BARELY a year after the board exam leakage controversy that rocked the Nursing community, representatives of  member schools of the Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (Cocopea) protest the new memorandum issued by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) which toughens up the country’s Nursing curriculum. Photo by L.A.C. BUENAVENTURATHE UST College of Nursing will implement the new “five-year” nursing curriculum required by regulators this academic year, despite some reservations, saying it won’t be difficult for the University to comply with tougher standards being imposed by the government to arrest what some say is the declining quality of the country’s nursing graduates.

A potential roadblock to the new nursing curriculum has been removed with the failure of a group of private schools to get a temporary restraining order from the courts last week, although members of the Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (Cocopea) have said they might ask the President to intervene.

Cocopea chairman Fr. Roderick Salazar Jr., S.V.D., called on the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to suspend the new curriculum in a press conference last May 22.

The Cocopea, the biggest consortium of private schools in the country, has criticized Ched Memorandum Order (MO) No. 5, series of 2008 or the “Policies and Standards for Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program,” claiming the new nursing curriculum will be a burden to nursing students and make the course even more expensive.

UST Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas, however, said the new curriculum has the support of the University administration.

Under the new curriculum, two more subjects were added and there will also be 357 more hours for hospital training. The tougher nursing curriculum means an additional three summer terms, which Cocopea, in a position paper, says is the near equivalent of a five-year course.

The group fears the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the government agency that supervises licensure examinations in the country, will make real its threat not to recognize graduates of deregulated and autonomous schools that will not implement MO No. 5.

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MO No. 5, issued last March 14, adds two subjects for incoming first-nursing students, “Theoretical Foundation in Nursing” in the first semester, and “Fundamentals of Nursing Practice” in the second semester.

The Required Learning Experiences or RLEs in hospitals have been stretched to 2,499 hours from 2,142.

“The PRC is threatening (the schools) that once we refuse to implement the new curriculum, it will not allow our graduates to take the board exams,” Dr. Amelou Benitez- Reyes of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) said in the Cocopea press conference last May 22. PRC officials were not available for comment as of presstime.

The Cocopea claims the new curriculum will “unduly burden” nursing students whose academic loads are packed, and are already spending a lot on tuition. The group estimated a 24-percent rise in school fees once the order is implemented this month.

An umbrella group of five organizations of private schools, the Cocopea counts the PACU and the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines or CEAP as members.

Ready to implement

Under Ched MO No. 59 series of 2007, UST was granted autonomous status from 2007 to 2012, giving it the “privilege to determine and prescribe curricular programs” on its own.

But Dean Vargas clarified that a deregulated or autonomous status does not permit an institution to resist orders from Ched.

“We can enhance and improve the implementation but we have to follow the minimum requirement prescribed (in the new curriculum),” Vargas told the Varsitarian, referring to the changes stipulated in MO No. 5.

Vargas also said that the College will not increase tuition, adding that new subjects will have little effect since Anatomy and Physiology will only replace Zoology during the second semester of first year students as what Ched has prescribed.

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Only freshmen will be covered by the new curriculum.

“The new curriculum is not very different from our curriculum in UST. It is not very difficult for us to implement it,” Vargas said.

Since Fundamentals of Nursing Practice is already part of UST’s curriculum even before Ched made it a requirement, substituting Zoology with Anatomy and Physiology and the introduction of Theoretical Foundation in Nursing will be the only changes in the new UST Nursing curriculum at the freshman level.

“We did not remove any (general education subject). We only added (the two) subjects,” Vargas said, responding to Cocopea claims that the new curriculum “will break the 2-year General Course outline.”

With Rector’s support

But if there is any flaw in the new curriculum, it is the three-summer provision that will spoil the students and faculty’s vacation, Vargas said.

“The faculty will have summer loads instead of enjoying their summer vacation,” Vargas said.

Vargas added that given the college’s limited number of professors, it would be very difficult “to let them stay here,” considering better working opportunities abroad.

In contrast to reports that school heads are having conflicts with their nursing deans over the Ched order, Vargas revealed that UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. has been very supportive of efforts to implement the new curriculum.

“In our case, we did not receive any objection (to the new curriculum). That is a show of support for us,” Vargas said. “We hope the Rector would continue to support us especially in terms of benefits for the faculty.”

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Needs improvement

Private schools stress that there is nothing wrong with the old curriculum.

“Why fix what is not broken?” asked Fr. Joel Tabora, regional director for Bicol of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), of which UST is a member.

While Vargas agreed with Cocopea, she said the changes would “meet world standards.”

Citing an example, Vargas said it is important for patient assessment “to stand alone as a subject” to better train students in the field, rather than just be integrated in nursing professional subjects.

“The assessment used to be integrated only in our professional courses but because nurses in hospitals abroad, particularly Europe, the United States, and Canada are expected to do a thorough assessment, this is becoming a standalone subject, to train students on this particular area,” Vargas said.

“One of the bases for the addition of courses in the nursing curriculum is the expectations (of foreign employers) on nurses abroad, especially in the hospitals,” Vargas added.

But Cocopea position paper claims that “in (the) configuration of the quantity of subjects, we fear that quality is compromised.”

In any case, the Ched order offers some leeway for other schools finding a hard time adjusting to the higher standards.

Vargas said the association of nursing deans has already received an order from Ched imposing a “transitory provision” on the new curriculum’s implementation.

“The schools who are ready to offer may implement it now. For schools who are not yet ready to offer it, they may postpone it for next year,” Vargas explained. “UST is ready.” Prinz P. Magtulis

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