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What Is CCNE Accreditation for Nursing Programs?

Registered nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide quality patient care in a variety of medical settings. They demonstrate expertise in a number of ways, from knowing how to operate medical equipment to performing diagnostic tests on patients. Since registered nurses have essential healthcare roles, they should receive a well-rounded education from an accredited nursing program that prepares them for hands-on experience in the medical field.

To become a registered nurse, students earn a bachelor’s, associate, or diploma in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Registered nurses with a bachelor’s in nursing from a program with CCNE accreditation, such as Maryville University’s online RN to BSN degree, stand to boost their career prospects in the field.

Two nurses discuss a patient file in a hospital corridor.

CCNE Accreditation Defined

Accreditation is a valuable component of the U.S. education system. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality.” For nursing specifically, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation establishes a standard of excellence and criteria for certification for nursing programs across the country.

Two major national accrediting organizations for nursing programs are the CCNE and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The CCNE, which is part of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), assesses a nursing program’s quality and identifies whether it meets expected outcomes.

Having CCNE accreditation is what qualifies nursing programs to offer classroom education and clinical training for nursing graduate students. The CCNE evaluates and officially recognizes Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees, as well as post-graduate nursing certificate programs and some nurse residency programs.

What Is the CCNE Accreditation Process?

Earning CCNE accreditation is an essential component of opening a new nursing institution or introducing a new program at an already accredited institution. New programs must become accredited a full year before they can begin enrolling students and offering classes. After becoming accredited, maintaining CCNE accreditation is an ongoing process.

CCNE Accreditation for New Applicants

To begin, a nursing program requests “new applicant status” to earn accreditation for five years. If an institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing program is already CCNE accredited but launches a new program, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program, the new program needs to be accredited, too — a process that takes at least a year.

Part of the process involves sharing program objectives, student retention rates, NCLEX-RN pass rates, and faculty qualifications in a self-study document. In addition, the CCNE conducts on-site program evaluations for a fee. The evaluation team writes a report for CCNE staff members to review and pass on to the CCNE Accreditation Review Committee (ARC).

The ARC evaluates the program’s goals and performance to determine if it should be accredited. The ARC recommends a program for approval to the CCNE Board of Commissioners, which makes the final accreditation decision.

Maintaining CCNE Accreditation

To maintain accreditation, nursing programs must submit annual reports to the CCNE. According to the AACN, the report must include statistical data and other information about the parent institution, program, faculty, and students.

After the initial five-year accreditation term, a nursing program can have longer accreditation terms. However, halfway through each term, the program should submit a continuous improvement progress report (CIPR) “for the purpose of demonstrating continued compliance with the CCNE standards and key elements, as well as ongoing program improvement,” according to the AACN.

What Is CCNE Accreditation’s Importance?

What is CCNE accreditation, and why does it matter? The answer is clear. CCNE accreditation holds nursing programs accountable to a national standard, making sure that all nurses receive a high level of education.

Additionally, for students to receive financial aid, they must attend a program that has nationally recognized accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, which may be institutional (such as the Higher Learning Commission) or programmatic (such as the CCNE). Since many undergraduate and graduate students rely on financial aid, accreditation can be an important consideration in the application process. Students also typically cannot transfer credits from a nonaccredited institution to an accredited one.

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program prepares nursing students for the academic rigor of a master’s or doctoral degree, if they are interested in advancing their education. Another benefit of earning a degree from an accredited program is that it makes nurses more competitive in the job market.

Prospective nursing students who graduate from nonaccredited programs may not qualify to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing website states that to take the NCLEX-RN exam, people need the proper nursing credential from their state boards. Requirements can vary across states, but most nurses should have an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

Earn Your BSN at an Accredited University

The U.S. currently has more than 3.1 million practicing registered nurses, according to the AACN. Registered nurses make up the largest component of healthcare workers in the nation, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the U.S. will have 3.3 million registered nurses by 2029.

Earning a degree from an accredited nursing program can transform a nurse’s long-term career. If you’re pursuing a career as a registered nurse and want to know what CCNE accreditation is and why it’s important, explore how the online RN to BSN degree and other nursing programs at Maryville University can help you advance your nursing career.

Recommended Readings

BSN vs. MSN Degree: What Is the Difference?

LVN vs. BSN: Explore Key Differences in These Nursing Roles

Your Future in Nursing: RN vs. BSN vs. MSN

Sources

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, CCNE Accreditation Process

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Your Nursing Career: A Look at the Facts

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, CCNE, “Procedures for Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs”

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Licensure

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

U.S. Department of Education, “Accreditation in the United States”