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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Accreditation of NMC’s Nursing Program

In response to numerous inquires regarding accreditation of the NMC Nursing Program, I would like to clarify a few points and offer some other information:

In reference to Dr. Carmen Fernandez’s and Mark Mendiola’s letter, yes we are accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges, and we are also approved by the CNMI Board of Nurse Examiners, therefore our graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN Examination for licensure in the states. This licensure is the first step toward employment as an RN, but our graduates then face a myriad of immigration issues for non-U.S. citizen hire by U.S facilities.

In researching the Internet, I discovered that the H1C special visa for critical occupations ran out in 2005 and no new law has been passed since to allow foreign nurses to be hired in the U.S. Currently, it seems that the only nurses who might be considered for hire must be baccalaureate-prepared with experience in specialty fields like ICU, ER, Cardiac/Telemetry, Pediatric Specialty, etc. This site further states that general duty nurses, like those working in medical-surgical areas, have little chance of receiving a visa, especially if they only have an Associate of Science in Nursing.

As it is now, for any foreign nurse wanting to work in the United States, a specific hospital, e.g., University of Loma Linda, would have to identify a critical need at their institution and document the inability to fill this position locally (or even nationally), and then contact Immigration and request a visa to be approved for an alien exemption so a non-U.S citizen nurse could be hired. This hospital would then sponsor this nurse to come to the U.S under a specific contract. One of our former faculty was hired under this H1C Visa but it took her over six months of waiting, unemployed, in the U.S. before she actually began working for her sponsoring institution.

Another topic I would like to address is the issue of the benefit of having an NLN accreditation at all on this island. The National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission may be considered by some to be the “crème dela crème” of accreditation agencies and is certainly respected in the states for the continued quality demanded by such accreditation. However, this is the Pacific Rim. After researching the NLNAC website and their 168-page guide to applying for accreditation, I did a mental scan of the requirements and the situation we have at the Northern Marianas College. I do not believe that we could even be accepted for candidacy by this organization. The NLNAC is another WASC process with self-study reports, team site visits, faculty credentialing we traditionally cannot meet, peer evaluation review panels, etc., not to mention the cost of regularly bringing team site visitors to the island and funding all of this. The criteria for simply being accepted as a candidate for accreditation finds us lacking in faculty: a department director to spearhead this full-time process, much less a department chair; lack of adequate funding, bare-bones budgets, and inadequate lines of communication with campus, governmental, and approval agencies as well.

My last day as acting chair of the Nursing Department is Aug. 18, with no replacement in sight and faculty numbers down to three, with one adjunct teacher for our 30 students in the fall. We have no administrative assistant lined up to handle the thousands of documents needed to carry off such a process nor to answer a phone. These agencies will only accredit programs that can demonstrate adequate educational capacity to initiate such an accreditation.

In summary, the Nursing Department and its teachers provide excellent education to our students despite the challenges all departments face at NMC. The numbers of students who have passed the NCLEX are at an all-time high and this ultimately is why we all work so hard for our students. I feel that since non-U.S. ASN-prepared nurses have little opportunity for hire in the U.S, to jump through the hoops such as demanding accreditation would entail, the real disservice would be to encourage such an all-encompassing effort with no real benefit to our graduates. I will miss all my colleagues, students, and friends on this beautiful island and will take you with me in my heart.

Lynne Curtis
Acting Chair, Nursing Department
Northern Marianas College

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