Nursing Aces Accreditation Test by NLN By Karen Lynn Gray The School of Nursing earned the highest possible recommendation for accreditation from the National League for Nursing, the national accrediting agency for nursing education. NLN program evaluators spent four days on campus in mid-November scrutinizing the curriculum, faculty, physical facilities, student services and administration of both the graduate and undergraduate program. At a November 18 faculty meeting, the evaluators announced not only that the school fully meets all the criteria of the evaluation process, but also that they could discover no area in which to make recommendations for improvement. Their report to the NLN Board of Review recommends that the school be accredited for the maximum time period, eight years, when the board meets in March. "The school didn't just make the grade, it received the highest marks possible--a perfect score," said Sue Donaldson, the school's dean. "This is a rare accomplishment for any program and especially noteworthy, given that the school is only 11 years old." Considered a mark of quality, accreditation assures that the school has met specific national criteria for excellence. Also, federal services and most graduate programs require NLN accreditation. Accreditation by the NLN is a three-step process. First, the School of Nursing wrote and submitted an extensive self-study. Then, program evaluators visited the school to "verify, amplify, and clarify" the information included in the self-study. Finally, the evaluators sat in on at least part of every class, reviewed the curriculum, visited clinical sites and inspected the physical facilities. To verify the university's full support for the School of Nursing's plans, the evaluators met with university president William C. Richardson and vice provost for academic planning and budget Steve McClain. They also interviewed faculty members and students, as well as staff from Student Services, Financial Aid, Admissions and the Registrar's Office. "They were extremely positive and commented numerous times how much they enjoyed the classes that they attended," noted Stella Shiber, associate dean for the undergraduate nursing program. "The report includes a description of both the physical and emotional climate and the content being covered in every class, and that was very positive." The evaluators were also impressed by the excellence of the student clinical sites and the collaboration between the School of Nursing and other units of the university. Typically, during the accreditation process, which takes place every eight years, evaluators will make recommendations to improve the quality of the school. For instance, although the school received accreditation after the last evaluation in 1986, the representatives offered several suggestions, including a recommendation that the school strive to increase the diversity of the faculty. This time, the evaluators could find no area in which to suggest improvements. The school's leadership, however, had already presented a clear idea of where it will be concentrating its efforts for the next few years, including plans to expand the space and facilities in order to deal with ever-increasing enrollment. A site has been chosen, architectural drawings prepared and fund-raising begun for the new building, which is slated to open in the fall of 1997. "Everyone was very pleased, needless to say, to hear a confirmation of some of the things we hoped we were doing," said Dr. Shiber. "We knew that we had been working really hard and hoped that we were headed in the right direction. Also, this evaluation is a reflection of what goes into the process because it does require the work of all faculty. Mostly, though, we were relieved that this wouldn't occur again for eight years." The School of Nursing is also accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing.
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