Coastal Bend College’s registered nurse (RN) and vocational nurse (VN) programs are both in danger of watching a large swath of the students in their spring 2021 Beeville cohorts fail out in the final semesters, according to multiple students in the programs.
Atif Khan, a 35-year-old Dallas native, is the charge nurse for the VN cohort and the de facto spokesman for that group’s 16 students.
During an interview last week, Khan said he and many of the other students in the program feel like they are “being led down a road to failure” and detailed what he called issues with the program’s leadership that have pushed many of the students in the cohort to fall below the minimum passage rate of 75 percent in at least one of the semester’s four courses.
Lindsey Hann, 32, described similar failures during a separate interview two days later.
Ashley Kaufman, a 33-year-old member of the RN program, then came forward to detail multiple issues that have plagued the students in the RN cohort, as did another student who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Kaufman and Hann both said they believe that at least half of the members of their cohorts are either failing or in danger of failing.
Khan painted a more grim picture, saying that he believes that about a dozen of the 16 in the VN cohort are failing one or more courses.
Coastal Bend College President Justin Hoggard, in a statement emailed to the Bee-Picayune March 26, said he plans to convene a forum with the students that would allow them to share their concerns.
“I will be scheduling a forum on Monday, March 29, 2021, where nursing students will be invited to share their concerns with the provost (Patricia Rehak) and me in a safe and collaborative environment,” the statement read. “Any student who may be uncomfortable sharing their concerns during the forum will be encouraged and welcomed to schedule a private appointment with Dr. Rehak and me. My sincerest hope is that with the invitation to engage in the transparent sharing of important information, I will be in a better position to take appropriate action to ensure the college is doing right by our students.”
Issues early for RNs
In an interview on March 24, Kaufman detailed issues that dated back to her cohort’s first semester, when the group’s original instructor left the program.
Since then, Kaufman said, the cohort has gone without a full-time instructor until earlier this month.
Loana Hernandez, who is now the college’s dean of nursing, served in an instructor capacity on a part-time basis, Kaufman said, but it was primarily left up to the students to teach themselves.
“There’s no structure; there’s no consistency. There’s been no instructor,” Kaufman said. “They don’t teach us anything. They haven’t taught us anything.”
“We’re having to self-teach. It’s been a year and a half that we’ve had to self-teach. It’s just been hell. How do you teach yourself how to be a nurse if you’re not a nurse?”
One of Kaufman’s classmates, who asked to stay anonymous, corroborated Kaufman’s claims in an interview the following day, adding that Hernandez would cancel classes at least two to three times per month.
Hoggard confirmed in his emailed response that Hernandez has been the cohort’s instructor, adding that Hernandez is a fully-credentialed instructor.
“A fully-credentialed instructor has taught the RN cohort continuously for the previous three semesters,” the statement read. “Due to employee turnover, there have been changes in the instructors assigned to the RN cohort over that time period, but the allegation that the cohort has lacked an instructor for any time period (let alone three semesters) is wholly and completely false.
“Indeed, Dean Loana Hernandez, who is credentialed to teach nursing courses and has vast experience doing so, taught classes and was designated the instructor of record.”
The student who wished to remain anonymous also said that, to their knowledge, no member of the class had attempted to seek help from another faculty member concerning their issues with Hernandez out of fear of the nursing dean.
“This woman is really intimidating. We really have a hard time going to her, let along going above her,” the student said. “The last thing we want to do is have to face her in front of higher people.
“... I don’t believe anyone has really went above her. They’re kind of at that point where they don’t want to deal with her; they’d rather just quit the program or rather fail out than have to deal with her.”
Hoggard, during an in-person meeting on March 26, said the college was unaware of the claim that students feared Hernandez, but that he would investigate the matter.
Issues start for VNs
The problems in the VN program, Khan said, began at the start of the third semester when Hernandez took over as the dean and Carol Saunders assumed full-time duties as the cohort’s instructor.
Saunders was the group’s skills instructor in the first semester and part of the second semester but moved into the role as the classroom instructor when Tammy Phillips, the previous instructor, left the program.
Khan said Phillips left a detailed plan for the remainder of the second semester, which helped most of the students in the cohort to advance to the final semester.
According to both Khan and Hann, in the final semester, the cohort has had no access to study guides and wasn’t even told about several pieces of source material that would be used to create questions on exams.
“CBC’s VN curriculum has been approved by the Texas Board of Nursing, and it is this administration’s clear expectation that faculty provide instruction in full alignment with the approved curriculum,” Hoggard said in his emailed response. “The administration stands ready to address any and all legitimate concerns regarding instructional practices that are brought through the appropriate channels mandated by the board of trustees.
“Without the benefit of having a formal complaint filed regarding this issue, however, I am not in a position to address the veracity of the claim that students are not being provided adequate instructional guidance for their exams.”
Saunders, according to Hann, is not the lead instructor in any of the four courses, so she does not create the exams and does not have the ability to access them beforehand, which would allow her to tailor her lectures to help the students better prepare for the exams.
After taking the exams, Hann said, the students are given only a small window to review the exams before they are no longer able to access them, and they would only be able to gain access to them again by requesting a private review with the instructor.
That process, according to the program’s handbook, “should occur prior to the next chapter exam.”
During the first and second semesters, students were able to access previous exams beyond that limited window, according to both Khan and Hann.
But when they brought that to the attention of Hernandez, the dean told them that was not how she was going to do it, they both said.
Khan said, unlike the students in the RN program, he did attempt to reach out to higher-ups in the chain of command at the college.
On March 3, he sent an email to Rehak. She responded the next day with an email, to which Hernandez was also attached, that said Khan needed to conference with his instructor.
Prior to that, Khan said he took his frustrations to another dean at the college, Jarod Bleibdry, the college’s dean of career and technical education, in mid-February, but was unable to resolve the matter in that manner either.