In order to become a licensed APRN, students who wish to work as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist, must complete an accredited graduate nursing program.
Different types of nursing programs are accredited by different organizations–for example, while nurse practitioner programs are generally accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), graduate programs in nurse midwifery are typically accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
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The list below describes several of the major accrediting bodies for graduate nursing programs, and explains the types of nursing degrees and credentials they accredit. In order to receive accreditation, online nursing programs must meet the same academic standards and clinical hours requirements as accredited on-campus nursing programs.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
The CCNE is a U.S. Secretary of Education-approved accrediting organization that evaluates the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in nursing nationwide. To apply for CCNE accreditation, a nursing program must take the following steps:
- Submit the relevant application forms and accreditation fees
- Submit proof that the program’s parent institution (for example, the university at which the program is offered) has been accredited by an agency that has received approval from the U.S. Secretary of Education
- Submit proof that the program has been approved by the relevant state boards of nursing
- Provide documentation of the program’s mission, curriculum, educational setting, and resources provided to students
- Disclose how long the program has had enrolled students
- Undergo an on-site evaluation
CCNE accreditation must be renewed every 5 years. Listings of nursing degree programs that have been accredited by the CCNE are available on their website.
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
The ACEN is an organization that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) as an accrediting body for postsecondary and advanced degree nursing programs such as associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees, clinical doctorate degrees, and post-master’s certificates. For a nursing program to obtain accreditation from ACEN, it must submit the following:
- Proof that the program has current state board of nursing approval from the state(s) in which the program is based
- Proof that the program’s governing institution has been accredited or approved
- Documentation of faculty’s academic and professional qualifications
- The program’s curriculum and plan of study
- Resources the program has to support the student body
- A systematic plan for ACEN evaluation
- Program catalog (where appropriate)
Filterable listings of nursing programs that have been accredited by ACEN are available on their website.
Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)
The ACME is part of the American College of Nurse Midwives, which is a professional association for certified nurse midwives and certified midwives. The ACME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an accrediting agency for nurse-midwifery and midwifery education programs. To earn accreditation through the ACME, nurse-midwifery programs must fulfill three stages: pre-accreditation, initial accreditation, and continuing accreditation. Each of these stages requires the program to submit relevant documentation that speaks to the program’s ability to serve students’ needs and maintain high quality instruction.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
The CAHME accredits graduate programs in health services management and administration. It is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and “is the only organization recognized to grant accreditation to individual academic programs offering a professional master’s degree in healthcare management education.” Examples of graduate nursing programs that may seek accreditation from the CAHME include master’s programs in healthcare administration, health policy, health services management, and hospital administration. To earn CAHME accreditation, a nursing program must be part of an educational institution that is accredited by an organization that has received approval from the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation. Furthermore, among other requirements, the program must meet certain standards of educational quality and a minimum number of hours of in-person instruction.
- “Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education,” midwife.org, American College of Nurse Midwives, http://www.midwife.org/accreditation
- “Candidacy Process,” acenursing.org, Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, http://www.acenursing.org/about-candidacy/
- “CCNE: Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs,” ccnecommunity.org, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, https://directory.ccnecommunity.org/reports/accprog.asp
- “Why CAHME Accreditation Is Important,” cahme.org, The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, https://cahme.org/healthcare-management-education-accreditation/university-programs/accreditation-information/
- “Mission, Purpose, Goals,” acenursing.org, Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, http://www.acenursing.org/mission-purpose-goals/
- “Mission, Values, and History,” aacnnursing.org, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, http://www.aacnnursing.org/About-AACN/AACN-Governance/Vision-and-Mission
- “Policies and Procedures Manual for the Preaccreditation and Accreditation of Midwifery Education Programs,” midwife.org, February 2014, Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, http://www.midwife.org/ACNM/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000004043/Policies_Procedures_Manual_Feb_2014.pdf
- “The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education,” cahme.org, The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, https://www.cahme.org/