Valparaiso University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions (CONHP) students were notified, via email, of potential complications regarding vaccination status and academic requirements three days prior to the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. Due to clinicals, practicums, and internship vaccine requirements, unvaccinated students were required to change their major in order to earn a degree.
“Hospitals are in the midst of communicating if they are requiring the vaccine or not. CONHP is working within facility parameters,” said Karen Allen, Dean of CONHP.
Unvaccinated individuals currently are unable to participate in experiential learning through local health care organizations, as the organizations have set a mandatory vaccination requirement. A failure to attend these programs results in an incompletion of educational standards and students not able to be awarded a degree.
“Therefore, if you are unvaccinated, and have an exemption from the University, when you return and the semester begins, per CONHP policy, you will be asked to sign a form stating your understanding that if we cannot educate you experientially in the area you have chosen, you will need to chose another major to take here at Valpo,” Dean Allen said in the email.
Experiential learning experiences include internships, practicums and clinics. The experiences are provided through a partnership between the university and community health care organizations.
“I’m honestly not surprised [with the announcement],” said a student of CONHP, who wished to remain anonymous. “I feel like this was a direction [CONHP] was heading in, that a lot of people knew that we were heading in. It wasn’t a Valpo decision, it was more of a decision that Valpo had to take on and be the communicator.”
In April 2021, Valpo initially announced that the COVID vaccine was mandatory for students in order to return to campus for the 2021-2022 academic year. Exemptions were, however, allowed on grounds of religious beliefs or medical conditions, with each case being reviewed individually.
“The College of Nursing and Health Professions is not requiring the vaccine, requiring vaccinations was a university decision,” Dean Allen said.
Ways to help overcome the pandemic have been a continuous discussion for the health care organizations in Valpo’s vicinity. Currently, conversations regarding obligatory COVID-19 vaccinations have been a priority. The organizations’ deliberations do not involve Valpo until the final decision is made. Once this happens, the CONHP is notified of the new policies and procedures students are expected to follow.
“I feel like the announcement could have been made maybe a week or two prior and that would’ve been more effective for communicating with students,” the student said. “If people suddenly are now having to make the decision as to whether they were going to continue their school career here at Valpo, this is not enough time to make that decision.”
While no instances have occurred of students having to change their major, there is a common resource that can be used. Students, upon enrolling in the university and declaring their major(s) are assigned an academic advisor. In the event that a CONHP student needs to change their major, they are urged to seek guidance from their advisor.
“We are helping students to be successful in their major. We must be honest and open with students,” Dean Allen said.