According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are more than 996 baccalaureate nursing programs in the U.S. These include LPN to BSN, RN to BS in Nursing, ADN to BSN as well as direct-entry BSN programs. Some are on-campus programs while others are offered online. While cost and reputation are important, there is one more key factor to consider: accreditation.
Accreditation should be a crucial decision-making factor when pursuing any nursing degree. Below are the main reasons it is important to enroll in an accredited program and some of the major accrediting bodies for nursing programs in the U.S.
What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation is the process of ensuring that higher education programs "meet acceptable levels of quality." Accrediting bodies are responsible for setting standards that nursing programs must meet to demonstrate they provide a high-quality nursing education if they seek this recognition and designation.
By pursuing and gaining accreditation, nursing programs can demonstrate the quality standards they adhere to. As part of this process, an "institution or program seeking accreditation prepares an in-depth self-evaluation report that measures its performance against the standards established by the (accrediting) agency."
Once an accrediting agency confirms that a nursing program meets established standards, it grants the program pre-accreditation or accreditation status. Throughout the accreditation period, the accrediting agency continues to monitor the nursing program's compliance with standards.
What Is the Purpose of Accreditation?
The purpose of accreditation is to ensure quality control and ongoing improvement of nursing programs by setting specific standards they must meet and maintain. This helps with educational parity for two different nurses educated in similar programs, but in different states, for instance. Accreditation helps ensure that nursing curricula stays updated and maintains relevance to trends and advancements in healthcare and nursing.
Why Is It Important to Enroll in an Accredited Nursing Program?
Choosing to enroll in an accredited nursing program is important for many reasons. Students who seek federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education must enroll in an accredited institution to receive financial assistance. Moreover, most graduate programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited school. Completing a non-accredited nursing program might also affect your job prospects after graduation. Some employers do not recognize nursing diplomas or degrees completed through programs that lack accreditation.
What Are the Major Accrediting Bodies for Nursing Programs?
The two main accrediting bodies for nursing programs in the U.S. are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). CCNE or ACEN accreditation is a recognition that nursing schools make widely known on their websites and marketing materials, giving prospective students confidence in the quality of the degree programs they offer.
Two additional accrediting bodies include the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) and the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM) that accredit nurse anesthesia and midwifery programs respectively.
Accreditation of a nursing school ensures its curricula meet general standards set for the profession. It is also one of the criteria applicants need to consider if they require federal student aid, have plans to attend graduate school or want to ensure their education is recognized by potential employers. Nursing school accreditation is important and requires careful consideration when deciding which programs to apply to.
The online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of Rhode Island holds ACEN accreditation.
Learn more about URI's online RN to BS in Nursing program.
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