Nursing students, employees report dissatisfaction with the program
December 7, 2022
A student strides through the audience at the Board of Trustees meeting and steps behind the podium with poise and confidence.
She brushes her hair out of her face and takes a deep breath before speaking.
“Hello, I’m Emily Angiolini and I’m here on behalf of the fourth-semester cohort,” she said. “I am here to discuss issues that we’ve had with the semi-newly appointed director of the [nursing] program Dr. Joy.
Angiolini looks across the room, giving direct eye contact with each trustee member and compares the current state of the nursing program to that of a living horror.
“She [Dr. Jeny Joy] has been in office as of two semesters and since that time, it has been an absolute nightmare for us as students working under her,” Angiolini said.
Although focused on the challenges that she and her graduating class have faced, Angiolini said many students and faculty members in the program are faced with numerous issues as well.
Angiolini is one of at least 30 nursing students and employees who have reported disorganization and negligence issues with the nursing program in addition to issues with its current director.
During the nursing program’s pinning ceremony on Dec. 5, a historic tradition where the graduating class is honored with a wearable pin, El Camino College’s President Brenda Thames highlighted the issues the students are facing.
“This cohort of students has had to navigate an exceptionally challenging change within the structure and administration of the program…in the midst of this, we have heard the voices of those individuals who so passionately made their concerns known,” Thames said. “We understand that this experience was not the experience that you imagined and it was not the experience [administration] imagined for you.”
El Camino’s nursing program is currently ranked 37th out of 134 total nursing schools in the state of California and ranked 144 out of 1,700 nursing programs nationally.
The program also boasts a 94% passing rate for the National Council Licensure Exam, 10% higher than the national average of 84%.
The National Council Licensure Exam is a mandatory test given to all nursing students that they must pass in order to be licensed as registered nurses in the United States and Canada.
After the previous nursing director Wanda Morris retired, Jeny Joy was hired in September 2021, at which point, nursing students and employees have reported numerous issues since the beginning of her tenure. She previously worked at College of the Canyons and West Coast and Stanbridge universities.
“[The nursing department] has been dealing with this for over six months and it’s got to a point… where it’s frankly unlivable for us as students,” Angiolini said.
The most pressing issue that Angiolini and graduating students said they dealt with was a lack of planning and organization with their pinning ceremony.
When the fall semester began on Aug. 29, the fourth-semester nursing students were sent a mass email informing them of Joy’s intention to request one of two venues to reserve for the pinning ceremony on Dec. 12: The Campus Theatre, Haag Recital Hall or Marsee Auditorium.
The venues and dates for the pinning ceremony were also listed in the nursing student handbook which details what students can expect from the ceremony and allows them to plan accordingly.
Even with the email of intent and a plan of action as highlighted within the student handbook, several weeks passed without any confirmation of the fall 2022 pinning ceremony date.
“The first week of school, our Professor Dr. White said ‘Dr. Joy is going to be figuring out the venue. You should know by next week,’” Angiolini said. “Weeks go by…like two weeks, three weeks, we haven’t heard anything. We’re asking what is happening.”
With help from Center of the Arts Director Rick Christophersen, Angiolini herself placed a booking hold on the Campus Theatre for Dec. 5 but according to Angiolini, this posed a problem for Joy.
According to Angiolini, Joy had intentions of booking the Haag Recital Hall for the pinning ceremony on Dec. 12, however, the Haag Recital Hall has a maximum capacity of 125 people and approximately 300 guests were expected to be in attendance.
“This was an issue [Joy] created all because of her own shortcomings and because she didn’t request and book a venue when she was supposed to,” Angiolini said. “This is a bi-annual
occurrence and there’s a very specific week and day that they do it, so they could book this in advance and I don’t know why this wasn’t booked annually.”
After several meetings and emails sent between the nursing students and college administration and after a public statement made by Angiolini during the Oct. 17 Board of Trustees meeting, the fourth-semester students did not receive confirmation of a venue booking until Oct. 21, almost two months after the original email was sent on Aug. 29.
During an interview with The Union, Vice President of Academic Affairs Carlos Lopez said that due to the difficulties with scheduling, it took more time than anticipated to find alternative options for the fourth-semester students.
“As Dr. Joy indicated, [administration] had some complications with the schedule and the venues we would traditionally use,” Lopez said. “And that took some time to be able to find and determine and decide the alternate date and the alternate venue that’s suitable for this type of event.”
During the same interview, Joy said the order of precedence in booking venues places Marsee Auditorium first, the Campus Theatre second and the Haag Recital Hall last.
Both Joy and Lopez confirmed there was a scheduling conflict with Marsee Auditorium for Dec. 12.
The pinning ceremony took place on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. where 44 nursing graduates were honored and celebrated.
Although the fourth-semester students prioritized the mishandling of their pinning ceremony, several told The Union they recognize the severity of different issues that the program has endured when concerning the nursing faculty and students outside of the fourth-semester cohort.
A nursing employee who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns said although the faculty loves their jobs, currently, the department as a whole is not in a good place.
“It’s just a sucky situation right now…[instructors] could make a lot more money working as regular nurses within a hospital and we don’t do it,” the anonymous employee said. “We work at El Camino because we love our job, we love what we do and we want to make good nurses, however, it’s really hard to like what we do, it’s just not enjoyable right now.”
The anonymous employee said that a lot of the nursing employees in the department are undecided on whether or not they want to stay and endure the challenges that they have to face in their workplace environment.
Asked if there were any extenuating factors affecting the current state of the program, the anonymous employee said it was directly due to Joy.
The anonymous employee said the program is constantly changing its guidelines and expectations of students, creating barriers between the students and accessing their educational needs.
One of the changes the nursing students have faced with their curriculum is with the program’s Assessment Technology Institute (ATI) testing exams.
Students are allowed to test for the ATI exam a second time if they did not receive their desired score the first time.
During the 2020 - 2021 academic year, the nursing syllabus and handbook showed each student’s grade would reflect their best score from the two tests, however, for the 2022-2023 academic year, El Camino College's ATI test records the most recent grade, even if it happens to be a worse score.
Joy said the change was made because the faculty believed it was the best decision for the student body.
“It is one aspect of testing that was changed to better assess [and support] the learning needs of the students,” Joy said. “All those decisions were made by the faculty team [and] it was approved by me as well, so it was a collaborative decision.”
Several students, including nursing major Michelle Loring, said the current change to the way the ATI tests are graded is unnecessary.
“Nursing is hard, it’s a very hard major. How is that helping us succeed?” Loring said. ”If you want to give us two chances to [test] to try and improve our scores, great! However, to not take the best out of those two scores…for me, that was a really big thing that I was not happy about.”
Loring said because she performed worse during the retake of the ATI test, her grade dropped from 84% to 74%, a full letter grade.
Loring said she wished Joy would communicate to her students the basis of why the changes were made.
“How do you go around making all these changes with no reason as to why? In nursing, you’re taught to ask why for everything. It’s fine if you want to make changes but at least communicate to your staff, communicate to your students as to why you are doing it, not just ‘this is how it is,’” Loring said.
In addition to the nursing student syllabus, the current student handbook also contains language about the program’s withdrawal and student disability policies that set conflicting guidelines with both student accommodations and withdrawals.
Unlike the previous academic year, the 2022 - 2023 nursing student handbook has not been made available to the public. Several students told The Union that Joy frequently changes the rules and guidelines set for the program without reason.
“[Joy] makes changes not because they’re necessary or because they’re proven to be needed by the Board [of Registered Nurses] or because we’re not meeting requirements,” Angiolini said. “It’s a constant of this is just how [Joy] wants it and she doesn’t want to hear anybody’s opposition to it.”
The Union received the 2022 - 2023 handbook directly from the nursing students.
After speaking with 32 students and employees about the dissatisfaction expressed with the state of the nursing program, The Union scheduled an interview with Joy on Dec. 1.
Upon arrival at the interview, The Union expected to meet with Joy and Director of Public Information and Government Relations Kerri Webb, however, The Union’s editors were also joined by Dean of Natural Sciences Amy Grant, Registrar of Admissions & Records Lillian Justice, in addition to Joy, Webb, and Lopez.
The Union provided the administration members in attendance with documents regarding issues with the pinning ceremony issues, the nursing student syllabus and the handbook.
Whenever The Union provided student and employee testimonies, the college’s administration referred to the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as to why they could not speak on individual cases.
“Per FERPA, [Joy] is not allowed to discuss any specifics in regards to the [student] complaint,” Webb said.
Enacted in 1974, FERPA is a law that provides protection for identifiable data kept within a student’s educational records.
FERPA not only grants students the ability to access their educational records but also protects a student’s record from disclosure to third-party sources.
Student Press Law Center’s Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand said he believes El Camino College’s administration is misguided in its approach.
“I think that [the administration] is probably misguided if [the information] hasn’t actually been put into a record. They are misguided in saying that FERPA is the reason they don’t have to provide that information,” Hiestand said. “They don’t have to provide that information simply because they don’t have to provide it.”
Hiestand said that the administration should not have referred to FERPA when discussing issues concerning college employees because the law specifically covers students.
Similarly to the concerns brought up by the nursing students and employees, The Union was unsuccessful in obtaining information as to why the program has changed since Joy was hired.
The fourth-semester cohort reached out to administration, filed grievances and publicly spoke out against Joy and the nursing program on various occasions.
Angiolini said that when the nursing students' issues were ignored, they took it upon themselves to book the Campus Theatre in order to accommodate guests at the pinning ceremony.
Angiolini said the main reason she decided to speak out against the nursing program was to help the current and future students and employees of the program.
“Clearly nobody cares, nobody is doing anything. We’ve met with people and no one seems to see this as an issue,” Angiolini said. For us [students], it got to the point where we can’t live like this anymore and we don’t want other students to have to deal with this. We don’t want our professors to quit their jobs. That’s why we’re fighting.”
If you would like to discuss and report your own incident with Dr. Jeny Joy, reach out to The Union at [email protected]
The Union has been following this story since the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 17. The Union has met with 32 nursing students and employees who provided various testimonies and documents chronicling different incidents and issues that have occurred within the past year of the program.
- Provided documentation from two incidents on Dec. 10, 2022, at 7:30 a.m.