Nursing graduates from Berkshire Community College allege widespread dissatisfaction with program director


PITTSFIELD — Two graduates of a Berkshire Community College nursing program reiterated before the board of trustees complaints about an error in submitting student certificate-of-completion notices to a credentialing services firm.

The mistake, made by nursing program Director Tochi Ubani, resulted in delays of up to two weeks or more for many students awaiting the necessary credentialing approval in order to take licensing examinations.

The former students, Sarah Garson and Tanya Panetti, also were critical of Ubani's leadership of the program in a prepared statement they submitted to the board. In addition, Garson said after the trustees' meeting that an overwhelming majority of nursing program graduates were aware of and approved of the statement.

Although board Chairwoman Darlene Rodowicz halted a full reading of the statement at the meeting Tuesday, saying it had begun to stray into personal criticism in an improper forum, the women briefly stated their complaints and submitted the paper, which was then taken under advisement by trustees.

The statement read in part, "We approach the board with this information today so that they can see that this isn't just about our [authorization to test approvals], but about how we have felt disrespected by this director from the beginning ... We are hopeful that other classes do not have to endure this as we have, and ask the board to see that this type of mistake never happens again."

BCC officials had issued an apology for the test-authorization delays in late July. They said Ubani had collected completed test application forms from the more than 40 nursing students who had completed BCC nursing programs, and those forms were sent in together to the national firm, Professional Credential Services Inc.

However, because the forms contained an electronic signature copy of the program director, not a hand-written one, the BCC forms were returned in order to obtain original signatures — a requirement in the application instructions.

The forms were immediately resubmitted with signatures, college officials said, but meanwhile, the credentialing service had notified the students via email that their requests to take licensing examinations had been denied, which resulted in confusion and frustration among the graduates.

On Tuesday, Ubani also spoke during the meeting, giving a description of the chain of events that led to delays in having student certificates of completion approved, thereby allowing the students to take their licensing tests.

He added that he and the college would work to ensure such problems did not occur in the future. "This, I deeply regret," he said of the incident.

Rodowicz also apologized to the graduates on behalf of the board.

In the written statement, the complainants also referred to what they saw as a strained or distant relationship between the students and Ubani, who became nursing program director in mid-school year. In late 2015, they said he replaced the interim directors who had worked with the nursing class following the death of Director Elizabeth Kassel.

"Our class was what we lovingly referred to as the 'forgotten class,' as it was during our first semester in the program that our director, Liz Kassel, passed away," the students wrote. "We went on to have interim directors to fill the role, until the end of our third semester, when we were told that a new director had been hired. We were hopeful that this director would help guide our class, and our passion, and be a leader. Sadly, that was not the case."

Asked Wednesday whether the board or the administration was considering any changes in the nursing program for the coming school year, spokeswoman Heidi Webber issued a statement on behalf of the college:

"The college has acknowledged the recent error that resulted in the delay of our [nursing] students receiving an Authorization to Test to take the National Council Licensure Exam. The error involved the submission of a digital signature in place of the required handwritten signature. Once notified of the error, the college took immediate and reasonable steps to rectify the matter. The error did result in up to a three week delay for our [associate's degree in nursing] students and a three-day delay for our [licensed practical nursing] students in receiving their [authorization]. We regret that this error occurred and have apologized to the impacted students. We are pleased that this matter has been resolved and we are delighted that so many of our students have successfully passed the National Council Licensure Exam and are prepared to begin or continue their careers in the health care field."

The statement adds, "The college supports the director of nursing as he begins his first full academic year at the college. We look forward to the 2016-2017 academic year and the continuing success of these programs."

Both of the nursing program graduates said Tuesday that they have taken and passed their required tests.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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