Las Cruces nurses, students rally against DACC

Gatherers upset with college's lack of concern

Worries over nursing program's loss of accreditation linger

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Just Peaceful Caring, a health care advocacy group, put together a rally in Las Cruces, N.M., to bring attention to what they feel is a dire situation.

109 nursing students from Doña Ana Community College are stuck in a hard spot after the nursing program lost its national accreditation.

Many wonder if they can find jobs with a degree from a non-accredited program.

College officials released statements assuring students some places will hire them.

"There is no simple answer to this question. Most employers in New Mexico only require a valid nursing license. There is only one employer in Las Cruces who has verbally indicated accreditation is an issue. As a result there are many opportunities still available," the college wrote in a statement released on Wednesday.

Leigh DeRoos, a registered nurse and the director of Just Peaceful Caring, told ABC-7 she doesn't know any hospital or clinic in town that will hire nurses from a non-accredited program.

"The students have told me the nursing homes here won't hire them for that reason. The hospitals in El Paso have the same guidelines all hospitals do about hiring accredited nursing programs. So that's not available for them," DeRoos said.

Even most four-year nursing programs will not accept applicants from non-accredited programs, including New Mexico State University.

Local nurses said the college is trying to fool students by downplaying the importance of national accreditation.

There are currently 24 nursing students set to graduate from DACC this December.

DeRoos said if they can't find jobs here, they'll move somewhere else.

"We're losing nurses, and we can't lose nurses. We can't have that. We're too small (of a community). We can't absorb the loss of 24 nurses, and there's like 120-something nurses in that program, so we're losing 120-something nurses in our community," DeRoos said.

College officials said they are doing everything they can to ensure their students graduate and have the best opportunities possible.

"We continue to work with both Mountain View and Memorial Medical Center to seek a solution to corporate policies related to the requirement for graduation from a nationally accredited nursing program. MMC has been working diligently to determine how they can assist and will continue to offer clinical rotations to our students. Southern New Mexico Rehab and the Long Term Acute Care Hospital have assured us that they will continue to accept applications from our graduates," Tracy Lopez, DACC nursing program director, wrote to students in a statement on Wednesday.

Those students now have the options of graduating from a non-accredited program or transferring to another school for their last semester.

Transferring means delaying graduation by at least an entire semester, something these students hadn't even thought of until now.

At a rally on Wednesday, nurses, students and members of the community gathered to call for some kind of solution.

DeRoos said it's imperative that one is found.

"Even if they choose to go and graduate from a non-accredited institution, their job potential is not there. The opportunities are not there. I don't know where they'll end up working. Public health won't hire them," DeRoos said.

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