Diploma Nursing Program Admissions Suspended Pending Regulatory Body Review

| 18/06/2017

Diploma Nursing Program Admissions Suspended Pending Regulatory Body Review

 Review follows decline in program graduates’ performance in national certification exams; program’s future to be determined at June College of Nurses of Ontario council meeting

In what is possibly the most startling evidence that declining academic standards at Seneca College are threatening both the success of our graduates and the viability of our programs, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) has placed the status of Seneca College’s Practical Nursing (PN) diploma program in question.

The CNO is the governing body for Ontario’s nurses.  It establishes requirements for practicing nurses, and enforces professional standards.  It does so in part by reviewing and approving all practical nursing programs in Ontario, to ensure that the graduates of these programs possess the required entry-to-practice competencies.


In 2014, Seneca’s PN program had been placed on a kind of probation by the CNO, given the status of “Approved with Conditions”, as a consequence of graduates’ substandard results on the national registration exam, compared to provincewide average passing rates.

That status, however, changed for the worse in March, when Seneca closed admissions to incoming or transferring students to the PN diploma program, the day after meeting with the CNO Council to discuss the passing rates of program graduates in last year’s national registration exam. 

The CNO has stated on its website that its decision regarding the status of Seneca’s PN program will be deferred until June.  In the meantime, the program has submitted a comprehensive curriculum review.

To our knowledge, no Seneca College program has ever been compelled to suspend incoming students pending the results of a regulatory body’s decision.  And while PN programs at five other Colleges are currently “approved with conditions” according to the CNO website, Seneca’s program is the only one whose conditional approval has been withheld, pending formal CNO Council review.

Seneca management claims that the changed status is a consequence of a slight (0.9%) drop in the exam performance of Seneca’s PN graduates (of both the day program and Continuing Education) since the previous year, despite the fact that the performance of Seneca’s graduates had been steadily (and, in the case of Continuing Education, dramatically) rising over the past five years.

CNO publications of data concerning the national registration exams do shed light on the performance of Seneca graduates.  Despite Seneca’s improvements in recent years, more than 1 in 9 graduates of Seneca’s PN programs failed to pass the national registration exam after three attempts, and our passing rates are 4.9% below the provincial average of college Nursing program graduates. 

Given those deficits—and the fact that Seneca PN graduates have performed below the provincewide average for the last four years—the CNO may have been particularly concerned to see a decline, however small, in the performance of Seneca PN graduates last year.

Local 560 maintains that these statistics, while alarming, remain consistent with other statistical evidence of critical widespread problems with our academic standards, as indicated in the KPI surveys of the satisfaction of Seneca’s graduates, and their employers (who reported a 3.6% drop in satisfaction from 2013 to 2016).

We also note the College’s decision in 2014 to exclude faculty from the students’ field placements, which ensured that students would not be supervised and evaluated on-site by professors, but exclusively by part-time support staff.

Given the general degradation of academic standards at Seneca College, we must be grateful that regulatory bodies are willing to impose standards that focus on the quality of our graduates’ knowledge and skills, even as we are forced to ask why Seneca College management has failed to uphold those standards.

The Practical Nursing program’s current endangered status is a consequence of a managerial model that relies excessively on vulnerable, precarious labour, and excludes faculty from shared governance and meaningful decision-making in issues of staffing, curriculum, and student evaluation.  Only a model that puts genuine decision-making authority in the hands of qualified faculty can ensure the necessary excellence of the program and its graduates, upon whom the health and well-being of Ontarians depends.

Category: Colleges, Featured Post

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