Higher education institutions that provide educational programs consistent with regulatory and accreditation practices guiding each program. National recommendations generally dictate regulatory guidelines that are typically enforced through state regulating agencies identified for program control. Higher education institutions voluntarily self-assess themselves and allow accrediting and regulatory agencies to determine if their curriculum meets the minimum standard (Baker, 2002). These regulatory and accrediting organizations oversee all higher education institutions whether it is private, public, for-profit, and not-for-profit institutions. Similarities and differences between regulatory and accrediting agencies governing nursing programs helps identify how programs are evaluated for quality, effectiveness, and compliance. Nursing Regulatory Bodies
Higher education institutions have their programs regulated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) regardless of which degree-granting programs they offer. The NCSBN regularly releases guidelines to each state’s nursing board as a means to determine what a program needs to accomplish for effectiveness and nursing practice standards for each degree-granting offered are met. Each state’s nursing board acts as the governing agency and determines regulatory and standardized processes for institutions to follow. Nursing Accreditation Bodies
Nursing program accreditation paradigms enhance quality education measures through self-assessment and peer-review processes (Billings & Halsted, 2009). Accreditation for institutions is generally accomplished through a regionally-based process where the higher education institution will be accredited by their institutional mission and goals. Quantitative and qualitative standards are applied to specialized programs criteria and standards of practice (Baker, 2002). These institutions subject themselves to the accreditation process to ensure quality assurance and to receive funds from the state and federal levels Eaton (2009). Accreditation also gives the institution the support and confidence of the private sector and future students. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is one entity seeking to represent the accreditation process through standards, resources, and leadership qualities assigned to nursing education (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). AACN Accreditation Purpose and Scope
The mission of the AACN is to promote and advance nursing research, education, and practice. The accrediting agency purpose is to ensure diverse education strategies improve how health care is delivered through advancing new knowledge (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). The AACN lists three primary goals to achieve their mission and include provisions for strategic leadership applications to increase innovation, collaboration, and visibility of nursing education programs; to challenge educators to increase leadership skill, promote leading-edge, diverse recruitment and retention efforts; and to promote, advance, and incorporate the accrediting body’s purpose throughout the curriculum (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). The underlying purpose for the AACN is to promote improvements in health care delivery practice.
The AACN, through quality initiatives and performance measurements, provide nursing education programs to improve delivery of health care. The AACN defines the standards higher education institutions should follow for the under graduate and graduate-level nursing programs. Evidence of accomplishment for the accreditation criteria through a process that includes self-assessment, peer review, and the accrediting agency review (Eaton, 2009). The AACN scope of practice focuses on quality program initiatives and resources that are made available to the public and promote the accredited institutional program. This accreditation process drives the advancement of nursing education and research directives as it influences the student population. AACN accreditation standards ensure academic quality and accountability measurements demonstrate improved health care outcomes (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). Regulatory and Accreditation Organizations Comparison
Trends in higher education institutions promote both regulatory and accrediting agencies to serve as a backbone for education scrutiny by the public domain. Student enrollment trends look heavily upon how regulatory requirements, compliance indicators, and accreditation practices of the institution and programs are conducted (Billings & Halsted, 2009). Higher education institutions educational programs are verified through the accreditation process; the regulating organizations ensure compliance. The similarities and differences between regulatory and accrediting organizations tend to divulge patterns of success, or failure, which is valuable information installing trust, or lack of, for future student enrollment and public trust. Both regulatory and accreditation organizations want the advancement of nursing with education and research process on par with local, state, and national standards of practice.
The oversight of the state nursing board provides legal enforcement for nursing education programs with the accreditation process supplies ways of enforcing nursing practice standards. Regulatory and accrediting organizations have differing processes to ensures quality assurance, enforce activities, promote effectiveness, and ensures compliance for all local, state, and national nursing practice guidelines (Eaton, 2009). Driving forces for regulatory control and compliance are tied within the curriculum, examination, licensure, and legal processes; while driving forces for accreditation include assessing and evaluating quality, preserving traditional values, promoting new trends, and using self and peer-review tactics to determine compliance indicators (Eaton, 2009). Conclusion
The quality education is determined by the public based upon several factors, including regulatory and accrediting organizations affiliated to higher learning institutions. Nursing programs do not have to be accredited through any organization to operate but must be approved through each state’s nursing board. Regulatory functions from state nursing boards serve as a regulatory organization ensuring that higher education institutions provide proper guidance for nursing programs. Higher education institutions that provide specific programs can increase their reputation and receive additional money through the accreditation process.
Regulatory and accreditation organizations strive to advance the nursing profession through education and research processes on par with local and national standards of practice. The similarities and differences between regulatory and accrediting organizations provide an unique opportunity to explore how nursing patterns that is valuable information in providing quality care initiatives. These unique opportunities can then be ignited through the initial nursing profession journey through the advent of inclusion into the nursing education programs.
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