Closure of St. Joseph’s School of Nursing shocks, saddens

Closure of St. Joseph’s School of Nursing shocks, saddens

Last year’s graduating class of the St. Joseph School of Nursing.
Union says reopening it will be part of negotiations

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Hundreds of comments came pouring in after last week’s announcement that the St. Joseph School of Nursing at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital would be shut down immediately after more than 117 years in operation, many expressing sadness, shock and disappointment.

The news broke with a post on the school’s Facebook page, where current and former students lamented the loss of the institution.

“This is heartbreaking, always have been proud to be a St. Joe’s grad,” wrote Kathy Souza Crawley, of Cumberland.

Some questioned how the closure was handled and why they had to learn through a Facebook post.

“It’s with heavy heart we learned today that School of Nursing will be shuttering its doors immediately. Current students will be accepted into the NEIT program,” read the June 18 post. “The school has provided countless graduates who provided care to residents of Rhode Island over its 100-plus years, as well as the world. We wish to thank the present and past faculty and the alumni association for their help and guidance. Our hope is to preserve the memories of our school and the honored reputation of being a St Joe’s grad.”

Students at the school have the opportunity to finish their associate’s degree at the New England Institute of Technology, another school with impressive resources and technologies for nurse training and a comparable academic plan and schedule, said Otis Brown, spokesman for Prospect CharterCARE, which ran the school.

“Nursing education programs and market trends continue to challenge diploma schools of nursing like the St. Joseph School of Nursing, which has operated for more than 117 years,” he said in a statement. “Further changes in our enrollment and tuition have led us to the decision to close the school this year in the best interests of our students.”

NEIT will accept transfer credits and is committing to transition grants to bridge the tuition differential. CharterCARE hospitals will also continue to serve as clinical rotation sites.

“Both St. Joseph and NEIT are offering individualized guidance and information assistance to affected students to facilitate a smooth transition,” said Brown. “The St. Joseph School of Nursing is proud of the thousands of alumni who have made and continue to make lasting contributions to the nursing profession, in Rhode Island and beyond,” he said.

The United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5110 called the closure “shortsighted,” opposing the move impacting more than a dozen faculty and staff at the school.

“St. Joseph’s is part of the fabric of our state’s nursing community. For more than 100 years, this quality institution has produced talented and dedicated RNs who are taught to deliver care with compassion. The instruction and attention provided at St. Joseph’s is unique within higher education, and we intend to fight to keep it open,” said Lynn Blais, RN, St. Joseph’s Class of 1984, and president of UNAP Local 5110, which represents the educators and staff at St. Joseph’s, as well as the registered nurses and service employees at Fatima Hospital.

Blais said contract negotiations have recently started for the RNs at Fatima and that the continued operation of St. Joseph’s will be part of the local’s bargaining proposals.

“This place is too important to let go without a fight. It means something to thoughtfully and dutifully prepare the next generation of bedside caregivers, and we will do all that we can to preserve this treasured, century-old tradition,” Blais said.

Blais added that Prospect CharterCARE, the for-profit owners of the school of nursing and Fatima Hospital, has turned its back on the community and the school by failing to properly invest in and market it.

“Our efforts to persuade Prospect to invest in more modern technology and teaching equipment have fallen on deaf ears for nearly five years,” she said. “Since taking over the school of nursing, Prospect CharterCARE has made no capital improvements and have allowed St. Joseph’s resources to be drained as they failed to effectively market what was once among the best-known nursing schools in New England.”

In a statement, NEIT Director of Nursing Darlene Noret said the school is pleased to have reached a teach-out agreement to accept St. Joe’s students.

“NEIT will do its utmost to ensure a smooth transition for these students,” she said. “The NEIT community will always remember St. Joseph’s as a school of excellence and is excited to assist the students in achieving their career goals.”

Nearly 60 enrolled or admitted students are impacted by St. Joseph’s closure and will be admitted into NEIT’s nursing program. To ensure a smooth admissions process, New England Tech is waiving all application fees and tuition deposits.