BCC puts one-year hiatus on new nursing students

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College has decided not to enroll more two-year nursing students while accreditation for the associate's degree program remains on hold.

The decision comes as the college awaits official word from national accreditors about the program's fate and as state regulators remain dissatisfied the program's progress.

The college plans to admit its next round of two-year students in fall of 2020, leaders said in a press release Wednesday morning. Students already enrolled in the two-year program will not be affected.

"We have a 50 year history of graduating excellent practitioners and this brief pause allows us to address specific areas of focus that have been highlighted by our accrediting and licensing bodies," BCC President Ellen Kennedy said in the release.

The national accreditation agency ACEN and the state regulatory authority, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing, launched separate reviews of BCC's nursing program last year, both calling on the college to keep better track of student outcomes.

ACEN was slated to announce its accreditation decision this month — the national board could decide to deny the program's accreditation outright, to extend its conditional status for another year or upgrade its status to full accreditation if it finds no further issues.

Christina Wynn, the college's dean of enrollment management, said the college expects to hear word from ACEN "any day now."

The state nursing board, MassBORN, met on March 13 to review corrective documents submitted by the program.

Marybeth McCabe, a spokeswoman for the board, said regulators remained concerned about the absence of a fully implemented systematic evaluation plan for quality improvement, a failure to maintain records in accordance with regulations, and the absence of clear criteria for several policies.

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The program maintains "approval with warning" status and has until April 30 to submit more corrective documents. By Aug. 31, McCabe said "the program must demonstrate that there is a fully implemented, data driven, faculty-operated systematic evaluation plan."

"BCC's nursing faculty are committed to providing excellent nurses for our community," said Jennifer Berne, BCC's vice president for academic affairs. "It is out of respect for this tradition that the faculty agreed that taking a year to respond to the increasingly evidenced-based and scientifically rigorous standards from our regulators was the wisest approach to ensure the quality of our future nursing graduates."

The one-year nursing program at the college, the licensed practical nursing program, remains unchanged.

The college's associate degree in nursing program will move enrollment into fall of 2020, accepting 56 students for that semester. The early admissions deadline for that class will come in June, according to the release.

In February the college decided not to hold an informational session for incoming two-year students.

BCC will hold two informational sessions to air concerns and offer support. Online registration for these sessions are available at www.berkshirecc.edu/adn.

As the college grapples with its nursing program, health industry leaders have said it provides an important employment pathway in the Berkshires.

"The college has been a critical partner with us in addressing the pipeline for the healthcare profession in our region," said David Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, in the release. "BCC has kept us involved during this process and we understand the reason for and support this decision."

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


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