Recently I listened to a story of a nursing administrator changing a policy on the progression rule in the nursing program from essentially a “shall” to a “may” be dismissed if the student fails a second class. This a common rule for nursing programs, and for those that may not know, almost all nursing programs have a rule that any grade below a B- or C is failing. Despite the fact policy should not be changed by administrators without a full faculty vote, as required by faculty governance, the concept of flexibility is important. It is the type of compassionate policy we need in nursing programs.
In my days as an administrator, I made exceptions for three students. One student was an athlete who had given up the sport to be able to study nursing. The faculty had increased the requirement for progression, and under the new requirement, the student didn’t meet it. I was a little shocked when the faculty complained up the chain but successfully pointed out that students remained under the policy when they entered the program and not the ones instituted after. Of equal importance, a student that gives up an athletic scholarship to be a nurse deserves a little extra support. The student went on to graduate, get an MSN, and is now a Family Nurse Practitioner. As an alumnus, the person is also a consistent supporter of the university and works to help other students through the program.
The second student was a single mom who just needed a little understanding from the faculty. Occasionally when you have children, you do have to pick them up at school or daycare when they get sick. Despite the fact that there are few moms and dads that have not had to leave work to pick up a sick child, as faculty, we seem to show little understanding for students with children. That student became an ER nurse and has continued to impress me with her work and the life she has been able to make for her children with her income and benefits as a nurse.
The final student didn’t really need any exceptions, but a Priest came to me and asked me to look out for the student because there had been a couple of family tragedies, and he thought that the person might need some extra support through the program to ensure the student’s success. After graduation, when talking to the student, I told them that the Priest had come to me and that all of my support was at his request. Even when students think people may not know of their situation, there are those that will go out of their way to make sure they are supported. As faculty and administrators, we should always do all we can to help every nursing student. We should also always be willing to take calls from family, clergy, or others trying to help a young person have a successful academic experience.
Academic rules should never be so rigid that they make it impossible to see the person and their situation. I know it makes administration a little more complex and may result in more challenges, but we need registered nurses. I think more nursing school administrators should champion the needs of the students and recommend compassionate policies. Faculty governance should always support a system to adjust policies rapidly without being bypassed. Yet, I firmly believe every nursing administrator that makes a compassionate exception should not only be supported but applauded. W cannot become so rigid that we stop seeing the humanity of our students.