A Nursing Program That is Accredited? What Does That Mean?
Hollis Forster, RNC-NP
When you embark on choosing a school for your nursing education, there are many things to consider. Some of these include: cost, distance from home (if a campus based program), hours you have to devote to courses, comfort with the clinical rotation placements and whether the school is “accredited.”
So, who does this “accreditation,” and what does it mean?
There are several organizations that accredit nursing programs. The one that extends to all nursing programs is the National League of Nursing- Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). This organization reviews programs that include vocational agencies, hospitals, professional schools, seminaries, colleges, universities, or any institution that offers diplomas, certificates or academic degrees.
Other organizations that accredit programs are the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which restricts its scope to programs offering Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s degrees, the Council on Accreditation of Nurses Anesthetists Educational Programs, directed specifically to that specialty, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives- Division of Accreditation, which looks at CNM (certified nurse mid-wife) programs.
The NLNAC is the “stamp of approval” you should look for when searching for an appropriate school for your education.
Why should you look for a school that is accredited in this way?
If the school carries this accreditation, it gives you the confidence that an independent group of respected, competent peers have reviewed the programs of the school and found them to be supportive of the goal of the school, to provide students with a nursing education with which they can practice in the community.
What does the accreditation review look at in the program?
The process reviews all aspects involved in a well-run, self-sustaining school. They not only want to see the curriculum of the program, they review the budgets, the leadership and support, minutes of faculty meetings, the fiscal and physical resources available, the C.V.s of faculty and annual reports. They, of course, also look at the classes offered, the clinical schedules, course outlines, samples of exams, student handbooks, clinical agency contracts and student outcomes. This depth of review should give you confidence that the school can fulfill its goal of completing your education with the quality you expected.
How will attending an accredited school help you in your career and your future education?
There are several reasons why attending an accredited school will help you. One of these is that going through an accreditation process encourages the school or program itself to do on-going self-examination. If the organization continually looks at areas that need improvement, then you know they will be always directed to improving the quality of their program, their faculty and their facilities. The process also identifies areas that need improvement within the institution. Sometimes when an organization has done something the same way for many years, it loses sight of ways to improve the process, or even the need to improve. Having outside experts looking at processes can alert the school to positive changes it could institute that would make your educational experience even better.
Finally, attending an accredited school gives you more professional and educational mobility. When you apply for jobs, employers look for the school you attended. It is only beneficial for you if they see you have received your diploma, certificate or degree from an accredited nursing educational institution. And as you advance in your career, and you decide to return to school, other educational programs will also look more favorably on a certificate or degree from an accredited school.
As you choose your nursing path, there are many considerations, think about your chosen school and its accreditation status, it may influence your career direction for many years.