UAPB to lay groundwork for renewed nursing program


If all goes as planned, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will once again offer a four-year nursing program to students by summer 2014.

The university issued a press release Tuesday announcing that it is developing a new baccalaureate nursing program to replace the one shut down by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing on April 11.

Major steps over the next year include a feasibility study and an on-site survey by a representative of the ASBN, followed by a review and approval from the organization, according to the press release.

“The board told us that we can reapply one year after the previous program’s suspension in April,” UAPB Interim Chancellor Calvin Johnson said Tuesday. “During that time we have an opportunity to get everything that is required taken care of, such as the resubmitting of the application and going through the letter of intent with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. We will be taking all of the same steps required for the creation of a new program.

“We have time to evaluate and assess what we were doing wrong before and to put corrective measures in place,” Johnson said. “Our students deserve to have a nursing program and we are committed to giving them one.”

Johnson said that the relevant staff members have already begun discussions on the way forward.

“We have had some debriefings and we have started putting things together to address those things we were cited for [when the program was suspended in 2010],” Johnson said. “The main lesson learned is that we can’t take things for granted and we must get them right.”

UAPB Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mary Benjamin said Tuesday that, in her opinion, the advantage of earning a bachelor’s-level degree in nursing over an associate’s degree is largely in the expanded options it provides.

“Both degrees lead to a student becoming a registered nurse, but the student with a bachelor’s degree is lined up for management and supervisory level roles,” Benjamin said. “A bachelor’s degree gives a nurse more opportunity for career advancement. In order to teach nursing, you need at least a master’s degree, and program leadership positions require a doctorate.”

Background

The ASBN suspended the UAPB nursing program on July 15, 2010, when none of the program’s more than 16 seniors were able to graduate after failing to pass a standardized test. The board also found inconsistencies in the department’s grading and grievance procedures.

UAPB was not able to accept new nursing students over a two-year period as part of the suspension, with officials required to notify all prospective students of the program changes.

The school was required to hire a new department chairman to replace the one who resigned just before the program was suspended and to hire a consultant to evaluate the program’s curriculum.

UAPB was also required to fill three staff vacancies that existed in the nursing program at that time.

At the time of the 2010 suspension, the program had 17 juniors and 22 sophomores who were allowed to continue with their courses with the understanding that at least a 75 percent pass rate be maintained over the ensuing two years.

Three of 15 students passed in 2011 and five of ten students passed in 2012.

The ASBN decided to close the nursing program at an April 11 meeting, citing a failure on the part of school administrators and faculty members to correct what it characterized as chronic problems with curriculum, materials and student pass rates on mandatory tests.

The UAPB nursing program was authorized in 1974 and was placed on probation by the ASBN in 1981, 1992, 2005 and 2010.