Accreditation is of significant importance to today’s professional health care arena. The rapidly changing and developing nature of health care often has a tremendous impact on the planning and implementation of educational programs in nursing. In order to promote consistent and high standards of effective health care, accreditation must be utilized as a permanent measure of quality.
Prospective nursing students must take accreditation into account when selecting nursing programs. A college or university may be accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLN-AC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). All nursing programs within a state must be licensed and approved by the state. In order to be granted approval, nursing programs must meet the state requirements. However, what students should keep in mind is that this type of state approval does not necessarily mean a nursing program is eligible for national accreditation. A college or university which is accredited demonstrates the school’s commitment to promoting student success and ongoing quality. Moreover, accreditation signals to the student that there is an additional level of oversight which exists in order to maintain the school of nursing’s integrity, accountability, and performance.
Accreditation also plays a significant role in career development. Many employers require nurses to have attended an NLN-AC or CCNE accredited school of nursing. In addition, accreditation is mandatory in some states before nurses may be granted professional licensure. Thus, if a student graduates from a non-accredited school of nursing, the student’s career options may be greatly limited.
A lack of accreditation may create further complications for students in need of financial aid, loans, grants, and scholarships. Students many not be eligible to receive financial aid packages if the nursing school is not accredited. A student’s chances of obtaining federal financial aid increase significantly if the school is accredited.
The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NL-NAC) is an accrediting organization responsible for the specialized accreditation of nursing education programs. NL-NAC accredits a wide variety of nursing degree programs including Clinical Doctorate, Master’s, Baccalaureate, Associate, Diploma, and Practical programs.
NL-NAC has identified six Accreditation Standards that nursing degree programs must meet and maintain.
Standard 1: Mission and Administrative Capacity
The nursing program’s mission must reflect its values, strategic goals, and objectives. In addition, the program must have sufficient administrative capacity to ensure that goals are continually set and met.
Standard 2: Faculty and Staff
The nursing program must recruit and retain a highly effective faculty and staff whose leadership supports students’ ability to think for themselves, apply scientific knowledge, master analytical problem solving, and make value judgments within the context of the educational body.
Standard 3: Students
The nursing program’s student policies, development, and services must function effectively and within accordance of the program’s mission and vision.
Standard 4: Curriculum
The curriculum is designed in order to prepare students to meet the learning outcomes and objectives, which must include safe practice in contemporary health care environments.
Standard 5: Resources
There must be fiscal, physical, and learning resources that promote and support students’ understanding of the nursing profession and specialization.
Standard 6: Outcomes
The nursing program has implemented several evaluative programs which demonstrate that student learning has achieved identified competencies, goals, and objectives.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is recognized by the United States Department of Education to accredit baccalaureate and graduate degree nursing programs. Programs which are practice-focused and posses the title Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are granted accreditation (pending review and evaluation) by CCNE. In addition to DNP programs, CCNE specializes in granting accreditation to Acute Care Nurse Practitioners, Adult Gerontology Practitioners, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Practitioners, and Clinical Nurse Specialists.
CCNE’s accreditation process consists of a variety of procedures. Accreditation begins with the nursing school conducting a self-assessment of its own programs and evaluating how closely its standards align with those of CCNE. The accrediting commission appoints an evaluation team of peers in order to visit the nursing program and determine whether there are any compliance issues with the key accrediting elements. The Accreditation Review Committee than evaluates the self-study and recommendations from the commission in order to determine whether accreditation should be granted, revoked, denied, or withdrawn. Formal accreditation review must be conducted once every ten years.
Criteria of Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs provides a comprehensive report published by the National Task Force on Quality Nurse Practitioner Education.
American Association of College of Nursing: Accredited Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs contains a searchable database which includes information on all CCNE-accredited programs from 1997 to the present.
NLNAC 2008 Standards and Criteria provides a list of publications of standards and criteria for specific nursing degree programs.