On appeal from a Final Decision of the Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, State Board of Nursing.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa, Lihotz and Simonelli.
Appellant Southern New Jersey Technical School (SNJTS) appeals from the December 1, 2006 Final Order of Probation and Denial of Accreditation (Final Order) of the New Jersey State Board of Nursing (Board) denying its application for accreditation of its nursing school, and placing the school on probation pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(e). On appeal, SNJTS contends the Board's decision is not supported by the record, and is arbitrary and capricious. We affirm.
SNJTS filed an application pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:11-24(d)(14) and N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.1 and 1.3 to establish a licensed practical nurse program. The Board referred the application to its Education Committee (Committee) for review and recommendation. Pursuant to the Committee's recommendation, on October 16, 2001, the Board granted SNJTS provisional accreditation. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.2. Accreditation would be granted to SNJTS upon compliance with N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3,*fn1 which provides as follows:
(b) A nursing program that has been granted provisional accreditation shall not be granted accreditation until:
1. The first class has graduated;
2. Seventy-five percent of students from the first or second graduating class, who have taken the licensing examination, pass the examination the first time it is taken by the student; and
3. A self-study report is submitted to the Board that shows the nursing program is in compliance with the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.4 through 1.11.
There is no dispute that SNJTS complied with N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(b)1 and 2. The controversy here concerns N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(b)3. The relevant facts are summarized from the record. In March 2003, the Board received numerous anonymous complaints that SNJTS violated regulations governing the operation of a new nursing program, including leaving students unsupervised at clinical locations, intimidating students and threatening to expel those who complained about their educational experiences, and permitting unqualified instructors to teach.
As a result of the complaints, on June 9, 2003, the Board authorized an unannounced visit to SNJTS. During the visit, students complained to the Board's representatives about unplanned class schedule changes, faculty failing to attend or coming late to lectures or clinical experiences, course examinations resulting in a large number of failures, and no or an ineffective student grievance process. Students also expressed concern that the skills laboratory was inadequately stocked with supplies to practice skills or engage in extra- curricular learning activities, and that they were "docked an hour of time for showing up to class even a minute late . . . when faculty don't show up for hours at times."
The Board's representatives issued a report of the deficiencies found during the visit, and discussed the report with SNJTS. On July 8, 2003, the Committee discussed the report with SNJTS. The Board reviewed the report on July 15, 2003, and authorized a second visit to assess the school's progress in correcting the deficiencies.
On November 4-5, 2003, the Board's representatives visited SNJTS and found the following deficiencies: (1) no written criteria for faculty retention or promotion; (2) program objective four*fn2 needed to be stated in measurable, behavioral terms; (3) the Systematic Program Plan of Evaluation did not reflect monitoring of the clinical, theory, policy and procedural regulatory requirements; (4) the nursing organizational framework was not clearly identified throughout the curriculum; (5) theory and concomitant experiences for each course were not taught concurrently; (6) no faculty development plan was found in the faculty files; (7) in the grievance procedure, the disciplinary action for students violating the chain of command was not identified; and (8) committee meeting minutes were not maintained. The Board's representatives issued a report of the deficiencies found during this visit. As a result of the report, the Board continued provisional accreditation and directed SNJTS to comply with the following:
1. Develop written criteria for faculty promotion and retention. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.4(a)4.
2. Restate Practical Nursing Program Objective number 4 in measurable terms. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.5(c).
3. Involve the faculty in refining and developing the Systematic Plan of Program Evaluation. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.5(d).
4. Faculty need to incorporate the Organizing Framework into theory and clinical. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.5(e).
5. Faculty develop individualized development plan in collaboration with administrator. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.7(d).
6. Faculty work with administrator to continue to review and refine course outlines assuring continuity between theory and clinical objectives. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.8(g)4.
7. Clarify the Grievance Procedure statement referring to disciplinary action that will be taken when the "chain of command" is not followed. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.11(a)5.
8. Maintain a record with complete nursing department program committee minutes for a minimum of three years. N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.15.
A United States Congressman wrote to the Board that SNJTS officials intimidated and threatened expulsion of students who complained about the school. The Board also received additional complaints that the school failed to adhere to the grievance policy, lacked sufficient resources, failed to obtain Board approval prior to making major changes in the nursing program, canceled a part-time program, and failed to obtain sufficient licensing documentation for instructors. As a result, the Board's representatives visited SNJTS on May 5, 2004. They found the following deficiencies:
[SNJTS] has a program philosophy that is published in the Nursing Student Handbook and addresses the required elements of nursing, humans, health, environment, and the teaching-learning process. The organizing framework appears to consist of holism, nursing process, communication, and professional growth. These concepts are found in the program objectives and are reflective of community standards. There was no evidence that these concepts were integrated into course syllabi, nor were faculty able to explicate them in discussion. The curriculum is skills and content driven. For example in a discussion about elimination with faculty they indicated that ...