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Saipan Tribune: Proposed nursing scholarship extended from 5 to 6 years (June 27, 2018)

A proposed nursing scholarship program, which originally had a five-year term before its sunset provision kicks in, will now expire in six years instead of the initial proposal.

The House Education Committee, led by Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Tinian), amended in yesterday’s meeting on Capital Hill Senate President Arnold I. Palacios’ (R-Saipan) Senate Bill 20-71 that creates the five-year nursing scholarship.

Rep. Francisco Dela Cruz’s (R-Saipan) amendment would let the scholarship run for six years instead of the initial proposal of five years. Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) pointed out that Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. representative Kaitlyn Neises had noted that an individual may take the National Council Licensure Exam to become a registered nurse without prior education. The representative further noted that the Northern Marianas College offers a two-year associate degree course in nursing, and that several of its graduates have passed the NCLEX.

Propst noted that, with a running length of six years, the scholarship may provide assistance to at least three cycles of nurses, given that they each take two years for their associate degree at NMC and then proceed to take the NCLEX.

Rep. Blas “BJ” Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) removed private health clinics from the possible employers of nurses who avail of this scholarship.

Palacios’ bill had been amended in the Senate to mandate those who avail of the scholarship to serve in the CNMI’s public health clinics for two years per year of scholarship assistance and three years in CNMI private health clinics for each year of scholarship assistance.

Attao explained to the committee that removing this provision from the bill allows nursing graduates to fill the gap that would be made by the CW-1 nursing shortage. He added that allowing the scholars to serve in a private health clinic would “defeat the intent of the bill,” which is to help alleviate nursing shortages at the Commonwealth Health Center.

Rep. Alice Igitol (R-Saipan) moved to delete a provisional requirement in the bill that limits Rota and Tinian nursing scholarship applicants to three each. The amendment was adopted unanimously.

Attao further proposed deleting a provision that prohibits applicants for the scholarship from seeking additional financial assistance funded by the CNMI government. That includes municipal scholarships, CNMI Scholarship programs, and the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance.

The bill was finally amended to include nursing students who opt to pursue their studies abroad. The committee agreed to allow students who are enrolled in the nursing program of NMC or nursing programs offered by “other U.S. accredited institutions.”

Attao and Propst voted against the bill since the bill was amended to include students who pursue nursing abroad.

According to their explanations, Attao and Propst wanted to assist NMC in building their numbers of nursing students in order to ultimately seek accreditation of their nursing program, which Neises noted is not a requirement for a student to take the NCLEX.

The bill now moves out of the committee and into the House floor for discussion in a future session.

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