State Nursing Board Sanctions PCC Program ; Gives It One Yearto Clean Up Problemsor Face Shutdown

By Alaimo, Carol Ann | AZ Daily Star, October 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

State Nursing Board Sanctions PCC Program ; Gives It One Yearto Clean Up Problemsor Face Shutdown


Alaimo, Carol Ann, AZ Daily Star


The Arizona State Board of Nursing has issued a sanction against the nursing program at Pima Community College, saying friction between faculty and administrators has compromised student learning and put patient safety at risk.

The board recently issued a "notice of deficiencies" that gives PCC a year to clean up problems or face a potential shutdown of the popular program, the largest local producer of registered nurses.

The Nursing Board action is separate from a two-year probation sanction imposed on PCC in April after its accreditor found sweeping problems in the school's overall governance and administration.

The Nursing Board "determined that (PCC's) nursing program is not maintaining required standards" and is in violation of state law, its recent notice said.

College leaders say they're committed to fixing the problems, which came to a head in May when the Nursing Board received an anonymous complaint.

State records also show a recent three-year slump in the pass rates of PCC graduates taking nursing license exams. Officials say they've already taken steps to correct that as well.

The Nursing Board sanction was handed down more than two months ago. The college didn't disclose it until Thursday in response to a public-records request from the Arizona Daily Star.

The board's findings center on a fractious relationship between nursing program administrator Marty Mayhew and the Pima Community College Education Association, which represents full-time faculty members in contract negotiations and other issues.

According to the Nursing Board, the faculty group repeatedly challenged Mayhew's decisions, to the point of interfering with the nursing program's operations.

For example, it said, the faculty group tried to force Mayhew to change the work assignment of a nursing instructor who was assigned to teach at a local hospital where she didn't want to work. The group also fought other decisions such as Mayhew's move to drug- test nursing faculty members in the interest of patient safety.

"Such interference compromises nursing education (and) places patient safety at risk," the board said. Under state rules, authority for all aspects of nursing education rests with Mayhew as the nursing program administrator, it said.

Mayhew's boss, Lou Albert, president of PCC's west campus where most health-care programs are based, also was faulted in the board's findings. Albert broke the law when he bowed to pressure from the faculty group and reversed one of Mayhew's staffing decisions, the board notice said.

Albert said in a phone interview Friday that he regrets overruling Mayhew, and said he was just trying to quell the dispute.

"With the wisdom of hindsight, I'm sorry I did it," he said.

Mayhew didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.

Rita Flattley, a PCC psychology instructor and spokesperson for the faculty group, said the situation is much more complex than what's portrayed in the Nursing Board decision.

The faculty group acted in good faith to try to resolve employee concerns about the program's leadership, she said, but added she can't elaborate due to employee confidentiality.

PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert, who started work at the college in July and inherited the nursing program problem, said in a recent letter to the Nursing Board that the college "takes this matter very seriously and will take all necessary steps" to fix the problems. …

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