NMI Board of Nursing responds to Jan. 26 article
In response to the article on Jan. 26 report by Ms. Kimberly B. Esmores, as chairwoman of the NMI Board of Nursing, I would like to express my disappointment with the lack of research and due diligence done to produce a biased report that taints the image of a board. With that in mind, let me first clarify and educate the community that the NMI BON prioritizes its fiduciary role to serve and protect the people of our community.
Neither Ms. Esmores nor Saipan Tribune has made an effort to reach out to our office nor have emailed the office for any information or comments about the complaints. If Ms. Bautista has had difficulty reaching the office via phone, our email listed on our website and Facebook social media page are open channels to attempt to reach the board. The NMI Board of Nursing acknowledges the complaint as reported in her article. However, the ethical principle of truth and accuracy was not evident in this article since the report has failed to hear our side of the story.
The NMI Board of Nursing is a small autonomous board with five office staff and seven board members. Board members are not required by law to have meetings every week or every month but are required to meet quarterly. In the past, the board members review applications that have completed the requirements quarterly, which took longer for any applicant to get an approval. This took about three to nine months. Since then, as chairperson of the board, I encouraged all board members to review applications weekly or when time permits. All six board members have full time nursing jobs and one community member. The NMI Board encourages all graduate nurses to apply as soon as possible because we want these nurses to sit for their exam due to the fact that we have a shortage of nurses across the nation.
Our board members do not get paid and are not compensated financially for the time spent on their own time in performing their fiduciary duty. As chair, I have dedicated my time to come in to the office every week to do application reviews and sign what needs to be sent out (even though we are only required to come in quarterly). Our office personnel have worked diligently to filter through thousands of documents received by our office, on top of responding to queries from applicants not only in the CNMI and the United States, but internationally. So yes, our phone lines will always be busy. However, we do provide updates to applicants as they come, though we are not able to provide some in greater details, trust that they will be reviewed, and response will be received.
The nursing profession and the commitment to the safety of the community is paramount. Rules and regulations vary in different jurisdictions. Hence, the requirements and verification process differ. Nurses may apply to any other U.S. Boards of Nursing to be licensed to practice the profession. In the article, the complainant is from Australia who turned in her application for Certificate of Good Standing on Dec. 5, 2022 (because it was on the Tribune). Every applicant is reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis on who applies first and who has provided that all requirements have been met and legitimate documents have been received and submitted all their expected records. Some records are not legible or information compared to application is not same. The office of the NMI Board has done a great job thus far compared to the previous years.
The Nursing Board office has numerous applicants from the Philippines and other countries, even from Guam. The bulk of our applicants come from the Philippines and other non-U.S. countries because we do not require a Social Security Number when applying, compared to other nursing boards in the United States and territories (Guam, American Samoa and Virgin Islands). Any graduate nurse can apply on any nursing board, but most choose the NMI BON as a social security I.D. number is not required and we do, in fact, approve faster than any other boards. Nowhere is it advertised and no one is asked to choose our Board of Nursing but we appreciate their business when they do choose our board in hopes of acquiring new RNs to work and reside in the CNMI. We have recently discovered several online blogs and YouTube videos that applaud the efficiency and ease of applying to our office. The NMI Board of Nursing is also on some YouTubers who applaud our office.
These applicants (90%) are applying to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination; 95% are not applying to work in the CNMI. When their applications are approved, they get to again apply to Pearson Vue to set the date for their exam. Applications that are complete are reviewed by the board members to make sure that the papers are not fraudulent and that the applicant faced no disciplinary action in their country (safety of our community). It takes about one to three months for our applicants to get an approval to sit for the NCLEX exam. This is the same as for Endorsement and Certificate of Good Standing. The reason for the one to three months’ turnover time is because sometimes applicants fail to send other required documents such as certification of employment, signed passport photo, transcripts etc.
The NMI BON does acknowledge that there is always room for continuous improvement with processing time without compromising our value to ensure that applications received are legitimate, which is why we have applied with the National Council State Board of Nursing for their Optimal Regulatory Board System in 2020 and was waitlisted to start this year, 2023. The BON has invested approximately $50,000 to upgrade and expedite the application process. Since this platform is paperless, it would enable all board members to view and review applications even outside the office and may also give room for applicants to submit applications electronically. The system upgrade has been in the works and we are happy that it is finally coming along to bring greater efficiency to our office operations.
Processing and reviewing applications to sit for NCLEX, requests for COGS, endorsement, etc., are not the main reason why the BON exist. We also look after the validity of nursing education and training within the NMI. More importantly, the NMI Board of Nursing has other significant fiduciary duties, such as ensuring that APRNs, RNs, LPNs, CNAs and techs who are licensed by the NMI abide by our state NPA or Nurse Practice Act. The board has the power to terminate, suspend, or sanction licensees who are non-compliant with our NPA. We ensure our nurses have no past or present disciplinary actions before issuing them a license to care for our CNMI community. The community is more than welcome to submit complaints to the BON in regards to nursing issues and those complaints are investigated if a licensee is found to be in violation of the NPA.
The headline that “our voices are not being heard” is a highly inaccurate and outrageous. The NMI Board of Nursing holds a great responsibility in making sure that applications are complete and not fraudulent, so yes, it will take time. This is why applicants are encouraged to submit applications or requests in advance to avoid frustration and we will continue to do our best to respond on time.
Thank you and si yuus ma’ase.
Roca Quitugua Sablan, RN, CRNP, Nurse Midwife
Chairwoman, NMI Board of Nursing