Standards and Criteria Used by the NLNAC
In order to make sure that nursing programs meet requirements for accreditation, the NLNAC uses the same criteria to evaluate each program. However, it’s not as simple as a single set of standards for all nursing programs, since different nursing programs offer different degrees and different levels of education. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to evaluate a program offering associate’s degrees in the same way as a clinical doctorate program.
Regardless of the level of degree for nursing programs, the standards and criteria used by the NLNAC cover the same areas: Mission and Administrative Capacity, Faculty and Staff, Students, Curriculum, Resources, and Outcomes.
The Mission and Administrative Capacity category addresses the general goals of the program. According to the NLNAC, the mission of the program needs to be in line with the goals of the program’s governing body (the school), as well as the state. This category also addresses the administrative side of the program, such as budget and records.
The Faculty and Staff category deals with those who work within the program. It answers questions about who can instruct students, as well as what makes those faculty members qualified to teach. Are they required to maintain nursing licenses? Do they need to have privileges at a hospital or healthcare facility? How are they evaluated?
The Students category takes student policies into consideration, as well as student services, educational and financial records, and any other issues dealing with the students’ roles within the program, including financial aid.
The Curriculum category addresses what is taught within the program. It looks at what specific areas of study need to be covered – and when – as well as how students are evaluated, program length, what materials are used, and clinical experiences.
The Resources category looks at what’s provided to the students, staff, and faculty so they can work through the program. This covers classrooms, offices, laboratories, technology, and anything else needed for a successful nursing program.
The Outcomes category focuses on what happens after students go through the program and graduate. It addresses licensing the students after graduation and job placement, but also deciding where information about students’ evaluations is shared.
Each of these categories is looked at differently based on the level of education the program offers, as well as what the standards of the governing organization are. Just as a program offering a basic certification will be different from one offering a master’s degree, a program at a hospital will be different from a program at a state university.
So though the NLNAC works to ensure that standards are met and kept up throughout the programs they accredit, the process is more than simply checking off a list of requirements. That way, you can be sure that your program was evaluated for its unique offerings, so the work you put into your nursing education will be rewarded.