Accreditation is a voluntary process to ensure that schools provide high-quality education that meets a standard set of guidelines. In order to become accredited, a school must follow these specific guidelines and allow accrediting organizations to track whether its program is relevant to modern practices and medical science.
The accrediting associations that evaluate programs can be independent organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or governmental agencies like state boards of nursing and health.
Each accrediting organization brings together experts in the field in order to create a set of detailed educational criteria for each degree level. Accrediting organizations usually include a variety of factors in their standards, including the content of the school’s curriculum, its available resources, the performance of its students and the quality of its faculty.
Accrediting agencies usually make no distinction between brick-and-mortar schools and online programs. If a traditional school or online school is able to meet its criteria, then they are given that agency’s accreditation and are free to advertise this on their websites or in informational material. Accreditation is not valid forever, however, and each school must either reapply from time to time or agree to continuous evaluation.
Why accreditation is important for nursing degrees and schools
Accreditation has 2 important functions for the profession. First of all, it provides students with a way to know which schools offer the best, most relevant education. Secondly, accreditation gives healthcare employers a way to be sure that each job candidate has received training from a campus-based or online school that truly prepares them for work in the field.
Additionally, accreditation also gives traditional colleges and top online schools for nursing a way to gain prestige and promote their programs. The system of accreditation has become especially important in recent years as online programs have become more common. The Internet is full of schools that offer online degrees, so the best online school will usually try to distinguish itself from low-quality schools or web scams by applying for the same accreditations that brick-and-mortar schools receive.
Which organizations accredit nursing schools?
Traditional colleges and accredited online schools that want demonstrate the quality of their programs must apply for accreditation with 1 or more of the following accrediting organizations. Be aware that this is not a complete list of all accrediting agencies but only a few of the most common:
The national league for nursing accrediting commission (NLNAC)
The NLNAC is the accrediting arm of the National League for Nursing, a nonprofit professional association for nurses. It awards accreditation to brick-and-mortar programs as well as the best online schools at all levels, including nursing diplomas, certificates, associates, bachelors, masters and doctorates.
The NLNAC sets high standards for both clinical practice and theory. Additionally, this accrediting body is well known for its support of rigorous peer review at every level.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
The CCNE is a nonprofit accrediting organization that has a reputation for supporting high educational standards while still allowing schools to create unique programs.
The CCNE focuses on common educational goals and encourages each school to create innovative strategies for reaching those goals. Unlike the NLNAC, the CCNE focuses on bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.
The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH)
The NPWH is just 1 example of a specialty accrediting organization that evaluates advanced practice nursing (APN) programs. It was organized in 1980 in response to the growing number of nurse practitioners and their increasing importance in the profession.
The NPWH focuses on quality healthcare for women by developing accrediting standards that encourage nurse practitioners to address each patient’s physical, emotional and psychological needs during their treatment and recovery.
Like most organizations that accredit advanced practice nurses, the NPWH is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and represents APNs in a variety of women’s health specialties. The association also places strong emphasis on continued education for both patients and nurses by providing free, high-quality educational materials.
State Boards of Nursing
At the governmental level, every state board creates reports about all of the accredited programs in their state. In some cases the state nursing boards themselves evaluate both on-campus programs and accredited schools online to ensure that they are meeting the standards set by accrediting agencies. In most instances, however, they only collect and publish the results reported by independent accrediting organizations.