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THE Commission on Higher Education (Ched) is seeking an amendment of the existing policies governing higher education institutions (HEI) offering the nursing program following recent results of the licensure exams.

Ched seeks to shorten the period needed for schools to comply with the minimum requirements needed for the program and the immediate phase-out programs in non-compliant institutions.

Results of the latest Philippine Nursing Licensure Examinations (PNLE) showed a passing rate of 35.25 percent, the lowest since 2006.

Of the 84, 000 nursing graduates who took the PNLE last December 2010, only 29,711 managed to passed, a rate that was considered a "record low" in the recent history of the nursing profession. In the November 2009 licensure exam, only 37, 527 or 39.72 percent of the 94, 462 examinees managed to hurdle the test.

Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Ched chairperson, said the PNLE results showed a "dwindling and disturbing decline in the national passing percentage indicating that the quality of nursing education has suffered some setback."

In a draft memorandum, Licuanan said there is a pressing need to implement changes in Ched Memorandum Order (CMO) 14 series of 2009, which was issued to cover the nursing program offered by HEIs in the country, especially on the sanctions and penalties that await schools with dismal passing rate in the previous three years.

Licuanan said the amendment would allow Ched and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to "effectively monitor" schools with non-compliant nursing programs and arrest further decline in the profession.

She said it would also enable Ched and PRC to identify problem areas and come up with solutions to the problem.

Particular emphasis on the monitoring, she said, will be on HEI's with an average of only 30 percent passing rate in the PNLE since 2008, adding they must comply with the minimum requirements of Ched such as presence of a qualified dean or administrator for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, presence of qualified faculty members, tie-up with base hospitals or their affiliates, presence of simulated hospital set-up in their school, and having at least 900 titles of professional nursing books and subscription to the required local and foreign nursing journals.

Licuanan said HEI's failure to have those minimum requirements 30 days after the joint Ched-PRC monitoring and inspection will result in the "immediate phase-out and closure of the BSN program."

Likewise, the school will be directed to transfer the students to Ched-recommended complaint schools.

They will also be prohibited from accepting first year enrollees to the BSN program this coming school year and subsequent years thereafter, unless the requirements are complied with.

For HEIs issued phase-out orders, Licuanan said they will be allowed to offer the program until March or summer of 2012 to allow qualified 4th year students to finish their degree.

The amendment will be enforced this coming school year (2011-2012), the Ched said, compared to the original provision of CMO 14, which stated that such should be enforced starting school year 2013-2014.

The PRC said of the 470 nursing schools across the country (from the 125 and 128 in 1989- 1991), only 45 has gotten a 20 percent passing rate in the annual licensure exams, 42 schools got 15 percent passing rate, and 19 has a measly five percent passing rate.

Ched statistics, however, showed that only 12 nursing programs are recognized as excellent with an annual passing rate of 90 percent, while an additional 18 were identified as highly performing in terms of board performance.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) showed a surplus of 280, 000 nursing graduates in the country today, most of whom are either unemployed or underemployed.

Ched data showed that in a 10-year period (1999-2000-2010-2011) nursing students rose from 150,634 to 654,611 despite the decline in the licensure exam.