– By Josh Durso
The senior class set to graduate this summer at New York Chiropractic College was dealt a major blow on Wednesday, May 6th when student representatives learned that the college in Seneca Falls would not host a mandatory, required practical exam.
The NBCE, or National Board of Chiropractic Examiners hosts exams at different sites across the state and U.S. It is one of several parts, which includes a written examination. That portion wasn’t impacted by the Novel Coronavirus, but the practical portion – at least at the Seneca Falls site – was scrapped.
Jordan Maxwell, representative of the class set to graduate this spring and take the practical in July, says students were blindsided by the decision, and have felt consistently left out of key decisions that have a direct impact on their future.
Chiropractic care has become an instrumental part of acute pain treatment, mainly because it’s an alternative to opioids.
“On Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. we received communications directly from the board, and in that communication they basically told us that our school had withdrawn from being an available site,” Maxwell explained. It was a stunning email that few students expected to receive. Especially after the test, which was supposed to take place in May, was rescheduled.
“‘All other sites are full at this time’,” he recalled. The email included that devastating line, which meant that students graduating from NYCC this spring, would not be able to take the exam at another location. Maxwell says the test wouldn’t be available again until November, and that would likely spell disaster for those who have been guaranteed jobs.
“We’re all bombarding the board, trying to get an explanation, wondering what is going on – trying to get them to maybe open up spots elsewhere or come up with some other agreement,” he continued. “But they weren’t budging.”
One of the most-surprising components of the entire situation, was that NYCC failed to reach out to students or notify them of the change. And Maxwell’s follow-up correspondence with President Michael Mestan was disappointing.
For about 24 hours students waited, expecting to hear from campus officials about the examination. “It wasn’t until Thursday that anyone said anything to the school because you’re expecting your school to send out that communication,” Maxwell continued. “Like blanket emails, explaining what will happen, explaining the situation.”
Around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Maxwell reached out. “I’m our class president. So I reached out to the school and was basically like, ‘Did you guys know about this?’,” he said. “Did you try to reconcile this for all of us?”
On Friday, Mestan responded. “I received a communication from our president, and it was a very generic email,” Maxwell explained. It didn’t include any suggestions, ideas, or ways to potentially rectify the situation. It also didn’t address student concerns that NYCC was involved in the decision to not host the practical exam.
The bottom line: Students set to graduate this year felt like the rug was pulled out from under them.
“You’re on your own,” Maxwell added. “That’s how it felt like we were being treated.”
Maxwell says students don’t understand how NYCC can contend that they had nothing to do with the decision to scrap the test at the Seneca Falls site. “For them to blankly say that they have nothing to do with it. It’s like you clearly have to do some coordinating with the Board because it’s taking place on your campus,” he continued.
It makes no sense to students.
Another school in Buffalo is also being impacted. They take their practical at NYCC in Seneca Falls – so Maxwell estimates that approximately 50 to 60 would-be chiropractors are being impacted.
To be clear, the practical is taken with very few people in the room. Maxwell said it could easily be done with less than a dozen people altogether in a space. If executed in a larger space – everyone could maintain social distance except for a couple people. And for those individuals – special conditions could be allowed.
At this point, the Board also appears to be unwilling to open up new slots at existing sites aside from Seneca Falls.
But, Maxwell and other students simply wonder: Why is the Seneca Falls site the only one impacted? He says that given the circumstances – going to ‘other sites’ would likely involve traveling across state borders. So, one assumption is that in an effort to prevent travel across state borders.
Preparing for the practical is tough work, though. “You want to take this examination as close to when you’re actually doing the work, practicing – and at this point it’s been since early-March,” Maxwell explained. That’s when everything associated with NYCC went digital.
“It was a fairly seamless process,” he explained. And while there might be some tension between students and administration – Maxwell couldn’t safe enough for faculty and support staff. “They have done a good job transitioning classes, and been there for us,” he explained. “The frustration is with administration and the lack of effective communication about something that clearly impacts us adversely.”
Even the financial ramifications have been brought up. There’s at least been some sentiment among students that NYCC has an obligation to assist students, since the practical is a requirement for earning a license. Beyond that, Maxwell also wonders how NYCC will permit graduation for all students. “There are requirements,” he explained, outlining that New York State, as well as the licensing boards, have requirements for clinical time before students can be considered ‘graduates’.
“Honestly, we haven’t been specifically told this is COVID-19,” Maxwell added, building on the curiosity of the circumstances. “There are restrictions up, so that’s our assumption that that’s the reason why it can’t take place on campus. But we don’t know if they even tried to reach out to the Governor, or others.”
NYCC President Jonathan Mestan says that due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, they cannot hold events on campus. “NYCC is willing to have NBCE administer exams on the College’s campus as soon as we are authorized by New York State to safely reopen our facilities and to reasonably provide accommodations under any restrictions on operations,” he said. “We have invited the NBCE to submit a testing plan that outlines the best practices they will employ for disinfecting, social distancing, and use of personal protection equipment. NYCC will work closely with our local department of health to explain the essential nature of the examinations and their plan for protecting all the participants in the examinations.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has categorized higher education with recreation and sporting events in ‘Phase 4’ of economic reopening after the Coronavirus Pandemic. “This is only but one unfortunate situation that has impacted many healthcare professions in the country and state. Many things are not within our control at this time, but we continue to work with NBCE and the State to find solutions,” Mestan concluded.