Three College Registered Nursing Programs Placed On Conditional Status

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The state Board of Examiners for Nursing on Wednesday placed the registered nursing programs at three colleges on conditional status for one year because too many students have failed the R.N. licensing exam.

The programs – at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain and Gateway Community College in New Haven and the University of St. Joseph’s accelerated program in West Hartford – are expected to present correction plans to the board in June.

To avoid conditional status, the programs must have a passing rate of at least 80 percent among students taking the licensing exam for the first time after graduation.

Central’s most recent passing rate was 74 percent while Gateway and St. Joseph’s accelerated program each had passing rates of 79 percent, Pamela Pelletier-Stevens, a nurse consultant for the state Department of Public Health, told the nursing board Wednesday.

This is the first time that the St. Joseph accelerated program has been on conditional status, she said. Its traditional R.N. program is in good standing and is unaffected, she said.

In other action Wednesday, the board removed Fairfield University’s R.N. program from conditional status because it now has an 87 percent passing rate, Pelletier-Stevens said.

It also removed Stone Academy’s West Haven programs from conditional status because its day program now has a 91 percent passing rate and its evening program has an 87 percent passing rate, Pelletier-Stevens said.

When reached after the meeting, Kimberly Crone, St. Joseph’s vice president for enrollment management, said the nursing faculty members are taking steps to address the problem.

“We’ve researched this to better understand the reasons behind it. The most prevalent reason is that students were impacted by personal life issues,’’ she said. “We’re taking it seriously.’’

Of 20 recent graduates, five did not pass the test, but three of the five have already taken the test again and passed it, Crone said.

The students in the one-year program are typically adult learners who already have bachelor’s degrees, she said.

Evelyn Gard, Gateway’s spokeswoman, said this is the first time in the 14-year history of the R.N. program that it has been placed on conditional status.

“This is highly unusual,’’ she said. “We’re investigating to see why this has happened. It could be just one or two students who are struggling.”

On Tuesday, 88 R.N. students received their nursing pins in the two-year program and are about to graduate, she said.

The college is focused on restoring a passing rate well over the required 80 percent, she said.

“We will develop a plan to shore this up and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Gard said.

Central’s R.N. program is small compared to other nursing programs with hundreds of students, “so, in our case, the difference between the threshold passing rate and our current passing rate is only 2 students,’’ Michael Alfano, dean of the School of Education & Professional Studies, said.

“We are quite confident that those students who retake the exam will pass, as this is almost always the case,” he said. “It’s also important to note that many other states only look at the second-time pass rate.”

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