Accredited Nursing Programs

Unlocking Excellence: The Journey Through Accredited Nursing Programs

The ACEN accredits nursing programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. It’s one of the largest specialized accrediting agencies in the world.

The accreditation process is lengthy and detailed. If a nursing program becomes accredited, it will earn a place among the best in its field. The road to accreditation begins with an eligibility review.

Accreditation Standards

A nursing program must meet specific standards to be accredited. These standards address everything from faculty qualifications and student outcomes to program mission and integrity.

During the accreditation process, nursing programs are evaluated by a group of their peers called peer evaluators. These evaluators conduct a self-study of the program and visit its facilities to assess its compliance with the standards firsthand. Then, a panel of experts reviews the program’s documentation and makes an independent decision on whether or not to accredit it.

In addition, the governing organization/nursing program must be in good standing with ACEN to implement a substantive change. If a program is undergoing an appeals or arbitration process with the commission, it is only eligible to make changes once resolved. Also, nursing programs undergoing a continuing accreditation with warning or accreditation for good cause are not eligible to make substantive changes.

Self-Study

Throughout the accreditation process, nursing programs self-reflect on compliance with ACEN-accredited programs through a self-study report. This document is used by the peer evaluators who visit the program, the evaluation review panel members, and ultimately by the Commissioners to decide whether or not to grant accreditation.

The peer evaluators are volunteer nurse educators and nurse clinicians/practitioners with knowledge of the standards and criteria of the specialized accreditation agency, current trends in healthcare, nursing education, and nursing practice. The evaluators participate in the accrediting agency’s accreditation activities as part of their ongoing professional development.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is a national, non-profit, accrediting agency that oversees all levels of nursing education and transition to practice programs. The Commission is recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a specialized accrediting agency for nursing education. The Commission is also a Title IV-HEA gatekeeper for some practical nursing programs and hospital-based RN-to-baccalaureate degree programs.

Site Visits

Every program preparing for accreditation must submit a self-study report to demonstrate how it meets ACEN standards. This report is the primary document used by the nursing program, peer evaluators, and the Board of Commissioners to understand the program. To ensure that this report meets ACEN requirements, broad participation is expected from governing organization administrators, faculty, students, staff, and representatives of the community of interest.

Each initial and continuing accreditation site visit is conducted by a team of nurse educator peers with program-specific expertise and, as appropriate, a clinical expert. These teams are selected based on the criteria described in ACEN’s Peer Evaluator Selection Criteria.

The site visit team will conduct an onsite review inclusive of interviews, observations, tours, and reviews of exhibits. During deliberations, the site visit team will recommend whether or not to accredit the nursing program to the Board of Commissioners. The Board makes the final decision based on its review of program materials.

Advisory Reviews

While ACEN focuses on accreditation, it strives to be a supportive partner. It includes a suite of forums, workshops, and courses, and ACEN directors are available by email or phone to address general questions about the accreditation process.

When programs face difficulties meeting accreditation standards, a member of the ACEN professional staff will conduct an advisory review. These reviews are typically undertaken through videoconferencing but can be done in person on a case-by-case basis.

These reviews focus on helping program faculty and administrators better interpret the 2017 ACEN Standards and Criteria. Typical advisory reviews include discussions about drafts of the Self-Study Report (SSR), the faculty profile table, and the Systemic Plan of Evaluation (SPE). These reviews are meant to be highly customized and focused on program needs. Generally, these reviews occur 6-12 months before the scheduled site visit for an initial or continuing accreditation review. The fees for these services vary but are listed on the ACEN fee schedule.

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