NORTH BAY -- In a statement Wednesday, Canadore College and Nipissing University announced it was reversing its earlier decision that gave 200 nursing students "unsatisfactory" or "in progress" grades for their clinical courses.

At issue was COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that prevented students from getting hands-on experience in a hospital setting. The statement said students will be able to complete those requirements later.

"Canadore College and Nipissing University have agreed to a progression plan for (nursing) students," the statement said, "establishing that students registered in the 2020-2021 academic year have satisfied requirements to progress to the next level of study based on a completion plan that includes adjustments to future clinical courses and some voluntary lab sessions for skill development."

"In keeping with this pathway forward, Dr. Ahmed Obaide, vice-President academic, Canadore College and Dr. Arja Vainio-Mattila, provost and vice-president, academic and research, Nipissing University have jointly overturned the (in progress) grades that were assigned to students."

The schools praised efforts by both the Nipissing University Student Union and the Nipissing University Nursing Society on behalf of students.

"Rest assured that both institutions are aligned in identifying a way forward that will ensure all students have the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and competencies for the successful completion of their program," the statement said.

"This way forward will include adjustments to future clinical courses to make up for any incomplete learning outcomes, which our program team has already begun preparing."

The statement also acknowledged "the additional stress this situation has caused on top of an already difficult academic year and appreciate your patience while we collaboratively addressed these complex pedagogical decisions.

"Both Canadore College and Nipissing University remain committed to the success of its students," the statement, signed by both Obaide and Vainio-Mattila, added. 

Original story:

Two hundred nursing students in North Bay are asking for transparency from Canadore College after their academic year was left in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students in the collaborative Nipissing University/Canadore College nursing program received an "unsatisfactory" or "in progress" grade for their clinical courses. That means students would have to repeat their year of studies.

"We were completely blindsided," said nursing student Lynda MacDougall. "We already went through so much as students in this pandemic and it is absolutely devastating to find out all the work we put in is not appropriate enough."

MacDougall was checking her transcript when she found out she received an 'unsatisfactory' grade on her transcript. It has since been changed to 'in progress.'

MacDougall said she and other students received no indication their year was in jeopardy before she checked her transcript.

The grades leave students in the first-, second- and third-year program not knowing whether they can move on to their next year of study.

The Nipissing University's Nursing Society said the problem relates to the fact students can't complete clinical hours at the North Bay Regional Health Centre because of the pandemic and that the college has taken a stance that "virtual simulation and alternative deliveries were insufficient."

"(The college) don't believe that the virtual simulation and that the in-person lab and in-person simulation is making up for the hours that were unable to be completed at the hospital," said Ally Harrison, the society's outgoing president.

The nursing society is demanding school faculty change the grades and apologize to students for adding "unnecessary stress" and for showing "unprofessional behaviour."

"They were putting in the work. That's the hardest thing right now is all the work they did," said Harrison. "We specifically have a policy in our student nursing guidebook that if you're unsatisfactory or at risk of being unsatisfactory, that it needs to be communicated to you by midterms. Students were notified one week ago. This was a blindside."

Under normal circumstances, nursing students would shadow registered nurses and learn more about their role at the hospital. They would also help nurses treat patients.

"This is 200 nurses who could be held back and our grads typically go to northern, rural and Indigenous communities," said Harrison. "Communities that are already typically short-staffed let alone during a pandemic. This will have a ripple effect."

Canadore statement

CTV News asked Canadore College for an interview opportunity. Instead, a statement was provided.

"Canadore’s concerned faculty are responding directly to student inquiries in this matter. Our students’ well-being and best interest will always be our utmost priority," said Dr. Ahmed Obaide, Canadore vice-president academic.

Harrison said the students are being left in the dark and are uncertain if they will have to re-take the course or not.

"It's not happening at other schools in Ontario. Other Ontario schools viewed this as a really great time to focus on some high-risk situations with the virtual simulations," said Harrison.

As for MacDougall, she remains anxious about what is to come.

"My concern is what are we going to have to do and how much is it going to cost us? I'm looking for an apology for what they've put us though from Canadore College and the professors specifically," she said.

Harrison said most students are still in the dark waiting official word from faculty on if they can move on to the next year.