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Importance of Accreditation in Nursing Education Programs

As the demand for well-prepared nurses grows, so does the demand for quality nursing education. Accreditation is a review process that evaluates nursing training programs. It is based on best practices and established quality standards. This process is necessary to ensure students receive the right education for their professional field.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) evaluate nursing schools and programs in the United States. Each school or program must meet ACEN or CCNE standards in order to earn accreditation. Northeastern State University's online RN to BSN program is accredited by ACEN.

The Accreditation Process

Both ACEN and CCNE require that nursing programs meet or exceed a variety of standards. Some standards follow state regulations and licensing requirements for nurses. Others address school management, safety or compliance issues. The accreditation process looks at each school's approach to teaching and working with nursing students, as well the results.

Schools have to provide the evaluators with a lot of information. This might include faculty qualifications, course content, learning objectives, program evaluation plans and more. Schools must also demonstrate that their degree plans give nursing students the correct knowledge and skills.

ACEN and CCNE also look at student progress in completing degrees and the percentage of students who finish. The goal is to make sure that a school is in fact educating and graduating nurses who can provide quality patient care.

Benefits of a Nursing Degree From an Accredited School or Program

Accreditation is a voluntary process, and some schools choose not to pursue it. However there are real advantages to attending an accredited nursing school.

  • Financial aid - Students studying at accredited schools and programs are eligible for state and federal financial aid programs. Government grants, student loans and work-study funds cannot be used to pay for unaccredited nursing programs. Private foundations and companies that offer scholarships may also require that applicants attend an accredited school or program to be eligible.
  • Transfer credits - Students moving from an accredited nursing school to a different associate or bachelor's degree program have fewer problems transferring credits. Most colleges and universities will only accept transfer hours from accredited nursing programs. Transfer students from unaccredited programs often find they need to start over when switching schools.
  • Graduate education - Nurses must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school in order to apply to a master's degree program. This is also true for graduate programs in related healthcare fields such as medical social work and health education. Students with degrees from unaccredited nursing programs are not usually accepted for graduate study.

School Accreditation and Employment

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses who graduate from non-accredited schools may face obstacles obtaining a license, and employment options can sometimes be limited. Many hospitals and others healthcare employers require a degree from an accredited nursing program for new hires, as well as those moving up the nursing career ladder.

Nurses who wish to teach should also be aware of their school's accreditation status. Nurse educator positions and college teaching positions generally require a degree from an accredited school or program. Other careers with teaching responsibilities, such as those in patient advocacy or community health education, may require that applicants have a degree from an accredited nursing program, as well.

Benefits to Students, Patients and Community

According to ACEN and CCNE, the accreditation process improves the quality of education that nursing schools provide. It ensures that courses have the right content, instructors are using appropriate teaching methods, and schools are meeting the needs of nursing students. The accreditation process also helps keep nursing school curricula up to date with current professional standards.

Accredited schools and programs have an important role to play in nursing education. They produce nurses equipped to meet the challenges of their profession. When you graduate from an accredited school, your diploma carries weight and credibility, and your nursing career options are wide open.

Learn more about the Northeastern State University online RN to BSN program.


Sources:

ACEN: Mission, Purpose and Goals

ACEN: Benefits of Accreditation

AACN: About CCNE Accreditation

Newsweek: Moving Ahead With Your Nursing Education: Why Accreditation Matters

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