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CU nursing school on probation
Feb 17, 2006 12:00 am
February 16, 2006
NASHVILLE — Cumberland University's flagship nursing program was placed under "conditional approval" by the Tennessee Board of Nursing on Wednesday as a result of student test scores which have dipped below the state benchmark for the past two years.
Flanked by CU President Dr. Harvill Eaton and nearly a dozen other school officials, Cumberland Dean of Nursing Dr. Leanne Busby testified the university has made several changes in recent months aimed at improving student performance on the state's nursing exam, the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination).
During the past two years, less than 85 percent of Cumberland nursing students have passed the exam which was the reason school officials were called to appear before the nursing panel Wednesday, Board Chair Cheryl Stegbauer said.
Historically, the school's NCLEX pass rate has hovered just above the 90-percent mark, Busby recently told The Lebanon Democrat.
As she addressed the 10-member board Wednesday, Busby said the CU Jeanette Rudy School of Nursing has enjoyed "great successes" over the past 18 months, including boosting classroom space through a partnership with University Medical Center.
"During the Spring of 2005, we were reaccredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission for eight years without condition," Busby said.
In November 2005, executives with the Tennessee Board of Nursing traveled to Cumberland and identified no negative issues during their site visit, she continued.
When it became apparent NCLEX pass rates had dropped last summer, Busby said she immediately took the numbers to Eaton to discuss the situation and possible remedies.
"To date, everything I have asked him (Eaton) to supply us with that would support our success, he has granted and the board (of trust) has granted to us as well," Busby said.
Changes implemented included hiring an assistant dean for the nursing school, altering GPA (grade point average) requirements for admission into the nursing program and changing the grading scale for nursing students, she added.
University officials have also implemented a new "total testing program" known as the ERI (Educational Resources Inc.) exam, which identifies students' strengths and weaknesses prior to the NCLEX. Solid performance on the ERI exam, Busby explained, translates into high NCLEX scores.
"We have developed a new course … called Successful Entry into Professional Nursing Practice, and it is being taught each spring semester," she said. "… This faculty has worked very hard, and this school is very important, I believe, to this state, to this board and, of course, to our university.
"I know that the quality of the instruction is where it needs to be, as I said, I was very surprised (by NCLEX scores) last year."
Although board members said they were encouraged by Cumberland's efforts to boost the past rate, a class has yet to graduate under the revamped program and, therefore, the results of the school's efforts are not yet available.
"You have some processes in place that should address the problems that you've had, but in view of the actual results … that really hurt you," said board member Donna Roddy, who made the motion to put CU under conditional approval.
Eaton said Wednesday afternoon he understood the board's decision and was "confident" changes in place will lead to a higher pass rate, which will ultimately bring CU out of conditional approval some time over the next two years.
"(Busby) is darn good, and she put together a good plan, and I challenged her with the plan," Eaton said. " … We discussed it in detail. She's got a plan that is good, and the plan is implemented well, and I feel very confident that the school of nursing, through this, is going to be significantly better than it was before."
The CU president added he is "proud" of the nursing program, which he referred to as "No. 1." He added he would meet with the nursing faculty later in the day to express those feelings.
"I'm going to tell them how proud I am of them and to keep it up – keep up the good work, keep up the standard at Lebanon's university," Eaton said.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.