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Las Vegas: CCSN nursing students in licensing limbo

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Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

CCSN nursing students in licensing limbo

Delay in accreditation at issue




The Community College of Southern Nevada's delay in obtaining national accreditation for its practical nursing program is holding up 21 nursing students who had hoped to obtain jobs after graduating May 17.

Shirlee Snyder, nursing program director for the community college, said that a team from the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission completed a site visit in February. A final decision on accreditation is expected on July 22.

Student nurses won't be able to sit for their licensing exams until after the program is accredited. To work as a practical nurse in Nevada, an individual must first pass the licensing exam and graduate from an accredited program.

"After the site visit, we were told that the team would be recommending accreditation for five years in their report to the commission," Snyder said Tuesday. "It is frustrating for our students. Many of them want to go on to our RN program. For them, this was their point of entry."

The college's practical nursing program was started in 1999 and has already graduated two groups of students. Cindy Kimball, spokeswoman for the Nevada State Board of Nursing, said that the board gave provisional approval to the program with the understanding that the college was seeking accreditation.

Under the accreditation process, a nursing program must graduate one class of students to establish a pass rate for the national exam. In May 2000, the college's first class had six students who took the test.

Kimball said board members discovered in May 2001 that the college had delayed accreditation for a year, a decision that had not been shared with them. At that time, the board decided not to penalize students who had already completed the program and were never informed of the accreditation delays. The board made an exception so that the practical nursing students could take the required exam.

"It was an awkward situation, but we worked with CCSN to resolve it," Kimball said. "We did ask the program directors to send letters to potential students about possible problems with accreditation, which they did."

The letter, sent out July 24, 2001, informed students that:

"You should be aware that the Nevada State Board of Nursing, which implements standards for obtaining a license in practical nursing, has informed us that if the CCSN-PN program does not receive accreditation from the (accreditation commission) in July, 2002, that the Nevada State Board of Nursing may not allow the May 2002 graduates to sit for the ... licensing examination. This could mean that you may be unable to obtain a practical nursing license in this state, even if you successfully complete the required course of study. We want you to be aware of this risk prior to enrollment."

Kimball said the state board is not making exceptions this year because students were informed of the problems.

"The role of the board is to protect the public," Kimball said. "We want to have qualified, competent care out there."

Snyder said the delay in seeking accreditation was caused by temporary relocation of the practical nursing program from the West Charleston Campus to the college's Henderson's Campus. The move took longer than anticipated, which is what prompted the delay in seeking accreditation.

"Accreditation is a yes or no decision and we didn't want to take any chances," Snyder said.

It was an oversight not to inform the state board about the decision, Snyder said.

"It was a miscommunication," Snyder said. "In hindsight, we should have done that."

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