“State approval is a big accomplishment, but certification is a big process.” 

Those are the words of Keith McDivitt, director of the nursing program at Blackfeet Community College. He made the statement on the announcement that BCC’s program passed Phase III of the state approval process.

In reviewing the sequence of events, McDivitt observed that on “October 30-31, 2019, a three-member team from the Montana Board of Nursing (BON) conducted an on-site visit over two full days, reviewing documents and interviewing nursing students, nursing faculty, college administration, key faculty and staff from a number of departments, the community advisory board, clinical site representatives, prior nursing students and employers. Several weeks later we received a detailed summary report of their findings and within 14 days, BCC President Dr. Karla Bird, Provost Carol Murray and nursing faculty responded to any standards in the category of partially compliant (PIC).”

The three phases involved in state certification included applying to the state to have a nursing program (Phase I), having students enrolled in the program (Phase II) and passing an inspection by the BON.

On the positive side, the BON had several “Commendations” for the program. They include:

* BCC Nursing Program is responsive to the community it seeks to serve.

* There is considerable support from the parent institution for the program.

* The faculty is hardworking and dedicated, putting in many more hours than expected in order to ensure a quality program that meets the needs of the students and community; they are doing an excellent job holding fast to nursing standards and developing students’ professional accountability.

* Multiple employers stated, “We are very fortunate to have this program in our area” and “it is nice to have home grown nurses.”

* Integration and involvement of the part-time faculty, including a PhD-prepared individual who teaches from a distance, in the overall program.

And they pointed to some “Concerns,” including:

* Lack of faculty prepared at the graduate level. To meet that standard, all nursing faculty teaching didactic courses are to have an MSN or higher. Had one course taught by faculty with a BSN prior academic year. Has since been corrected and in compliance.

• NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) pass rates continue to be below the level required by the BON.

• BON standard says nursing programs are to be within 10% of the national average for first-time NCLEX test takers and passing this national exam. Nursing graduates cannot be employed (licensed) until passing this national exam. The national average pass rate for first time test takers is around 85%. Our annual rates do not meet this standard. Knowing this is a concern, the Nursing Program has made significant changes in administering the state curriculum, teaching methods, student expectations, handbook, policy and procedures, etc. to improve student success NCLEX pass rates. These changes should reflect improved student success and NCLEX pass rates with the current nine second year nursing students scheduled to graduate this May.


cDivitt points out that BCC must meet more stringent requirements in order to be certified. He explained that while a student might earn an RN degree in two or three years at BCC, they can’t be employed until they pass the NCLEX test. And, since it’s a national test, BCC’s students are compared to others across the nation, many of whom have graduated from four-year programs.  This has resulted in BCC’s pass rates coming in below the 75% needed for certification.

“This is the program’s biggest deficiency,” McDivitt said.

“Our goal is to have home-grown programs with access to education and employment in the hospital, schools and government,” President Bird said. “With this approval, now we’re going for national accreditation and developing a partnership with the Indian Health Service.”

“We’re at the point where we wanted to be now,” Provost Murray said. “Our students have graduated and they’re being employed. The next steps will be incorporating traditional means of healing.”

McDivitt listed where BCC graduates are currently employed, including Blackfeet Community Hospital (Indian Health Service), Glacier Care Center (Cut Bank), Marias Medical Center (Shelby), Blackfeet Care Center (Browning), Tribal Health Improvement Program (THIP) and Great Falls Benefis Hospital (Great Falls).

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