National accreditors give BCC nursing program a clean bill of health

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PITTSFIELD — The prognosis is good, according to national regulators.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, which is charged with deciding the fate of Berkshire Community College's two-year nursing program, said Monday it has lifted sanctions on the program's accreditation status.

This means the college has addressed all areas of noncompliance and there are no more accreditation issues, commission CEO Marsal Stoll told The Eagle.

"We are pleased that ACEN recognized the changes that we've made," said Jennifer Berne, BCC's vice president for academic affairs. "And we will continue to implement those changes as they recommend."

National and state regulators launched separate reviews of the program last year, both calling on the college to keep better track of student outcomes. Though the program is in the clear with national accreditors, it remains in hot water with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing, which monitors nursing education for the commonwealth.

The college announced earlier this month that it would not enroll new two-year nursing students in the fall as it works to comply with regulations.

The national accreditation commission found that the college's new evaluation plan meets national standards.

"In December we presented them with a plan that they agreed was sound," Berne said.

But Marybeth McCabe, a spokeswoman for the state board, said earlier this month that regulators remain dissatisfied with the lack of a fully implemented plan, a failure to maintain records in accordance with state regulations, and the absence of clear criteria for several policies. She said the program has until Aug. 31 to show the new plan is implemented and complies with standards.

Berne said the college won't enroll more two-year nursing students until it receives the green light from the state. Without that full support, she said students wouldn't be able to sit for their state board exams.

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The all-clear at the national level should send a message about the state of the program.

"That's a very strong signal to the state," she said.

The next accreditation visit from the national organization will be in 2023, according to information provided by Stoll.

The enrollment hiatus doesn't affect those already enrolled in the two-year nursing program, Berne said.

The one-year nursing program at the college, the licensed practical nursing program, also remains unchanged — as does the "bridge" connecting students on the LPN track to the associate's degree track.

"It gets confusing," noted Christina Wynn, the college's dean of enrollment management. She encouraged anyone with questions to call the admissions office at 413-236-1630.

All told, Berne said, ACEN's decision was good news for the college.

"This is the outcome that we planned," she said. "Were pleased to know that our incoming class of 2020 will be entering into a fully accredited program."

College President Ellen Kennedy, too, praised the program's improvement in a Tuesday press release.

"Achieving ACEN reaccreditation is a major accomplishment and one that affirms the high-quality of BCC's nursing education program," she said.

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


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