Massachusetts Bay Community College can continue training nurses as it searches for more department staff, after state officials allowed the school's nursing program on Wednesday.

Massachusetts Bay Community College can continue training nurses as it searches for more department staff, after state officials allowed the school's nursing program on Wednesday.


But the Board of Registration in Nursing blocked MassBay from enrolling new students until the college adds that extra staff - an effort which must be completed by year's end.


Last month, the state Board of Registration in Nursing raised concerns over MassBay's nursing program, which officials feared was threatened by a lack of a top administrator and several nursing instructors, according to the Boston Globe.


After a Wednesday meeting with MassBay officials, board members were satisfied by the school's proposed steps to address their concerns, said Jean Pontikas, director of the Division of Health and Professions Licensure at the Department of Public Health.


The school's nursing program has been in place since 1965 and has a pass rate of 83 percent, according to MassBay.


In an e-mail statement to the Daily News, MassBay President Carole M. Berotte Joseph wrote the school will continue to recruit more staff during the summer and intends to present them to the board in a meeting in September or October.


``We intend to fully explore collaborating with local hospitals and my staff is setting up meetings with CEOs of local hospitals to see if we can draw on this pool of professionals,'' wrote Joseph.


Though the school cannot accept new students, the 72 nursing students already accepted for the fall 2007 semester can attend classes at MassBay, Pontikas said. Once the new hires are in place, the board will consider dropping the enrollment block.


Though 220 applicants qualified for the fall 2007 semester, staffing levels at MassBay limited the class to 72, according to the college.


``We want to still have time to admit the spring class, (and) have them in for orientation and ready to go by January,'' Berotte wrote.


The college has already appointed a temporary director of nursing through December and is searching for a permanent replacement, said Pontikas.


The board was also concerned with reports a college official changed a student's grades - questions had been raised whether the student's disabilities were taken into account during a test.


State officials accepted MassBay's explanation of miscommunication between school administrators involved with the incident.


``There was no tampering with grades,'' said Pontikas. ``(MassBay administrators) took steps to protect the school against a suit regarding the disability issue.''


The school will also have to file status reports with the board in August and November, plus complete work by Dec. 31, she said.


According to a statement released by MassBay to the media, the board's decision to allow the program to continue was ``the best result possible for the college and our hardworking students.''


According to the Board of Higher Education, there were 7,000 unfilled nursing jobs in 2003. The Massachusetts Hospital Association projects the shortage to reach about 10,000 in 2010 and could hit 25,000 by 2020.


Higher ed officials have been working with the Massachusetts Hospital Association to develop a Public Higher Education Initiative in nursing and health education. The board stated the effort aims to ``rapidly increase the number and quality of skilled nurses, and the number of nursing faculty.''


There are enough qualified students waiting to enter nursing programs, but there are not enough faculty, too few clinical facilities and laboratories to meet the demand, according to the BHE.


John Hilliard of The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be reached at 508-626-4449 or jhilliar@cnc.com.