February 5, 2007

Nursing Scores Plummet

By Christine Braden, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

Feb. 3--Seeing its 2006 nursing licensure scores, Florida Keys Community College realized its worst fears - its nursing program passage rates were the lowest for any community college in the state.

Between January and December 2006, 33 FKCC students took the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, better known at the NCLEX-RN.

Only 17 of those 33 students passed, leaving the school with a 51.52 passing percentage, compared to South Florida Community College, which had 100 percent of its 21 nursing students pass.

In 2005, 21 of 25 FKCC students passed for a percentage of 84 percent.

The state NCLEX-RN average is 85.73 percent and the national average is 87.29 percent.

According to the Florida Board of Nursing, nursing programs are not allowed to fall beyond 10 percentage points below the national average.

The FKCC rates were 35.77 percentage points below the national average.

"We're doing everything we can to improve those scores," college spokeswoman Lydia Estenoz said.

Nevertheless, the recent resignations of two former nursing program directors, Coleen Dooley and Juli Daniels, "undoubtedly played a part," she said.

Hoping to increase the next batch of scores, the Florida Board of Nursing is working with the college, both Estenoz and Board of Nursing communications liaison Lauren Buzzelli said.

Nicki Will, chief executive officer at Lower Keys Medical Center and Kim Bassett, chief executive officer at Fishermen's Hospital in Marathon, said the low passage rate has not affected their recruitment of nurses from the FKCC program. Both said they would continue to stand behind the program, which they believe turns out excellent nurses.

The NCLEX-RN - required nursing licensure for all states - is supposed to effectively ensure a student's competence as a nurse. The test is taken at the end of the two-year FKCC nursing program and is supposed to act as the culmination for all that a student should have learned.

The school did have some expectation of poor scores, according to President Bill Seeker, who spoke with the Keynoter on the subject in November.

Before departing, Daniels increased minimum grade-point-average criteria for the program from 2.0 to 2.5, he said.

Last year's dismal passage rate is evidence that students - who theoretically began their study under Dooley in 2005 but took the test under Daniels in 2006 - were affected by the school's leadership turnover, officials said.

During the 2003-04 academic school year, under Dooley, FKCC nursing students received kudos with the highest NCLEX-RN passage rate in the state. That year 30 out of 32 nursing students passed the test, leaving the school with a 93.75 percent passing rate.

The drastic drop in FKCC scoring points to the timing - Dooley resigned in the spring of 2005 and Daniels in December 2006.

"It's not the students' fault, it's the administrators' fault," former nursing faculty member Melissa Thrall-Impallomeni told the Keynoter. She resigned at the same time as Dooley in 2005.

Thrall-Impallomeni said much of the blame lies with Seeker, college Vice President Maureen Crowley and Human Resources Director Lisa Weinshank for what she said is a hostile environment for the former directors.

Thrall-Impallomeni said students could not help but be feel the internal problems, as evidenced by their test scores.

Dooley - who had served as director of the program for 20 years - resigned after her position was reclassified as administrative, which caused her to lose tenure. According to FKCC administration, the reclassification was deemed necessary after Dooley complained of being pulled in too many directions as a member of the faculty also required to perform administrative tasks.

Daniels, hired to replace Dooley in the reclassified administrative position, submitted her resignation in the fall. It took effect Dec. 31, 2006.


Copyright (c) 2007, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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