November 2016

Volume X Issue 5


Reflections on 2016
Dr. Marcy Stoll, ACEN CEO

Holiday Greetings from the ACEN! It is hard to believe we are already saying goodbye to 2016, as it has been another milestone year for the ACEN. As you may know, the first of December marks my second-year anniversary as CEO of the ACEN, and I cannot help but to once again smile as I reflect on our accomplishments this year. In my very first Bridges correspondence, almost two years ago, I promised that I would work hard to fulfill the vision of the ACEN being the leading accrediting agency for all types of nursing education programs – nationwide and internationally.


The ACEN's long-standing record as an accrediting agency, for all levels of nursing education, is known to be rigorous. While accreditation should be rigorous, it must also be fair and transparent. This is the only way to ensure excellence and integrity; serve students, society, and the public interest reliably and responsibly; and be the role model for accreditation best practices and effectiveness. I continue my promise to listen to you, to work hand-in-hand with you, and to ensure that ACEN will be your supportive partner in the accreditation process. 


So what have we accomplished this year? Below are just a few achievements:

  1. In March 2016, the U. S. Department of Education renewed the recognition of the ACEN.
  2. Completed the revision of the Standards and Criteria, which streamlined the accreditation standards (especially requirements related to outcomes and faculty qualifications). Bridges, July 2016
    1. All programs being reviewed from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017, have the choice of being reviewed under the 2013 Standards and Criteria OR the 2017 Standards and Criteria. Programs must use either ALL of the 2013 Standards and Criteria or ALL of the 2017 Standards and Criteria. There can be no "mixing and matching" between the 2013 Standards and Criteria and the 2017 Standards and Criteria.
    2. All programs being reviewed beginning January 1, 2018, will do so under the 2017 Standards and Criteria.
  3. Continued the development of Standards and Criteria for Transition to Practice/Nurse Residency programs; more information will be shared in early 2017.
  4. Began the implementation of accreditation management software that will automate the interaction of programs and peer evaluators with the ACEN through an online web portal. See article in this edition of Bridges, Improving the ACEN Accreditation Process Through New Online Software.
  5. Hired a fourth professional staff member to ensure these expert nurse educators have more time to assist and support programs.
  6. In the spirit of more transparency, educating nursing faculty about ACEN accreditation, and being a supportive partner:
    1. Implemented Observer participation on site visit teams. See ACEN Policy #32 in Accreditation Manual - Section II Policies and the article in this edition of Bridges, Become an ACEN Site Visit Observer.
    2. Implemented an Advisory Review for a nursing programs on continuing accreditation 1-2 years from the next accreditation visit to receive additional support from the professional staff. Bridges, September 2016
    3. Continued to revise the ACEN Self-Study Forums, Nurse Administrator Workshop, Peer Evaluator Training, and Site Visit Team Chair Training to ensure clarity of accreditation requirements.
    4. Laid plans for the first ACEN Accreditation Conference, scheduled for July 12-14, 2018. The purpose of this conference is to create a way for the community of scholars on nursing education accreditation to network and discuss nursing education accreditation, and to increase success with the ACEN accreditation process. More information will be shared in 2017.
  7. Transformed peer evaluator training from an annual face-to-face event in Atlanta to 24/7 online asynchronous training. There is a public version of this online training module that is open to all program faculty. This is the exact online training module used by peer evaluators. The only difference is the public version does not include the quizzes that peer evaluators complete. Follow directions under heading entitled "ACEN Peer Evaluators or Observers" or "Open Access" at
  8. Started process to transform chair training from an annual face-to-face event held in Atlanta to 24/7 online asynchronous training.
  9. Updated the entire ACEN Accreditation Manual and the Resources for Nursing Programs web page.
  10. Participated in the revision of and endorsed the 2016 Criteria for the Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs, 5th Edition. Bridges, July 2016

While this list is impressive, this is just the continuation of ACEN serving as the leading authority for nursing education accreditation. As always, we are here to assist you in the achievement of nursing education excellence through accreditation. Simply contact us by e-mail or telephone whenever you need us. 


Cheers to another successful year in 2017!

A History of Ensuring Quality
in Nursing Education 


From Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton to Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, nursing has a rich history; a history that may not be known by many but is upheld through nursing education and nursing education accreditation. The ACEN is a proud member of the nursing community, with decades of experience in nursing education accreditation and an eye on the future.


In the late 1800s, the initial growth in higher education in the United States led to the need to ensure educational quality. This began the rise of institutional accreditation, also known as regional accreditation, and the founding of organizations such as the New England Association (1885), the Middle States Association (1887), the North Central Association (1895), and the Southern Association (1895). Soon after the development of institutional accreditation, it became clear that individual disciplines had the responsibility to ensure that each program's graduates were well-prepared. The early 20th Century saw the birth of programmatic accreditation for business, medicine, and nursing. This led to the development of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses (1895).


In 1912, the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses was renamed the National League for Nursing Education (NLNE). The NLNE would publish the first set of accreditation standards for nursing education in 1917. During this time, programmatic accreditation was monitored using a platform similar to the peer review process of today. A program seeking accreditation would apply to the accrediting agency, a self-evaluation process would occur followed by an external evaluation led by peer evaluators, and based on the standards set by the accreditor, the program would be granted or denied accreditation. If accreditation was granted, the program would undergo the process again in a set number of years. With the model for evaluation and the standards for accreditation established, the NLNE was poised to evolve into the international agency we know today. In 1952, the NLNE combined with the National Organization for Public Health Nursing and the Association for Collegiate School of Nursing to become the National League for Nursing (NLN).


As the decades progressed, the NLN through its accreditation division, served as the sole nursing program accreditor in the United States. However, 1997 brought about big changes. In order to comply with the U.S. Department of Education's (USDE's) regulations requiring accrediting activities to be separate and independent from trade organizations, the accreditation activities were transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary corporation of the NLN through the establishment of the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC); thus, permanently removing the NLN from accrediting nursing programs and conveying all accrediting activities and responsibilities to the NLNAC. After taking this step to comply with USDE regulations, the NLNAC began expanding its accreditation services to assist nurse educators develop and maintain strong nursing programs. The NLNAC soon became the most well-trusted and well-known accrediting agency for nursing education...continue reading




Become an ACEN Site Visit Observer


We are pleased to announce that the Board of Commissioners has approved Policy #32 Observer on the Site Visit Team, which allows a nursing program in its initial or reaccreditation review process to designate one (1) person to accompany a site visit team.  The purpose of a Site Visit Observer is to provide one (1) designated person from a nursing program the opportunity to learn from the site visit team activities and from the review process experience.  A site visit team may have only one (1) observer and that observer may not have any conflicts of interest as defined by ACEN Policy #1 Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest.  All host programs must agree to have an observer accompany the site visit team.  The ACEN cannot guarantee that all requests will be honored nor will all requests be approved due to the variability in the number of scheduled site visits.  However, requests to have an observer accompany a site visit team will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.  Programs that agree to host an observer will receive priority.  Neither the ACEN nor the host nursing program is responsible for any expenses (e.g., travel, lodging, meal, etc.) incurred by the observer in connection with observing the site visit team process.  All expenses must be borne by the observer and/or the observer's governing organization/nursing program.


All requests must include the completed Observer Intake Form with appropriate signatures and the prospective observer's curriculum vitae.  Both documents should be submitted through our designated email:  The Observer Intake Form is also available in the Resources for Nursing Programs page of the ACEN website. 



Improving the ACEN Accreditation Process
Through New Online Software



The ACEN is pleased to announce a new way to serve our nursing programs: in 2017, the ACEN will implement an online Accreditation Management System. For most of 2016, your ACEN staff have been working with a software development company, Indigo Interactive, to implement online accreditation software that is designed for the specific needs of our nursing programs and peer evaluators. The online software will transition the ACEN accreditation processes to a digital medium and provide fully online 24/7 access through a web portal; from the first step of the Candidacy application to each program's yearly Annual Report, all accreditation processes will be streamlined for accessibility, reliability, and convenience. For example, nurse educators will see an improvement of the Self-Study Report process, with the report itself templatized within the web portal for ease of completion and submission as easy as the click of a button. Peer evaluators, too, will be able to complete Site Visit Reports through the web portal template, and all work will be saved online so that it is accessible anywhere and anytime.

The benefits of the Accreditation Management System will be seen in how it supports more organized and efficient communication. Each user will have a unique login, which will allow access to a personalized dashboard that unifies all of her/his roles within the ACEN in one centralized location. Through the web portal, the user will be able to receive automated alerts for important upcoming due dates, receive and send assignments and correspondence, and even be able to schedule site visits. Every nursing program will have access to a dedicated online document repository. The ACEN accreditation processes will truly be in the contemporary digital age with the ability to upload and download important documents, eliminating the requirement of most hard-copy submissions.

All of your ACEN staff are truly excited by what the Accreditation Management System will do to improve accreditation processes. With the unification of all processes within one web portal, the ACEN staff will be better able to serve our nursing programs, our faculty, our volunteers, and the nursing education community.


Please look for future updates on the roll-out of the Accreditation Management System!



What Does It Take for an Accrediting Agency
to Earn Recognition?


In the United States there are two entities that recognize accrediting agencies – the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The USDE defines recognition as "…an accrediting agency complies with the criteria for recognition…and that the agency is effective in its application of those criteria." Additionally, an agency is "…a reliable authority regarding the quality of education or training offered by institutions or programs it accredits…" The ACEN is recognized by both the USDE and CHEA to accredit nursing education programs and schools, both postsecondary and higher degree, which offer either a certificate, diploma, or recognized professional degree (clinical doctorate, master's, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing) in the United States, its territories, and internationally, including those offered via distance education. The recognition by the USDE also allows the ACEN to act as a Title IV gatekeeper for selected nursing programs.


Recognition is similar to accreditation and involves a multi-layered process to determine whether an accrediting agency is in compliance with requirements set by the USDE or CHEA. For simplicity, the USDE process will be referenced; however, the CHEA process is very similar.

  1. The agency must meet eligibility requirements to serve as an accrediting agency.
    1. If eligible, an agency seeking initial recognition must demonstrate that it has granted accreditation or pre-accreditation:
      1. to one or more institutions if it is requesting recognition as an institutional accrediting agency and to one or more programs if it is requesting recognition as a programmatic accrediting agency
      2. to cover the range of the specific degrees, certificates, institutions, and programs for which it seeks recognition
      3. in the geographic area for which it seeks recognition
    2. If eligible, an agency seeking initial recognition must conduct accrediting activities, including deciding whether to grant or deny accreditation or pre-accreditation, for at least two years prior to seeking recognition...continue reading


Call for Nominations
ACEN Board of Commissioners

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is seeking nominations for open positions on the Board of Commissioners and the Nominating Committee. The following positions will appear on the 2017 election ballot.
ACEN Board of Commissioners
  • One (1) nurse educator representing baccalaureate and higher nursing programs
  • One (1) nurse educator representing associate nursing programs
  • One (1) nurse educator representing associate nursing programs or one (1) nurse educator representing practical nursing programs
  • One (1) nursing clinician/practitioner representing nursing service
  • One (1) member of the public...continue reading

The ACEN Launches New Tagline


After careful planning, consulting and deliberating, the ACEN is pleased to introduce its new tagline:


ACEN, the leading authority for nursing education accreditation


The ACEN's tagline is not only a physical representation of a pledge to excellence, but a method of communicating commitment to being a trustworthy, innovative, and approachable accreditation agency.

Our long-standing legacy would be incomplete without acknowledging dedicated colleagues like you. Thank you for your kind words and endorsement regarding the transformation made over the past two years. We deeply appreciate your involvement and willingness to be a part of this process. Your invaluable feedback has resulted in the successful launch of such an important expression.


With your continued support, the ACEN is confident that the phrase, The Leading Authority for Nursing Education Accreditation will ring true for many more decades.



ACEN Welcomes Opportunities to Speak, Present, or Participate in Upcoming Meetings 



During 2016 ACEN was invited to make a customized presentation or asked to contribute expertise. We appreciatively worked with our accredited programs and colleagues at the:

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Advance Practice Register Nurse Meeting
  • Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) Spring and Fall Conference
  • Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) National Nurse Educator Summit
  • California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing (COADN)/California Association of College of Nursing (CACN) Conference
  • Community College Baccalaureate Association Conference
  • Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2016 Summer Workshop
  • Delaware Nurse Educator Update
  • Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) 2016 Conference
  • Louisiana Organization of Associate Degree Nursing
  • Mississippi Council of Associate Degree Nursing Programs
  • National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) Meeting
  • National Black Nurses Association Annual Conference
  • National Council State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) Annual Meeting
  • National Healthcare and Workforce Data Meeting
  • National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) Conference
  • North Carolina Associate Degree Nursing (NCADN) Council Conference
  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Roundtable
  • New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium (NMNEC) Statewide Meeting
  • Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN)
  • Texas Organization for Associate Degree Nursing
  • Technical College System of Georgia
  • The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania Council for Health Professions Education

ACEN is available to make a customized presentation or contribute expertise at your event. Let us know how we can assist you and your colleagues.



Spring 2017 Self-Study Forums



We are pleased to offer the Spring 2017 Self-Study Forums in two locations. In March 2017, we look forward to seeing you in the "Big Easy", New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Atlanta, Georgia in April 2017. The Forums will feature the 2017 ACEN Standards and Criteria. Learn about the new Standards and Criteria and current policies in accreditation review. Gain knowledge in systematic planning for program evaluation and assessment of outcomes. Attend program specific sessions to discuss areas of mutual interests. Participate in networking opportunities and earn continuing education credit.


Visit the ACEN website for more information.
Space is limited.

Register early, register today! 



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