any nursing course this Semester cannot continue after January (the students need only to fail one class and they are out of the nursing program). The MSU-N Nursing Program currently is under a “warning” for their Accreditation. As this is a State University, losing accreditation for the Nursing Program will have far reaching results.

Smitty writes:

I did my research and my information is correct. This course is being taught at 3 different MSU’s by the same teachers and 2/3 of the students are failing. One of the problems is how this course is being instructed. The students are well within their rights to involve the Chancellor as well as the Director of Nursing for the State of Montana to intervene. The Nursing programs courses are a foundation for the continuing courses…level 1, level 2.

mamasan writes:

I still disagree with you, and I am unsure where you came up with the 75% failure rate unless you have inside information. The classes are taught with textbooks (you know the expensive kind that students are paying for), and if the student chooses not to read them, then I would said it is their fault they are failing. Society likes to put the blame on someone else, when I believe the students need to take responsibility for their own learning, especially when they are paying a lot to learn.

smitty writes:

When there is a 75% classroom failure rate, the responsibility is solely with the teacher. If the students cannot pass the written class exams that the teacher has made-up, then how do the students pass the course. There is a communication failure from the teacher to the students, plain and simple. These kids spend thousands of dollars for education and a career, lets give the students the ability to succeed in a classroom environment or is this course being taught for the students to fail?

mamasan writes:

Why do we assume it is the teacher? Where do the students fit into this picture? Are they not adults with shared responsibility? Yes, Northern's nursing program is difficult, but how about the students who graduate with a 3.75 from the same teacher? Someone must have been effective wouldn't you say?

registerednurse writes:

The solution is not to dum down the program. The solution is to have faculty teach and test appropriately. The failure rate speaks to poor teaching, not to inadequate or unmotivated students. The faculty needs education about how to teach, and students need to be encouraged and given a rigorous and thorough education. I hope these evaluations are done in the spirit of improving the program, rather than focusing on failures.

Tallman writes:

I agree, but the courses should never be dummied down. Nursing is not an easy profession, so to my mind, neither should the education be. If the courses are too tough for some, maybe it's just not the right profession for them. Retention rates are also a function of recruitment into the program. The best recruits will improve the retention rates. Otherwise, the program need not exist.

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