The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) has granted continuing accreditation to both the Associate Degree and Practical Nursing programs at Wayne Community College. The accreditation period runs through Spring 2021, the eight years that is the maximum allowed between evaluations.
Both were initially accredited in 2008. At that time, WCC’s Practical Nursing program became the first in North Carolina to be accredited. It is still one of only five in the state. ACEN is the only agency that accredits practical nursing programs.
There are 19 accredited Associate Degree Nursing Programs in the state and 15 of those are in the community college system.
“The nursing faculty are tremendously proud of this accomplishment,” said Patty Pfeiffer, Allied Health and Public Services division chair at the college. “It took a lot of hard work over the last two years preparing for the accreditation visit and review of the Associate Degree Nursing and Practical Nursing programs. The nursing faculty are to be congratulated for this extraordinary success.”
ACEN accreditation is a voluntary peer review process to enhance quality improvement in nursing education. Accreditation provides recognition that a nursing education program has been evaluated and periodically re-evaluated by a qualified, independent group of respected and competent peers who have found it be meeting appropriate post-secondary and higher educational purposes in a satisfactory manner.
The process leading up to the decision by the ACEN’s Board of Commissioners was “very in depth – above and beyond what we normally do,” said WCC Nursing Department Chair Sue Beaman.
Her department’s self study resulted in a 387-page document and addressed six areas: mission and administrative capacity, faculty and staff, students, curriculum, resources, and outcomes.
“The self study looks critically at quality,” Beaman said. “It makes you examine all of the standards.”
“We looked at every aspect of the program – from retention to ways to improve and strengthen the curriculum,” said Pfeiffer.
Also part of the process was a three-day on-site visit by a four-member ACEN evaluation team. “It took two years to prepare for the visit and review of the programs,” Beaman said.
The team’s evaluation included review of the self study; inspection of the facility; observation of class and clinical instruction; and meetings with college administrators, faculty, students, clinical agencies, and community members, which Beaman noted were well attended. The evaluator’s report was reviewed by a panel of experts from the accrediting agency.
The Evaluation Review Panel, which is composed of peers from other accredited institutions who are appointed by the ACEN Board of Commissioners, ensured that the evaluation process was carried out according to the Accreditation Standards and Criteria. The panelists reviewed the findings of the visit team as presented in the Site Visitors’ Report compared to the program self-study and catalog and made the recommendation for accreditation to the commission.
Pfeiffer serves as a program reviewer and evaluation review panel member for the ACEN. Beaman will soon be attending the ACEN program reviewer training held in Atlanta in February.
Being accredited gives the college several advantages. “It strengthens the overall quality of the programs and holds the students and faculty to very high standards,” said Beaman.
WCC is particularly proud of the academic achievements of its faculty. “We have a 100 percent master’s prepared faculty (full time) with two in doctoral programs and three nationally certified as nurse educators,” said Pfeiffer.
And accreditation helps students get hired. Potential employers actually ask about it, Beaman said.
Maintaining the accreditation keeps the programs on the top of their game. “It is a continuing, on-going process that never stops, including submitting an annual report,” said Beaman.
ACEN is recognized as the national accrediting body for all types of nursing education programs by the U.S. Department of Education.
The ACEN is governed by a 14-member Board of Commissioners, nine of which are nurse educators representing ACEN-accredited programs, two representing the public, and three representing nursing service. It bases its decisions on the complete and consistent application of the Accreditation Standards and Criteria within and across program types.
The ACEN states that, “Quality in education ensures high levels of opportunity for student learning and achievement. Accreditation is an affirmation of values central to thinking about postsecondary and higher education: appropriate mission, organizational structures, processes, and functions; resources aligned with core values; collegiality; and continuous self-improvement.”
WCC’s Associate Degree Nursing Program is a five-term program that leads to eligibility to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Its Practical Nursing Program is a one-year diploma program that prepares students to take the NCLEX-PN test required to become a licensed practical nurse. Admission to both programs is limited.
Wayne Community College is a public, two-year college with an open-door admission policy located in Goldsboro, N.C. As it works to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, it serves 15,000 individuals annually as well as businesses, industry and community organizations with high quality, affordable, accessible learning opportunities, including more than 100 college credit programs.