Mission Possible: The Challenge

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 2:45 PM

Nancy C. Falvo, PhD, MSN, BSN
Department of Nursing; RN BSN program, Clarion University of PA, Oil City, PA, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to describe the history of the accreditation process for an RN BSN program and to identify the challenges that impact this process for both the program and the nursing department. Davis, Weed, and Forehand (2015) acknowledge, “Accreditation implies program quality, demonstrates excellence to peers, and provides for institution and program recognition (p.38), however, they go on to say, “faculty and nursing directors …depicted the accreditation process as overwhelming and time consuming” (p.38). Lewallen (2015) describes accreditation as something we “have to do but do not like to think about. It sometimes seems an additional task—something that is not part of the day-to-day running of the program, and because it seems like extra work, it is often made the last priority” (p.133). In order for the accreditation process to be valued, nurse administrators and faculty must understand both the process and their role in this process (Heydman & Sargent, 2015).

Historically, the faculty and nurse administrators from the department begrudgingly participated in the accreditation process often delaying the program evaluations until 18 to 24 months before the anticipated visit. As deadlines arrived, the frenzy of activity increased. Many long hours were invested by a small group of individuals to meet the deadlines for documentation. It was usually during this “rush of activity” that problems with the evaluation process were identified, however, little was done to change the current practice after the visit. Other issues that negatively impacted the process and outcomes for the program evaluation included lack of understanding of faculty role, tenure versus temporary faculty responsibilities, and the positive outcomes of past accreditation visit.

Along with the historical context of accreditation, many other challenges were encounter by the department. Like many other university nursing programs, our nursing department has experienced very limited time and personnel resources, lack of understanding by all faculty of the accreditation standards and uncertainty over the program evaluation plan namely what should we be collecting and what do we do with what we collect? Additional challenges faces the RN BSN program at Clarion University include continually changing nurse administrators and limited permanent nursing faculty, multiple nursing programs and delivery modalities, and lack of ownership of the accreditation process.

Participants at this presentation will understand how the historical experiences and current challenges related to accreditation have led to a major paradigm shift for our department of nursing. The development of a continuous process of evaluation has significantly improved the understanding of the accreditation process while also encouraging faculty to take ownership in this process.