The U.S. is in need of nurses. With waves of nurses retiring in the next five years, coupled with an aging population needing healthcare, it’s never been a better time to enter the nursing field. If you’re a prospective nurse, attending a nursing school that you can have confidence in is essential. Your education will require an investment of time, effort, and of course, money. It’s important that your future school can adequately prepare you for the career that you want. When looking for a nursing program, it’s important to find a school that is accredited. Here’s what you need to know about accredited nursing programs, why accreditation matters, and what to look for when researching nursing schools.
About Nursing Program Accreditation
If you’re considering nursing programs for the first time, you might be wondering what the “big deal” is about accreditation. Well, simply put accreditation is about maintaining a minimum level of academic and experiential quality. When a nursing school has been accredited, they have been approved by an external body of professionals who have determined that the program provides students with safe, reliable, and consistent training provided by highly trained faculty members. The accreditation process also helps to create a culture of constant improvement within an institution. This only serves to benefit the learning experience for students.
In the world of nursing, accreditation ensures that nursing programs throughout the U.S. are held to common standards. Accredited nursing programs offer their students the best faculty and the highest quality facilities. Accredited nursing programs are also the best equipped to prepare students to sit for their licensing exams. Accredited programs train highly skilled nurses, enhancing the quality of care that these nurses can provide to patients.
Why Attend an Accredited Nursing Program?
In light of the national shortage of nurses, it should come to no surprise that many nursing programs have suddenly become available. Many for-profit, unaccredited schools offer hopeful students the “opportunity” to earn their degree quickly through quick, accelerated courses while simultaneously making promises of guaranteed employment that they simply can’t fulfill. While it is technically possible to work as a nurse with a degree from an unaccredited school, there are a number of reasons why accreditation matters. Here are some examples.
Licensing requirements for RNs vary from state to state. While it is possible in some states to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination after having earned a degree from a non-accredited program, in others this is not the case. Prior to taking the NCLEX-RN exam, you will need to apply for licensure/registration with the nursing regulatory body where you wish to be licensed/registered. You can double check your state’s specific requirements by contacting one of the NCSBN’s 59 U.S. members. Alternatively, you can check your state’s health department. In the state of Connecticut, new nurses are required to earn their degree at a state approved and nationally accredited nursing program prior to sitting for their licensing exam.
2. Federal Financial Aid
Most students attending college can’t afford to pay for school out of pocket. If this sounds like you, it’s important to know the ways in which you can access financial support. If you’re planning on seeking financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education, you will need to attend an accredited school. In other words, students who choose to attend non-accredited programs are not eligible to receive financial aid in the form of Federal Work Study, Stafford Loans, or Pell Grants.
3. Job Opportunities
As mentioned, in some states it is possible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and become licensed to work as a nurse without having attended an accredited school. However, employers in the healthcare sphere take their future employees’ education very seriously. For better or worse, employers will consider the reputation of their applicants’ school as part of the employment screening process. If you’ve attended an accredited nursing program, future employers will know without a doubt that you’ve received the education you need to be an effective nurse. This knowledge will put you far and above other applicants who have not attended an accredited program.
Nursing Program Accrediting Bodies
So, who is in charge of the accreditation process, anyway? There are different levels and kinds of accreditation. However, there are two main bodies that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit general nursing education on the national level. These are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The ACEN is a
subsidiary of the National League for Nursing while the CCNE is a branch of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Both of these accrediting bodies make it their mission to guarantee that future nurses are provided with the training they need, and deserve.
Regional Approval vs. National Accreditation
It’s important to know that state approval is not the same thing as national accreditation. Though all nationally accredited schools will be approved by their state, it is possible for state-approved schools to not be nationally accredited. Make sure that your future nursing school meets both national accreditation and state approval standards before enrolling.
Skilled nurses are in demand to provide care in every venue of the American healthcare system. If you’re preparing to enter this demanding field, it’s crucial that you know that you’re receiving the finest training possible. The best way to do this is to make sure you’re enrolling in an accredited nursing program.
Looking for an accredited nursing program in Connecticut? Learn about University of Bridgeport’s Bachelor of Nursing programs!