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National Park College explores options in continued effort to offer baccalaureate in nursing

by Brandon Smith The Sentinel-Record | May 23, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS -- National Park College has narrowed down its options in its bid to move forward with the proposal for a role and scope change to ultimately allow the offering of a baccalaureate in nursing.

President John Hogan updated the board on its progress during a workshop meeting Wednesday. While initially believing the school could not appeal the April 29 decision by the Arkansas Division of Education Coordinating Board to vote down its proposal, Hogan learned through the college's legal representative that it can appeal the decision.

Hogan and his team are met with local legislative leaders and Dr. Douglas Ross, president of CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, and Scott Smith, CEO of National Park Medical Center on Friday to gain input on how to proceed. The college has 30 days from the day of the decision to submit a letter of appeal. Hogan said Wednesday he has not heard back from ADHE regarding an appeal process.

He also has learned since the meeting that the coordinating board was provided with a document the college did not see until the following Monday after the meeting. Hogan said it came to his attention after talking with ADHE Executive Director Maria Markham on Monday regarding the board's decision.

"This document was provided by ADHE staff and it had several things on there that we didn't know were questions, and we did not have the opportunity to respond to those," he said. "A couple of the things that document said to the board is that NPC's program was under-subscribed. In other words, we had vacancies in our program, which is ... completely wrong.

"The second thing that comes to mind is there was a statement in there that NPC's proposal would not produce additional (registered nurses), which as you know contradicted the basis for our proposal," Hogan said.

Hogan said ADHE staff also reported there was a surplus of Bachelors of Science in Nursing in the area, which is not true, and there were discrepancies in the numbers pertaining to demand and salary, which appeared to be taken pre-pandemic.

Aside from an appeal, other options include resubmitting a letter of intent, pursuing a legislative solution, an executive endorsement, or partnership. Hogan said those are not mutually exclusive and they could do a combination of the five.

Resubmitting the letter of intent, he noted, is basically to start over, while an executive endorsement means the Higher Learning Commission needs some sort of state approval or authorization for them to offer a BSN.

"According to HLC, this is within our role and scope already. So it's a state requirement that we have to change our role and scope," he said. "They need some sort of state authorization -- not necessarily from the coordinating board. So that's what we've learned from HLC."

Regarding the "partnership route," he said a number of schools have contacted him directly saying they are willing to deliver the BSN program the faculty developed and even use their faculty to teach it.

"We're thinking that we owe it to our students to pursue those options if that creates a more expedient pathway," he said. "So you can see there are pros and cons to each of those. Those are the options that we have prepared for the group on Friday, and obviously, we've asked a lot of you and we're asking a lot of them to give us advice and direction."

The "fine line" with the coordinating board is that the school also needs it to approve the degree program, he said.

Since it was endorsed by ADHE, he said it should appear on the consent agenda once the role and scope issue is settled. The coordinating board rejected the proposal 5-2, but four of the 11-member board left the meeting at the time the college's proposal item came upon the agenda.

Print Headline: College laying out plan to get nursing program

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