The nursing school accreditations at the school to which you apply are of utmost importance. Schools have different accreditations, and it is essential to know what those differences mean when choosing a nursing school. While the majority of nursing schools are accredited, there are institutions without any accreditation, leaving it up to the prospective student to check the accreditation status before applying. Keeping up on the trends and demands of accreditation will serve you well after your schooling is complete.
The Accreditation Process
Knowing what a school or program must do to become accredited will reinforce the importance of accreditation on any entry-level student. The accreditation process can take years to get through, especially when talking about professional schooling programs such as nursing school accreditations. There are two levels of accreditation. The first level is for the educational institution itself. Universities, colleges, and institutions all go through the same process to become accredited. The second level of accreditation is for individual programs such as programs for general nursing practitioners or anesthesiology which are two separate specialties in the same field—nursing. The process takes these steps:
- The school fills out a standard accreditation form, which may result in a report of several hundred papers. The form includes questions pertinent for both institutions and programs and provides evidence that the school maintains a quality education up to the standard demanded by the accrediting agency.
- The school submits the form for a review by a panel of peers who’s institutions have established and maintained a quality of education that meets or excels the standards published by the accrediting agency.
- The accrediting agency reviews the school’s application thoroughly, analyzing the information delivered in the application.
- The application is either accepted, denied, or returned to the applicant for further information.
- When the application is accepted, the accrediting agency sends a team to the school to delve deep into the school’s programs, procedures, and results. The team sent consists of educational peers and members of the public who are dedicated to maintaining quality education across the region or country.
- Returning to the accrediting agency, the team turns over their findings to the accrediting commission. The whole process is analyzed to determine if the school is qualified to receive the blessing of the agency.
- If accreditation is awarded, the school agrees to periodic, unannounced reviews of their programs by the accrediting agency to assure the continuing quality of the education delivered by the school.
The Benefit of Attending an Accredited Nursing School
The accreditation of schools and programs is important to students. Students that know that their school is accredited understand that the benefits of their education will follow them as they proceded into the workplace. Today, the emphasis on healthcare makes nursing school accreditation a crucial part of public and community health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is among the 10 fastest-growing occupations in the country. Maintaining a high degree of competency for nurses entering employment is of genuine concern for everyone—hospitals, patients, doctors, family members. Employers in healthcare search for graduates from accredited schools for the benefit of their healthcare institutions and the patients under their care, which translates to better employment possibilities for nurses coming out of an accredited program. Other benefits for students in nursing programs is their ability to receive federal student loans while attending school to ameliorate the expense of education. Unaccredited schools cannot access the Federal Student Loan Program. Students in an accredited school can transfer credits to other accredited schools.
How to Know a School is Accredited
To learn if your intended school is accredited, find the Department of Education accreditation site. The Department of Education oversees all accreditations and accrediting agencies. Accrediting commissions go through the same process to be recognized with the Department of Education as schools do with them. The accreditation status of schools is updated monthly on the site. It is wise to check out both the school and the published accrediting agency to assure accreditation of the school. Some organizations call themselves accrediting agencies that are not recognized by the Department of Education. Schools citing these agencies as their official accreditation commissions are not accredited.
Are Both Private and Public Schools Accredited?
There is no discrimination between public or private colleges during the accreditation process. Accrediting commissions do not take into consideration the private/public status of any school. Accreditation is based on the quality of the program, its curriculum, and its results. Many private schools are also dubbed Research Universities due to the excellence of their programs.
When looking for a nursing school, students must look for an accredited school to assure themselves of quality education. School accreditations come in two forms—national and regional. The difference between the two lies in student credit transfers. Nearly all nationally accredited schools will accept credit transfers from regionally accredited schools. However, the opposite does not work. There is no regional accredited school that will accept transfer credits from a nationally accredited institution. Attending a regionally accredited school does not ensure that credits will transfer with other regionally accredited schools. It is crucial for students looking to transfer to another regionally accredited school to investigate the credit transfer issue before transferring.
Regional accreditation agencies for educational institutions include:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- North Central Association (NCA)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Nursing School Accreditations
There are different levels of nursing school accreditations that the Department of Education recognizes. The first level is for the general accreditation of nursing programs. These include The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The ACEN is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEN) to accredit every level of the field of nursing from those studying practical nursing to those seeking doctoral-level degrees in the field. CCNE is sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AANC) to accredit nursing programs at the baccalaureate, master’s, and post-graduate levels, including post-graduate certifications.
Nursing Program Accreditations
There are several specialties within the field of nursing. Currently, the Department of Education recognizes two accreditation agencies that monitor and maintain high standards within nursing field speciality programs. Those two accrediting agencies are The Council for Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs (COA) and the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). The COA accredits master’s, post-master’s, and doctoral programs in nurse anesthesia degrees throughout the country. The ACME accredits direct entry programs into the nursing field of midwifery and precertification programs, post-undergraduate and undergraduate certifications, as well as graduate-level degrees in the field.
State Board of Nursing Approval
One of the mysteries in the field of nursing school accreditations is the approval of each state’s Board of Nursing. The approval of the state in which the nursing school is located is separate from those of the accrediting organizations. Every state has a Board of Nursing that investigates the quality of the education nursing students receive at the school. A graduate cannot receive a license unless the school from which they graduated has state approval. Graduates who do not qualify for a license are not employable in the field of nursing.
Every student who is seeking an education in nursing should investigate the accreditation and state approval of the program in which they are planning to make an application. To attend an unaccredited nursing school is to risk future employment. To attend a nursing school that is not approved by the state denies the graduate the right to licensure. Nursing licensure acts as a safeguard between nurses and patients and sets a standard for all medical professionals when hiring. Before applying to a school to pursue a nursing career, always check for those essential nursing school accreditations that assure the student of receiving a quality education.
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