NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are announcing three new regulatory actions by the State Board of Nursing to advance the State’s efforts to ensure that career education programs, including those at for-profit schools, provide students with pathways to success in their chosen professions and deliver on their promises to prospective students.
The three rules announced today will (1) bolster the standards for nursing education programs operating with provisional accreditation or on probationary status, (2) prevent schools from abusing exit examinations to falsely inflate their success rates or garner extra tuition; and (3) establish faculty and administrative standards and guidelines to ensure that nursing education programs teach student nurses to practice with skill, knowledge, care, and competence.
The new rules will apply to more than 60 schools that have obtained or are seeking Board accreditation for their nursing education or training programs.
“Students who pursue career education in order to improve their job prospects or to obtain a professional license should see a return on their investments,” said Attorney General Grewal. “With these new rules in place, nursing students should feel more confident than ever that they are pursuing educational programs that will help them build successful careers in the noble profession they have chosen.”
“The purpose of these regulations is to establish rules that nursing programs can follow to obtain and maintain accreditation as they implement training that adequately prepares students to become licensed to practice nursing,” said Howard Pine, Deputy Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will continue to implement laws that enhance the education of nurses in the state. This will ensure greater value to students and lead to improved safety, welfare and care of the public.”
1. Increasing Standards and Accountability for Nursing Programs with Provisional Accreditation or Probationary Status
A final rule adopted by the Board raises standards and accountability for new nursing programs that are allowed to operate before they are fully accredited and for older programs that have been placed on probation for academic deficiencies.
Under the new rule, nursing programs must inform students if their accreditation status is provisional. They also may graduate only one class per calendar year, and must employ experienced program administrators.
In addition, a provisionally accredited program will not be granted accreditation unless, within either the first or second calendar year after its first graduates complete the program, 75 percent of the graduates who take the national nurse licensing examination in each calendar year pass the examination the first time they take it.
Provisionally accredited programs that do not obtain accreditation within two years of the first class’s graduation must cease operations. If a program loses its provisional accreditation, the program (and its officers, directors, owners and principals) may not reapply for accreditation for three years.
The adoption notice is available on the Division of Consumer Affairs website here.
2. Ending Abusive Exit-Examination Practices
One rule proposal seeks to stop schools from inappropriately using pre-graduation predictor or exit examinations to identify weaker students, who are then prevented from graduating and taking the national nurse licensing examination. Requiring students to pass a pre-graduation predictor or exit examination before graduation can inflate a school’s passage rate for the national examination, and result in students unexpectedly paying more in tuition.
Under the Board’s accreditation rules, a nursing education program can lose its accreditation if, for three years in a row, fewer than 75 percent of its graduates pass the national nurse licensing examination. Some programs that are in danger of losing accreditation due to their graduates’ lower passage rates have required students to take a pre-graduation predictor or exit examination that assesses their likelihood of passing the national licensing examination. Those who do not pass the predictor or exit examination are not allowed to graduate, and instead are effectively held back although they have otherwise met all graduation requirements. As a result, the weaker students cannot take the licensing examination and adversely affect their school’s passage rate or endanger its accreditation status.
The proposed rule would end this practice. Although the proposal would allow nursing education programs to require students to take a predictor examination at the end of the program, programs would no longer be allowed to prevent students from graduating or taking a licensing examination based on their performance on the predictor examination.
The exit examinations proposal, and information on how to submit a comment by March 6, 2020, can be viewed on the Division of Consumer Affairs website here.
3. Strengthening Accreditation Standards
A second rule proposal seeks to ensure that nursing programs adequately prepare students to pass the national nurse licensing examination and to practice nursing with skill, knowledge, care, and competence. Among other things, the second rule proposal would:
• improve access to online education;
• require nursing program administrators to have three years of experience with a background in curriculum development;
• require that half of any practical nursing program’s faculty hold master’s degrees; and
• expand the role of registered professional nurses in providing and supervising clinical education.
The education programs proposal, and information on how to submit a comment by March 6, 2020, can be viewed on the Division of Consumer Affairs website here.