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International University of the Caribbean

Mel Nathan College Nursing School

Media Release

 

Appeal of the Decision of the Nursing Council of Jamaica to Withdraw the Approval Status of the International University of the Caribbean to Offer the BSc. Nursing Programme

The Nursing Council withdrew approval for delivery of the BSc. Nursing at the Mel Nathan Nursing School at the International University of the Caribbean. This was in response to the resignation of faculty which adversely affected the required student-to-faculty ratio. IUC contends that the decision was made without due consideration of alternatives, and without sufficient recognition of the negative impact on some 124 nursing students.

The Mel Nathan College Nursing School was established with the approval from the Nursing Council of Jamaica to offer the nursing programme in 2009. The Nursing curriculum was mostly delivered by experienced part-time nursing educators and other specialists. The consistently high performance of the students and graduates, and the positive feedback from hospitals are indicative of the quality of the teaching and learning experience that was facilitated through these individuals, under the leadership of the Associate Deans.

As of 2013, the Nursing Council started to require that the Nursing School contract full-time staff with master's degrees in Nursing Education. This proved to be challenging in a culture where master's-level nursing education personnel are in short supply.

The last approved faculty listing was submitted to the Nursing Council in March 2016. This faculty listing included two full-time Nurse Educators, the Dean of Nursing, and eight Bachelor's-level Registered Nurses. The team also included part-time graduate level lecturers who were engaged from time to time. They served a student body of 124 students, and therefore met the staff-to-student ratio.

In June, the majority of the nursing staff unexpectedly tendered their resignations. Multiple meetings were held with students in all year groups to assure them of all that was being done in response. Arrangements were put in place to ensure that the students' classes and examinations were not further disrupted. In fact, the Span of Duty examinations were held with excellent results in that 23 out of 24 students passed.

The University notified the Nursing Council of what had transpired and requested a meeting. Meetings were held on June 17, July 5, 15, and 20 at which the Nursing School provided updates on student progress and efforts to secure new fulltime faculty, and raised concerns expressed by our students. In the meeting of July 5, The Chair responded to these concerns by stating that the Nursing Council had never closed a Nursing School with active students, and that it was to no-one's advantage to close the School. In a meeting with the Nursing Council on Friday, July 15, the Nursing School was advised that they must appoint a new Head of School by the following Monday. This was done with the appointment of

an Associate Dean.

In a letter dated July 22 and received on July 27, the Nursing School was advised that it would be required to submit evidence of new staff by July 29 and not later than August 12 (i.e. in 2-10 days time). The correspondence indicated that the Council was requiring the Nursing School to identify persons with higher levels of qualification than previously existed in the Nursing School. To meet this demand in 10 days was not simply difficult but in the prevailing climate, virtually impossible.

On Friday, August 12, contact was made with the Nursing Council to advise that the person who had confirmed her availability to function as Dean of the Nursing School had withdrawn. The University therefore advised the Council that the required list would be submitted on Monday, August 15. This deadline was met. The list submitted consisted of a combination of full-time and part-time persons, and included staff who had been previously approved by the Nursing Council in March 2016. The list specified the qualifications of the proposed staff. A draft timetable for the semester was also submitted which indicated how the curriculum would be covered for the upcoming semester. Efforts were made to

ensure that where full-time persons did not meet the master's level qualification, they were paired with a part-time master's-level person.

To date, no specific feedback has been received from the Nursing Council on the lists or timetable submitted. The Nursing Council contends that there was no evidence that some of these persons had been contracted. However, the University was awaiting approval from the Council before entering into legally-binding contracts with individuals who had communicated their willingness and availability. The Nursing School is appreciative of the initial meetings that were facilitated by the Nursing Council but there is some disappointment that no assistance was forthcoming from the Council in sourcing or recommending master's-level nurse educators within the strict timelines that were set.

On the evening of August 15, five members of the Council unexpectedly arrived at the University to present the letter of withdrawal of approval for the programme.

On August 16, the Nursing School lodged an appeal against the decision of the Council, citing concerns shared with us by the students and asking that the decision be reconsidered in light of the impact on the students. On August 17, the University submitted an amended faculty listing with qualifications and licensure information, and requested a meeting.

On August 25, the Nursing School received a letter (dated August 19) that stated that Council's decision would stand and outlined the implications of operating without the Council's approval. The Council has not responded to the particulars of the appeal or to the specifics of the August 17 letter. 

At this point, the Nursing School is diligently working to submit a revised list to the Nursing Council and request a verification visit with the hope and expectation that the programme will be reinstated, and that classes can resume within the shortest possible time. Contact has already been made with the Council to pursue this process.

A significant number of our students have communicated a desire to continue their studies at the Nursing School. We have been meeting with them and providing updates on our progress in accomplishing the reinstatement of the programme approval. For those students who have indicated that they wish to transfer to other institutions, the Nursing School is facilitating and has expedited the preparation of transcripts and refunds of tuition where relevant. It is important to note that these transfers will likely affect the faculty-to-student ratios of other nursing schools.

In a context such as Jamaica, where the healthcare sector is overstretched due to the lack of qualified nurses, IUC steadfastly contends that an alternate collaborative solution could have been found that did not involve displacing over 100 students at this time.

Over the last year, the University has been working to strategically position itself for increased impact in healthcare and other sectors. Partnerships have been established with overseas and local entities with a view to increasing the institution's international reach. Extensive upgrade of the Nursing School's laboratory facilities will be completed in October 2016, including the installation of state-of-the-art technology such as high fidelity simulators.

As a sign of its commitment to the delivery of world class education, the University was recently awarded international institutional accreditation. This will encourage worldwide recognition and the ability to increasingly attract international students and faculty. This accomplishment is added to the registration of the University and its constituent colleges with the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) as well as the accreditation of 13 undergraduate and graduate programmes with the UCJ. Classes for all of these programmes have already resumed.

Despite the Nursing School's challenges, the University remains committed to tertiary education in Jamaica and to its motto: "Seek Peace. Pursue Excellence."