Nursing School Accreditation
With all of the medical jargon that you have to learn during nursing school, getting into nursing school shouldn’t be as difficult. However the term ‘accreditation’ can be tricky for some prospective students to sort out. Is it a good thing that a school is accredited? Is it a bad thing if the school is not accredited?
A simple definition of accreditation is that the school in question has been evaluated to see if it can meet certain criteria. When the school meets these criteria, it can then be given the approval for accreditation. There are several different regions in the United States in which to be accredited as well as different nursing degrees that are covered by this approval system.
This process is completely voluntary for the school in question. And the standards set in this process are also self-regulatory, meaning that the nursing program will check up on itself. But still, what does this mean?
The National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) is one of the two organizations that accredit nursing programs. This particular organization helps to certify nursing diploma, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree programs. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is the other committee that can accredit a nursing program that offers either a master’s program or a baccalaureate program.
For certain training programs, there are other organizations that will accredit them. For example, in the case of nurse anesthetists, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs is in charge, while the midwife programs for nurses are accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation.
Although this seems quite complicated, it is a relief to know that most programs are judged with the same criteria and standards. These standards used to rate classes, skills that are taught, and overall training for student nurses. The school seeking accreditation needs to either meet or exceed these standards in order to be accepted into accreditation status. While the lengths of time for the accreditation vary, this is easy to check with the body that accredits the program.
You can check to see if your nursing program is accredited by the NLNAC by going to the school’s admission office or Web site. A nursing school will have to be reviewed by the various accreditation committees as their accreditation expires, so you can be sure that the education standards are consistent and well-managed over time. Constant reviews of procedures and teaching methods allow accredited schools to maintain their status.
To be approved by a state board of nursing is different from being accredited. When a nursing program is accredited, it means that the various programs and course offerings are measured for their relevance in the committee’s eyes. Being approved by the state board of nursing, however, only means that the school can train the nurses to sit for the NCLEX for that particular state. What you might want to note is that being approved by the state does not necessarily mean that the school is also accredited (though this is usually the case).
What’s the gain in being an accredited school? While a nurse is a nurse is a nurse, going to an accredited school leaves many more options available. Not only are you able to continue your education at other accredited schools, but you’re also put into a better position job-wise. Because most employers like to hire nurses from accredited programs, your job hunt can be made a lot simpler with your choice of an accredited school. Nurses from accredited programs are trained under nationally recognized standards and thus employers will know what education and skills they can expect from you.
Accredited schools also allow students to apply for federal aid from the government. Because the school’s qualifications have been measured and approved, the government is more confident that their investment in school loans will produce positive returns. It’s a wise investment for the federal loan office.
If your nursing school is not accredited, you might want to carefully review your decision to attend the school. While you will still be able to sit for the NCLEX exam because the school is approved by the state, this particular school can severely limit your career options as well as opportunities for further education.
When you attend an accredited school, you can transfer to another accredited school, as mentioned before. But this also means that you can attend another school in order to further your nursing education. For example, many nurses are pursuing their RN to BSN in order to increase their overall salary and position. But without the previous accredited school transcripts, that can not be done.
In the end, you may still receive a high quality nursing education when you attend an unaccredited nursing school, but your future may be limited. If you desire going into nursing administration positions, you will want to be sure to choose an accredited nursing school from the beginning. That way, you have all of your options open, should you ever change your mind.
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