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December 6, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Philadelphia, PA – Former students of St. Joseph Hospital’s School of Nursing recently filed a civil suit against the school alleging breach of contract and fraud. The Liberation of Students Rights Group of Philadelphia (LSRGP), a group of five African American women, allege they were wrongfully released from the 12-month program funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to increase the pool of registered nurses in the state. The program was presented as one looking to attract women from the “community.”

The students entered the program’s first class, but were summarily dismissed from the program after three semesters for “failing to meet academic standards,” according to school administrators. However, none of the students were provided with their grades or copies of written exams taken. The group alleges that the program was beset with numerous problems including lack of qualified instructors, no laboratory or library facilities, cancelled classes, uneven instruction, favoritism, the arbitrary changing of grades and being tested on information not taught.

The suit charges the school with breach of contract for failing to provide quality professional nursing education, clinical expertise and professional development to all nursing students. It also alleges fraud on the part of St. Joseph’s because the school presented itself as a fully accredited nursing program. St. Joseph’s nursing program is not accredited.

For over a year, group has sought to resolve the issues with school administrators to no avail. They took their grievances to Congressman Robert Brady and State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, who both represent the district where the school is located. Thomas met with administrators on their behalf and also arranged for the women to meet with Commissioner Basil Merenda of the State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs that includes the Board of Nursing Education Advisors (NEA).

In 2007, Merenda and the NEA launched an investigation that identified several problems. The board then recommended that St. Joseph’s not admit a second class until adequate faculty were hired. The investigation also found that only five of 20 graduates had passed the state nursing board exam. St. Joseph’s was warned that the school would be put on provisional status if the pass rate remained below 60 percent. In February 2008 the NEA ordered that the clinical component cease. In April 2008 the school was officially placed on provisional status.

“Now that the matter is before the court it is the hope of each of the plaintiffs to be made whole,” explained Vivienne Crawford, the group’s attorney. “When adults, most of whom are single parents, interrupt their lives in an effort to better themselves through higher education their entire families and support systems are impacted. Not only have they suffered, but so have their families. These students had a singular focus — they wanted to be registered nurses. Not only did they not realize that dream, but they are now in debt as a result of having student loans due. They need to be made whole.”

“We wanted more than anything to become registered nurses and serve our community,” said Sabrina Whitaker, who transferred from an accredited nursing program at Widener University to attend St. Joseph’s program. “We tried to keep these issues in-house and have them dealt with by the administration, but they ignored us. We had no choice but to file a civil suit. We feel we have been treated unjustly and discriminated against. We all have outstanding student loans that we still have to pay back even though we are not receiving the nursing education we originally sought. We are mature, adult students who have families to maintain. We can’t afford to throw $22,000 down the drain. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. It’s not personal. This is business. St. Joseph Hospital’s School of Nursing has to pay for what they did to us.”

This is a national problem. Several nursing schools around the nation have also experienced backlash from students because of inadequate facilities and nursing instruction.

Written By Marilyn Kai Jewett

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