April 7, 2005 In its second day of hearings this week, members of the Senate Education, Culture and Youth Committee learned that students participating in the nursing program offered at the St. Croix Educational Complex could soon be offered malpractice insurance.
The hearing, held on St. Croix, was called to receive testimony on the needs and challenges facing the vocational education programs on the island.
According to a release from the V.I. Legislature, frustrated nursing students told the committee Thursday that the nursing program was being compromised because its participants were not afforded malpractice insurance.
Students in the program are supposed to gain hands-on training at Juan F. Luis Hospital, but without malpractice insurance they are denied this training. In St. Thomas, Roy Lester Schneider Hospital offers malpractice insurance for student nurses.
"We have invested seven months into the program, and to this present day we have no clinical agreement and no malpractice insurance," student nurse Marilyn Stanley told the senators. Stanley said graduation requirements might not be met because of failed planning on the part of the Education Department.
Education officials, according to the release, told the committee that some progress has been made and the nursing program should acquire malpractice insurance from Lloyds of London "sometime in the near future."
Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville motioned for a signed copy of the insurance policy to be submitted to the Senate within two weeks. The motion was approved with a unanimous vote.
Education Commissioner Noreen Michael also told senators her department was involved in a school improvement project geared to meet the requirements of the "No Child Left Behind Act." Michael said the project is also an effort to acquire accreditation. She added the project would result in an "improved academic performance" of all students regardless of their career interests.
Vocational Board Chairwoman Lena Schulterbrandt told senators that interest in vocational education has declined and the decline began with the administration.
"Vocational counselors were abolished," Schulterbrandt said. "And then a myth was developed that vocational students were poor academic students and could not go to college."
Because of this myth, Schulterbrandt said, enrollment in the territory's vocational programs declined. But Schulterbrandt said this is a problem that is "fixable" through the revamping of the territory's vocational education program.
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