Making the decision to return to school is a major personal and professional milestone, so naturally, you want to be sure the program you choose will serve your best interests in the long term. Selecting an accredited Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program provides assurance of the overall integrity of the curriculum, the preparedness of graduates and their ability to find success in the field.
What Is Accreditation?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is "a means of conducting nongovernmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs." Accrediting bodies oversee the process, conducting on-site evaluations and ongoing monitoring to ensure quality standards are achieved and that students obtain a fundamental level of knowledge that leads to ongoing professional success.
Two accrediting bodies oversee nursing programs at the national level: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which is a branch of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). "Programs with CCNE or ACEN accreditation demonstrate that they prepare nursing graduates with the competency standards set by the profession," says Robert Rosseter, chief communications officer for AACN.
The University of Maine at Fort Kent's online RN to BSN program is accredited by CCNE and approved by the Maine State Board of Nursing. CCNE's Standards for Accreditation document lists five purposes of accreditation for degree programs, including holding programs accountable, evaluating program caliber and success, assessing the extent to which programs meet accreditation benchmarks, identifying programs that meet standards, and fostering continuous improvement.
Accreditation is a voluntary process and is awarded to a program based on its:
- Mission and goals
- Availability of resources, including academic support for students
- Quality of the curriculum
- Effectiveness in meeting key outcomes such as the percent of graduates who obtain licensure, certification and employment
Are There Other Types of Accreditation?
There are a few types of accreditation, so it is important to understand the differences.
Regional vs. national. Regional accreditation is generally awarded to public schools and universities, while national accreditation is for institutions offering vocational or career-focused degrees.
Institutional vs. specialized. Institutional accreditation is granted to an entire school or university, while specialized status applies to a school's specific degree program.
What Are the Benefits of Accreditation?
There are several benefits to enrolling in an accredited nursing program.
Proven quality standards. "Accreditation assures that the quality of teaching, student achievement, curricula, academic support and other criteria meet certain standards of excellence and quality," says Rosseter.
Financial aid availability. Federal grants and loans — and occasionally state funding — are only available to students enrolled in accredited programs. Eligibility for employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement often requires accreditation as well.
Career preparedness. Given the comprehensive nature of an accredited nursing program's curriculum, students are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the changing healthcare landscape, operate at the top of their scope of practice, and contribute to improved outcomes by providing the latest in patient-centered care.
Graduate pathway. Credits from an accredited nursing program are more readily accepted should students wish to pursue an advanced degree in the future.
Make It Count
Although choosing a nursing program can be overwhelming, taking the time to make an informed decision pays off. An accredited nursing program has a proven track record of preparing students for success in the workplace, ultimately paving the way to more job opportunities, better patient care and the pursuit of advanced degrees.
Learn more about the University of Maine at Fort Kent online RN to BSN program.
Rosseter, R. (December 2019). Email interview.
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