A petition against mandatory class sessions at the new Nursing Education Center in Providence, Rhode Island, is unlikely to effect change despite gaining almost 2,000 signatures in two weeks.
The petition, started by junior nursing student Rachel Vafides, was started after an announcement was made that the nursing school’s second-semester juniors and all seniors would be attending classes at least once a week at the new facility in the coming fall semester. Despite gaining over 1,964 signatures since being published on Oct. 25, the petition is unlikely to effect the change Vafides seeks.
“We’re committed,” University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley said. “I know it may be a little daunting and maybe even stressful, and because you didn’t have enough lead time to maybe think about how you wanted to organize everything else in your life it may be a little more difficult. But at the end of the day it’s worth it for what you learn in these facilities. You will be a better nurse by virtue of being able to take classes in these facilities.”
Dooley added that the plans for the center have been in the works since the end of 2009, and they have had student involvement since the beginning. Students were consulted in order for the college to anticipate any issues that would make the transition difficult.
“The College of Nursing made these plans in 2010 and are just telling us now even though the plans have been in motion for six years,” said Megan Brock, a junior nursing student at URI. “We’d heard about the new building before today, but they’d never told us it was mandatory. It had sounded like it would be something optional that you could go to if you chose.”
According to the university’s official statement, incoming freshmen were informed during this semester’s orientation, while all current nursing students were informed in September about progress at the center in a welcome letter from Barbara Wolfe, dean of the college of nursing.
“I would say that the evidence is that it was not as effective as people who wrote the letter hoped it would be,” Dooley said. “I think students do communicate differently than faculty do. We’re still working to bridge that gap.”
In addition to her questions about the transparency of the project,Vafides repeatedly addresses the commute that this would force nursing students to undergo.
“If students continue to live in Narragansett, we will have to commute to Providence 45 minutes away,” Vafides said.
“It’s going to happen after I graduate,” said Brian Bianchi, a 22-year-old nursing student at URI. “I can understand the outrage though. To be told ‘Hey all of a sudden you have to take classes over here even though you signed up to be in Kingston,’ it’s unfair.”
In order to help alleviate the pressure of commuting for students who will be required to use these new facilities, the college has worked with the RIPTA bus system to create a new route between the Kingston campus and Nursing Education Center that will be free of charge for students who need them.
Dooley responded to these concerns by saying that long commutes are not new for nursing majors.
“As juniors and seniors they had to figure out how to manage a schedule that would have taken them from East Providence at Butler hospital maybe down to Westerly, up to Providence, and all over,” Dooley said. “I think it will make it easier because their advanced classes using these simulation facilities more often than not will be only a few miles away from the hospitals and clinics where some of their clinical rotations will be.”