Keene State College’s nursing program has been awaiting full approval from the New Hampshire Board of Nursing (BON) since 2011, and this year the program’s approval will remain on probation until February of 2017. Once the year long probation is up, the college will have the opportunity to present new information and ask the NH BON for a six-month approval extension according to KSC Director of Nursing Dr. Thomas Connelly.
According to New Hampshire National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX) Reports, in 2013 Keene State College had 77.78 percent of graduates pass the first time. In 2014 only 48.28 percent of graduates passed the state exam the first time. Connelly said this past spring the percentages increased to 63 percent, and that the goal is to reach the state and national average of 85 percent.
Since the program is on probation, Connelly said in an open meeting with the sophomore class nursing majors on Tuesday, March 8, “We are waiting on the seniors to graduate and be successful on that exam the first time, so hopefully they will hit or achieve higher than that eighty-five [percent] then our rising juniors will give us two years of data to petition to the board for full approval.”
KSC senior and nursing major Bridgette Normandin said that, as a senior, she feels there is a lot of pressure on her class to do well. However, KSC sophomore and nursing major Diana Rocheleau said the uncertain future of the nursing program affects the sophomore the class the most.
“Everything they’ve told us is an assumption right now, everything is a ‘what if’ statement; nothing is solid. It’s just frustrating because we don’t know that the two years that we’ve already put in here will be worth anything anywhere else,” Rocheleau said.
Connelly said that there are currently 57 sophomore students in the nursing program when previously the program only accepted 48. However, after meeting with the NH BON, the board has instructed KSC to cut the sophomore class to 32 students. Along with the cut, new academic criteria have been added for entrance into the nursing program after the sophomore class.
- The criteria were given to students and parents at the sophomore meeting and include:
- Earn a 3.4 overall GPA from classes taken at Keene State during their first two years.
- Earn a 3.25 GPA in science classes taken at Keene State during their first two years.
- Score proficient or above on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS V).
- Successful completion of basic mathematic competency.
- A maximum of 32 students admitted to the nursing cohort as juniors maintain high touch learning and pedagogy.
- Sophomores will start the program in fall of 2016.
During the sophomore meeting, students and parents raised concerns that it’s possible for more than 32 students to meet the new criteria. Connelly responded that in the case of ties students would then be looked at individually in regard to their academics and schedules.
Many students were concerned that they would have not have the option to take certain required classes such as microbiology before decisions were made, affecting their status against other students. Connelly said that, in regard to that specific class, the college is looking into offering a free or “no cost” microbiology class in the summer to students who are unable to sign up for the course in fall of 2016.
Connelly also advised students to look into the health science major offered at KSC and pursue an accelerated nursing degree after college if not accepted into the nursing program.
Director of Academic and Career Advising Pat Halloran was also present at the meeting. She said that students should look into all options at this point, and that her office was open for students to come explore those options.
KSC sophomore and nursing major Makayla Philibert said she was even considering transferring.
“I’m not so confident right now because pretty much we have to wait it out and see what the juniors and seniors score and I’m not a risk taker and don’t feel like pressing my luck, just waiting it out. So I’d rather just do what I can and get in anywhere else instead of just waiting around. It’s kind of our future were waiting around on,” Philibert said.
Another issue that was brought up at the meeting was that many sophomore students already signed off-campus housing leases because of the alleged shortage of on-campus housing. Some parents asked if they could be reimbursed for security deposits or if the college could back them in getting out of a lease. Connelly said he had no answers for them since that is not his area of expertise, but said that he would bring that issue to the attention of the college.
Many of the current changes in the nursing program were brought to the attention of the college through post exit program reviews submitted by students. Class of 2015 nursing graduate Nicole Whitney, 27, who now works at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene said, “I think that they really did take our input and change some of the things around that we thought needed changing.”
“Everyone was always really helpful and willing to go above and beyond wherever they were needed,” Whitney said.
KSC President Anne Huot stressed that she wanted her comment to be clear that the college has made the changes in the nursing program because they believe it will provide students with an even better education, and that they are not holding the seniors to any greater pressure or expectation that they do any class.
“So let’s just be really clear, there is no expectation, no added pressure being applied to the senior class. We’re supplementing their education because we think it will make them even stronger,” Huot said.
Connelly said that some of the supplementing includes an added medical surgical course and a NCLEX prep class as electives for students this year, as well as a prepaid three-day NCLEX prep course through Hurst Review Services for students to utilize after graduation. Connelly said that 99 percent of students have chosen to take those electives, which he said “speaks strongly to their commitment to their success.”
Connelly said the motivation behind adding these two courses came from student feedback and the fact that a large portion of the NCLEX exam includes a medical surgical section. Connelly said that previously nursing students only took an accelerated ten-week medical surgical class in the summer, and student feedback showed that students wanted more time with this subject.
Along with adding the medical surgical course, Connelly said the college is currently search for a medical surgical faculty position as of January 2016.
This information was announced at the sophomore meeting on Tuesday, March 8. President Huot was contacted after the meeting for comment but was unable to comment since she was traveling.
Connelly said he thought it was “very positive that students and their families came to learn about the changes and the updates in the nursing program,” and said he look forward to continuing the communication with the community.
The college’s next meeting with the NH BON will be held on March 17, in Concord, and is open to the public.
“As soon as I get notification from the board, those messages will be clearly communicated to students and families. My goal is maintain an open and honest line of communication with the community,” Connelly said.
Kendall Pope can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents React to nursing changes
When asked for comments about the meeting, many parents declined to comment or did not want their names in print. One parent, Laurie Gioielli, did want to speak.
“I just don’t feel like they understand the human aspect of it. So there was forty-eight, now there’s thirty-two, so there’s another bunch that aren’t going through the program. Although they’re willing to move students to another program, we don’t want another program; we came here for nursing. That’s why we’re investing the money here. My daughter could have gone to a community college in town or lived in an apartment at a smaller school or a different school that is less expensive,” Gioielli said.
Gioielli explained that she and her daughter knew the program was on conditional approval but never thought it would “go on probation or be in jeopardy of losing its approval.”
“No one ever said that at the beginning, and I don’t think they were as forthcoming with all the info that they should have given us,” Gioielli said.
Gioielli then said that she too had just signed a $9,000 lease with her daughter that they are now locked into. Gioielli said she feels like college should have told the students and their parents in the fall so they could have held off on making major decisions for next year, like housing.
“They know that sophomore year the off-campus people are looking for people to sign leases early. So I think we got thrown under the bus…and my daughter has got to move forward and I just feel like they should have been more open about what’s to come their junior year,” Gioielli said