When looking for a nursing program or school, it’s important to make sure the program you choose has earned the proper accreditation. Understanding ACEN accreditation, and more specifically, ACEN-accredited online nursing programs, is an important step toward gaining a flexible nursing education from an accredited institution.
What is ACEN Accreditation?
ACEN provides specialized accreditation established by The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing  for nursing programs, such as:
- Practical nursing programs
- Diploma programs
- Associate programs
- Master’s programs
- Postmaster’s certificate programs
- Clinical doctorate programs
This accreditation shows that the programs are willing to take the extra steps necessary to maintain the highest level of commitment to educational excellence for their students, faculty, and staff.
The Purpose of Accreditation by ACEN
ACEN accreditation plays several key roles, including ensuring a uniform nursing education around the country. Imagine the headache that would be caused if nurses in each state were taught entirely different curricula and nursing techniques. Accreditation is essential to ensuring that does not happen and that patients can receive the same quality of care no matter where they are.
ACEN standards aim to bring quality and consistency to nursing education across America in two main ways:
- Protect nursing students by ensuring their nursing degrees have a meaningful impact on their future.
- Help nursing schools highlight their quality and commitment to maintaining excellence in education. This helps them attract prospective students who are looking for programs that will result in the best career options and benefits.
The Accreditation Process
The first step to becoming an ACEN-certified nursing school is to apply. There is a two-year window from the time of application that programs have to obtain accreditation.
Once the application has been received, ACEN will schedule a site visit. This site visit is important so ACEN evaluators can make sure the school and/or program meets the organization’s standards before it can move from candidacy to accreditation. Even after accreditation is granted, schools should be prepared for occasional site visits to continue to ensure ACEN standards are being upheld.
During these site visits, evaluators meet with the following groups:
- The nursing school’s faculty members and staff
- The nursing school’s administrators
- Nursing students
- Members of the public
They will also tour the school’s campus and classrooms and examine the school’s curriculum for three main attributes:
The evaluators may also review student, faculty, and graduate records. Once they have reviewed all necessary information, they will meet to discuss what they’ve learned and come to a decision on whether to accept or reject ACEN accreditation for the school in question.
Schools do have the right to withdraw their accreditation anytime they please.
When nursing schools apply for ACEN candidacy, they are required to submit:
- A list of qualifications for their faculty.
- Information about their program’s curriculum.
- Information on how the program is delivered.
- An evaluation plan.
- A program catalog.
Nursing schools receive ACEN accreditation based on their ability to meet ACEN standards. In order to keep their accreditation, schools must continue meeting or exceeding the standards.
The recently released 2023 ACEN standards and criteria requirements  include standards for the following areas:
- Administrative Capacity and Resources: The mission of the ACEN-accredited nursing program should reflect the governing body’s mission, goals, and values.
- Faculty: ACEN-accredited faculty should be educationally and experientially qualified in their assigned roles and responsibilities and be regularly evaluated to ensure the achievement of program outcomes.
- Students: Policies and services for students must support the achievement of student learning and program outcomes.
- Curriculum: The curriculum must support the achievement of student learning outcomes and remain consistent with safe practices in contemporary healthcare.
- Outcomes: Assessments of the nursing program demonstrate the extent of student learning at the end of the program. The faculty must create a written systematic plan for evaluation (SPE) for each nursing program to measure achievement.
What is an Online ACEN Nursing Program?
In today’s digital-first world, many students are turning to — and relying on — online education. The good news is that there are several ACEN-accredited online nursing programs to choose from as well as in-person options.
Most ACEN online nursing programs take two years to finish and give students the luxury of completing the course material at their own pace. This gives them the freedom to continue working, caring for their children, and attending to all other responsibilities while getting their nursing degree. For these reasons, some people with full plates may take longer than two years to complete their online ACEN nursing program.
What Kind of Classes Do Accredited Online ACEN Nursing Programs Offer?
ACEN-accredited online nursing programs offer the same type of classes as in-person ACEN nursing programs.
Accredited Online ACEN Nursing Programs are commonly geared toward people who have already completed some type of medical degree and who are looking to advance their careers. For this reason, many of these programs require students to already have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This allows them to receive an online degree because they already have experience and education in bedside nursing and other in-person elements of nursing that can’t be taught strictly online.
Some examples of classes taught in online ACEN accredited programs include:
- Healthcare ethics
- Nursing management
- Adult care nursing
- Trends in nursing
- Child development
- Specialty courses such as anesthesiology and cardiology
Beyond the Coursework of ACEN Accredited Online Nursing Programs
With an online ACEN program, the majority, if not all, of the curriculum is online. Students watch pre-recorded or live video lessons and submit all coursework, including exams, online.
But, as we mentioned, nursing is a hands-on profession, which means you cannot count on getting a nursing degree solely online. Most ACEN-accredited programs will require a certain number of in-person hours in a clinical setting to give students the chance to practice their nursing skills in real life.
What are the Benefits of an ACEN Nursing Program?
Some of the most significant benefits of ACEN accredited nursing programs include:
- Receive a distinguished degree that sets you apart from other programs without accreditation.
- Gives you useful information for decision-making in your education and career.
- ACEN accreditation is required for admission to many undergraduate and graduate nursing programs around the nation.
- Greater ability to transfer to out-of-state nursing programs that are also ACEN accredited.
- Graduate with a nationally recognized achievement that employers often seek out when hiring nurses.
- You’ll be prepared for more potential job opportunities. In fact, you won’t even be able to take the NCLEX test in most states if you did not graduate from an accredited nursing school. So, graduating from an ACEN-accredited nursing program ensures you won’t run into any delays and can get your nursing career started ASAP.
We hope this post has given you a detailed overview of ACEN accredited programs and answered your questions, including ‘what is ACEN accreditation?’ If you have any more questions about ACEN accreditation or finding ACEN-accredited online nursing programs near you, feel free to reach out.