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Nursing School Accreditation: What is it and Why Is It Critical?

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Nursing students need to explore all of their options as they consider their educational choices. One of those options involves the accreditation status of the nursing program in question. While many non-accredited nursing programs may have quality educational plans, choosing an accredited program has a significant number of benefits to consider. As you weigh your options for your future education, here’s what you need to know about nursing school accreditation and how it can impact your education and career future.

The Accreditation Process

For a nursing school or program to attain accreditation, it must meet or exceed standards the accrediting agency establishes, according to Nurse.org. These standards are usually in line with state and federal regulations surrounding the nursing profession. They also touch on school safety and compliance issues.

Upon application for accreditation, a team of evaluators will explore a school’s programs, policies, organization, and more. These evaluators require a large amount of information about the faculty, curriculum, and overall program. In order to achieve accreditation, the school must prove that its degree program follows the proper standards and practices to ensure a quality education.

Why Accreditation Is Important

Schools are not required to have accreditation to teach nursing students. However, accreditation provides a level of accountability for the school, ensuring that its program is top-notch and meets the relevant qualifications. This improves the quality of education received through the program, giving nursing students peace of mind that they are getting what they need to stay on top of advances in nursing and healthcare.

The Benefits of Accreditation for Nursing Students

If you are considering a nursing education, there are many reasons to consider an accredited program over one that is unaccredited. From improved employment opportunities to more freedom transferring academic credit, accreditation gives nursing students a number of benefits, including:

1. Financial Aid Opportunities

Many nursing students will need financial aid to get their education, and that may require an accredited program. State and federal programs require students to attend accredited schools to receive financial aid. Many private scholarships also require accreditation. The organizations and agencies that put out these grants and scholarships want to know their money is going toward a high-quality program, and accreditation is one way they can assure that.

2. Transfer Credit Moveability

Life can change, and students may find that they need to transfer their credits from their current program to a new one. Colleges are allowed to decide which transfer credits they will and will not accept. Accredited programs have a higher transfer credit acceptance rate than non-accredited ones. If you choose an accredited nursing school, and your needs change in the future, your hard work is more likely to successfully transfer to your new program.

3. Graduate Education Options

Nurses may choose to pursue an RN to BSN program or even a master’s degree in nursing. The undergraduate credits they have need to be from an accredited school to apply for these advanced degrees in most instances. Again, even if you are not planning to attend graduate school at this time, your future goals may change.

4. Better Career Opportunities

Employers may overlook degrees from non-accredited schools in favor of job candidates who attended an accredited program. While you can get a job with a degree from a non-accredited school, you may notice better career options if you have an accredited degree behind your name.

What Accreditation Should a Nursing School Have?

In addition to institutional accreditation—where the entire school has been judged to meet the accreditation requirements—individual programs in a school of nursing can also be accredited at the state or national level.

Ensuring that the program is approved by the state’s Board of Nursing is essential as it is required in order to take the NCLEX exam for licensing. However, it is important to note that state approval/accreditation and national accreditation are not the same thing. While states can approve the operation of the program, national accreditation agencies confirm whether the program meets or exceeds quality standards on a national level.

If a nursing program wants to be accredited  by a U.S. Department of Education approved agency, there are a few options they can pursue for programmatic accreditation, with two of them being:

ACEN

ACEN accreditation comes from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The ACEN is the oldest nursing education accreditor and is recognized by the United States Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This program takes pride in ensuring educational quality for nursing education and transition-to-practice.ACEN is a major accrediting body for certificate and associate degree programs. It also provides accreditation for master’s and bachelor’s programs as well as doctoral programs.

In order to gain ACEN accreditation, a program first applies for consideration. After applying, a group of peers conduct an in-person evaluation to determine its quality. These peers may include nurse administrators, nurse educators, or nurse clinicians.

The final accreditation decision is up to the ACEN Board of Commissioners. If approved, it means that ACEN recognizes and trusts the program to deliver a quality education. However, ACEN strives to support nursing programs by not only helping them gain accreditation but maintain it by promoting peer reviews and assessments.

CCNE

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is the other accrediting body. CCNE is considered the voice of nursing education in the country. Its goal is to advance the safety of the public through improved healthcare. CCNE strives to hold nursing programs accountable to each other, the employers that hire students, the nursing profession as a whole, and the higher education committee.

CCNE provides accreditation for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. They look at the program’s performance, mission, and goals. They evaluate how well the program utilizes resources and the quality of the information that students receive as they progress through the program.

Like ACEN accreditation, CCNE is recognized by the DOE and CHEA. The accreditation program includes both paper applications as well as on-site evaluations of a nursing program. Schools that have CCNE accreditation have proven that they offer a high-quality program that provides exceptional nursing education.

After a school achieves CCNE accreditation, it must work to maintain it through a series of self-assessments, peer reviews, and visits from the accreditation panel.

Start Your Nursing Journey Today

If you are ready to advance your nursing career through additional education, finding an accredited program could be a key to that. Bryant & Stratton College has a variety of CCNE and ACEN accredited healthcare programs that can help you advance your career and provide quality patient care. The program is designed for working nurses, helping them achieve a bachelor’s degree in as little as two years. With flexible online training, it can meet you where you are as you go back to school while actively working in the healthcare field.

Contact the team at Bryant & Stratton College today to learn more about our healthcare programs and see they are the right fit for your education goals.


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