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Nursing reaccreditation visit triumphs over COVID-19

Beth JohannsAs the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence felt locally, Iowa’s colleges and universities began scrambling to figure out how to support students and continue teaching and learning in an online format. It was in the midst of that chaos, on Mar. 19 & 20, when the Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) nursing programs were scheduled to undergo a reaccreditation visit with the Iowa Board of Nursing. In spite of the timing and circumstances, IVCCD Associate Dean of Health Occupations Beth Johanns says she thinks the reaccreditation visit could not have gone better!

IVCCD operates one-year Practical Nursing and two-year Associate Degree Nursing programs at both Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls and Marshalltown Community College.

Johanns says the visits are usually two half days culminating in an exit interview, but this year’s visit was completed in one long day so the Iowa Board of Nursing (IBON) examiner, Jimmy Reyes, didn’t have to travel to Marshalltown twice. A second IBON examiner was unable to participate due to illness.

“Reaccreditation approvals can range from three to six years; our last visit was in 2017 and we received a three-year approval at that time,” says Johanns. “We spent a great deal of time preparing for this visit, because the examiners review all of our program documents, contracts, curriculum, meeting minutes … really everything we do from A to Z. We knew if we couldn’t get through it on the scheduled date in March that it would have to be delayed until summer.

The IBON examiner interviewed students from both the PN and ADN programs at ECC and MCC, as well as faculty from both colleges. The student interviews were done via Zoom, and faculty interviews were both in-person and via teleconference. Johanns was also interviewed as part of the process.

“The examiner was very complimentary of our students and staff,” says Johanns. “He really enjoyed the students, and described them as being very professional and well-prepared. Our students spoke highly of the faculty, and the faculty spoke highly of me and our administration. In the previous reaccreditation visit we received eight recommendations for improvement, and the examiner found all of those to be sufficiently addressed. As a team we worked hard to document the changes we’ve made, and those former recommendations are now a non-issue moving forward.”

Johanns said the examiner’s recommendation for IVCCD’s six-year reaccreditation (with no recommendations for improvement) will be presented at the IBON quarterly meeting in July.

“Everyone on our team at both colleges was great to work with,” said Johanns. “Whatever I needed and asked for, people dove in and rolled up their sleeves and got it done. We share a lot of teamwork and mutual respect across the District, and it all paid off. The nursing faculty is a fun and creative group, and I am so glad to be able to work with them.”

Asked how classes are going with everything now online due to COVID-19, Johanns said it wasn’t a difficult transition for the nursing faculty and students. “Last winter after many of our classes were canceled due to weather, we purchased the equipment needed to support online learning so we wouldn’t be slowed in case of bad weather moving forward. We had the equipment and knew how to use it, so we were ready to go following spring break.”

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