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Accreditation and Schools of Nursing

Accreditation of educational institutions is widespread. Various accrediting bodies are in business to accredit general post-secondary institutions, and include Higher Learning Corporation, Distance Education and Training Council, and the Commission on Higher Education. But what accrediting agencies handle accreditation for nursing schools?

Two main accrediting agencies manage the accreditation process of general nursing schools:

  • National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc.
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

A few more specialized nursing school programs have their own accrediting bodies:

  • Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education – accredits nursing midwife schools
  • Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs – accredits “hospital-based” and “freestanding” colleges of nurse anesthesia
  • Midwifery Education Accreditation Council – accredits nursing midwife schools

All are non-government organizations and nursing school accreditation is voluntary.

Why Accredit Nursing Schools?

Accreditation status indicates that nursing schools definitively meet certain educational parameters common to accredited peers and accepted nursing standards. Generally accredited schools must meet certain criteria according to a set of standards based on quality and effectiveness. This is not to say necessarily that unaccredited schools are not up to snuff. But voluntary accreditation seems to speak to a school’s willingness to self-evaluate, measure curricula to standards, and officially launch a regular improvement process to maintain certain agreed upon standards of educational excellence. And the “accreditation” seal of approval goes a long way when it comes to nursing schools.

Nursing School Accreditation Criteria

The beauty of accreditation is in understanding that the criteria by which a nursing school is measured during accreditation must be in accordance with a hard and fast set of criteria based on a set of quite rigorous standards. Each accrediting agency has its own standards, but they reflect similar factors. Standards for accreditation generally include the following:

  • Mission and Administration – i.e., does the program have appropriate nursing leadership and governance?
  • Faculty and Staff – Is there sufficient faculty and staff to administer the program properly? Are faculty educated and trained according to particular standards of academic scholarship?
  • Curriculum – Is the curriculum evaluated on a recurring basis under the advisement of all faculty, are lessons unbiased, and does the degree curricula adequately cover all necessary standards of nursing practice and appropriate competencies?
  • Program Resources – Does the institution possess adequate physical and financial resources to support a successful program?
  • Recurring Program Evaluation/Outcomes – Does the program prove successful—graduating employable nurses, students that consistently pass the NCLEX, have a low drop-out rate, low failure rate, etc.?

These are just a few of the questions each standard addresses. But you can see how application of any of these criteria forces an institution to conform to rigorous academic and curriculum standards.

Two Main Accrediting Agencies and What They Do

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc.

According to the Department of Education, the NLNAC is a “specialty” accrediting agency since it exists outside general post-secondary education and is in business to work accrediting nursing schools. The NLNAC has jurisdiction over accreditation for practical nursing programs, doctoral nursing programs and all degree levels between them.

The agency accredits based in 6 standards:

  • Mission
  • Faculty
  • Students
  • Curriculum
  • Resources
  • Outcomes

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Also a specialty accrediting agency by Department of Education standards, the CCNE has the authority to accredit Bachelors and Masters level nursing programs. The agency accredits based on 4 standards:

  • Mission
  • Institutional Commitment and Resources
  • Curriculum, Teaching-Learning, and Student Outcomes
  • Student Performance and Faculty Accomplishment

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