MSU Making Claims Not Based In Reality Re Nursing Program Woes

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Mountain State University is painting a rosy picture to their nursing students despite the very real possibility that their undergraduate nursing program could lose state Board accreditation. The WV State Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses placed MSU’s nursing program on provisional accreditation in November 2010 for a series of deficiencies including:

* Failing to maintain at least an 80 percent passing rate on the licensing exam for first-time candidates

* Failing to make major changes in the nursing program curriculum to include general education courses  

* A lack of strong administrative leadership

* Deviating from admission criteria in admitting nursing students to the university

* Failing to communicate information to students about their grades, the nursing program curriculum and transfer credit.

We reported this past week that the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education rejected the nursing program’s bid for national accreditation for failing to meet required standards. University officials had applied to CCNE for alternate national accreditation after another national accrediting agency withdrew its accreditation from the nursing program in late March 2011.  In addition MSU has been ordered by the Higher Learning Commission to show cause why accreditation for the entire university should not be yanked. The HLC will visit Mountain State in mid-February to see if required improvements have been made and will decide in June whether to revoke the school’s primary accreditation. That would spell then end of MSU.

Yet university officials are all sunshine and butterflies telling their nursing students that no matter what they will graduate and be eligible to take the required national licensing exam and will be eligible to then obtain a state license to practice….even if WV revokes their accreditation. Someone didn’t tell the WV Nursing Board.

Dr. Sheila Garland, dean of MSU’s School of Nursing, spoke to students at an open forum on Friday meant to address their growing concerns about the school’s escalating accreditation problems. 

“If you’re successful, the [WV state nursing board] is saying you are able to sit for your licensing exam,” said Garland. “They will not penalize the students … be assured that you will be able to take the exam if you do what you need to do to get out of MSU. [The WV state nursing board] has assured us that no matter what the decision, all of you will be taken care of.”

Except that appears to be false. “One of the requirements for sitting for the licensing exam is to graduate from a board-approved school of nursing,” said Laura Rhodes, executive director of the WV Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses. “So ultimately, no, if the state board withdraws accreditation, [students] would not be able to sit for the exam. There’s no way to get around that.” 

 MSU officials seem to be trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear while leaving the 185 nursing students adrift about how to plan their futures. Which is why a number of current and former students are suing MSU. Many do not know whether to remain at Mountain State and hope the School of Nursing weathers the accreditation storm or transfer to another accredited nursing school where they would be guaranteed to take their licensing exams. 

 The lawsuits claim, among other things, the use of “intentional, fraudulent and reckless” claims about the nursing program’s accreditation status, according to court documents filed in Kanawha County. Twelve former nursing students filed lawsuits there last month seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the university. 

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