Nursing program off life support


Pima Community College’s nursing program has made some progressive changes over the past year, and recently regained proper standing with its accrediting body.

On Sept. 19, the Arizona State Board of Nursing concluded that PCC had resolved governance issues and autonomy regarding its nursing program based on evidence submitted by the college.

During an email interview Pamela Randolph, AZBN’s associate director of education and evidence-based regulation, wrote that PCC had successfully corrected governance issues regarding its nursing program.

“The board found that Pima Community College had remedied all deficiencies and restored full approval status,” she wrote.

In July 2013, PCC received a notice of deficiencies from the AZBN.

The complaint said Pima undermined the governing authority of its dean of nursing, Marty Mayhew, and that undermining the authority of the nursing program administrator compromises nursing education and places patient safety at risk.

On Jan. 28, Mayhew resigned from her position following the completion of an internal investigation into claims of her misconduct.

Following Mayhew’s departure, Chancellor Lee Lambert wrote in email to employees that Brian Stewart, an academic dean from PCC’s Desert Vista Campus, would assume interim responsibility over the nursing department.

Stewart said the integrity of Pima’s nursing program was never in question, and that the autonomous governing of PCC’s nursing department needed to be restored to state-level policy.

“The notice of deficiencies wasn’t written in regards to the program itself,” Stewart said.

“The notice of deficiency was in regard to adherence to state regulation with the nursing director being recognized as the authorizing body for the program.”

He said the education provided to PCC’s nursing students has been consistently robust, which he said is exemplified in Pima’s nursing certification test scores, and the college’s open-enrollment policy.

According to AZBN website, PCC’s nursing certification scores rose to 92.06 percent in 2013, which is greater than the Arizona state average of 88.25 percent.

Stewart said he took the nursing dean position without any plans to assume its responsibilities long-term. He said expanding his skill-set and staying at PCC’s Desert Vista Campus are his goals.

“I’ve been a nursing director for a long time,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t interested in continuing that. I want to do something new that pushes me, and challenges me.

“Plus I committed to my faculty at Desert Vista,” he added.

Stewart said during the investigation, the AZBN looked at Pima’s policies and updates regarding its nursing program.

“They liked the direction the college was going under new administration,” Stewart said.

“They see a change in behavior and acknowledged that the new governance and reinforcement of policy was a good thing,” he said.

On July 29, Pima held candidate forums to fill the assistant dean and director of nursing positions.

But, after Joseph Gaw secured this new position, Stewart said the college recognized the nursing director position was a full-time position in itself. The college is still searching for someone to fill the role.

Gaw began his career at PCC as an adjunct instructor in 2010, while also working as an advanced registered nurse at Tucson’s Northwest Medical Center. His resume also includes nine years of advanced patient care at Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital.

While working at St. Mary’s Hospital Gaw was enrolled in a mentor program that provided training for nursing graduates to transition into specialty care positions.

He was later offered bachelor degree classes from Grand Canyon University via the expansion of that program.

“Now, that’s important,” Gaw said. “Because what they did is they gave the entry point to a bachelor’s process that most people hadn’t even thought about doing at the time.”

For the past two semesters, Pima’s concurrent enrollment program has offered its students the chance to pursue associate, and bachelor degrees for nursing certification simultaneously.

Gaw said he will continue to work to help nurses get the education they need to progress in the workplace.

“As a community college we have to meet that need,” he said.

Furthermore, Gaw said his goals are to increase student-engaged learning, and community outreach which will be spearheaded by Pima’s dedicated nursing faculty.

“We have a fantastic team in this nursing department, and the students have to know that,” Gaw said.

“My faculty are my life-blood of this program, and this team is ready to serve and ready to help them be successful.”

From left, Deanna Merrill, Kaileen Martin, and Sharon Powell speak with Joseph Gaw in between their nursing skills lab examinations.

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