The Importance of Considering Nursing School and Nursing Program Accreditation

Deciding on a nursing school is sometimes quite difficult. The prospective student takes a lot of things into consideration: proximity to home, work, availability of child care and cost. However, there is one more consideration seldom considered by prospective students: whether or not the college or university is accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLN-AC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Accreditation is very important for the prospective nursing student when selecting an entry-level nursing program. All nursing programs within a given state have to be licensed and approved by that state by meeting the state requirements. However, this approval does not necessarily mean they are eligible for national accreditation.

Pre-Licensure Nursing program Accreditation

Entry level nursing programs are accredited by either the NLN-AC or the CCNE. Accreditation by one of these bodies indicates the programs have exceeded the state requirements for a nursing program. The NLN-AC is the primary accrediting body for Associate Degree Nursing (ADN), practical nursing and diploma programs. Additionally, some universities choose NLN-AC accreditation for their undergraduate (BSN), graduate and clinical doctoral degrees. The NLN-AC’s purpose is to “provide specialized accreditation for programs of nursing education…” (http://www.nlnac.org/manuals/NLNACManual2008.pdf).The CCNE is the accrediting body for BSN and graduate nursing programs. The CCNE states they are “recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accrediting agency” with a mission of “contributing to the improvement of public health.” This goal is achieved by identifying colleges and universities who have quality nursing programs (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/accreditation/). These national accreditations are voluntary and non-governmental. However, many states require that all the nursing programs within the state have either NLN-AC or CCNE accreditation which ensures the prospective graduates of the states nursing programs are receiving a quality education.

Why are these accreditations so important for the prospective nursing student to consider?

Accreditation is a sign the school of nursing promotes success and ongoing quality. If the school of nursing falls below the accrediting body’s quality standards, then the school may lose its accreditation. By maintaining the accreditation the school of nursing demonstrates its commitment to student success, which is a quality every prospective student should consider. Accreditation also lets the prospective student know there is an additional level of oversight of the schools nursing program. The CCNE states that since the oversight is by the school of nursing’s peers, there is an additional level of integrity and accountability by the school of nursing. Like the CCNE, the NLN-AC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This distinction is important because this recognition is required for federal financial aid programs such as Pell Grants and Federal Student Loans.

Nursing School Accreditation and Career Impact

Another reason to consider accreditation is career goals. Whether they want to work locally or as a travel nurse, many entry level nursing students have finally obtained their dream job. It is important to know that some employers require the nurse to have graduated from an NLN-AC or CCNE accredited school of nursing. This preference is not limited to employers. Many states require accreditation as a prerequisite for licensure. If the student graduates from a non-accredited school of nursing, they may be restricted to working in the state where they graduated.

The advantages to the student of attending an accredited nursing school are not limited to the entry level nurse. Many universities require that the prospective graduate candidate (MSN or PhD) have graduated from an NLN-AC or CCNE accredited school of nursing. This assures the graduate school that the student comes from a quality undergraduate nursing program. These same graduate schools are usually accredited by one or both bodies. This recognition gives the graduate student the same advantages as the undergraduate student, a quality program with integrity, oversight and accountability with access to federal financial aid. And with the cost of graduate school, depending upon the school, running $50,000 to 80,000 or more, the student’s access to federal financial aid means there is a huge advantage to choosing an accredited school.

Caution!

Finally, the student needs to be wary of schools that do not offer national certification because the student may not be eligible for federal financial aid and job preference, which maybe an important factor in their future. Additionally, they need to check with their planned state of licensure to determine whether or not NLN-AC or CCNE accreditation is required. It would be a shame to discover that you graduated from a non-accredited school, only to be turned down for initial licensure in another state. Students should take the extra step to investigate their prospective program before it’s too late.

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