Some Nursing Students 'In Limbo' After Nursing Board Policy Change

By Will Stone
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 6:57pm
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Some nursing students are criticizing the Arizona State Board of Nursing for limiting which out-of-state programs are allowed to operate in Arizona.

The issue surfaced earlier this year when students who were enrolled in certain programs to earn their advanced degrees discovered their schools did not meet state requirements.

Some advanced practice nursing students were pulled from their clinical training while the board gathered more information about their programs.

Others now say they have become “collateral damage” in a dispute between nursing schools and state regulators.

“With your changes, you have in effect taken away their ability to practice without making any effort to reimburse or accommodate each student,” Brooke Barr, a spokesperson for five unnamed nursing students, said to members of the nursing board’s Education Committee on Tuesday morning.

“They have attended nationally accredited schools, paid their tuition (many tens of thousands of dollars) taken the national board exams and upon passing, expected to move into active practice,” Barr said.

Barr went on to request that the board come up with a solution for the students left in limbo.

It is unclear how many are affected by the rule change.

The nursing board is working with at least four schools to make sure their students can still earn degrees and practice in the state. Other schools are not pursuing approval.

In November 2017, the board passed an advisory opinion that clarified the requirements for out-of-state APRN programs and in doing so discovered some schools with active students in the state were not in compliance.   

“They did have some national accreditation, which they believed substituted for the board of nursing approval. What we know is that they are very different,” said Kathy Malloch, the Associate Director of Education & Evidence Based Regulation at the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

“The intent of our law is really about public protection and to make sure if you are in Arizona taking care of patients, you’ve got to know the rules,” she said.

Malloch says the board’s recent advisory opinion isn’t intended to prevent out-of-state programs from coming to Arizona, but rather to ensure patient safety.

“I don’t believe people try to beat the system. I think people were truly confused about the regulations because they are different from state to state,” Malloch said.

The change did not affect all out-of-state programs.

Some states require nursing boards to sign off on nursing programs, while others do not have such a rule.

The board has approved 15 out-of-state programs this year under the new rules.