BCC nursing program's accreditation remains on ice after agency site visit

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College has more work to do on its nursing program.

That's what visiting representatives of the national nursing accreditation agency, ACEN, decided this week, after multiple days of observation.

Dean of Enrollment Management Christina Wynn said the representatives invited BCC to submit more evidence of ongoing improvement efforts before a formal accreditation decision is made in the spring.

"We're not ready. We need more evidence to restore us to that full approval," Wynn said. "That doesn't mean we won't get it, it just means there's more work to be done."

The national agency previously downgraded the college's accreditation status, citing concerns about inconsistent student outcomes. ACEN Chief Executive Officer Marsal Stoll told The Eagle this year that the program has two years to improve outcomes or accreditation will be denied.

The program also is on notice at the state level, as the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing conducts an ongoing review of what the college calls "housekeeping" violations. Christine Martin, who has taught at BCC since 1993, took control of the program this month on an interim basis after the previous director resigned.

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Professionals familiar with the program spoke during an accreditation meeting Wednesday, stressing the importance of the program to Berkshire County and noting its ongoing staffing challenges.

George Mercier, the administrator at Mount Carmel Care Center, said it's difficult to attract people here from outside the area to fill nursing positions. And because the county "has a screaming need" for nurses, he said the BCC nursing program plays a pivotal role in workforce development.

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"If that supply gets shut off, we're all dead in the water," he said.

Linda Fields, who said she taught in the program for two decades, said the community's wavering faith in it makes "me sick to my stomach." Recruiting people to fill faculty slots has long been a struggle, she said, but committed staff have always pulled through.

"I'm very concerned about anything happening to this program," she said.

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Frances Monahan, visiting the college as a representative of ACEN, said she doesn't take the responsibility of influencing accreditation lightly.

"It's scary," she said. "It's a scary responsibility."

Still, college leaders say they're sure the program isn't going anywhere.

"We have every confidence that we are going to come out of this a strong, fully accredited program that our community can be proud of," Wynn said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter,and 413-496-6296.


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