College officials opposing tougher nursing standards


First Posted: 1/15/2009

Bob Shiles
Staff writer
LUMBERTON — State community college leaders meeting here Thursday want the N.C. State Board of Nursing to drop a proposal that requires all of those teaching future nurses to have a master’s degree or a nursing doctorate degree by 2015.
The State Board of Nursing has included the “Faculty Rule” change in its overall efforts to raise the standards of those training nurses-to-be at community colleges. The community college system provides about 60 percent of the state’s new nurses.
The future of college nursing programs was a major topic during the first day of a two-day winter meeting of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents. The event, being held at Robeson Community College, is being attended by 50 of the system’s 58 presidents.
The intent of raising standards is good, college officials say. They support part of the nursing board’s proposal that calls for every nursing program in the state to obtain national program accreditation by the end of 2014 — especially if state lawmakers help provide the estimated $7.2 million it will take to meet this requirement.
But, college officials add, the “Faculty Rule” change will hurt their nursing programs since community colleges rely heavily on part-time registered nurses for their clinical training programs.
“We have set these standards for the future,” Polly Johnson, executive director of the Sate Board of Nursing, told NCACCP members. “We want the best prepared nurses possible. We want to keep people on the path to improve their education.”
Several college officials expressed the concern that they will lose good instructors, especially those in clinical areas, because instructors will not choose to pursue a master’s degree or beyond. They also noted that the proposed standards for clinical instructors is more stringent than standards set by the National League for Nursing.
Johnson said that many nursing faculties across the country already require at least a master’s degree. She said that there are studies indicating that patients benefit when the educational standards of nurses are set at the master’s level and higher.
Johnson also said that there is a provision exempting nursing instructors hired before 2015 from having to obtain a higher degree. There is also a provision that allows for the hiring of an instructor without a master’s or a higher degree after 2015 as long as the advanced degree is earned within five years.
North Carolina is already suffering a nursing shortage. According to the N.C. Nurses Association, the number of new practicing nurses isn’t growing quickly enough. The association projects a need for 108,000 nurses by 2020 but expects a supply of only 76,000.
“We don’t do a good enough job with our nursing programs,” said Martin Lancaster, president of the state’s community college system. “We don’t retain a lot of our nursing students. Many don’t go on to get their licenses.”
Lancaster said that a study has been commissioned to look at community college system nursing programs and to try and determine why there is a problem in retaining and graduating nursing students.
“This (lack of nursing graduates) is why legislators don’t want to provide us resources,” he said. “We have colleges with an incredibly poor core of graduates. I don’t think we can argue until we know why we can’t retain these students.”
Charles Chrestman, president of Robeson Community College, said the proposed “Faculty Rule” proposal could hurt his college’s current two-year associate degree nursing program.
“Our program is very successful,” Chrestman said. “This is one of our most rigorous programs. We had 20 to 25 students graduate last year.”
The president added that RCC has 82 approved student slots for its nursing program.
“We want all of these slots filled with quality students, and we want all of these students to graduate in two years,” Chrestman said.

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